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Serbian guards to follow (Pt.1): Jovan Novak

December 28th, 2013 · No Comments

The future for Serbia on the PG position looks to be Vasilije Micic. But behind the 1994 born prospect, there are other young guards emerging. We will take a look at two of them in a series of two articles. Today, Jovan Novak is being in the focus while we will talk about Ognjen Jaramaz in the second part.

Jovan Novak leads the Serbian League in scoring with 21.4 points per game for Vrsac and is now on his way to sign with Partizan Belgrade. He reached this scoring average with great shooting percentages making 59.6% from two point and 35.5% from three point territory over the first 12 games of the season. Additionally, he was excellent from the charity stripe as he has knocked down 70/80 FTs since the beginning of the season which is an average of nearly 7 free-throw attempts per game. With 5.4 assists per game and only 2.8 turnovers in 32 minutes on the court, Novak underlined his good control of the game and that he was ready for the next step. But what kind of players is behind these statistical facts.

Novak showed his potential in the Serbian Youth National Teams over the last years but rarely could step out of the shadow of Vasilije Micic. He is a good ball handler, left handed and excels in direction and speed changes when attacking the basket. The 1m83 tall and 1994 born guard loves to play the Pick and Roll from the top and can create a lot of good opportunities for the roller but also for the cutters on the baseline. He reads well what the defense is giving him and acts accordingly seeing the open man on the weak side when playing the Pick and Roll from the 45 degrees position as well. His passing technique also allows him to make good dishes to big guys who just slip the screen as he can go for the wrap around or quick shoulder pass as he has very good overall body movement.

Next to his Pick and Roll passing qualities, Novak is also doing a good job to get the perfect entry pass for set plays on the opening wing. This often underestimated art which is crucial to get the offense running and starting not too far from the basket, is another one of his strengths. His ball handling is excellent, especially when he can use his strong left hand. He likes to do several direction changes to get the defender out of balance before flashing into the paint splitting the defense and drawing the help. Here, he is capable of making the good passes to the big guys but he has a preference for scoring himself over the help defender. On his first step, he draws a multitude of fouls as he can surprise the defender quite often with his explosive direction or speed changes when attacking at the right moment.

Despite having a great shooting percentage, Novak struggles sometimes to finish against more physical players. He prefers therefore to go for the floater over the bigger help defender and rarely stops on his drive for a fake also running into a wall at moments. He could improve as well if he protects the ball better with his non-shooting hand when going hard to the rim. Additionally, Novak has a tendency to even use his left hand when coming from the right which makes it even more difficult for him to score in the paint. On the penetration, he can also beat his man with his weaker hand but needs to improve this part of the game in order to remain effective against better defenders. With his quickness, he has also an interesting spin move which he can either use during or before the drive. When going on his right hand, he likes to use it to come back to his stronger left to finish in the paint with some kind of scoop shot.

But when using the spin move to start the drive, you can easily say that this is one of his go-to-moves. He starts with a fake going to the right side so that the defense adjusts. Then, he comes up with a really quick spin move going to the left side and knifing through the defense.

Next to his drive, Novak can shoot from outside despite a quite special shooting form. He is mostly going for some kind of set shot where he lifts only very little from the ground and landing with his left foot far in front of his right foot. As he is shooting with his left hand, this looks a bit strange but overall, his mechanics are executed quite quickly. Nevertheless, as he is going for some kind of shoulder shot, he is not capable of attempting a shot in front of the defender as he lacks the size and elevation to do so. However, his 35% from behind the arc can be explained as he is also used as SG over some stretches where he is capable of knocking down in catch-and-shoot situations. He is not really a shot creator for himself or using the pull up jumper from mid-range out of the penetration. This is certainly the biggest part of his game that Novak needs to improve if he wants to be a good factor on a higher level.

On the defensive end though, Novak has some work to do as well. It might be because of his large minutes and big responsibilities on the offensive end, but he is far away from being a lock-down defender at the moment in his role. He gets stuck in ball screens quite often and struggles to recover his man when going under the screen and is therefore a liability against good three-point shooters who are playing Pick and Roll situations. His lateral speed is not that great as well and he is constantly being attacked on the drive by opposing guards.

Once his transfer situation is clarified between Vrsac and Partizan (both teams are still negotiating on his buyout and future sums to be paid), it will be interesting to see what he can do for a Euroleague team like Partizan. He showed that he can be a dominating force in the Serbian league which is however not on a great level at the moment; at least in the games I watched to write this report. It is necessary though for Novak to make the next step and at least move on to the Adriatic League as the 19 year old needs to improve on a higher level in order to get better.

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