Tag Archive for: Nikola Jovic

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Cleveland

The Miami Heat had another short-handed night, adding Bam Adebayo to the fold, but it still wasn’t enough against a healthy Cavs starting group.

They were blitzed on both ends from start to finish, not even in competition to put up a fight.

So they fall to 7-10 with another game tomorrow night. Anyway, here are some takeaways…

#1: The Cavs taking advantage of Miami’s zone defense for a couple reasons…

With the roster Miami had available tonight in Cleveland, it was clear we had a night of 2-3 zone ahead of us. And well, the Cavs found their way against it early on, which should happen when a team stays with it as long as Miami. The Heat are looking to force a certain push shot in the middle of the floor, mostly known for being inefficient, but Evan Mobley was the consistent hub in the middle of the floor. He chopped Miami’s zone up a bit, which leads into the next element. Now that Miami has to clamp down middle, who should they help off? Well the easy answer is Isaac Okoro, right? Okoro ended up going 4 of 5 for 13 points in the first half. Combine those schematics with a ton of ball movement and a bunch of high low action from Mobley and Allen on Miami’s lack of size, and yeah, it’ll lead you to giving up a 59 point first half.

#2: The two sides of Miami’s offensive shot process in the first half.

The Heat came out clicking offensively to begin the game, with Bam Adebayo and Nikola Jovic running the show. The process was clear: Adebayo had the green light. Every set was being ran through him: isolations, post splits, face-ups, post-ups. The key on night’s like this is movement, movement, and more movement. Why do I say that? Well, a good portion of that first half would give you that answer. The Heat fell right back into the trap of having Miami’s guards and wings create, which is a tough ask without Herro or Butler. None of their guards could burst by Cleveland’s point of attack, leading to a pretty ugly shot profile. I’ve compared this to a first drive in football, where a team has that initial drive that is scripted. The Heat are great as a scripted offense beginning halves, but when they stray, they stray away far.

#3: The Nikola Jovic timeline tracker…

As I began to dip into a second ago, we got the Jovic debut next to Adebayo, but it was much briefer than we all expected. While it was executed perfectly in that opening stretch, Haywood Highsmith entered into the game and it felt like Miami completely went away from Jovic again. At the half, on a night where Miami was very short-handed, Jovic was tied for the 6th most minutes on the roster. Yeah, it’s interesting. It feels like there are more positives than negatives with Jovic on the floor in games like this one, yet there doesn’t seem to be the same level of trust that we’re accustomed to with other guys. Same thing in the last game against Washington where they had 7 total players. We will see if it changes, but the Jovic minutes just aren’t equating with the fan-base’s perception of effectiveness right now.

#4: Injured or not at the moment, here’s the team headliner:

No need to further explain. They need more…

#5: Onto…tomorrow night?

These games have felt like Miami’s trying to get to that final buzzer by any means, as Miami’s without many of their primary guys on the roster. As the Cavs ran out a major lead in this game, I said to myself ‘well, it’s time for them to get the main guys out for tomorrow night.’ But they essentially couldn’t since they only had like three guys to sub in for them. Now Miami is less than 24 hours away from another game against Minnesota, where they will be without the same guys on the roster. And even worse, it’s another lengthy front-court with Karl Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, meaning the rebounding numbers will be wild yet again. Miami could possibly find themselves at 7-11 after tomorrow night if they can’t generate some lightning in a bottle, which seems near impossible with what we saw in this one in Cleveland. But well, onto tomorrow night…

Five Takeaways from Heat’s Loss to Raptors

The Miami Heat faced the Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday night, and well it was your typical Heat-Raptors game.

If you looked at a stat sheet, you would say Miami had no business being in that spot. Turnovers. Bad. Rebounding. Worse.

They stayed around even through that, but those things were the overarching issues.

So, here are some takeaways from this one…

#1: Nikola Jovic getting his moment.

With Bam Adebayo being ruled out tonight in Toronto, it raised an eyebrow for their big man room. Dewayne Dedmon was the sole big ready to play it seemed, and he was questionable up until tip-off. Yet Spoelstra did what he does best, make the unexpected move: Nikola Jovic as the starting five. And well, he had about as great of a start as you could expect from him. They were purposeful in getting him involved in that first quarter: pick and pops, dunker spot re-positioning, quick dives to the rim. He had 11 points in that opening quarter, but the bigger point was that he fit in. They were able to successfully run a 5 out offense, while his drop on the other end was solid with straight up contests. This was his first true showing in the regular season for Miami, and it definitely won’t be the last. He’s impressive.

#2: Max Strus’ offensive diversity stands out as he catches fire.

Max Strus walked into the second quarter with 0 points, while Miami knew they needed something from a shooter to create positive half-court offense. And he ended up finishing that quarter with a total of 15 points, including 2 triples and 5 free throws. Not the usual Strus shot profile, but that’s what stood out here. There was diversity in the sets they were running for him as the Raptors overplay with a ton of length and solid defenders. Curls, hand-offs, pick and rolls, paint touches, catch and attacks. You just didn’t know what was coming from possession to possession, and that’s why I say he’s improved more than anybody on this team. The guy literally threw down a poster dunk in the second quarter as well. He’s elite as a simple shooter, but we just have to quit stopping there.

