Brooklyn Nets: Is Mirza Teletovic the Real Deal?
The Brooklyn Nets have undoubtedly been the most active team in free agency thus far.
They were able to re-sign Gerald Wallace to a four-year, $40 million deal and then turned right around and re-signed Deron Williams, the highest-coveted player in this year's class, to a five-year, $98 million deal. To cap it all off, the team also worked a blockbuster deal to acquire Joe Johnson from Atlanta in exchange for a multitude of players.
However, the least notable signing of this offseason for the Nets came early Tuesday when it was announced the team had signed Bosnian Mirza Teletovic to a three-year, $15.675 million contract, according to Stefan Bondy of nydailynews.com.
Bondy also noted,
The Nets are using their entire midlevel exception on Teletovic, which means, assuming Deron Williams re-signs, they can only offer Jason Kidd or any other free agent the $2 million biannual exception or the veteran's minimum. Kidd, who wants to serve as Williams' backup, will command more on the open market. A reunion between Kidd and the Nets now seems unlikely.
However, even though he has signed, it won't become official until July 11, the day that everything becomes 100 percent official.
When Teletovic is officially signed to the three-year contract, the Brooklyn Nets will have three European players under contract, which includes Croation Bojan Bogdanović, the 31st overall selection of the Miami Heat. Along with Bogdanović, there's also Georgia's Tornike Shengelia, the 54th selection and Turkey's İlkan Karaman, the 57th overall pick in this year's draft.
However, all three players will likely continue to develop overseas for the next couple of seasons. Unlike that trio of young players, Teletovic will play in the upcoming NBA season.
The 6'9" power forward was a tremendous star overseas this year. He averaged a healthy 21.2 points and about six rebounds per game in Euroleague play. Because of his 6'9" frame, Teletovic will likely play small forward at the professional level.
When Teletovic takes the court for the first time, one of two things are going to happen—either he becomes a stellar NBA player or he just becomes another footnote in the overseas busts column.
Over the last decade or so, there have been some very good forwards that have migrated to the NBA from overseas.
Andrei Kirilenko, for example, was a very intricate part of many Jazz teams for a number of seasons. Prior to the start of this past season, Kirilenko went back overseas to play for his old Russian team, PBC CSKA Moscow. The once-beloved player will likely return to the NBA again before he decides to call it a career and the fans will likely welcome him back with open arms.
Which is the more accurate Mirza Teletovic comparison?
To go with Kirilenko, there are other notable well-playing forwards such as Danilo Gallinari, Nicolas Batum, Hedo Turkoglu, Boris Diaw, Serge Ibaka, Luis Scola, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki and numerous others.
Gallinari has been widely considered as one of the best up-and-coming overseas players and has shown flashes of brilliance while playing for the Knicks and Nuggets. Like Gallinari, Batum has been classified as another one of the best up-and-comers and is one of the biggest sought-out free-agent small forwards in this year's class.
Boris Diaw has had a decent career since being selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the first-round of the 2003 NBA Draft. Despite playing for Atlanta, Phoenix, Charlotte and San Antonio, the Frenchman has been a quality player, even though he hasn't put up eye-popping numbers.
Of course, Congo's Serge Ibaka has flourished into one of the NBA's best power forwards. He also happens to play for one of the NBA's best up-and-coming teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Ibaka was an intricate part of Oklahoma City's run to the NBA Finals this past season. Additionally, Ibaka is arguably one of the best shot-blocking specialists in the NBA, which undoubtedly helps his case.
It just so happens that Spain and Germany has put out two of the best power forwards in the NBA, Paul Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki. Gasol has been an amazing part to the Lakers' success, even though he is on the trading block. Nowitzki is arguably the best overseas player to ever come to the NBA. Over the course of his illustrious career, Nowitzki has taken his Dallas Mavericks to two NBA Finals, including a mild upset of the Miami Heat in 2011.
If Teletovic wants to fall in the category of the aforementioned players, he will have to play exceptionally well. I fully believe he has all of the capabilities of becoming a legitimate player in the NBA.
