As we continue our draft profile series here at Denver Stiffs, next up is — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — a talented young prospect out of Serbia’s whose first name is you guessed it, Nikola. His name is so similar to that of back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic that all you have to do is replace the K with a V and you have talented playmaker, Nikola Jovic.
Jovic not only has almost the same name as Jokic, but he also played for the same professional team in Serbia with Mega Basket as part of the Adriatic League. The beautiful thing with Jovic is he is not only a tremendous prospect, but he is just 19 years old and has tons of room to grow as a player. Jovic turned 19 just today, so happy birthday to him!
The Denver Nuggets are slated to pick in the first round at 21 overall and Jovic feels like a player who could get drafted in the mid-to-late first round range. At 6-foot-10, 210 pounds, Jovic is a dynamic shooting guard/small forward prospect whose game has a chance to translate to the NBA. Jovic is a do-it-all type of player who can handle the ball, makes plays for his teammates, and score from basically anywhere on there court.
Nikola Jovic, forward, Mega Basket
Age: 19 (6/9/2003)
Jovic’s per game stats this past international season (2021-22)
It was a pretty solid season for Jovic as he averaged 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game in 27.8 minutes per game. Jovic shot 42.8 percent from the field and 35.6 percent from three-point range, which is an aspect of his game that could continue to get better at the next level. Some of his defensive stats were 0.6 steals and 0.4 blocks per game as Jovic certainly made his impact felt a little more on the offensive end of the floor.
Going back just two seasons ago when Jovic was playing on the under 19 team at Mega Basket is when he really started to come on the scene as he averaged 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists per game. The sample size was incredibly small — just three games — but you could tell the talent was there even two seasons ago.
Jovic is a point guard in a small forward body as he does a great job of making things happen for his teammates. The ball is never stagnant when Jovic is in control as he does a really good job of driving to the basket then either finishing near the rim or dishing the ball off to one of his teammates for an easy look.
Nikola Jovic's passing at 6'11 is wildly impressive.— Mavs / Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) June 4, 2022
Comfortable passing out of traps, threads the needle, finds shooters & cutters, great overall in the P&R, runs point in transition, has a knack for the extra pass, makes lob passes & can pass with accuracy against pressure pic.twitter.com/SsmpCIyA2K
For a player that really doesn’t posses an elite first step, Jovic uses his dribbling skills to his advantage which is incredibly impressive for a player his size. Jovic can create in transition and has no problem leading the fast break as his court vision is second to none.
Nikola Jovic sometimes has some very entertaining passes. Here's one of my favorites. Catches the ball mid air and throws a touch lob pass in transition. When given opportunity he's a fairly decisive passer and has good instincts. He's going to be a fun player in the NBA. pic.twitter.com/znhq1kF5NJ— Asher Levy (@asherlevynba) April 5, 2022
It’s almost impossible to stop a player like that in transition as Jovic does a really good job of grabbing rebounds then immediately looking to create in transition. Not only can Jovic create for others in transition, but he also does a great job of making plays for himself as he’s a one man wrecking crew with the ball in his hands.
Good looking shot and plays smooth
Even though his scoring is inconsistent at times, there is no doubt Jovic can shoot the lights out and has a really impressive looking stroke. Not only can Jovic create and score with the ball in his hands, but he also projects to be a really good player off-ball who has a great feel for the game.
Jovic understands where his spots are on the court and does a great job creating in the open floor and getting his shots off the dribble. His smooth handle helps Jovic create off the dribble and his long strides give him an advantage to score in a variety of ways.
18-year-old Nikola Jovic made 5/10 3s, shot 7-of-14 overall on the way to a strong 22-point showing in Mega’s 81-71 Adriatic League loss to Igokea. The 6-10 small forward rounded out his performance by showing his playmaking ability w/ 5 assists, grabbed 8 boards and had 1 steal pic.twitter.com/rWfdTEDL8K— DraftExpressContent (@DXContent) March 7, 2022
It’s not just his ability to score, but Jovic has really good basketball IQ and rarely forces any shots. For a player as talented as Jovic, he never forces anything and does a really good job of letting the game come to him. That overall feel for the game is going to help Jovic as he transitions to the NBA and could play a massive role on him getting playing time sooner rather than later.
