Over the next 3 weeks, GBB will be profiling various players the Memphis Grizzlies may target in the 2022 draft. We'll primarily look at who they may pick with the 22nd and 29th pick, or with a pick from a possible trade-up in the draft.
Nikola Jovic, Forward, Serbia
6'11", 7'0" Wingspan, 223 pounds, 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
2021 U19 FIBA World Cup 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, 0.1 steals, 1.7 blocks
3 STATS OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon): Assists per 36 Minutes (4.6), Age (18.9), 3PA Rate (49.2%)
3 STATS TO IMPROVE: Turnovers Per 36 minutes (3.9), Effective FG Percentage (49.2%), True Shooting Percentage (52.1%)
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES: U19 World Cup All-Tournament Team, 2x Junior ABA league MVP, Junior ABA League MVP
The Grizzlies have often gone for the players that are older and more NBA-ready under Zach Kleiman, but last year we saw them take a chance on a younger prospect with upside in Ziaire Williams. That pick worked out pretty well and I would not be surprised if they do the same in this draft. Enter Nikola Jovic, a 6'10" Serbian forward who is just days away from his 19th birthday with one of the highest upsides in the draft.
The Grizzlies had to trade up to get Williams, but that probably would not be the case for Jovic. It would be difficult to find someone with this much potential projected to go in the 20-30 range. His name is shockingly similar to NBA MVP Nikola Jokic and he is also very skilled for his size, 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 this draft class's most versatile offensive players. For a player that stands at 6'10", Jovic is a good ball-handler and is relatively quick on his feet. This makes him a matchup nightmare because smaller players can't guard him on the inside and he can drive past bigger, slower defenders. He also has shown the ability to create his own shot in isolation and can attack in the pick and roll. Once he gets to the rim, Jovic has shown a lot of creativity, using his length to finish in ways that would be impossible for most players.
Jovic has also shown promise playing off the ball, both in catch and shoot situations and cutting to the basket. He can get much more efficient as a shooter, he only shot 32% from 3 last season, but he has solid mechanics and has shown flashes of above-average shooting ability. Jovic also attempted almost half of his shots from behind the arc, so it is clear that he is confident in the shot.
Another area of his game that projects well to the NBA is his playmaking. Although he is listed as a guard some places, Jovic projects as a prototypical point-forward in the NBA. The league is always searching for players with size that can do more than the traditional big man, which is precisely what Jovic has shown in his short professional career. He averaged close to 5 assists per 36 minutes and is good at getting his teammates involved, but he does need to improve his ball security. Jovic has also improved as a connective passer and has started to make the right reads within the offense.
Areas of improvement
The number one area where Jovic must improve, especially if he wants to contribute to a team like the Grizzlies, is his turnovers. He averaged a little over 3 turnovers per game and 4 per 36 minutes during his last season playing professionally in Serbia. However, this is to be expected from a player that was just 17 years old when he started his professional career. As he continues to grow and mature as a player, I expect his turnovers to decrease, but it is still one of the more 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 with many young players, sometimes he gets ahead of himself. I think this is the main reason his efficiency has not been great professionally, it's not because he can't shoot but rather that he doesn't always take the right shots. NBA defenses are going to sell out on his three-ball so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to that. Jovic also isn't one of the elite athletes in the draft. As I said earlier he is quick for his size and a creative finisher around the rim, but he is not very explosive.
Defensively, Jovic is not an incredible shot blocker but his foot speed and length have helped him develop into a solid defender on the other end. He will need to continue to grow on this end of the floor, 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 through experience and good coaching, which he would get with the Grizzlies and their development team.
Fit with the Grizzlies
The Grizzlies are looking to develop talent and contend at the same time and drafting Jovic could be another opportunity to do that. Jovic is listed as a guard some places but on the Grizzlies he would be expected to be a stretch 4. His ball-handling and shooting ability could help take the Grizzlies lineup to the next level, especially with the increasing small-ball movement of the NBA. A few years from now the Grizzlies' "small" lineup could include Jackson Jr. at center and Jovic at the 4 which would be a very difficult matchup for a lot of teams.
Jovic also plays well off the ball and can score in a variety of ways, including creating his own shot off the dribble. This ability is something the Grizzlies desperately need more off going forward. The Grizzlies have a lot of players that are great off the ball and in catch and shoot scenarios, but outside of Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks there is not a ton of shot creation or isolation scoring. Because of his versatility and ability to score at all three levels, he could thrive in a bench role and maybe even crack the starting lineup in the future. Players like Brandon Clarke and Desmond Bane were late 1st-round picks that the Grizzlies have developed into contributors on a very good team, I would expect nothing less if they drafted Jovic.
In the past, taking players from overseas was seen as a major risk, but with the emergence of players like Jokic, Giannis Antetokounpo, and Luka Doncic it seems that idea is changing. Jovic is nowhere near players of that caliber today but the sky is the limit for him going forward. If he is available for the Grizzlies at either pick 22 or 29 do not be surprised if Kleiman and company go with the Serbian teenager.