ASK IRA: Is Nikola Jovic the Heat’s new Luke Babbitt (we explain)?

Q: Ira, quietly Nikola Jovic has had the best plus/minus on the team the last two games. Does he remain a starter? Should he be getting more playing time? – Joel.

A: I’m still not sold on Nikola Jovic having locked down a starting role or even a rotation role. For now, he is being cast in a Luke Babbitt type of role, where he starts each half and then might or might not return. And because of those limited minutes, I still believe Erik Spoelstra will send him for more extensive action in the G League at some point. My money is that by the time the playoffs roll around, either Haywood Highsmith or Caleb Martin will be the starting power forward, and perhaps even Kevin Love against bigger opponents. In the long run, even a rotation role for Nikola this season would seem somewhat questionable.

Related Articles

Q: Jimmy Butler can summon up games like Monday. He is a great player. But reality is with players with his number of NBA minutes on his body, they will become fewer and farther between going forward. The tightrope Heat walk is how to get as many of those games as possible come playoffs. – Jon.

A: Which is why if he wants/needs time off, the Heat will grant as needed/wanted. It very much will remain caveat emptor when it comes to planning to see Jimmy Butler during the regular season. But what Monday in Brooklyn showed was that when/if Jimmy wants to, he still can. And that only can be heartening. The best of Jimmy remains available.

Q: They’ve gotta build up Tyler Herro’s confidence. Rather do it here than Game 5 of this year’s Eastern Conference finals against Boston. — Tua.

A: This was in response to my questioning why Tyler Herro was on the court instead of Haywood Highsmith when the Nets tied the game at the end of regulation Monday after a Herro foul on Mikal Bridges. After the game, Erik Spoelstra spoke of Herro stepping up on defense, so perhaps you are correct about attempting to build defensive confidence. Also, the building was freezing at Barclays Center, so perhaps it also was a concern about Highsmith being unable to get warmed up for such a moment.