Feel for the game and projects to be a really good cutter at the next level
We’ve touched on it a little bit, but for how young Jovic is he truly has an incredible feel for the game that is only going to get better. Jovic plays smooth, smart, patient, and his understanding of where he needs to be on the court at all times offensively is something pretty special.
Jovic shows patience on the post-up, using a text-book spin-move to elbow out his defender into an AND1 pic.twitter.com/dmbwistCwy— Beyond the RK (@beyondtheRK) July 10, 2021
Jovic’s skill-set as a cutter is something that could fit in really well with the Nuggets alongside Jokic. Not only could Jovic play alongside Jokic and the rest of the starters, but he could also come off the bench and create for the Nuggets second unit.
Can be turnover prone at times
This comes with the territory of how much Jovic is asked to do with the ball in his hands, but he can get a little turnover happy at times. Jovic averaged 2.7 turnovers per game this past season as he tried to create a little to much at times.
Although Nikola Jovic is a really good playmaking forward, he can be too turnover prone on his passes. Seems a bit careless at times when making a pass. He averaged 4.4 turnovers a game per 40 minutes which is too high for a secondary playmaker. Decision-making needs to improve. pic.twitter.com/zx8Fv6n6hA— Global Scouting (@GlobalScouting_) May 11, 2022
Those forced passes and bad turnovers are something that will keep Jovic off the floor in the NBA if he doesn't clean those up. Chances are low though that a team is going to ask Jovic to create for his teammates as much as he did at Mega Basket, so with less usage should result in less turnovers.
With how tremendous of a playmaker Jovic is though a team might just have to live with the turnovers similar to what the Nuggets have done with Jokic. When you have a player who is such a good passer and loves to get his teammates involved like Jovic and Jokic do it’s almost tough to tell them to fix that element of their game.
It might be one of those things where a team might just have to live with it if Jovic commits one turnover for every three assists, which certainly is not a bad margin if most of his playmaking is resulting in a positive result for the team.
Can be sluggish at times defensively
Let me start this off by saying I don’t think Jovic is as bad defensively as some people might think. It all really starts with how much effort Jovic is giving on that end of the floor because when he’s engaged he’s really not that bad of a defender. What you see at times from Jovic is he’s either sluggish or just seems to be going through the motions on the defensive end of the floor.
Jovic is often in pretty good position defensively and rarely got beat off the dribble if he was locked in and focused. Guarding in space is no issue for Jovic and he can guard pretty much any position on the floor except for centers. Jovic is not a big shot blocker near the rim, but he can at times affect shots which leads to transition points for his team:
Love this sequence by Nikola Jovic. Defense won’t ever be his calling card but his positional size and length helps him a good bit on that end. Blocks the post fadeaway shot attempt, runs the floor, and then makes a very good read which leads to a wide open three. pic.twitter.com/W3Qh72PlLr— Global Scouting (@GlobalScouting_) September 22, 2021
That clip really paints a picture of what type of player Jovic can be in the NBA as he worked hard defensively and then was able to do what he does best, which is make plays for his teammates in transition. As long as Jovic can buy in defensively in the NBA like he does on the offensive end of the court he should have a long and successful career ahead of him.
It’s hard to see where Jovic would slot in the Nuggets rotation, but Denver could certainly use his playmaking ability and he is a prospect with great upside. Jovic got better and better during his time in Serbia and we’ve seen what wonders that can happen when the Nuggets take a chance on a prospect out of Serbia.
It’s tough seeing Jovic slot into the starting lineup for the Nuggets next season, but could he be an instant contributor off the bench? Absolutely. It feels like the Nuggets want to target a defensive players in this years draft and even though Jovic is not as big a liability on that floor as some might think, he definitely doesn’t have the upside on that end of the floor like some other prospects in this class have.
There is no telling whether or not Jovic will be on the clock when the Nuggets pick, but if he is I think he’s certainly an option. It’s tough to pass over the playmaking skill-set that Jovic possesses and at just 19 years old he may just be getting started.