The 19-year-old Georgian's transformation led to a Euroleague Rising Star award, multiple MVPs and first-round NBA interest. Suddenly an inside-out scorer and rim protector, Bitadze excelled with two different teams in three separate leagues. He's now looking to make a case as the top pure center prospect in this year's draft class.
Weight: 246 pounds
Pro comparison: Nikola Vucevic
Bitadze's 12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game would have been noteworthy for an NCAA freshman. But he was able to produce those numbers against pros in Euroleague while shooting 54.8 percent. He was then named MVP of the Serbian League after averaging 16.9 points while shooting 43.3 percent from three. He took a key step forward with his jump shot this year, extending its range to behind the arc. The 6'11" big man moves fluidly down the floor and off rolls to the basket, where he has impressive footwork and hands that lead to high-percentage field goals and versatile finishes.
Though he's mobile, Bitadze lacks explosiveness. He plays mostly below the rim in the half court. He isn't the type to face up and put the ball down, and he offers little value as a passer. Bitadze also shot 67.9 percent on free throws across all teams this past season.
Through 51 total games this year, Bitadze recorded a terrific 9.4 block percentage, demonstrating good timing when meeting finishers at the rim. On the downside, coaches will be reluctant to switch with him, as he lacks lateral quickness to defend in space. Opponents are bound to target him in the pick-and-roll game. Because of his limited defensive versatility, he can only play at center. But from the 5 spot, he has the chance to be a forceful rim protector.
After playing big minutes against grown men at 19, Bitadze should be relatively prepared for his NBA debut. He could be more effective offensively. He'll mostly be used as a screener who dives to the basket or pops out for catch-and-shoot jumpers. It would be understandable if Bitadze took longer to catch on defensively to the NBA's whistle and different level of athleticism. Either way, he should be good for 20 minutes per game right away.
Projected role: Quality starter
European centers are spreading across the league. Bitadze isn't Nikola Jokic, but he could be an impact starter like Jusuf Nurkic. He isn't athletic or versatile enough to create the perception he's a soon-to-be star. But his tools, budding skill level, passion and production overseas suggest he's a surefire NBA contributor. If his defensive question marks turn out to be overblown and his shooting continues to improve, Bitadze will become one of the draft's major steals.