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Mirza Teletovic Turning into Player Brooklyn Nets Need and Hoped for

Fred Katz@@FredKatzFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 20:  Mirza Teletovic #33 of the Brooklyn Nets looks on in a preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Barclays Center on October 20, 2014 in New York City. 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 Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

When Jarrett Jack was asked if he sees many guys as willing to shoot as Mirza Teletovic, the Brooklyn Nets' backup point guard responded in the most concise way he could:

"Nope."

That was it.

Jack did eventually expand after laughing at the simplicity of his own response, but he didn't need to do so. No one loves to chuck more than Teletovic, and this season, the third-year stretch 4 is becoming one of the Nets' better offensive weapons.

Teletovic is averaging 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game, hitting 40.8 percent of his 5.4 three-point attempts a night. And for the first time, he's getting the freedom to do more than just stand around the perimeter and shoot whenever the ball comes his way.

All the numbers are up, career highs across the board. It's still early, but even if you don't want to put much stock in the stats, you can look other places to see the development in the Bosnian's game.

It's all about confidence, and man, is Teletovic self-assured. 

"Just from the beginning, coach Hollins [said] 'You know what to do. You just do your job, and we all trust you,'" Teletovic said of what builds up his spirit. "All my teammates, everybody. They wouldn't pass me the ball if it wasn't like that."

John Minchillo/Associated Press

Still, absolutely no one believes in Mirza as much as Mirza believes in Mirza, and it's not unwarranted cockiness. It's earned arrogance, because in the end, Teletovic is, you know, actually making shots.

He ranks in the top 15 in three-point makes. He's draining a career-high percentage of shots beyond the arc. He's posting an elite 60.7 percent true shooting.

Teletovic has shot on a little more than 20 percent of his touches. Think about that. One in five times that a role player touches the ball, he's throwing it at the rim.

J.R. Smith, whose autobiography will one day be named I Thought That Was Going In (you will definitely read this book), is shooting on just 16.6 percent of his touches. Kostas Papanikolaou, a forward in a role that more mirrors Teletovic's, puts up attempts on 13.6 percent of his touches for the Houston Rockets.

Naturally, not all of those shots are preferable.

"He's done a good job of trying to learn our defensive schemes and trying to learn shot selection," Lionel Hollins spoke of his 6'8" power forward. "But with a guy like Mirza, you live with questionable shots, because he can make them."

BROOKLYN, NY - NOVEMBER 5:  Mirza Teletovic #33 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots the ball against the Minnesota Timberwolves during the game on November 5, 2014 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Teletovic isn't going to find a look he doesn't like. But even so, in theory—and in practice—he's the ultimate catch-and-shoot power forward.

Hitting 41.5 percent of catch-and-shoot jumpers is nothing to sneeze at—especially considering his volume.

Only six other players are making such a percentage of catch-and-shoot long balls on as many opportunities: Kyle Korver, Shawne Williams, Klay Thompson, Channing Frye, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza. That is a heck of a list to be on, and Teletovic is deservedly right there.

It's all about the decisiveness. He knows he's shooting even before he receives the ball. Actually, everyone knows the court is his personal game of Pop-a-Shot. That's just Teletovic's personality.

"He's very, very capable," Jack explained. "I've seen a lot of guys who want to shoot that can't shoot, which is backwards, but Mirza's a guy who can make very, very difficult shots...You give him an inch, that's way too much room for him."

Last year, Teletovic was all about the catch-and-shoot. But now, under Hollins, he is occasionally showing off expanded parts of his game.

We're seeing him put the ball on the floor a little more often, though his offensive role has mainly remained the same. Still, he'll head into the post every now and then. And most importantly, he's carrying more offensive responsibility. 

Teletovic didn't go to moves like this all too often last year:

NBA.com

Now, he's executing them when he gets the one-on-one opportunities, and those chances are showing up far more often. Look at how far Teletovic backs down Aaron Gordon, who's a strong defensive player even as a rookie. 

"I kind of always had it," Teletovic said of his broadened repertoire. "But with coach Hollins, it's really because he lets you do it. When you go to the post, he won't say, 'No, get back to three pointers.' You can post up. I posted up in the preseason. I posted up in the regular season a couple of times now."

The Nets rely on running plenty of sets out of the post, whether it's exploiting Joe Johnson mismatches, letting Brook Lopez bang down low or pushing Deron Williams to back down his defender. The Nets wouldn't want Teletovic on the block often, if only because he provides such a reliable shooting option on the outside, but having the choice always helps.

There's a reason the Nets average 1.7 more points per 100 possessions when Teletovic is on the floor. It's the same one that helped them average 1.9 more points per 100 a year ago, though the defense fell off a cliff with Mirza's presence. He gives space to an offense that needs it.

"Big guys, guys who are 4-men are in an unusual position to have to go out to the three-point line," Jack theorizes. 

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 20: Mirza Teletovic #33 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots over Hollis Thompson #31 of the Philadelphia 76ers in a preseason game at the Barclays Center on October 20, 2014 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and ag
Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Forcing a power forward to stray from the paint on defense simply brings him out of his element. Because of that, Teletovic complements the interior-oriented Lopez and Mason Plumlee, allowing the Nets' centers to man the paint and roll off ball-screens while he spaces the floor.

Defenders don't want to help off someone so accurate from distance, and ones who aren't used to guarding on the perimeter show a habit of making bad decisions when you bring them out to the three-point line. It's a dynamic that makes everyone's job easier, especially those who play down low.

The Nets offense has been unrealistically successful in the short time it has played Lopez at the 5 with Teletovic at the 4. If that continues, maybe Hollins will begin to move Teletovic into units with four other starters, though such lineups don't have much of a chance to be successful defensively.

This is a Nets team with inconsistent distance shooting. We've seen it go off, like when it made 11 of 23 long-range attempts in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Nov. 3. We've also seen performances like Saturday's, when Brooklyn went 1-of-19 from three against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Nets need the stability of a shooter who has drained two or more long balls in six of his nine games, though he is on the smallest of cold streaks, going 0-of-5 from beyond the arc over his past two games.

If offense in today's NBA is about space, Teletovic is the Nets' planetarium. On a team that's shown a propensity to steer away from efficient shots—especially in second halves—only to revert to isolation and mid-range basketball, he offers a valuable piece of the offense no other Net can replicate.

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade but maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at WashingtonPost.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

All quotes obtained firsthand. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of Nov. 16 and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com.

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