Toronto Raptors: The Return of Rasho Nesterovic

Stephen BrotherstonAnalyst ISeptember 19, 2009

MIAMI - APRIL 03:  Rasho Nesterovic #12 of the Toronto Raptors scores over James Posey #42 of the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on April 3,  2007 in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Former NBA champion Radoslav “Rasho” Nesterovic returned this off season to Toronto, a place this experienced veteran said wanted to play for this year.  Now that’s saying several things Toronto fans having been dying to hear.

So why did Bryan Colangelo go out of his way to bring back the big man he’d shipped off to Indiana last year? Aside from Rasho being the consummate professional everywhere he has played and that Rasho was an effective center during his two year stint in Toronto, Bryan Colangelo believes that Rasho Nesterovic still has game!

Rasho Nesterovic at 33 years old is a 7’ 250 lb center in his 11th NBA season.  Originally playing in Italy for Virtus Kinder Bologna, Rasho joined the T-wolves at the end of the 1998-99 season. The high point of Rasho’s steady career came as the regular season starting center on the 2005 NBA Champion Spurs.  Last season was spent tolling away for the Indiana Pacers following the trade from Toronto.

Over his long career, Rasho has averaged 7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.4 steals, and 1.1 blocks in 22.8 minutes per game.  Never a flashy player, Rasho is best known as a slow-footed center who knows how to use his size and length to great effect.  Toronto fans should remember that when Rasho was on the floor, defense under the basket was much less of a concern.

Many players as they move into their thirties begin to have a noticeable drop off in their stats.  However, players like Nesterovic who rely more on basketball IQ than athletics tend to have longer careers, at least until injuries begin to catch up with them.  Fortunately for Toronto, Rasho has proved to be very durable playing in at least 70 games every year.

Last season in Indiana, Nesterovic started 19 games.  In those starts he averaged 9.6 points, 5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.8 blocks in 24.6 minutes.  Taken as a whole, Rasho had better numbers in his starts last year than he has averaged for his career.

And Rasho’s success last season didn’t just come against weaker opponents. In 4 games against Boston, 3 of them starts, Rasho averaged 8.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 0.8 blocks in 18.5 minutes.  And in 2 games against the LA Lakers, he averaged 12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1.5 steals in 24 minutes.

Clearly, Rasho can still step up his game when called upon.

But Toronto fans should remember Rasho is equally effective in limited minutes off the bench.  Last season in Indiana, Rasho came off the bench for 51 games. He scored 5.7 points, and collected 2.8 rebounds, 1 assist, 0.4 steals, and 0.4 blocks in only 14.6 minutes.  Rasho can still produce at the same per minute rate whether he is a starter or not.

Not much has changed in Rasho’s game since he left the Raptors just over a year ago and it doesn’t look like fans should be expecting anything different from the last time we saw him.  Rasho will still be that steady slow-footed center who doesn’t cause a lot of excitement on either end of the floor.  He’ll still be that player who defends by being in the right position and who doesn’t foul much because he rarely leaves his feet.  Rasho will also score mostly on short range jumpers and lay-ups when he takes advantage of defensive mistakes and he can still make the nice pass to complete a play.

Almost every team that has playoff aspirations either has or tries to acquire a veteran big man with the dependable characteristics of a Rasho Nesterovic.  Rasho won’t take your team to the playoffs but not having a player like Rasho can keep your team from getting there.