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LA Clippers 2018-2019 Player Previews: Milos Teodosic hopes to see more of the court in his second season

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Teodosic could be one of the most stable, yet flashiest, backup guards in the league, provided he stays healthy this year.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State Warriors Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Basic Information:

Height: 6’5”

Weight: 194 pounds

Age: 31

Position: Point Guard

NBA Experience: 1 year (10 years in EuroLeague)

Key Stats: Started 36 of 45 games. Averaged 9.5 points, 4.6 assists, and 0.5 steals per game. Shot 41.9/37.9/84.8 on 8.0 field goal attempts, 5.2 three-point attempts, and 1.0 free throw attempts per game. Career 43.2/37.6/87.7 shooting splits in Europe.

Contract Status: Second year of a 2-year $12.3 million contract; fully guaranteed as of July 15, 2018.

Expectations:

The Clippers acquired Milos Teodosic last year to play rotation minutes for a playoff-contending team, and for the most part, Teodosic provided that. When he was on the court, he was a productive offensive player in his 25.2 minutes per game. Teodosic is a pass-first point guard, meaning he has a relatively low usage rate for his position (20.6 percent per Cleaning the Glass), and he combines that with efficient shooting to be a net positive on offense. It should come as no surprise that Teodosic has been a capable floor general for the Clippers, given that he spent ten years in the EuroLeague leading two of the best teams outside of the NBA.

Unfortunately, Teodosic was only able to play half of the season. Plantar fascia issues in his left foot kept him out of the lineup for 22 games spanning October and November and scattered stretches throughout the rest of the year, including all of April. Given that the Serbian point guard is on the wrong side of 30, and plantar fascia injuries are notoriously unpredictable, it seems unwise to bet on a clean bill of health for Teodosic this coming season.

On the other hand, Teodosic had the summer off from Serbian national duty. Furthermore, with their depth, the Clippers should be able to manage Teodosic’s workload and even allow him scheduled rest throughout the season. This would enable Teodosic to be about as effective as he was last year, giving the Clippers an above-average option at backup point guard.

Teodosic’s primary strength is his passing. He has been one of the most creative passers in the world for the past few years, showing off that talent for Olympiacos, CSKA Moscow, and the Serbian national team before joining the Clippers last season. The Clippers may be flush with guards, but none possess the level of passing talent of Teodosic, and it’s not particularly close.

He is equally adept with hit-aheads, passes out of the pick-and-roll, swing passes to open shooters, bounce passes in the lane, and lobs to big men (although DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin will be missed in this regard). Teodosic has an exceptional amount of flair as well, whether it’s the slight tilt of the head on his no-look passes, or the wind up behind his side for his cross-court heaves. The Clippers have a ton of talent, but Teodosic might be the most aesthetically pleasing player to watch on the team.

There is the other end of the court, where Teodosic unfortunately hasn’t managed to become a positive—or even average—defender to this point. He has the size to guard most point guards, but he doesn’t have the athleticism or the instincts to keep up. Despite his prodigious offensive talent, there’s a reason why Teodosic will be relegated to the bench so long as he is in the NBA.

Last year, the most effective five-man lineup including Teodosic also featured Austin Rivers, C.J. Williams, Jamil Wilson, and Jordan. Clearly, Milos is going to have to make some new friends this year. Within the guard rotation, Teodosic is the most natural one, and he fits fairly seamlessly with Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley, two competent spot-up shooters who can capably defend opposing shooting guards.

Beverley and Teodosic only played two games together last season for a total of 57 possessions—small sample size be damned, those lineups had a plus-42.1 differential. The two of them were also teammates for one season in 2009-10 at Olympiacos in Greece, where they won a Greek League title and reached the EuroLeague final, so there is historical support for that backcourt pairing. Bradley and Teodosic also only shared the court for 50 possessions for a plus-20 differential. Again, there isn’t much data to come to any meaningful conclusions, but the minimal information from last season bodes well for some fruitful partnerships this year.

Teodosic mainly shared the court with Jordan as the center, unsurprising considering Jordan’s durability and consistency during his Clipper tenure. Even though Teodosic is a backup, the Clippers should try to give him as many minutes as possible next to presumed starting center Marcin Gortat. After spending years playing European basketball, Teodosic runs a mean pick-and-roll, and nobody sets better screens and rolls harder to the basket than the Polish Hammer.

There’s also the consideration of just how long Teodosic will remain on the Clipper roster. Much has already been made of the depth in the LA backcourt, and a desire to cede more time to developing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could squeeze out Teodosic. The Suns have already inquired about Beverley, but the Clippers seem quite reluctant to move on from him. The next logical option for a veteran team looking for guard help could be Teodosic. The high guarantee on his deal makes it unlikely that the Clippers will cut Teodosic, but the team still needs to drop two players before training camp starts.

Like many international point guards, Teodosic came to the NBA after his prime, but he still has a few comfortable years left. Assuming he’s healthy, the team can count on 20 minutes of quality backup play at the one and a few moments that land on SportsCenter’s Top 10. The Clippers have a lot of questions to answer this season, but Teodosic shouldn’t be one of them.