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Center | 7’0 | 230 | Partizan Belgrade
Projected: 2nd rounder
Best Case: Tiago Splitter
Most Likely: Johan Petro
Worst Case: Semih Erden
With Messrs Vucevic, Pekovic and Mirotic showing what effeminately named Eastern European bigs can achieve in the NBA, young Nikola Milutinov has a lot to live up to. He’s following Pekovic’s path from Partizan Belgrade to the NBA but unfortunately has neither the frame nor the game of the league’s only Non look-a-like. What he does have is mobility, length and range that the destroyer of the block (and his own ankles) can only dream of.
Milutinov’s offensive skillset begins and ends with a good pair of hands and a nose for the rim. He frequently feasts by cutting into space against lacklustre Adriatic League defenses and finishing with authority. He also shows flashes of passing ability and is able to knock down a free throw line extended jumper with some regularity, though this is more of a set shot and he looks hesitant taking them unless wide open. His ability to facilitate from the high post is worth keeping an eye on however. His bread and butter in the NBA should be pick and roll play but he’ll need coaching here, both in regards to the quality of his picks and timing when to dart to the rim or pop out for a jumper. I expect a decent number of ineffectual picks followed by floating in no man’s land early in Milutinov’s career.
Much like fellow Serbian and 2014 2nd rounder Nikola Jokic (there really are a lot of Eastern European NBA bigs called Nikola…), Milutinov could probably use another year of practice against weaker competition before making the leap to the States. If he can use that experience to progress in a similar fashion to Jokic, it’ll only help his standing when he does make it onto an NBA roster. I’m not sure Milutinov has any one stand-out skill that would help him gain a foothold in an NBA rotation as a rookie but if he can learn and take instruction as a bench warmer for a season then I could see him turning into a solid, well rounded backup center that holds his own on both ends.