When anyone speaks about the Miami Heat roster these days, it’s generally done with idleness in mind. That’s because, heading into 2023-24, the expectation is that the Heat’s roster, as it stands, will look much different once the season opens and the long-rumored Damian Lillard trade from the Blazers goes through.
But summer is wearing thin and who knows when—or if—Lillard will be finally sent to Miami? What can be said for sure is that whether it is with the Heat or elsewhere, little-used big man Nikola Jovic is showing his worth and bolstering his potential trade value.
“You know, they’d like to make a deal that was all about Tyler Herro going out, and they’re pumping up Tyler Herro as much as they can with friendly media and stuff,” one Eastern Conference executive told Heavy Sports. “And Herro’s a nice player, he is a scorer. He has his pluses and he has his minuses.
“But the guy who could be THE difference-maker there with their young guys is Jovic. He could be a stud in today’s game. He’s thin, he needs to add some weight, he needs to make the 3 consistently, but he has some toughness and some grit that makes you think he is going to stick in the NBA. And you’re seeing that in the World Cup now.”
Jokic’s Loss Is Jovic’s Gain
Indeed, with Serbian center Nikola Jokic skipping out on the Cup chase as he recuperates from winning a championship with Denver, Jovic—who is 6-foot-10 and still just 20 years old—has gotten a golden opportunity to shine in Manila. He was stellar in Serbia’s opening win over Puerto Rico, scoring 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, making three of his five 3-point attempts.
He only scored nine points in the Serbs’ dominating win over China, but he posted a blocked shot and a steal and played solid defense, logging a plus-25 for that game. At 2-0 with a plus-59 total, Serbia is currently the No. 2 team in the World Cup tournament, behind Canada. (Team USA is a plus-55, with a cakewalk against Jordan ahead.)
Serbian veteran Bogdan Bogdanovic, who plays for the Hawks, had high praise for the youngster.
“He’s an amazing player,” Bogdanovic said. “I mean, Miami drafted him for a reason. He’s a hard-working guy. He’s always in the gym. He always likes to work. He always improves his game.”
Rough Rookie Year for Jovic
Jovic did take the floor for 15 games last season, including eight starts. They did not exactly go well, as he was clearly undersized and, at age 19, badly in need of polishing work. Jovic averaged 5.5 points and shot 40.6% from the field, 22.9% from the 3-point line.
And playing more did not exactly help. He shot 39.3% as a starter, and 22.2% from the 3-point line in those games.
“Obviously, he needs work,” the executive said. “But considering his age, his size, the fact that he is already growing noticeably, he’s an exciting young guy. Does that move the needle at all on a trade if your Portland? No, probably not. They’re dug in there. There’s a lot more going on there than just trading Player A for Player B. But if you’re getting back Jovic, that’s a potentially very, very good piece for a rebuilding team.”