ASK IRA: Will play by Heat’s Nikola Jovic in World Cup translate to NBA?

Q: Ira, you wrote about Nikola Jovic being a “leading man” for Serbia (even though we know Nikola Jokic is their leading man). You are putting too much stock into his play at the Worlds. Just look at Team USA, it’s hardly an All-Star team. – David.

A: But when you’re 20, any competition with meaning is significant competition. And that makes the ongoing World Cup more meaningful that, say, his solid play last month during summer league. In summer league, winning is not necessarily the ultimate goal, and the games are played that way. At the World Cup, the urgency is real. Nikola Jovic wasn’t ready for meaningful playoff minutes this past postseason with the Heat. So this is the next best thing. In light of the time he missed last season with his back issue, being on the court matters. And while the World Cup might not be the Olympics, particularly with the watered-down first round at the World Cup, it still is valuable experience to show the ability to lead. It will be interesting to see what comes next, with Serbia’s next two games against Italy and the Dominican Republic.

Q: Nikola Jovic goes 9 for 9 and 5 for 5 on 3-pointers in a FIBA World Cup game. He’s had a lot of production this summer, although obviously not against NBA competition. His value must be going up, either as a Heat rotation guy or Damian Lillard trade bait. – Morgan, New Orleans.

A: Perhaps, Or perhaps the Trail Blazers wonder why more hasn’t been shown on the NBA level, albeit with Nikola Jovic dealing with a back issue almost all of last season. Still, the opportunity is one that Nikola has seized, which should hearten either Heat or Blazers fans, depending on what comes next.

Q: After watching Nikola Jović play for Serbia, there is no way I would include him in a trade for Damian Lilliard. Nikola at 20 looks even better than Dirk Nowitzki at 20.  For those who aren’t sure, go watch highlights of Nikola.  His upside is incredible. The more I watch Tyler Herro, Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Nikola Jovic, not sure what the Portland general manager is doing.  – Stuart, Miami.

A: Nikola Jovic as Dirk Nowitzki? Um, let’s put the brakes on that one. Dirk was a No. 9 pick; Nikola a No. 27 selection. So it’s not as if NBA scouts, at least with the two players at a young age, had the two on the same level. Still, I’m not sure the Heat would draw the line at Nikola when it comes to a potential trade for Damian Lillard. But it also should put to rest the notion of that Heat not having enough to put into play to create an equitable package.