While big-name rookies like Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson will spend their debut seasons toiling amidst the dregs of the NBA, Mirza Teletovic will be busy putting his talents to good use with the newly-minted Brooklyn Nets in their pursuit of a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Of course, Teletovic is anything but your average rookie. He wasn't taken in the 2012 NBA Draft because, well, his hat was no longer in the ring. He's been playing professionally since 2002, when he first signed with the now-defunct KK Sloboda Tuzla in his home country of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Teletovic's first foray into the NBA came in 2007, when he went undrafted after attempting to make the leap from the Spanish ACB League. Teletovic spent five more seasons with Caja Laboral—which has sent (among others) Jose Calderon, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Tiago Splitter to the NBA—before negotiating a buyout with the Basque club and signing a three-year, $9 million deal with the Nets.
By all accounts, Teletovic's game has improved considerably since then. Now 26, the 6'9, 240-pound Bosnian forward is known, first and foremost, as a "stretch four" who ranks among the best scorers outside of The Association. He averaged 16.3 points and 6.9 rebounds for Caja Laboral in the Spanish ACB League, earning him All-League honors, and led the Euroleague in scoring at 21.7 points per game last season.
Aiding Teletovic in this endeavor was (and still is) a smooth shooting stroke, prototypical for a European big man. He's regularly hit better than 35 percent of his three-point attempts as a pro and sports a quick release that allows him to launch shots under any and all defensive conditions.
And while the Ryan Anderson comparisons may be appropriate, don't mistake Mirza for just a spot-up shooter. The big fella does some of his best work coming off picks and in the two-man game. His ability to move, set screens and hit pull-up jumpers will come in handy when playing pick-and-pop in Brooklyn, be it with Deron Williams or Joe Johnson. According to Jay Aych of The Painted Area, Teletovic shot 48 percent on pops last season.
D-Will, in particular, should enjoy pairing with Teletovic. The All-Star point guard prospered alongside another jump-shooting power forward (Carlos Boozer) while with the Utah Jazz and should be able to rekindle some of that magic with Mirza.
The Nets might find Teletovic's skills in the post to be useful as well. He's hardly a dynamo down low—0.81 points per possession (PPP) on the block, per Jay Aych—though he comes equipped with a turnaround jumper that he can hit over either shoulder.
He's also no stranger to attacking the basket off the bounce. Teletovic can use the threat of his shot to set up dribble drives to the hoop, where has the hops to finish with authority and the size and strength to do so through contact.
That same mobility makes Teletovic no less than a passable defender when matched up with perimeter-oriented power forwards of his ilk and has proven that he can hold his own in the post. Per Jay Aych, Teletovic held his opponents to .726 PPP in isolation situations and .727 PPP in the post.
Teletovic isn't particularly prolific on the boards, though that may have more to do with him spending so much time outside of the paint than anything else.
Luckily, the Nets already employ a pair of glass-cleaning specialists in Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. Head coach Avery Johnson, then, should have little trouble hiding Teletovic's issues up front, so long as he avoids pairing him with Brook Lopez, another giant who rebounds like a wing (and not in a good way).
Who will be the Nets' most important reserve this season?
On the whole, nobody should expect Mirza Teletovic to be the player who pushes the revamped Nets from presumptive playoff participant to Eastern Conference title contender. He's a fine player, to be sure, one who will be a tremendous asset in Brooklyn if utilized properly.
But all of Teletovic's numbers and highlights have come opposite European competition, which, while occasionally superb, pales in comparison to the brand seen in the NBA on any given night. There will be new rules in a new league on a new continent to which Teletovic will have to adjust, along with the changes in language and lifestyle that come with the passage from Europe to America.
That being said, Teletovic won't have to be a savior for the Nets whatsoever. At this point, he projects as Humphries' backup at power forward, with rebounding specialist and noted flop artist Reggie Evans challenging him for minutes.
If Brooklyn's core four of Williams, Johnson, Wallace and Lopez can take care of the heavy lifting, with Teletovic adding outside shooting off the bench, then the Nets may well give the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics a run for their money atop the East this season.