The most intriguing player from the Nuggets’ latest pre-NBA draft workout idolizes the franchise’s two-time MVP with an almost identical name.
“I’ve never met him. That’s a thing that I’ve always wanted to do,” Nikola Jovic told reporters Friday at Ball Arena when asked about Nikola Jokic. “I hope I’ll meet him soon.”
Jovic, 19, is a first-round prospect who traveled a similar basketball path to Jokic as Serbian natives. They both played for the same international club (KK Mega Bemax) before jumping to the NBA. Jovic — a versatile 6-foot-10, 223-pound wing — is expected to be drafted around when Denver picks at No. 21 overall in the first round.
Jovic left the Friday workout confident about a positive impression with Nuggets head coach Michael Malone in attendance.
“I showed a little bit of everything. A little bit of my shot. A little bit of my passing skills. Guard skills. Low-post skills,” Jovic said. “I see myself as a guy who always knows what the coach wants me to do on the court. If he wants me to be just a spot-up shooter who can rebound, I’ll be that. If he wants me to run the floor a little bit and run in transition, I’ll do that. If he wants me to defend all five positions, I’ll try that.”
Last season, playing in the Adriatic Basketball Association, Jovic averaged 12 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists. While lauded for his playmaking and shot-creation, and not defensive prowess, Jovic has all the physical tools and length to become a versatile NBA defender.
“The game in Europe and here is really different. Here, it’s a fast-paced game with a lot of shots,” Jovic said. “I know it’s going to be hard. But if you love the game, if you have passion for the game, it’s going to be OK.”
Jovic represents a new generation of NBA hopefuls from Serbia inspired by the success of Jokic. Will their home country deliver another league-worthy talent in Jovic?
“A dream come true to me, all of this. Especially (working out for) the Nuggets,” Jovic said. “People in Serbia love basketball. For (Jokic) to be the two-time MVP, all the kids now, everybody wants to play basketball. … Everyone is up late to watch him.”
“Nothing changes.” Malone gave an endorsement for general manager Calvin Booth’s promotion to the front office’s top decision-maker in the wake of Tim Connelly joining the Timberwolves.
“Nothing changes. We have a good thing going,” Malone said Friday. “Aside from being a tremendous human being, he’s more than ready for this opportunity to lead this team in that position. It allows us to have continuity. I think the fact that Calvin and I already have a relationship allows for this to be really smooth.”
The Nuggets are also searching for a new assistant coach after Jordi Fernandez was hired to work on the new Sacramento staff under incoming Kings head coach Mike Brown.
“I’ve spoken to a few guys and something should be announced, hopefully, relatively soon,” Malone said regarding the assistant coaching search. “The guys that I’m talking to have head coaching experience. Guys that I’ve known for a long time who I think can not only help myself, but really enhance our coaching staff and team as well.”