#3: The take-away mid-way through this game: the transition and pace game.

When entering this game, the biggest X’s and O’s story-line for me was the battle of pace. The Raptors are the best team in the league in that transition department, meaning you just have to turn down turnovers and you’ll be in a good spot. If you allow them to get out and run, it becomes problematic for a few reasons: 1) they generate both rhythm and points when entering this mode and 2) once they start getting out and running, it’s almost contagious. In the second quarter, we saw Miami pushing pace in unnecessary fashion at times, simply falling into their play-style a bit. Kyle Lowry deserves a ton of credit for settling Miami in this one, which partly has to do with his familiarity with the Raptors, but they needed him to calm down the kids who were playing freely. A lot of the turnovers were the league sending an apparent memo to referees about travels (lol), but Miami also can’t produce this many against teams like this. It’s the main reason they dropped this one.

#4: The Raptors game-plan was simple for their 21-0 run: picking on a Heat big.

The Raptors went on a 21-0 run in the third quarter. For more perspective, the Heat didn’t score for 7 minutes straight. But I’m not focusing on the offensive issues right, since they were just playing high to not allow Miami’s shooting to redeploy. As for that 21 point spree by the Raptors, they played bully ball. Not by being physical, but because they were just picking on the Heat’s Dewayne Dedmon. As he entered the game in the third quarter, Toronto got ready to inbound. VanVleet yelled at Anunoby walked down the court to call out a play, which was essentially a curl to operate 2-on-1 with Dedmon. An easy bucket. Shortly after they went to that well for a bit, VanVleet entered his favorite mode: pick and roll against drop. They found a match-up they liked and went to it. This isn’t to just pile on Dedmon, since he actually got some buckets in that second half that were needed, but that was just Toronto’s perspective on offensive game-plan.

#5: An interesting style on the surface for Jimmy Butler usage.

As I said earlier, the Heat were without Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro tonight, arguably the team’s second and third best players. But well, they still have their best player to generate a good amount of usage, right? Wrong. As I went through early in this piece, the Heat’s box score was pretty spread around. Good start for Jovic, good second quarter for Strus, Martin and Vincent played very well offensively. Yet Butler only had 4 shot attempts halfway through the fourth quarter. And once he’s out of the mix in the offensive rhythm, it feels hard to just merge him back into things on the fly. Let me also add something of significance: Toronto was basically sending 3 guys every time Jimmy touched the ball. Hard to look past that. As the Raptors pulled away, Lowry was the one to keep piecing things together by getting to his spots, but it’s just an intriguing base on a night without two primary guys.

Full Breakdown of Heat’s Latest Draft Pick: Nikola Jovic

“With the 27th pick in the 2022 NBA draft, the Miami Heat select: Nikola Jovic.”

That was the call from NBA commissioner Adam Silver on draft night, as speculation continued to loom on what the Heat would do. Will they trade the pick? Will they take a Kentucky prospect still on the board? Do they grab a falling EJ Liddell?

And much like most Heat draft nights, you can’t predict the next move.

Once they officially took Jovic who has played overseas for many years, it created a youtube highlights spam to find out who this young kid really is.

While most people were just getting an initial look at him, Adam Simon, who is the assistant general manager for the Heat and on the front-line of these draft selections, noted that “he’s been on our radar for a couple years.”

So, let’s not waste anymore time. Who is Nikola Jovic on the court?

The Spot-Up Jumper

When evaluating any type of talent, starting with the outside jumper always feels key. I should clarify that he’s a 6’11 stretch big with guard like skills on the offensive end, which is quite the label to kick off a late first rounders description.

He shot 36% from three this past season with Mega Basket in Serbia, while Adam Simon noted that some of the extracurricular off the dribble shooting allowed that to decline a bit.

Yet the spot-up shooting is what truly stood out with his perimeter game, and they’re very confident in. Looking at some of the clips above, he has a grounded base, decently quick trigger, and a very smooth looking jumper.

Oh and let me remind you again, this isn’t a wing shooter. He’s around 6’10, 6’11. The shooting is far from his best asset when going about his offensive game, but it definitely is quite the icing on the cake. If this type of thing carries over against quicker and lengthier bodies closing out, then it really could be something.

A PnR Eye Opener: a 6’11 Creator

Now to the good stuff, pick and roll mechanics are always addressed for bigs when entering the NBA. But that usually includes long dialogues about a guy as a roller. Not the ball-handler in those sets.

Yet for Jovic, the ratio between being the handler and roller at his size was a bit wild to say the least. He was the team’s creator for the most part in Serbia, and his pick and roll control is truly an asset.

His solid handle, which I’ll discuss in a bit, allows him to slide into certain gaps, but his high IQ passing forces defenses to eye him at all times.

In the clips above, you see a pro level pick and roll player, and that’s not an exaggeration. The control to bounce off the recovering defender that just got screened, hold the dropping big in place, and drop the ball into your big isn’t just ‘another clip in the file.’