The main thing that may hurt Teletovic in the long run is that he prefers the perimeter instead of the paint. If he wants to have a successful NBA career, he will have to put himself in the paint sooner or later. He will never be able to stay on the perimeter and be a great player unless his name is Peja Stojakovic.
Teletovic, who has been dubbed as the "best player in Europe," is also a decent defensive player. He has been able to hold his own since coming to Spain's Caja Laboral team as he is able to applicably defend smaller forwards.
Unfortunately, it does hurt him that he is not a quality rebounder for a player of his size. Throughout his basketball career overseas, Teletovic has consistently put up mediocre rebounding numbers. He will definitely need to work on that aspect of his game if he wants to be a success at the professional level.
Historically, Teletovic has been a fairly decent three-point shooter. However, his numbers have dipped slightly this past season, as he shot a paltry 36 percent in 34 games in the ACB. During his ten games in the Euroleague, Teletovic did much better, shooting 43.1 percent from beyond the arc.
He will need to work on his shooting consistency before the 2012-13 season starts later this year.
Although there have been numerous decent forwards from overseas, there has been a fair amount of busts that have come to the United States. This may be the main thing that hurts Teletovic's chances.
Teletovic will need to play exceedingly well if he wants to avoid the same category that Yaroslav Korolev, Fran Vasquez, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Saer Sene, Oleksiy Pecherov, Viktor Khryapa, Sergei Monia, Zarko Cabarkapa and others belong to. You can't rule out guys like centers Pavel Podkolzin and Alexis Ajinca or the 6'7" guard Zoran Planinic, who was practically a small forward.
In Teletovic's case, I don't think he will become a solid small forward like Danilo Gallinari or a tremendous bust like Nikoloz Tskitishvili.
I believe he will be somewhere in the middle.
In recent years, there have been numerous overseas prospects that never developed into great players, but they were quality role players while they were in the NBA. I think it's entirely possible that Teletovic will join the same category Bostjan Nachbar, Vladimir Radmanovic, Mickael Pietrus, Carlos Delfino, Marco Belinelli and Omri Casspi belong to.
None of those players are everyday starters that will put up gaudy numbers and start on a daily basis. But, those guys have been tremendous role players that have put up decent stats as primary backups.
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There's no doubt that Teletovic will likely start the season on the bench as he will play small forward in the NBA. If he does continue to strictly play that position he will not start during his rookie campaign unless current starter Gerald Wallace, who just signed a four-year deal, goes down with an injury.
However, it is entirely possible that the former Spain power forward could play that same position with the Nets if they manage to work out a deal for Dwight Howard. If the Nets manage to acquire Howard, they will undoubtedly have to give up Kris Humphries, their current starting power forward. If the deal falls through, the Nets would still have to sign the free agent Humphries to a contract.
At this point, it seems unlikely that the Nets would even be able to sign Humphries. They invested $98 million in Deron Williams earlier today and threw $40 million over four years to Gerald Wallace.
Not to mention, there's also the recent acquisition of Joe Johnson, who signed a six-year, $119 million contract with Atlanta in July 2010. Now that Johnson is a Net, they have to pay his salary, of course. There's no doubt in my mind that during this past season Johnson had the second-worst contract in the NBA. Rashard Lewis undoubtedly had the worst.
Those three players will likely make up most of their payroll for the upcoming season, which means Howard may not be a Net. However, anything is possible.
If they aren't able to deal for Howard, that could be very beneficial to Teletovic. The Bosnian can play both small and power forward and could put in valuable minutes at either spot.
As I've stated before, I really like Teletovic's chances of succession, even though he has a few key things to work on before he takes the court for the first time.
In Teletovic's case, I would go ahead and say that his ceiling is Andrei Kirilenko, his floor is Nikoloz Tskitishvili and his actual comparison would be Carlos Delfino. At the end of the day, it appears that Teletovic is quite similar to Delfino, which is not a bad thing by any means.
Teletovic will have some decent success at the professional level and luckily for him, he won't be the next Nikoloz Tskitishvili.
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