- Article by Jeff Morton and Nate Timmons -
Not much is known about the Denver Nuggets second round pick Nikola Radicevic, and generally the 21 year-old's (he turns 22 years-old next April) selection was greeted by a collective "who?" Like last year, the headliner of Emmanuel Mudiay (or headliners in Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris' cases) obscured the follow up pick the Serbian, which is only natural.
We at Denver Stiffs first became aware of Radicevic at the workout that featured Cameron Payne and Trey Lyles. While the media was not able to view Payne's public workout (due to him fracturing a finger during the private portion of the workout) we were able to see Radicevic's shooting form. What we didn't know, what that he was suffering from a hamstring injury at the time - which likely severely affected his ability to "impress" us schlubs in the unwashed media; as we all shook off our disappointment about not being able to see Payne.
Radicevic's projection was hard to see on first glance. However, if you look further and study the video you can see some comparisons that are both surprising and a bit exciting. Check out these highlights below:
Jeff Morton: What I'm seeing is a poor man's Goran Dragic, maybe combined with a bit of Manu Ginobili's sneakiness. If Radicevic can be even an adequate shooter, he will be in the league sooner rather than later. For the point guard position, he has great size at 6'5" and 200 lbs., and he has shown a willingness to defend. Plus, people in the know will tell you he is feisty and is very competitive. Things that the Nuggets have been sorely missing for the last couple seasons at point guard.
Nate Timmons: This kid is very intriguing. Let's be realistic, he was the 57th pick in the draft and the last point guard taken. There were 12 guys drafted ahead of him at the PG spot, including Mudiay going to Denver. The Nuggets worked out four of the 13 points in the draft, and they came away with two of those 13. (It's still funny to think that Denver did so much homework on guys, and then drafted a guy in Mudiay that they didn't workout.)
Like Jeff, I can see some Dragic in Radicevic's game, along with Ginobili, and even Beno Udrih. All three of those guys are lefties, and that's important because lefties are defended a little differently in the NBA. It's crazy but true, defenders can sometimes forget they're going against a lefty. If it only gives him a 0.02% advantage, I'll take it.
As noted above, Nikola has great size. He's a couple inches taller than both Udrih and Dragic - seeing him firsthand, he's every bit of the listed 6'5", and he seems to recognize that his body can be used to his advantage. Udrih has been a fringe starter in the NBA, and even put up some nice performances this past season with the Memphis Grizzlies. If the Nuggets found an adequate backup, they should be thrilled. If they found a guy that is more than that, well... let's not get ahead of ourselves.
It sounds like the Nuggets plan on Nikola staying in Spain, and he should be having an expanded roll with Baloncesto Sevilla. That club had three starters drafted into the NBA this season with Kristaps Porzingis going 4th overall to New York, Guillermo Hernangómez going 35th to Philadelphia, and Radicevic going 57th. Much like Joffrey Lauvergne and fellow Serbian Nikola Jokic staying overseas for a short stint, expect the Nuggets to bring Radicevic over sooner rather than later. Having him come to Denver as a 22 year-old coming off major minutes in Spain should bode well.
Why does Radicevic draw comparisons to a guy like Dragic (who will ink a $90 million deal with the Miami Heat)?Well, both guys were second-round picks, as Dragic was the 45th pick of the San Antonio Spurs in 2008. And like Radicevic, Dragic played in the Spanish league as a 21 year-old for CB Murcia.
Take a look at this chart comparing Dragic and Radicevic when both guys were 21 years-old, and both in the Spanish ACB league:
Some interesting numbers above, the two compare favorably. But if it were as easy and finding similar stats, more people would qualify as general managers or scouts. There are steps along the way that put Dragic is good positions to succeed, but he also bears the responsibility for developing his own game. Dragic turned his potential into a seven year NBA career and counting, and will ink a large deal with the Heat in a matter of days.
Looking at Dragic's numbers above, and comparing them with his NBA career numbers, he fulfilled his potential and then some. His projected field goals as a 21 year-old were 37.8% and he has been a 47% shooter in the NBA, that's huge. Both his two point and three point percentages have increased over the life of his NBA career vs his projected numbers. His two point from 40% to 51.6%, and his threes from 32.4% to 36.1%. That's the type of career arch you want to see, his per-40 projections as a kid, being outperformed by his actual NBA career numbers.
Now in Radicevic's case, the hope is that he can also outperform the projected numbers he put up as a kid. He may need to refine his shooting, and scoring abilities, but there's one area where he's ahead of the game. If you ever have a hoops conversation with Nuggets GM Tim Connelly, you'll pick up on how much he values passing. And that's where Radicevic is best, take this passage from Draft Express:
What makes Radicevic intriguing is his playmaking ability. Though he's averaged only 3.1 assists per-game this season, the young guard showed solid vision and a good feel for making plays on the pick and roll when he was on the floor. Considering Sevilla relied more heavily on the pick and roll than any other team in the ACB and that 469 of the 786 possessions Radicevic used or created this season came on the pick and roll, his ability to make plays in the two-man game found a prominent place in the team's offense. Bringing the ball up the floor, controlling tempo, and showing a knack for creating openings and delivering the ball in drive and kick situations as well as making the simple play, Radicevic's passing is one of his best virtues.
It certainly is nice that Radicevic is getting 786+ possessions to work on things like the pick-and-roll in live action. He's a guy that played a key part for his club with Porzingis, and it'll be interesting to see how he does next season. The Nuggets got a little lucky with Jokic having a breakout season last year, and the hope is that Radicevic continues to show these signs and more next year.
With both Mudiay and Radicevic being touted as play-makers, they are right in line with where Connelly wants to take this team. We also need to take into account how Nurkic looked as a passer this season (good!), and that the Nuggets really like the passing ability of Jokic, too. If those four guys can stick in the league (and make it to the league in Radicevic's case), then the Nuggets will be in a good place. Having unselfish guys that care about both ends of the floor, will allow Michael Malone a ton of creative freedom.
We are, at least, a year away from finding out if Radicevic will come over, and how he'll look once he gets here. It is encouraging that his numbers are comparable to Dragic, while both men were 21 years-old. It is also encouraging that Connelly will be 3-3 (after Jokic is officially signed) with getting his foreign draft picks to Denver in a timely fashion. So, there isn't too much doubt that Radicevic will join the team in a year or two. We can't stress enough how important it is for the Nuggets to be the ones developing these prospects, and not allowing them to form complete habits with their overseas clubs.
The Nuggets have another solid prospect on their hands with Radicevic, and one that may have a feisty and competitive attitude. The vision for the Nuggets is starting to take shape, and Radicevic might be another piece to Denver's puzzle.