Roundup: Teodosic Takes the Relay

Roundup: Teodosic Takes the Relay
Apr 04, 2007, 01:26 am
FMP swept Hemofarm in the Adriatic League semifinals with Milos Teodosic brilliantly assuming the team’s playmaking leading role after Aleksandar Rasic’s departure to Efes Pilsen, which looks to us deserving enough for a Player of the Week nomination. We also turn our heads to big man Nikola Pekovic, who emerged as one of the steadiest performers for Partizan in the other semifinal, where the Serbian team needed three games to get rid of Cibona. As a closing act, we’ll take a last look at the Chinese CBA Finals.

Player of the Week: Milos Teodosic

If you think about it, it’s pretty remarkable. FMP, the top-seeded team in the Adriatic League, played its first game in the semifinals against fourth-seeded Hemofarm on Wednesday. It was in theory a rather balanced match-up, with only three regular season victories separating the two teams. FMP got a four-point victory at home. The following game was played on Friday. In the meantime, Aleksandar Rasic transferred to Efes Pilsen. He was the starting point guard, an emerging player who established himself as one of the most important pieces in the team (leading FMP in efficiency points), and actually a guy to keep an eye on for the future, as born in 1984, he has NBA-caliber physical tools, while he’s still developing intriguing skills. Still, despite losing Rasic, despite playing on the road, and despite the importance of the game, FMP repeated another victory to clinch a spot in the Adriatic League’s Finals.

Early into the season it was Dusko Savanovic leaving the team; Zoran Erceg and Dragan Labovic teamed up to perfectly make up for his absence. Who stepped up this time? Our Player of the Week, Milos Teodosic.


Teodosic had already been steadily gaining importance on the team. He was a perfect complement to Rasic. While the former FMP player was an athletic and incisive guy, not the best distributor around and who could get eventually a bit out of control, Teodosic, despite being three years younger, provided the poise off the bench, the brains, the good decision making that the team always needed at some point in the game.

Milos is not a very athletic player, certainly lacking some explosiveness, while you can eventually think that he doesn’t put much energy on court. He often drives the ball looking very care free, like someone taking a walk in the park. But he cares, and he executes. He might not enjoy an advantage on quickness, so he uses plenty of picks to create mismatches, to unbalance the opponent’s defense, to feed the rolling man, to slash towards the basket or to shoot the ball if they leave him open. He excels in pick-and-roll situations, perfectly reading the different options this play offers him. He’s a fundamentally sound player with an excellent skill set that includes extremely solid ball-handling skills, a nice shot out to three-point range that he can hit off the dribble, nice footwork on slashing situations and great passing skills to cash in on his remarkable court vision. He’s very tall for a point guard at 6-5, which really helps him get the job done. His basketball IQ is excellent, and he always seems to control what’s happening on the floor.

In FMP’s last winning streak (8 games in the Adriatic League counting this last week’s), Teodosic has played over 20 minutes per game in all but one. Actually, it was becoming pretty obvious that the team often performed better with him handling the point. That’s probably a reason why FMP pulled the trigger on the Rasic deal.

If Milos stayed relatively discrete from a statistical point of view in the first game, with 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals in 26 minutes, he erupted for 21 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 31 minutes in the second, completely taking over Rasic’s role as the leading point guard.

NBA-wise, it’s a difficult equation. His average athleticism doesn’t look like the best recipe for the American league, particularly since you’re expected to be able to beat your match-up off the dribble on a regular basis. And particularly, Teodosic often exposes a certain lack of lateral quickness on defense, suffering against quicker guards, although he’s pretty active on team defense. He will probably need to master his playmaking abilities at the top European level before having any shot at the NBA, which might leave him out of the draft picture. Still, he's a very talented guy that really deserves to be considered, and a name you will likely hear often related to international competition.

Taking a Long Look at…

…Nikola Pekovic,who apparently saves the best part of his game for the most important part of the season. Actually, it had been a bit of a disappointing year for him, playing a very secondary role behind Partizan’s starting inside duo of Predrag Drobnjak and Kosta Perovic. Nobody expected great strides in his game, since it’s obvious for some time now that he’s a pretty mature guy, but at least to establish himself as an important frontcourt player in the Adriatic League.

Anyway, once the semifinals of the Balkan competition arrived, Pekovic significantly improved his production. With Partizan overcoming Cibona’s home-court advantage, he scored in double digits in all three games of the series, blossoming in the definitive third played on the road in Zagreb, where he had 20 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals while replacing the injured Kosta Perovic in the starting five.

This is more in tune with what we expected out of him. Pekovic is an able player when it comes to taking advantage of his teammates’ creativity, and Partizan not only has showed this season to be capable of eventually playing fine team basketball, but features a bunch of players (Cummings, Tepic, or Drobnjak come to mind) that should be able to help Pekovic produce on a regular basis.


