Nuggets Draft Profiles: Nikola Jović

The Denver Nuggets hosted a pre-draft workout with six prospects on Friday, June 10. Among that group was Serbian forward Nikola Jović, the subject for our next draft profile.

Jović is just 19 years old, but he’s already made a name for himself in European basketball as a highly intelligent forward with guard skills and an elite feel for the game.

He has spent his professional career with Mega Mozzart in Serbia as part of the ABA Adriatic League. And he caught the attention of the U.S. when he dominated in U19 play during the 2020-21 season.

Now, he’s making the move over to the NBA, and he is generally seen as a first round pick in the Draft, taking place on June 23.

Here, we’ll detail strengths, areas of improvement, and his fit with the Nuggets should they select him at the end of June.

Strengths

Playmaking and Shot Creation:

Jović may be one of the best pure passers in this year’s draft. His ability to see the open floor and set teammates up for success is a primary facet of his game. In the NBA, that ability could be expanded on with increased spacing.

He also has knack for finding open shots. Jović has a wonderful feel for the game that allows him to glide through defenders and get quality looks at the basket. For 19 years old, his game is remarkably smooth.

Elite Pick-and-Roll Ball-handler:

Where Jović’s skills become really apparent is in the pick-and-roll. The film suggests that Jović is a downright cheat code in that type of set given his size and passing ability.

If defenses switch a guard onto him, he can find his way to the rim and score with ease. Drop coverage doesn’t work either, as he has the confidence to let it fly from three. And if they attack with both defenders, his court vision almost guarantees an open shot for a teammate.

A 6’10” forward with guard skills is simply hard to come by in the NBA. There are very few players in the league today — and in league history — that display such abilities at that height.

This is what makes him a tantalizing prospect, even if there have been some concerns regarding strength and conditioning.

Areas of Improvement

Jović’s frame — 6’10”, 230 pounds — may make life difficult for him in his early seasons. Being as tall as he is may give him trouble keeping up with quicker guards, but his slim frame could lead to problems defending the rim as well.

But with strength training programs being what they are today, this concern shouldn’t be a long-term issue. And once he has the bulk to match his height, he could be a dangerously versatile defender.

In his time with Mega Mozzart, Jović showed flashes of being an incredible shooter. But he also showed moments of inconsistency. The hope is that the space of the NBA game will allow him plenty of opportunities for open jumpers and in-rhythm attempts.

Fit With Nuggets

While the Nuggets are already home to a Serbian big man with elite passing skills and a generation basketball IQ, it wouldn’t be unheard of for a team to double down on that skillset.

Jović is not the exact same player as the back-to-back MVP, but he does provide much of what made Nikola Jokić such a fascinating prospect in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft.

At 19, Jović is relatively polished, and could make an immediate impact for a contending team that wants intelligent players. The Nuggets could play Jović as a four, should the jump shot become more consistent like it’s expected to.

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