Nikola Jovic Flashes Potential as Heat Return Draws Nearer

Nikola Jovic Jimmy Butler

Getty Nikola Jovic and Jimmy Butler high five during a game between the Miami Heat and the New Orleans Pelicans.

When the Miami Heat pulled Nikola Jovic as a late first-round pick during the 2022 NBA Draft, there were a handful of pundits who believed the club had gotten one over on the rest of the Association.

“Jovic might end up being one of the best picks in the NBA Draft,” Sportsnaut‘s Vincent Frank opined at the time. “The 6-foot-10 Serbian is as versatile as they come and can do multiple things on the court. That includes playing strong defense, plus-level passing ability and point-forward skills.”

With the home stretch of the 2022-23 campaign already upon us, however, the baller has hardly gotten a chance to strut his stuff. Thanks to a stress reaction in his lower back, Jovic hasn’t suited up in a game for the Heat since a 27-second shift against the LA Lakers on December 28.

Flash forward to now, though, and the 19-year-old Serbian is in the mix once again, having returned to the court in the G League as his rehab process reaches its conclusion.

Heat Rookie Nikola Jovic Makes His Return With the Sioux Falls Skyforce

Having been cleared to get back on the hardwood recently, Jovic got his first taste of action in the G League with Miami’s affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, on Monday night. And he acquitted himself well in the endeavor.

In 26 minutes off the bench against the South Bay Lakers, the near seven-footer put up 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting (and 2-of-3 from three-point range) while adding nine rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.

Jovic did show some signs of not having played in two months, though, none of which were more apparent than his six turnovers in the contest. That said, his potential continues to be evident.

Upon Jovic’s reassignment to the G League, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sounded off on the importance of getting him onto the court as much as possible (and regardless of where/how it happens) before the year is done.

“He just needs to play,” said Spoelstra, via Brendan Tobin. “That is the most important thing. Physically, he feels much better. He has done all of the drill work, all of the player development. He needs five-on-five and as many practices [as he can get]. There are not a ton of games left but all of that will be important to set up his offseason.”

Jovic has made just 15 appearances with the Heat in ’22-23, averaging 5.5 points and 2.1 rebounds in 13.6 minutes per game and posting 41-23-95 shooting splits.

Heat Insider Predicts First-Round Exit

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Ira Winderman clearly isn’t counting on the Heat to sneak up on anyone down the stretch. In his latest Ask Ira column, the longtime team insider set a fairly low bar where the ultimate result of their season is concerned.

“At the moment, it would take a significant winning streak for the Heat to escape the play-in round,” wrote Winderman. “And while the Heat should be able to push into the playoffs from there, the two teams that advance from the play-in round likely will face Boston or Milwaukee.

“Even the most bright-eyed optimist would have trouble forecasting the Heat winning such a seven-game series. So the upside? At the moment it would be just getting to the best-of-seven first round. And at the moment, that, in itself, will be a challenge.”

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