• We’re thrilled to introduce Dio Nikiforos as the latest edition to the Hoop Ball team. Having spent years working with NetScouts to identify basketball talent at every level of the international ranks, he’ll be helping us get a little more familiar with players and prospects who are new to the NBA.

    Though it is rarely discussed, drafting the right piece might be the hardest and most underrated job in the NBA – even though technology gives everyone the ability to evaluate talent from their electronic devices instead of taking a plane some 6,000 miles away just to watch a young project. And although one would think that these tools help us get a better evaluation of talent, we are living in a world where international players are getting drafted by teams before many have seen them play at the highest level. Ivica Zubac and Nikola Jokic are great examples, as proven by the fact that both of them were drafted in the second round.

    In this year’s class let’s just look at Frank Ntilikina, who falls in that long list of European guys who carry some unpredictability despite lots of love from scouts and GMs. The scouting report on him is strong, and while we do have an idea about what to expect he is a rookie that will have his ups and downs. As far as fantasy players are concerned, you always have to remember that rookies rarely make the top-100 in standard leagues aside from very few exceptions.

    Enter Milos Teodosic, the newest member of LA Clippers who is coming to the NBA after more than 10 years of competitive basketball overseas. I’ve had the opportunity to watch his career unfold and although the transition to professional basketball in the NBA might seem rough, the preseason action so far has shown that he will have no problem adjusting to the NBA grind.

    So let’s try to project Teodosic’s numbers and fantasy impact based on what we know about his game so far.

    Games played: 70

    Minutes Per Game: 20 to 25

    Teodosic does not the most athletic body, and to be honest he looks unfit – the type of old school player who would smoke between halftime and eat cheeseburgers for breakfast. His 10-plus year career has proven that he is a warrior and he has no history of going under the knife for major health issues. The only exception would be a calf injury that bothered him in the past and forced him to miss the 2017 EuroBasket tournament.

    Owners should approach with caution as the calf has been a recurring issue for him through the years, but it will not be hard for him to keep up with the NBA’s heavy schedule. The hard reality that a lot of people are unaware of is that basketball at the European level can be much more physically demanding than the NBA. Overall, playing in Europe is much harder than playing in the NBA as far as fatigue goes, as teams in Europe will have practices twice a day, week after week. One player who felt that burden is Ekpe Udoh, who reportedly left a ton of money on the table for a minimum deal with Utah as he had had too much of the vigorous practice habits of top Euroleague coach Zeljko Obradovic.

    Points: 10.5 per game

    Teodosic has always been one of the top scoring options for all the teams he has played for as coaches trust him with the ball in his hands so he can create plays either by assisting or scoring. The Clippers’ talent level is pretty good in terms of players who possess high basketball IQ and understand spacing and rotations, so the rookie point guard will not have to carry the scoring burden on his shoulders. If  the usual suspects go down (Blake Griffin, Danilo Gallinari), however, he will have no problem taking on more scoring responsibilities. What makes him even more special is the clutch factor,as he has hit numerous game winning shots in his career already at every possible level.

    Threes: 1.5 per game

    He is an exceptional catch and shoot guard that possesses great vision and is not scared to shoot from anywhere in the floor with legit NBA range in his toolbox already. NBA fans will soon get accustomed to his signature move where he fakes the 3-point shot, turns around and immediately launches the same shot.

    Field Goal Percentage: .430

    Teodosic has a very quick release and enjoys shooting off balance from both mid-range and from deep. He can be erratic and will definitely have off nights, but I expect him to get less attention than usual with all the firepower around him in L.A. and to shoot close to 45 percent. He’s already accustomed to shooting from anywhere on the floor.

    Free Throw Percentage: .850

    Teodosic is an elite free throw shooter with a career average of 86 percent and you should expect similar production at the NBA level. He’s an amazing flopper who will take advantage of his skills to draw more points from the charity stripe.

    Rebounds: 1.8 per game

    A traditional pass-first point guard, there is obviously not much to be expected here.

