The San Antonio Spurs list 18 players on the roster heading into training camp, and Air Alamo will break down each of the current players, their strengths, weaknesses, chances to make the roster and expectations for the 2015-16 NBA season.
Cady Lalanne opened the countdown at No. 18, and next up is Nikola Milutinov.
Who Is He?
Milutinov is a 7’0″, 220-pound center from Serbia who the Spurs picked 26th overall in the first round of the 2015 NBA draft.
Shortly after the selection, ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla revealed Milutinov had dreams of becoming an Olympic swimmer until an outside force derailed his hopes. A certain Tim Duncan shared that same vision, though a hurricane decimated Duncan’s goal. Milutinov stopped swimming because of bullies at the pool and picked up basketball.
Wait. Milutinov wanted to be an Olympic swimmer? Just like Duncan? That’s hilarious.
— Pounding the Rock (@poundingtherock) June 26, 2015
The 20-year-old has played four professional seasons overseas. Last year, he tallied 9.8 points and 7.6 rebounds for Partizan Belgrade in the Serbian League. Milutinov recently signed a contract to join Euroleague powerhouse Olympiacos, where he will play alongside Georgios Printezis—to whom the Spurs also hold NBA rights.
Milutinov is currently representing his native Serbia in EuroBasket 2015, so far playing a total of 20 minutes throughout the team’s six contests.
Strengths and Weaknesses
DraftExpress gushed over Milutinov’s willingness to finish strong at the rim immediately after receiving a pass or snatching an offensive rebound—the latter of which he’s done at an elite level.
Per RealGM, Milutinov posted an absurd 17.7 offensive rebound percentage last year. For reference, that’s slightly higher than DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers (16.2). Although Jordan accomplishes the lofty mark against markedly better competition, it’s a credit to Milutinov’s physical abilities at just 20 years old.
Milutinov doesn’t have tremendous range, and his release—which looks oddly similar to fellow 2015 first-rounder Sam Dekker—definitely needs work. Milutinov has potential to develop into a steady jumpshooter, but that progression simply will take time. Otherwise, Milutinov is a decent post-up option.
Despite his size, Milutinov isn’t much of a shot blocker. He swatted less than one attempt per outing in 2014-15. Granted, Milutinov improved to 0.79 from a 0.48 mark the year prior, so it’s not unrealistic to think he might continue developing that part of his game.
Most importantly, though, Milutinov fits the mold of San Antonio’s offense—particularly in the role Tiago Splitter held. Milutinov recorded 1.07 points per possession in pick-and-roll sets, per DraftExpress.
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What to Expect in 2015-16
Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders said the Spurs have formally alerted the league office Milutinov will not play in the NBA this season.
That comes as no surprise, since San Antonio likely took an international prospect—not only because the franchise is known for drafting foreign players—but so it could limit the 2015-16 cap hit following this summer’s free agency escapades with LaMarcus Aldridge and David West.
Euroleague competition will test Milutinov immensely, but the young center can develop his game while challenging some of the best players Europe has to offer.
Milutinov may not arrive in San Antonio for a couple years, but he’s an intriguing draft-and-stash talent the Spurs should eventually utilize in the rotation.