Considered by some NBA scouts to be the most underrated prospect in Europe, this season has clearly been a coming out party for Serbian center Miroslav Raduljica
, now draft-eligible as a 1988 born international. We got to watch him play on four separate occasions over the course of our trip, and each time came away impressed by a different facet of his game.
Slowly, but surely improving year after year, this has been the season that FMP Zeleznik has opted to put him front and center as the focal point of their offense. Its also not-coincidentally the last year they can hope to make money off the investment they made in him, as his contract is up at the end of the season. Thats their business model after all.
The intrigue around Raduljica has to start with the physical attributes he brings to the table. Showing excellent size for the center position, to go along with a strong frame, a solid wingspan, great hands, and decent athleticism, Raduljica passes the initial test for an NBA center. He runs the floor well, is a fairly mobile player, and is capable of getting up off his feet and finishing plays with a strong dunk, particularly when he has a moment to gather himself, even if hes not what you would call an incredibly explosive athlete.
Very much capable of operating in the low post, Raduljica has an array of moves he can use to get an efficient shot off, helping him shoot an excellent 57% from the field. His footwork is solid, showing nice spin-moves, pivots, jump-hooks, drop-steps, turn-around jumpers and the ability to utilize shot-fakes, Raduljica is a fundamentally sound player who can score with either hand and has very nice touch around the basket. He is a very good passer finding the open man when doubled, at times making some pretty spectacular passes, and generally seems to have a nice feel for operating on the block.
Facing the basket, Raduljica did not appear to be incredibly consistent with his jump-shot from the tape we evaluated, but looked to be quite a bit more effective in the live games we were at, knocking down a number of jumpers from both inside and outside the arc, and looking very comfortable hitting shots consistently when we observed him in warm-ups. The fact that he sports solid mechanics, has very good touch and shoots 77% from the free throw line indicates that he should have no problem developing into a solid catch and shoot mid-range threat in the NBA.
Raduljica is a lot more skilled than the typical 6-11 center youll find at the college ranks, as not only can he score facing or with his back to the basket, and is a very creative passer, but hes also an above average ball-handler. We saw him put the ball on the floor and create his own shot on a couple of occasions, getting to the rim off a couple of dribbles and still having the body control to finish effectively. These are not easy moves to make for a player his size to make.
Defensively is where Raduljica might have the most question marks regarding his NBA potential. He gives up position too easily at times in the low post, and doesnt always fight as hard as you might hope to keep his man off the block, possibly to avoid foul trouble. He doesnt rotate all that well from the weak-side to protect the paint either, not being much of a shot-blocker at all due to his lack of explosiveness, and shows just average awareness, intensity and hustle on this end of the floor.
Seeing heavy minutes alongside similarly sized center Peja Samardziski
, Raduljicas lateral quickness doesnt appear to be anything special out on the perimeter, often looking heavy footed and at times a bit disinterested, which probably will become more of an issue in todays pick and roll heavy NBA.
Just an average rebounder, Raduljica is capable of going out and grabbing the boards that are in his immediate area, but hes not intense or explosive enough to go out of his area for the most part. This is something that he must improve on if he wants to become a legit rotation player in the NBA, as he wont be anywhere as much of an offensive option as he currently is for FMP.
Off the court, Raduljica is reportedly a very intelligent person and is often described as a book worm by those that have been around him the most.
All in all, Raduljica displays many intriguing characteristics at his size that are increasingly difficult to find in college basketball, making him a fairly interesting draft prospect that should certainly get some looks from NBA teams drafting in the latter part of the first round. Concerns about his interest level in playing in the NBA and whether or not hell even come over if locked into an unattractive salary slot will likely drop him a bit further that, but considering the premium NBA teams put on size and the amount of money that is thrown at middling backup centers, Raduljica has to be viewed as a pretty attractive option early in the second round.
Figuring out who is actually his agent (his father?), whether or not a controversial clause in his contract means that a buyout needs to be paid to FMP, if hes even interested in playing in the NBA, and if he in fact already signed with Turkish powerhouse Efes Pilsen for next season all matters which we received an array of conflicting reports on while traveling through Serbia-- are the first things that need to be addressed. Obviously there is a lot of work to be done.