Drafted by: Denver Nuggets, No. 41 overall
Height/Weight: 6'11", 253 lbs
Age: 19 years old
Projected NBA Position: Power Forward/Center
Pro Comparison: Pero Antic
Twitter Handle: @NJokic15
Nikola Jokic entered the NBA draft discussion on the heels of a strong season for Mega Vizura of the Adriatic League and impressive exploits during his week at the Nike Hoop Summit.
A skilled big man with great awareness and length, the Serbian is appealing as a potential addition to the frontcourt. With great footwork and vision, he makes crafty plays with the ball in his hands.
Jokic's upside isn't too spectacular because he's a below-average athlete, so he'll have to focus on utilizing his skill set and operating as an efficient shooter and passer within a system.
|Statistics at Mega Vizura - 2013/2014|
A 6'11" stature may not seem outstanding, but Jokic owns an expansive 7'3" wingspan and a lofty 9'3" standing reach, per DraftExpress.
Those measurements will help him contest shots, collect weak-side boards and shoot over opponents. He'll also make clean passes over and around defenders.
The big downside, though, is his athleticism. He doesn't get much lift off the floor at all, and he doesn't have the speed burst to drive past opponents or stay in front of them laterally.
It's going to give him major problems on defense and limit him to being a role player on offense.
Jokic always seems to have a sharp sense of his surroundings. He has a great feel for when plays are developing and knows where his teammates are in relation to the defense.
Consequently, he's able to make some superb plays as a passer and convert easy buckets as a cutter.
In the NBA, he'll be able to work seamlessly with his teammates when it comes to executing the offense. Whether he's on the low post, high post or wing, he'll catch and quickly make a play.
There are several unathletic big men who enhance their team's offense by playing with great footwork and smarts. Forwards such as Boris Diaw and Pero Antic are good comparisons for Jokic.
As a second-tier prospect, he may not be expected to produce much, but you can't underestimate a player with good instincts and intelligence.
Jokic had shown some glimpses of outside shooting during his Adriatic League season, but he shot just 22 percent from behind the international line in 2013-14.
However, his smooth, accurate tosses at the Hoop Summit didn't go unnoticed, as he looked like a potential stretch big. His high release should serve him well in spot-up opportunities.
He also has a nice touch from mid-range and near the hoop. He can hit turnarounds from 10-15 feet as well as short hooks and flip shots.
When he gets near the basket, he doesn't elevate high but uses his footwork and soft hands to quickly drop the ball off the glass and in. Don't expect a ton of isolation scoring from Jokic, but when he catches the rock in the flow of the offense, he'll use angles to finish efficiently.
Jokic's weaknesses revolve around his bottom-tier athleticism. While he moves his feet pretty well from point A to point B, he lacks the quickness and vertical agility that the rest of the league owns.
These deficiencies will be most glaring on the defensive side, where he'll struggle to keep up with NBA-caliber speed. Whether he's guarding power forwards or centers, he'll have trouble staying in front of them or consistently protecting the rim. He also won't be as effective on the boards as he is in the Adriatic League.
The slow-footed tendencies will also hurt his chances to create offense. Even on closeout drives, his slashing will get corralled pretty easily by help defenders, and he won't be able to elevate over upper-echelon defenders.
In addition, he should speed up his shooting delivery in order to maximize his spot-up chances.
A high IQ and great length might be enough to earn Jokic some minutes early in his career, but he won't provide enough defense or scoring firepower to gain a substantial role.
It will take time for him to prove he can compensate for his underwhelming athleticism and compete with NBA bigs for long stretches.
As previously mentioned, unathletic players can survive in the NBA and even earn prominent roles.
If Jokic can deliver accurate shooting and make the right plays when the ball is in his hands, he could be a poor-man's Diaw and a long-range threat like Antic. Jokic would probably be the fourth or fifth scoring option when he's in the game, but all that matters is whether he plays efficiently.
Unfortunately, his defense will likely prevent him from ever playing 30-plus minutes or starting. However, there's no shame in being a respectable reserve on a winning team in the future.