Prior to the offseason trade frenzy, Golden State Warriors fans debated the impact of (most likely) losing Jarrett Jack to free agency. Jack was the type of player we embraced during down years: a hustle guy who could score and who seemed like a good influence in the locker room. But those debates quieted considerably as the season drew nearer.
It’s not that Warriors faithful don’t miss the solid backup point guard weapon– they’ve just had a lot of other things to discuss: the Dwight rumors, the Iguodala signing, the best way to utilize Harrison Barnes, the effectiveness of healthy Bogut, the continued rise of Steph and Klay, and so on. Now we’re over a month into the season and when Steph needs a break, the Warriors feel most comfortable with . . . Nemanja Nedovic?
Most Warriors fans probably thought they wouldn’t be seeing much of Nemanja Nedovic this season. But as Toney Douglas and Andre Iguodala sit out with leg injuries—and Kent Bazemore continues to underwhelm—Nedovic has gotten a chance at extended minutes.
Perhaps it’s time we have a refresher on the Serbian rookie and take stock on how he has performed thus far.
The Path to Oracle Arena
The dossier on Nedovic is quite thin. He’s 22 years old and apparently started training for basketball at age 11 while living in Italy with his father (a professional handball player). As a teenager, he moved back to Serbia and continued training until he made the leap to professional ball.
From 2008-2012, Nedovic played for Red Star—a renowned Serbian basketball club in the Adriatic League whose history dates back to the 1940s. He started seeing more significant minutes in the latter half of his tenure, at which point he averaged between 15-20 points and roughly five assists per game. In the 2012/13 season before the draft, Nedovic played for Lietuvos Rytas in the Euroleague and averaged ~10 points and two rebounds over a small sample size of only 10 games.
On the Court
Despite Nemanja’s upside and the small sample size, we’re slowly confirming the suspicion that the “European Derrick Rose” chatter was overly optimistic. Over 18 games played, he’s 7-30 on field goals (.0233) with 12 total assists and 12 turnovers.
I doubt many Warriors fans were truly expecting DRose-like stats, but Nedovic has yet to demonstrate the ability to get into a rhythm offensively (north of Santa Cruz, at least). Then again, he realizes that his job isn’t to go out and start volume shooting on a Warriors squad already flush with weapons.
His job is to keep the train from derailing while Steph takes a breather.
What Nedovic has provided is a steadier alternative to Kent Bazemore with regard to ball handling and eating minutes without turning the ball over. Bazemore initially got the nod when Toney Douglas started sitting, but looked helpless each time he tried to run the offense. With the pressure of the backup point guard role, you could see Baze getting inside his own head. He would bring the ball past half court and immediately spin around, almost backing down his defender in the backcourt. At best, he lost the ability to see passing lanes. At worst, he would cough the ball up and gift wrap two points on a fast break (remember the Clippers blowout?)
It’s still a small sample size, but Nedovic has been better about getting around those defenders and holding onto the ball as he slashes through the lane. If he can do this more consistently, he’ll be able to draw defenders in and kick the ball out to Barnes, Klay, or even Steph when he plays off the ball. When the Warriors get those types of open shots, it’s game over.
For what it’s worth, I still think Bazemore has a place on this team as a bench shooting guard–just not at the point. We have seen flashes of a 3-point shot, and even the ability to attack and finish at the rim. Nedovic, on the other hand, has been slowly but surely building confidence quarterbacking the offense despite shaky offensive numbers. If only we could combine them, we’d probably have a solid bench player.
For now, we should see Nedovic as a raw-but-promising work in progress and be thankful that we’re almost through a stretch without Douglas and Igg–sorry . . . “Dre.” When those two come back (especially Iguodala), the Warriors can go back to blowing teams out and sitting Steph halfway through the 4th. Nedovic can slide to those minutes and look back at this stretch in a positive light.