Heat’s Pat Riley discusses why Miami picked Nikola Jovic at No. 27

Carl Juste/cjuste@miamiherald.com
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Heat president Pat Riley went more than a quarter century between selecting international players in the first round of the NBA Draft.

The hope now is that 6-11 Serbian forward Nikola Jovic -- selected by the Heat 27th overall on Thursday - has a far better NBA career than Estonian wing Martin Muursepp, who played in only 10 games for the Heat and 83 NBA games overall after being drafted 25th overall in 1996.

“He’s been playing with men for a long time, very competitive,” Riley said of Jovic. “All of our scouts have been to Europe and have seen him develop. It was probably going to be a developmental player or younger player [at that pick]. He’s highly skilled. Can really shoot the ball. Just turned 19. We stayed true to our board.”

Riley offered more insight in a news conference that was limited to discussion of Jovic and the Heat’s draft approach:

▪ More on his overall game: “You don’t know where the development is going to come. All of the competition internationally. The quality of competition has really gone up. He has been coached very well. He’s got 6-10 size, he’s long, he can handle the ball, he is tremendously skilled. We feel like we got a really good pick.”

▪ Riley said “the thing that impressed us the most is he’s got great size, great length, great skills and he’s young.”

▪ Asked if he was tempted to trade the pick for a future first-round pick to add another asset for a trade, Riley said nothing appealing surfaced.

“There were a lot of things happening. You see teams in the Eastern,... Western finals... not doing that much [Thursday]. We talked about it. I would rather get the player now.

“We have a team we don’t know what is going to happen in free agency. We would rather develop the player now. You could defer picks down the road. There wasn’t really anything that was that exciting, so we decided to use the pick.”

▪ Riley said he told Jovic about “the first time I met [former NBA center] Vlade Divac. We think this kid is a burgeoning talent [that] we couldn’t pass up at 27. This is a very unique player with unique size.”

▪ On what Jovic could become defensively, Riley said: “He’s got great length and we will work very hard with him. All of those players 19, 20, 21 aren’t really great defenders until they’re taught. He’s quick, long enough to play defense.”

▪ Riley said the Muursepp pick never dissuaded the Heat from drafting an international player.

“Did we have a problem playing Goran?” Riley said of veteran guard Goran Dragic, acquired in a 2015 trade from Phoenix. “If a player can play, I don’t care where he comes from. We’re excited about him. The kid is going to be very good.”