Yet in the following clips, you see his pick and roll gravity on display, as opposing teams continue to blitz out and double him to eliminate his scoring mechanics in space. And well, there are two more dimes to the rolling big.

I’m really intrigued to see what he looks like as a roller, which will most definitely be tested in Summer League, but the primary element of his experience will be to put the ball in his hands as much as possible. Do the passing tendencies carry over? Will physicality play a factor? Will the patience shown in these clips stick?

I actually believe so. There are things that could decline a bit at first for any player drafted, but there’s a lot of confidence in his pick and roll game in space, which he will have plenty of chances to showcase.

But let me just add: the PnR stuff isn’t just passing…

That previous clip where he kept getting doubled out may have made you wonder what has led up to this. So, watch this clip above for your answer.

Back in a normal drop, Jovic gets flowing downhill to his right, uses his shoulder to create some extra space, and steps back for a tough shot right over the contest. Bucket.

The key to a good pick and roll player is this exact combination: high IQ passer and an ability to create shots for yourself against different coverages.

The recovery speed will definitely be a lot quicker at the NBA level when he generates opportunities like this, but the length he has to shoot over the top is what makes this all come together.

So, Jovic-Yurtseven Summer League pick and rolls, anybody?

Tight Handle into Tough Shot Making

Can we keep the theme of this piece to: remember this guy is 6’11 by the way? Yes, yes we will.

He’s a very tough shot maker, yet the linking element to that is his tight handle allows him to get to his spots on the floor at any time. The second clip above is the perfect example: right to left crossover in isolation to get the defender back-pedaling, plants his right foot, and steps back for maximum space to let it fly.

Jovic has a deep bag of step-backs, which that type of foot-work is usually a staple for a lot of guys coming from overseas.

But the most important thing when talking about “tough shot making:” he’s been in a ton of those scenarios. Sometimes talented offensive players breeze through a college play-style by putting up points under the radar against base coverages, yet Jovic has had so much thrown at him for a guy that’s somehow 2 days younger than me. (lol)

As Adam Simon said last night, “he has the versatility of not just being a catch and shoot guy.” He even threw in the idea of a “nasty approach” in terms of his willingness to go and attack the basket. So yeah, the tough shot making is nothing new.

Running the Open Floor

Other than the PnR control, one of the first things that stood out about Jovic was that he wasn’t afraid to run the floor. If there was a turnover, he’s gone and has one hand up for his passer to locate where he wants it thrown.

He may be a big man, but he’s pretty quick specifically once the ball is in his hands. Yet while transition is always viewed as the “first man down the floor to score,” his approach of finding numbers and feeding others on the break was a really intriguing asset.

And if you’re thinking big picture, a Jovic-Bam lineup running the floor could be fun.

I also asked Adam Simon about his transition game translating to the NBA, which he said: “I think he’ll be good in transition and I think he’s got some versatility in the half-court as well. The handle’s there.”

And to tie a bow on this topic, his control in the open floor really makes me think it could carry over to the big league’s as well.

(Side note: the word “control” is just so fitting for Jovic in every offensive category. If you want the adjective that makes him good, there it is.)

The Low Post Game

Jovic had an interview with Slam magazine very recently, where he was asked about his go-to move down 1 late in a game. He quickly responded that he’d want the ball in the mid to low post, so he can flow right into a little fadeaway jumper.

Yeah, not the normal response.

When looking at his post game in some videos, there are a lot of times where it’s mostly using his size to his advantage once he gets low enough, which is always good to see, yet not always a major factor of NBA translation.

Now the turnaround jumper stuff with solid footwork, on the other hand, is the element of NBA translation.

When comparing to what the current Heat team needs, I think back to early regular season Markieff Morris. He began killing teams in his stints with the mid-post stuff, and it was clear that Miami lacked that more than anything else at the front-court position.

Bam Adebayo has the mid-post jumper, but there’s a big drop-off from there. PJ Tucker, Caleb Martin, Dewayne Dedmon, and Omer Yurtseven all played extended front-court minutes at some point or another, but none were mid-range threats to any degree.

So this will be a pretty fun wrinkle to keep an eye on. When a guy’s favorite move is one of your team’s biggest weaknesses, I’d say that’s a pretty decent fit.

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The defensive side of things doesn’t have much of a film dynamic. There just doesn’t seem to be much tape on that side of the ball for him aside from some blocks here or there, which makes this very interesting.

Jovic mentioned being “a big guard who can switch everything,” but that may be a bit of a stretch. There won’t be much expectation for him on that end, but I’m just curious if he will be a drop big or indeed switch in most scenarios.

After Pat Riley hammered home the defense point in a recent press conference, I asked him about where he thinks Jovic can develop on that end. “I think the kid’s athletic enough, quick enough, long enough to be able to play defense the way that we want.”

But much like anything, only time will tell. The Heat’s Summer League will kick off July 2nd as we get our first look at the twin towers of Jovic and Yurtseven.

I don’t know if this was the expected pick, but it’s absolutely intriguing to say the least. There’s a lot of potential sitting there, and the perfect place for it to be molded is in the Miami Heat’s developmental program.

 

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