After all, Pekovic is a dependent scorer. He needs to receive the ball in good position within 10-12 feet from the basket in order to become a dangerous player. Once there, he’s pretty effective, using his strong 6-10 frame and nice explosiveness very well. He will go up for the two-handed dunk if he’s given space, or he can use a nice jump-hook with either hand over his defender. Don’t ask him for anything more than a simple and direct move to release the ball in the low post against opposition. Stuff like banging while dribbling, fakes or any elaborate moves might result in a turnover. He can also shoot the ball from the mid-range area with decent accuracy, but it’s not a very usual option for him. It’s particularly a rare luxury to see a good pass coming out of his hands, as he’s a pure finisher and doesn’t particularly stand out in terms of basketball IQ.

On defense, he’s a very physical player in the low post, always looking for contact with the opponent using his very strong body. However, he might lack a bit of lateral quickness and anticipating instinct to contest his match-up’s moves. When it comes to cleaning the boards, he doesn’t seem to have a particular nose for the ball, and his hands are not the best around. Certainly his 2.6 average in rebounds in the Adriatic League is disappointing any way you look at it.

The good part about Pekovic NBA-wise is that his superb strength would definitely help him translate some of his game to the next level. However, he would still be a relatively undersized center at 6-10, with limited skills and poor rebounding ability. A second-round call, perhaps in the bottom half, seems the most realistic scenario for him right now.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Hot

Nikita Shabalkin has culminated his terrific performance in the FIBA EuroCup Challenge with a superb showing in the final leading Samara to conquer the title over Keravnos. Shabalkin averaged 24.5 points and 10 rebounds in the Finals, showing a remarkable steadiness that upped him to third place in the scoring rankings (22.5 points per game) while never going below the 16-point mark in any game.

Marco Belinelli went for his tenth 20 point+ performance of the season in the Italian League. He had 20 points (still only 6/15 FG) and 5 steals, but Climamio Bologna continues with their losing streak after falling two-points short of the victory against Legea Scafati. Actually, it’s becoming every week more likely that this former Italian powerhouse (with 2 domestic titles and 4 Euroleague Final Four appearances) will miss the playoffs, something that never happened since the team returned to the first Italian division in 1993.

Romain Duport had a career-high 15 points in Le Havre’s victory over Gravelines, also adding 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. He managed to stay on the court for 29 minutes, which is very good news for a guy who had previously combined for only 44 minutes of playing time in the entire season.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Not

Chen Jianghua was part of the point guard debacle that precipitated Guangdong’s loss in the CBA Finals against Bayi. Wang Zhongguang completely owned all three of the Chinese Tigers playmakers. Bigger, stronger, more experienced and mature than his rivals, he dominated the series, particularly in the last three games. It became ridiculous in the last one, as Wang netted 15 points while his three opponents went scoreless.

Chen certainly picked the worst possible time to struggle. Still, to his credit, we have to question how his coach has handled him. Chen didn’t play at all in the first game; he was on the bench dressed and, as far as we know, available to play. In the second game, the only victory by Guangdong, he excelled coming off the bench in the second half, imposing a very high pace that lead the Tigers to outrun Bayi for a blowout victory. Actually it was pretty obvious that a fast tempo usually played in Guangdong’s favor, while a slow tempo helped Bayi.

For the last three games Chen played sparingly, without any continuity on the court. His coach was helplessly rotating point guards whenever they enchained too many mistakes, which obviously was not the solution, while certainly Chen wasn’t the playmaker receiving the most credit. Therefore he played without any confidence; he would sometimes rush things, take bad decisions and force shots, trying to have an immediate impact, to make a quick impression; other times he would not be aggressive enough while using his quickness to create offense, trying to stay cool—likely in order to please his coach-- but severely hurting his effectiveness in the half-court offense (where he still struggles distributing the ball). He also always suffered greatly on defense against the aforementioned Wang Zhongguang, also due to a deficient team defense on the pick and roll.

Anyway, it’s not a big deal for a very young player like him being in such a difficult situation. If anything, it should serve him as a learning lesson.

Rounding Up…

The season, and perhaps his CBA career, is over for Yi Jianlian. Despite the loss against Bayi, he had a nice farewell game. Yi gifted us with a very good sample of his jumper repertoire: off the dribble, off the low post, in turnaround fashion, fading away, even a clutch three-pointer. It wasn’t the most accurate day for him, but he always looked balanced, under control and able to knock them down. He was also very active, and effective, in transition, while he delivered increased effort on defense. He had 22 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Still, his overall performance in the CBA Finals was a bit disappointing.

Yi has received now the call for the Chinese National Team. This year the CBA has finished sooner than usual in order to allow the National Team to have an extended period of time to practice and play games against quality opponents, all pointing towards next year’s Olympic Games to be held in Beijing, which is a top priority for the Chinese Federation.

At this point, Yi’s draft agenda is still unknown. Anyway, it’s always important to remember that he’s yet to mature as a player and needs to improve on several areas of his game. Nobody should expect an immediate impact in the NBA coming from him, and he’s certainly a risky pick.

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