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2018-19 Clippers Exit Interview: Milos Teodosic

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It wasn’t supposed to go like this.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Milos Teodosic

Age: 32

Years in NBA: 1 ½ years

Key Stats:

  • Clippers career: 60 games, 8.0 points, 4.0 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 2.0 turnovers per game in 21.4 minutes. .420/.378/.811 splits
  • In 2017-18, Teodosic played 45 games. The Clippers were 29-16 in those contests.

2018-19 Salary: $6,300,000

Future Contract Status: Teodosic was waived at the trade deadline and returned to Europe. In the NBA, he’s an unrestricted free agent.

Summary:

The Clippers had a busy 2017 offseason. A lot of money was thrown around, the team took on a new look and the front-office as we now know it was forming. L.A. started the 2017 offseason by trading away the best player in franchise history, Chris Paul, for what is now the core of the Clippers roster. While the Clips now had guys like Lou Williams and Patrick Beverley to fill out the backcourt, having a veteran point guard to feed Griffin and DeAndre Jordan was important, and the Clippers didn’t know if Lou or Bev could fill that role. The Clippers looked across the pond for this point guard, and signed Milos Teodosic.

This move registered positively in league circles: Teodosic was long considered one of the better European players, and had the accolades to back it up. He was a Euroleague champion, MVP, 3-time Euroleague first-teamer, FIBA Player of the Year, and considered one of the best passers alive, having led the Euroleague in assists twice in his career. He was also a career 37.6 percent three-point shooter and had just come off back-to-back seasons where he averaged 16.1 points per game. He also had a tie to the Clippers with former teammate Patrick Beverley now on the team. The Clippers signed him to a two-year, $12.3 million deal and now had their veteran starting point guard for the season.

To say that Milos’ Clippers career was a mixed bag would be an understatement. Injuries, backcourt competition, resentment over role, homesickness and aging all had something to do this this. Especially the injuries. The problem with Teo was that he might have already been over the hill when he came to the states. He was 30, a ten-year veteran of the second best league in the world. He’s also a dedicated member of the Serbian National team, whom he plays with most summers. Remember when Clippers fans were hype when Gallo decided not to play for Italy this past summer because of the wear and tear? Milos was there for his country every time, and it might have had a negative impact on his health.

Teo was injured in the second game of the season in 2017 and didn’t return to the court until December 11. Dealing with a nagging plantar fascia injury in his left foot, he was in and out of the lineup constantly. However, when he was healthy, the Clippers were a better team. They went 29-16 in 2017-18 when Milos played, as he could find open shooters like no one’s business. He was also scoring well, averaging nearly 10 points a game (9.5) in his “rookie” season. However, being limited to only 45 games at his age and contract meant that he was never going to be a long term part of the Clippers’ future, and they moved accordingly.

With the drafting of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a healthy Patrick Beverley and a litany of other backcourt options, Teo’s role was reduced mightily in 2018-19, playing only 15 games. With Milos taking up $6.3 million in cap space, and yearning to go back to Europe, the Clippers decided to part ways with the 32-year-old Serbian in February when their trade moves demanded they clear a roster spot. It was an inglorious exit for Milos, who Clipper fans liked, and who will always be remembered for his role on the underrated 2017-18 Clippers campaign, despite not being available for nearly half of it.

Strengths

Milos was not just a fantastic passer, he was an expert passer. He was so good that sometimes he baffled his own teammates with turnovers coming from them not expecting the ball. He could turn the most dire of offensive situations into open shots. He was deft in the pick-and-roll, had incredible vision in hitting shooters, and was great in the half-court. While he started 36 of the 45 games he played in his first season in L.A., he had really good chemistry with Montrezl Harrell in PNR scenarios, and definitely helped his progress as a player. Guard-big PNR’s were Milos’ bread and butter and contributed to some easy offense for L.A. He finished third on the team in assists in 17-18, contributing 4.6 dimes a game.

Milos, as mentioned above, is also a solid shooter. Of all the players that played at least 40 games in a Clippers uniform in 17-18, Milos had the highest three-point percentage of anyone at 37.8 percent. He could make defenses pay by going under screens, was decent in the mid-range, and had a nice touch on floaters in the lane.

His ability to give defenses fits with his passing and shooting was why Milos was incredibly valuable to the Clippers squad two seasons ago. He only played in 54 percent of the games but he was on the court for 69 (nice) percent of the teams wins. His veteran presence also helped in getting young guys better by proxy: both in practice, and by being on the receiving end of some of his spectacular passes.

Weaknesses

For everything that Milos contributed on the offensive end, playing defense seemed to be more of an optional thing instead of being necessary. He was slow-footed, lost his man consistently, would rather foul then let his man go by him, and wasn’t adept in help. A big reason why he only averaged 25.2 minutes a game is because of his defense and his inability to stay on the floor late. Teams would target Teo, and took advantage of his nonchalant movement defensively for easy buckets.

I don’t know if this is much of a weakness, but Milos just did not fit on the team this season. He wasn’t cut from the same mold of the “grit and grind” energy they played with this season, and didn’t seem all that interested in continuing in L.A. He rarely gave interviews, was notorious in Europe for not wanting to practice, and openly said that he wanted out. I don’t blame him - his position was snatched from him by a 20-year-old - but it probably could have been handled differently. Ultimately, by waiving Milos, the Clippers saved money and opened up a roster spot, but Clipper nation seemed to embrace the guy. It stinks that injuries and a roster shake-up shortened his tenure here in L.A. but hey, stuff happens.

Future with the Clippers

In an interview published on November 21 of 2018 by Serbian News outlet Glas Amerike, Milos had this to say about his future (translated from Serbian).

“I think I definitely won’t stay here because… I came, I saw how it looks and somehow… I enjoy more and it’s nicer for me to play in Europe. So, I will return to Europe for sure, will it be during this season or at the end, we’ll see,”

So yeah, his future with the Clippers and the NBA is safely finished at this point, barring something truly shocking.

Final year grade: D

In 15 games, Milos averaged 3.2 points, 2.1 assists and 1.1 rebounds, and 1.4 turnovers a game in 10 minutes. His splits were .420/.370/.571. He never scored in double digits, and never played more than 20 minutes in a game, in stark contrast to the year before. In December, the last month Milos played any minutes with L.A., he participated in five games and had 11 turnovers. He only had 18 points in these five games. Milos didn’t really contribute, but did hit some big threes early in the season, particularly in an early season victory against the Rockets where he had eight points, five assists and seven rebounds. This was just a lost season for Milos, as he failed to make any impact for most of the year. I think I can speak for all of Clipper Nation when I say good luck to Milos in Europe, and see you in the Summer Olympics in 2020.