2022 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles: Nikola Jovic
Over the next 3 weeks, GBB will be profiling various players Memphis Grizzlies can target in the 2022 draft. We’ll primarily be looking at who they can choose with the 22nd and 29th picks, or with a choice from a possible trade in the draft.
Nikola Jovic, Forward, Serbia
6’11”, 7’0″ Wingspan, 223 lbs, 19 years old, from Belgrade, Serbia
Last Season: In 29 games (28.4 minutes per game) — 12.0 points on 41.4% shooting (31.5% from 3, 71.8% from the FT line), 4.8 rebounds, 3 .6 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.4 blocks
FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2021 in 7 games: 18.1 points on 49.0% shooting (36.4% from 3, 65.2% from the FT line), 8.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists decisive, 0.1 steals, 1.7 blocks
3 STRENGTH STATS (per Tankathon): Assists per 36 minutes (4.6), Age (18.9), 3PA Rate (49.2%)
3 STATS TO IMPROVE: Turnovers per 36 mins (3.9), Effective FG percentage (49.2%), True shot percentage (52.1%)
AWARDS AND AWARDS: U19 World Cup All-Tournament Team, 2x ABA League Junior MVP, ABA League Junior MVP
CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENT: 22 (Tankathon), 28 (The ring), 24 (ESPN), 31 (Athleticism), 33 (Launderer’s report)
The Grizzlies have often gone for the older, more NBA-ready players under Zach Kleiman, but last year we saw them take a chance on a younger prospect with an advantage in Ziaire Williams. This choice worked quite well and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did the same in this project. Enter Nikola Jovic, a 6’10” Serbian striker who is days away from his 19th birthday with one of the highest assets in the draft.
The Grizzlies had to trade to get Williams, but that probably wouldn’t be the case for Jovic. It would be hard to find someone with so much projected potential to go into the 20-30 range. His name is surprisingly similar to NBA MVP Nikola Jokic and he’s also great for his height, but his NBA comparisons would be a more versatile Joe Ingles or a less athletic Micheal Porter Jr.
Areas of strength
Nikola Jovic is one of the most versatile offensive players in this draft class. For a player who is 6’10”, Jovic is a good ball handler and is relatively quick on his feet. This makes him a game nightmare because the smaller players can’t keep him inside and he can overtaking bigger, slower defenders.He also showed the ability to create his own shot in isolation and can attack in the pick and roll.Once he got to the rim, Jovic showed a lot of creativity, using his length to finish in a way that would be impossible for most players.
Jovic has also shown promise playing off the ball, both in catch-and-shoot and cut-to-the-basket situations. He can become much more effective as a shooter, he only shot 32% on 3 last season, but he has solid mechanics and has shown flashes of above average shooting ability. Jovic has also attempted almost half of his shots from behind the arc, so it’s clear he’s confident in the shot.
Another area of his game that projects well in the NBA is his game. Despite being listed as a guard in some places, Jovic projects himself as a prototypical forward in the NBA. The league is always looking for size players who can do more than the traditional big man, which is precisely what Jovic has shown during his short professional career. He’s averaged nearly 5 assists every 36 minutes and is good at involving his teammates, but he needs to improve his ball security. Jovic also improved as a connective passer and started making the right reads in attack.
Areas of improvement
The number one area where Jovic needs to improve, especially if he wants to contribute to a team like the Grizzlies, is his turnovers. He averaged just over 3 turnovers per game and 4 per 36 minutes in his last professional season in Serbia. However, that’s to be expected from a player who was only 17 when he started his professional career. As he continues to grow and mature as a player, I expect his turnovers to decline, but it’s still one of the most troubling parts of his game.
Jovic can also improve his shot selection. He has shown the ability to be an above average shooter, but like many young players he sometimes gets ahead of himself. I think that’s the main reason why his efficiency hasn’t been great professionally, it’s not because he can’t shoot but rather because he doesn’t always take the right shots. NBA defenses are going to sell his three balls, so it will be interesting to see how he adapts to that. Jovic is also not among the elite athletes in the repechage. Like I said earlier, he’s fast for his size and a creative finisher around the rim, but he’s not very explosive.
Defensively, Jovic isn’t an amazing shot blocker, but his speed and foot length have helped him become a solid defender at the other end. He will have to continue to grow at this end of the field, especially if he joins the Grizzlies who had a top 5 defense last season. Most of his flaws are things that can only be fixed with experience and good coaching, which he would get with the Grizzlies and their development team.
In shape with the Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are looking to develop talent and struggle at the same time and drafting Jovic could be another opportunity to do that. Jovic is listed as a guard in some places, but on the Grizzlies one would expect him to be a stretch 4. His ball handling and shooting ability could help take the Grizzlies roster to the next level, especially with the NBA’s increased small ball movement. In a few years, the “small” Grizzlies roster could include Jackson Jr. at center and Jovic at 4, which would be a very tough game for many teams.
Jovic also plays the ball well and can score in different ways including creating his own shot on the dribble. That ability is something the Grizzlies desperately need more of going forward. The Grizzlies have plenty of players who are great on the ball and in catch-and-shoot scenarios, but outside of Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks, there isn’t a ton of shot creation or isolation scoring. . Due to his versatility and ability to score at all three levels, he could thrive in a bench role and possibly even break into the starting lineup in the future. Players like Brandon Clarke and Desmond Bane were late 1st round picks that the Grizzlies turned into contributors to a really great team, I would expect nothing less if they drafted Jovic.
In the past, bringing in players from abroad was seen as a major risk, but with the emergence of players like Jokic, Giannis Antetokounpo and Luka Doncic, it looks like that idea is changing. Jovic is far from a player of that caliber today but the sky is the limit for him going forward. If he’s available for the Grizzlies at pick 22 or 29, don’t be surprised if Kleiman and company go with the Serbian teenager.
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