Heat’s Nikola Jovic on Serbia’s preliminary roster for Olympics. Is another summer of growth ahead?

D.A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com

It’s going to be another busy offseason for Miami Heat forward Nikola Jovic. The Heat and Jovic also hope it’s another productive offseason.

After playing in summer league for the Heat and then taking part in the FIBA Basketball World Cup with the Serbian national team last offseason, Jovic’s growth was on display in his second NBA season.

This summer, Jovic is expected to play for the Serbian national team in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Jovic is on Serbia’s preliminary 16-man roster for the Paris Olympics along with fellow NBA players like three-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Atlanta Hawks.

“He’ll be motivated to have a really important productive offseason,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said after Jovic started in each of Miami’s five playoff games this season. “He has to really get after it again. He made tremendous progress last offseason. The six weeks leading up into summer league and then the World Cup, he’ll need another summer like that. The Olympics will help.”

Jovic, who turned 21 on Sunday, played in just four of the Heat’s first 30 games this past season after beginning the season completely out of the team’s rotation. But he flashed his impressive combination of size and skill at 6-foot-10 and 205 pounds after becoming the Heat’s full-time starting power forward in February, averaging 9.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 22.2 minutes per game on 47.6 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent shooting on 4.5 three-point attempts per game while starting his final 26 appearances of the regular season.

Among the 10 players in franchise history who have started a regular-season game for the Heat at age 20 or younger, the only ones who started 15 or more games in a season are Jovic (36 starts this past season), Bam Adebayo (19 starts in 2017-18), Michael Beasley (19 starts in 2008-09), Daequan Cook (19 starts in 2007-08) and Justise Winslow (15 starts in 2016-17).

The only players in franchise history who have started a playoff game for the Heat at age 20 or younger are Jovic, Tyler Herro and Winslow.

“You have so many great players you cannot just go out and do whatever you want,” Jovic said during a recent interview with HoopsHype when asked what he views as the next step in his evolution.

“So being around players like Jimmy [Butler], Tyler Herro, and Bam, you need to figure out how you can help them, and the way I helped was spacing the floor and playing some good defense. I know I can grow in a lot of ways basketball-wise. There’s not one thing that I can focus on, I have to focus on so many of them, like from shooting to, dribbling, passing, basically everything. I feel like there’s so much room and space where I can improve, and I feel like I’ll show it at least a little more next season.”

Along with Jovic, two other players from the Heat’s season-ending roster are also expected to represent their home countries in the Olympics this summer: Adebayo for the United States and Patty Mills for Australia.

In addition, Spoelstra will serve as an assistant coach for Team USA under the national team’s head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors.

The Olympics will take place from July 26 through Aug. 11 in Paris, with 12 teams competing for the gold medal in men’s basketball.

Jovic, who was drafted by the Heat with the 27th overall pick in 2022, will look to make the most of that time to continue his development and growth ahead of his third NBA season.

“I hold him to an incredibly high standard because our standards are not going to change,” Spoelstra said of Jovic at the end of this past season. “Our expectations are always going to be championship-level expectations. Yes, I’m expecting him to rise to that. Is he there now? No. Am I going to stop driving him and pushing him? No. But I’ve been very encouraged by the progress that he’s made, in particular in the last 12 months.”

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