    Assists: 6.5 per game

    Teodosic has mastered the pick and roll action in recent years and he will punish opponents with a plethora of options.

    He’s patient and very crafty, as he will take the time to read the situation and make the best available play either by taking the mid–range jumper, finishing at the rim or stepping back for a long jumper. The pass-to-roll action is already a hit and will provide us with plenty of highlights as DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin can be explosive finishing around the basket.

    The pass-to-help action will also cause a lot of problems to defenses as Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari will drain the open three. What makes this offense even more dynamic is that the Clippers also have a bunch of cutters like Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers and Sam Dekker whom Teodosic will look for in case double team action is forced upon him.

    Steals: 1.0 per game

    Even though he comes in the NBA with the reputation of a mediocre-to-bad defender, you should not underestimate his abilities to get steals. Teodosic’s hands are constantly active and he’s able to create deflections with his speed and quickness. His basketball IQ will also make an impact on the defensive side of the floor as he’s able to anticipate actions and avoid putting himself in bad defensive situations while drawing charges using his excellent flopping skills.

    Turnovers: 3.0 per game

    Assist to Turnover ratio: 2.0

    Teodosic used to drive his coaches crazy with risky plays and bold passes but the truth of the matter is that the NBA talent around him will already improve his assist production even if the occasional bad pass is mixed in. The Clippers like to run and this might create even more possibilities for easy assists or costly turnovers.

    Fouls/Technicals

    One thing that could potentially hurt his value would be fouls, as some teams will definitely identify his defensive weaknesses and will try to switch on him to create mismatches.

    Teodosic also fits the mold of the tough European who is not afraid of contact and will fight back if provoked. He had some maturity issues early on his career and will probably lose his temper when opponents play him tough, but he’s an amazing flopper who will easily take advantage of any chippy play.

    Summary

    Milos Teodosic is an exceptional talent who wanted to come to the NBA for the last few seasons and will now have a chance to prove that he belongs. He doesn’t have the physical skills of Toni Kukoc or Arvydas Sabonis, who both came to the NBA at a later stage in their careers, but he’s able to dominate the game with his passing abilities and will make some owners extremely happy. He’s currently projected to be outside the top-150 in 9-cat leagues but he will be a solid source of assists, threes and points in the later rounds.

Fantasy News

  • Kyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics

    Kyrie Irving (right knee strain) says he is healthy and plans to play in Sunday's All-Star game.

    Irving missed the last two Celtics' games but fantasy owners shouldn't expect him to miss any more with the current injury. Terry Rozier was a hot pickup when Irving initially went down but now goes back to being a handcuff. Irving has put up top-10 per-game value this year with no holes in his fantasy game but he has already missed 11 games. He has missed at least 10 games in seven of his eight NBA seasons so this is something fantasy owners should already be used to.

    Source: Gary Washburn on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - New Orleans Pelicans

    Anthony Davis said that the Celtics are on his list of preferred destinations.

    Moreover, Davis added "they were never not on my list," though he also confirmed that the initial reports of his list including the Knicks, Lakers, Clippers and Bucks were true. Initially it had been said that the Celtics are not a preferred landing spot, and Davis' dad would rather his son play elsewhere. It sounds like everything is on the table now that his push to end up on the Lakers has failed, as Davis also said "all 29 teams" (sorry New Orleans) are on his list. Get ready for more updates on AD's thoughts as the season rolls on.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Nikola Jokic - C - Denver Nuggets

    The Nuggets have agreed to extensions with president of basketball operations Tim Connelly and GM Arturas Karnisovas.

    The Nuggets haven't reached the playoffs in the last five seasons but will surely end that streak this year. Their abundance of talent and depth currently has them in second place in the Western Conference although Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Will Barton and Isaiah Thomas have all been injured for much of the season. Their draft choices and player development over the years has been a big catalyst for this as one could look at Nikola Jokic and the breakout seasons of Jamal Murray, Torrey Craig, Monte Morris and Malik Beasley, all of them having been with Denver since their first day in the NBA.

