Tuesday, June 17, 2014

2014 Draft Scouting: Nikola Jokic

This scouting report might be a bit selfish on my end, as there's been zero mention of the Pistons contacting Serbian C Nikola Jokic.  However, I would be ecstatic if the Pistons took him with the 38th pick a week from this Thursday.  Jokic, born in 1995, nearly withdrew from the draft earlier this week, but changed his mind a few hours later and decided to keep his name in.  This may not be the best decision for him as he could've certainly become a first round lock and possibly a lottery pick with another year of development.  He's an extremely talented passer on the block, in traffic and from the high post to go with shooting range out to about 18-20 feet.  Any team looking for a big man who can shoot should be in on Jokic; his mechanics are excellent for a young player his size.  He's the definition of a skilled big man.
Jokic's raw size is legitimate too, as he measured in at 6'11 (in shoes), and 253 lbs with a 7'3 wingspan at this year's Nike Hoop Summit.  A brief Google skim doesn't return a vertical for Jokic, but he doesn't appear very explosive on tape, which could be what has scouts down on him and the thing that keeps him out of the first round.  He looks to have decent lateral quickness, and there's no arguing with the quality of his footwork on both offense and defense.  Jokic honed his skill in the Adriatic League (it is what it sounds like; a league of teams around the Adriatic Sea region) for KK Mega Vizura in Belgrade, Serbia.  The league provides good competition, and has hosted numerous former and current NBA players including Nikola Pekovic, Aron Baynes, Pero Antic, Gordan Dragic, Beno Udrih, likely 2014 first round pick Dario Saric and the one and only Adam Morrison.  Jokic produced very solid numbers for Mega Vizura last season, averaging 11.4 PPG and 6.4 RPG in 25 minutes per contest.  He shot 52.1% from the field (63.6% on two-point attempts) and blocked a shot per game.  While these numbers don't quite jump off of the page, they're pretty impressive for a 19 year old playing at that level in Europe. 
Click "Read More" for the rest of the scouting report...
The above is a sampling of what Jokic did in his time at the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit where he was regarded as one of the top big men in attendance, including this bit of praise:
Tweets all week praised Jokic for his passing and offensive versatility; and while he didn't play great in the game (2p, 5r, 1-3fg), it's basically an All-Star game that isn't exactly tailored to back-to-the-basket big men.  His dominance in drills all week says more about him than 13 minutes of 1-on-5 basketball, in my opinion. 

As mentioned above, Jokic is a precision passer from all spots on the court.  His ability to find cutters reminds me a little bit of what Greg Monroe showed in the 2012-13 season when the offense was still running through him.  He'll likely have to adjust to quicker, more athletic defenders in the NBA and fine-tune that part of his game, but the talent is there.  With his versatile scoring, impressive footwork and passing, Jokic has the ceiling of a post player you can run your offense through.

Jokic still has some work to do on his body to be NBA-ready, including improving his conditioning and his overall strength.  I'm not sure how he'll translate defensively, but with his length and quickness, he has the tools to interrupt passing lanes and challenge/block shots.  In my eyes, Jokic is the 4th best international prospect in the draft (Exum, Nurkic, Saric, maybe an argument for Capela) and easily the 3rd best C in the pool (Embiid, Nurkic).  He offers a blend of size and skill that's not common, and I think he's close enough to ready physically that he could contribute right away.  He would fill a need with the Pistons as the backup C, and is skilled enough that he could play PF in a lineup with Drummond if he can show an ability to guard opposing PFs.  If I'm SVG on June 26th and Nikola Jokic is still there, this is my pick, and it doesn't take me long to get it to the podium.                                                                                                

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