The NBA today has an obsession with versatility and length.
Needless to say, Orlando Magic fans. They don’t need another lecture on length, ability to defend multiple positions, and all the other design fixes.
The league has undoubtedly evolved in that direction.
It’s positionless basketball. The only positions that count are the positions you can defend. That is the focus of every design. The players who blow up draft boards are the ones who show they can tick multiple boxes on the checklist.
It’s leading to more incredible players – and incredibly experienced players – entering the league and redefining what’s valuable.
If there was one super strong argument for picking Chet Holmgren with the first overall win, it’s that versatility and collection of skills that draws everyone. Of course he is not alone. The league is looking for players like him.
They won’t let another Nikola Jokic slip through the cracks. Offensively, teams are willing to reconsider how they build their offense and how they use these players with non-traditional skills.
It’s certainly a more qualified league than ever. And bigger players always have to be able to do more.
That’s why Nikola Jovic cemented his first-round status. The NBA won’t let another Jokic get away with it. And Jovic will benefit from that.
Nikola Jovic is a fascinating big man who plays like a guard and has all the skill and versatility the league loves. Jovic is more than just his name and someone to keep an eye on.
He is a 6ft 10 forward from Serbia who can do anything offensively. He averaged 12.0 points per game and 4.8 rebounds per game in all competitions for MEGA Basket. He shot 33.3 percent over the bow in all competitions.
He transitioned from the junior team to the senior team last year, averaging 11.7 points per game and shooting 35.6 percent from the arc in 27.8 minutes per game when he got there.
Back in 2021 at the FIBA U19 World Cup, he averaged 18.1 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game, which put Serbia in fourth place. Notable at that tournament, he scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds in the semi-final loss to France (he missed all six of his 3-pointers, and notably, Victor Wembanyana only played nine minutes in the game).
However, the numbers don’t quite capture what makes Jovic so special.
Jovic is truly a guardian in a great man’s body. He’s adept at attacking the basket from dribbling and driving close-outs away. This is where his athleticism really comes into play. He can finish hard with a dunk or create touch layups around the basket.
His movements are super fluid for a man his size, and he makes quick, decisive drives when the lane opens up for him.
But he really has all the skills of a Guardian. He is adept at creating his own shot from dribbling. He showed plenty of backsteps and dribbling moves to create shots and highlights.
His teams have used him as a guard. Even in a world where positions don’t exist, Jovic still stands out. He would be normal if he were 6ft 6. But because he’s 6-foot-10, he stands out.
All eyes are on him and that helps highlight his flaws.
Jovic is great at creating for himself. But he still needs to improve as a passer and playmaker. Teams ran him in some limited pick and rolls and he has all the passing tools and skills. But that’s something he needs to develop further.
His 3-point shot also shows many indications of being there. But the percentages have yet to rise. But he has all these skills.
Offensively, Jovic can do almost anything. Or at least he can potentially do anything. And that’s the part that’s super exciting for Jovic.
But there are the other parts of his game that are worrying. Especially defensively.
Jovic is known in drafting circles for being a negative defender – not just a bad defender, but a really bad defender. Defensively, there’s just not much to excite about him.
Last year he averaged 0.5 blocks per game across all competitions. So he’s a big one that’s not a great shot blocker.
That’s fine, he was essentially playing guard. But the band isn’t nice either.
He was beaten by dribbling as he struggled to switch hips and fend off changes of direction. Faster guards just flew past him and came to the basket at will. Jovic can’t hold his own in front of smaller, faster players.
Getting around screens, Jovic struggled to anticipate and bypass screens while staying connected with his man. He was constantly behind and couldn’t keep up with the players as they got around the screens.
He’s a little better on the ball where his size causes problems on the border and closes off passing paths. But Jovic needs to improve as a defender on the ball and as a full-back.
The NBA is a bit bigger and the league will likely use him as a forward rather than a guard like they did for his club side. He’ll probably slip into the NBA as a stretch-4. But it would still be up to the teams to keep him on the sidelines.
In a league that’s always getting full of oversized players doing what guards do, having more size on the ball and having more skills to grow with experienced players seems to make sense. The Magic certainly believe in that philosophy judging by the players who drafted them.
Jovic fits this modern philosophy. Teams will have lots of fun playing around and placing it in different spots on the floor. As an attacking player, he is more than capable of attacking the basket and scoring in a row. If his 3-point shot keeps improving, he’ll be able to make teams pay from deep.
But in the NBA, your position is who you can defend. And that’s the bigger question for Jovic.
Can he improve his defense enough to step onto the pitch himself and capitalize on his offensive skills? Those offensive skills are impressive, but the question will be whether they stand out in the NBA as much as they do in Eurobasket and its domestic league in Serbia.
Defense is the key to everything. And Jovic can’t be that negative on court defense. Therefore, in this draft class (a relatively weak draft class) in the 20’s, a player who has significant lottery offensive talent is considered.
Jovic fits into the modern NBA because of his versatility. He’s a guard in a striker’s body and that will serve him well. That’s an offensive trait the NBA was looking for.
The question will be how Jovic fits into the rest of the puzzle.