    Source: Denver Post

  • Ben Simmons - G/F - Philadelphia Sixers

    Ben Simmons paced Team World in Friday's loss to Team USA in the Rising Stars Challenge with 28 points on 14-of-17 shooting, five rebounds, six assists and three steals.

    Everyone knew that defense would not be one of the highlights of this game, but his .823 shooting from the field was just crazy good. He did miss his only shot from the line which was in a way, Simmons' artistic signature on his line for the night. Bulls' Fantastic Finn Lauri Markkanen chimed in with 21 points (9-of-17 shooting), six rebounds, two dimes and three triples.

  • Kyle Kuzma - F - Los Angeles Lakers

    Kyle Kuzma led Team USA to a 161-144 victory over Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday with 35 points on 15-of-27 shooting and was named the game's MVP.

    Kuzma added six rebounds, two assists, three triples and a block to the box score in what was a for-fun yet still competitive game that ended Team USA's two-year drought. Special mentions go out to Jayson Tatum, who chipped in 30 points (12-of-24 shooting), nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and six 3-pointers, as well as rookie Trae Young who double-doubled with 25 points (six 3s), seven rebounds, 10 dimes and a block.

  • Rodions Kurucs - F - Brooklyn Nets

    After missing the Nets' last game with a left elbow strain, Rodions Kurucs took to the court in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday and posted 10 points (4-of-9 shooting), four boards, five dimes and two triples in 16 minutes for Team World.

    It's a once in a lifetime experience and it was good to see Kurucs healthy enough to make an appearance. He's been a low-end asset in fantasy thanks to his lack of consistent production but is one to watch especially if you're in deep keeper or dynasty leagues as he's shown some flashes of upside when he's had the chance to shine.

  • Kyrie Irving - G - Boston Celtics

    Kyrie Irving (right knee strain) is "very, very close" to a return and the Celtics would not be opposed to him playing in Sunday's All-Star game.

    Irving made the trip to Charlotte with his personal trainer a the team's physical therapist. Although he's missed the last two games, the Celtics wouldn't mind him participating in Sunday's game and Danny Ainge things that an exhibition contest might actually function as a good workout. Brad Stevens speculated that Irving would've been able to play on Friday or Saturday had the Celtics had a regular game, so it sounds like he won't miss much more time.

    Source: Boston Herald

  • Emmanuel Mudiay - G - New York Knicks

    Emmanuel Mudiay (strained left shoulder) is unsure of how he'll fit into the rotation when he returns from his injury.

    Mudiay was locked in as the starting point guard but Dennis Smith Jr. has since joined the team. Beyond that, Mudiay is also an impending free agent whose cap hold will be renounced if the Knicks do deliver on their wildest dreams and land two max free agents. He's not going to be a priority for the rest of the season, and a timeshare seems like the best-case scenario here. Mudiay isn't worth holding onto outside of very deep leagues.

    Source: New York Post

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - New Orleans Pelicans

    The Pelicans have fired GM Dell Demps.

    Since this news broke it's come out that Demps had been on thin ice in New Orleans for a while now, so it's not as though the Anthony Davis trade discussions — which certainly play a role here — were the root cause. It's more likely that the failure to surround Davis with enough talent that he'd want to stay, at least up until the last season and a half or so, was the bulk of the problem. The Pelicans want a new GM to take the helm and make the call on a final Davis trade, which will change the course of the franchise for years to come.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis - F/C - New Orleans Pelicans

    Anthony Davis has been diagnosed with a muscle contusion in his left shoulder after undergoing an MRI.

    Davis' injury is reportedly "not too bad" but he didn't return to Thursday's game and the Pelicans might milk any chance they get to rest their star. His participation in Sunday's All-Star game is up in the air and he'll receive treatment over the next couple of days before determining if he can play. To add some fuel to the fire here, Davis reportedly left the building after he got hurt, which is likely to rub his teammates the wrong way considering they picked up a big win over a hot Thunder team. The saga will continue to unfold until the offseason.

    Source: Ramona Shelburne on Twitter