After six years at CSKA Moscow, Milos Teodosic is said to be seriously considering a transfer to the NBA. It’s possible this is simply a negotiation tactic to incentivize the Russian powerhouse to cough up what will probably be one of the richest contracts, if not the richest, ever given in European basketball. But the mere thought of the Serbian making the jump to the United States is tantalizing.
The six-foot-five combo guard is a magician who combines genius passing with above average gunning — excelling both out of middle high pick-and-roll and as a secondary shot creator. He also tosses breath-taking passes in transition, which could materialize more often in the NBA due to the higher level of athleticism he will have around him.
Given his height and 196-pound frame, Teodosic offers some flexibility on defense, at least in the sense that no matter where he’s put he’ll be a negative contributor, mostly because of his lack of athleticism, though his general level of engagement is what’s questioned more often. Because of that, Teodosic isn’t always a good option to finish games, despite of all the value he adds on offense.
I’m not one for raising up concerns about intangibles, given the lack of available information regarding how these players behave in settings closed to public consumption and just how they think overall, but Teodosic’s general demeanor on defense draws the assumption that he just does not gives a shit.
I also try not to overvalue appearances in single-elimination games but it must be brought up Teodosic was part of several teams that endured a number of EuroLeague Final Four failures during his tenure at CSKA and that his performance in many of these instances were consistently disappointing, before breaking through with a title in 2016.
Teodosic is one of those remarkable assist men who can anticipate passing lanes a split-second before they come open. His court vision is incredible and he can create three-point shots and alley oops to teammates without necessarily needing to attack the lane – just noticing on pure instinct a defensive breakdown before actually running the play.
Teodosic is not an explosive athlete and doesn’t go deep into the lane a ton these days but can at least consistently offer the threat of dribble penetration in pick-and-roll by playing with pace and exploring his craftiness to turn the corner around ball screens. Especially if he gets the chance to work off a live dribble, which he got to do a fair amount given Dimitrios Itoudis’ preference for two-point guard lineups.
Flexible enough to pass across his body to the opposite end of the floor off dribble penetration and toss wraparound passes in traffic, Teodosic assisted on 43.6% of CSKA’s scores in his 1,255 minutes last season – according to RealGM. His aggressive style of squeezing tough passes through tight windows came at the cost of him turning the ball over on almost a quarter of his possessions, though.
He’s declining from an athletic-standpoint and doesn’t get all the way to the basket a lot nowadays, lacking the lift to finish against length. But his dexterity, or perhaps simply his inclination, for drawing contact improved a lot lately. After averaging just 3.6 free throws per 40 minutes from 2013 to 2015, Teodosic averaged 5.8 foul shots per 40 minutes over the last two seasons.
The vast majority of his scoring still comes out of his jump-shooting, though. The owner of a quick trigger, he has a diverse arsenal of pull-up jumpers – able to hang dribble into his shot, stop-and-pop in a pinch, crossover into step-backs over average-sized point guards. But it’s questionable how much of that can consistently translate against longer defenders in the NBA, given his low release.
Teodosic can also step into uncontested pull-up three-pointers to make sure the opponent consistently overplays him at the point of attack; going over screens or even hedging-and-recovering, which is a doomed strategy against someone with his court vision spotting weak-side breakdowns. But it’s questionable how much of that can translate to the further out three-point line.
His catch-and-shoot stroke is expected to be fine, though. Teodosic has proven himself an excellent open shot shooter and should offer his potential NBA team the same flexibility he did CSKA, and Olympiacos before that, in terms of sharing the floor with another ball-handler, nailing 39.8% of his 1,725 three-point shots over the last six seasons. He’s even able to shoot on the move some, coming off pindown screens and operating as the back-screener on Spain pick-and-rolls a fair amount.
Teodosic is a very poor defender at the point of attack. He consistently fails to bend his knees to get down in a stance, lacks the lateral quickness to stay in front of his man in isolation and rarely puts in enough effort to navigate over ball-screens then track his man back with urgency in order not to compromise the integrity of the scheme. Given his general size, he should be able to act as a threat to get into his man’s air space and bother shot attempts but that doesn’t materialize often.
As a weak-side defender, Teodosic is committed to executing the scheme. He does sprint to run shooters off the three-point line, positions himself well to try guarding two players when CSKA packs the strong-side and proved himself attentive to his rotation responsibilities crowding the area near the basket when he was called upon to act as the last line of defense.
Teodosic lacks the athletic ability to make a real impact, though. Opponents often have a clean straight-line path to the lane when he closes out to them, he doesn’t have the lift or the length to act as a deterrent around the rim and generally doesn’t play with the sort of energy that results in events that finish possessions. His contributions through steals, blocks and defensive rebounds are marginal.
CSKA allowed 110.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor last season, which was his worst defensive rating in six years with the team.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara