In the summer of 2012, the Brooklyn Nets decided to use their full mid-level exception to sign a high profile player from Bosnia named Mirza Teletovic. The team orchestrated a $2 million dollar buyout with his Euroleague squad so that Teletovic could immediately come play in the NBA. The Nets signed him for a total of $15.675 million over three years.
At 6’9″, 250 lbs., Teletovic was brought over to be used as a high scoring power forward that could stretch the floor with his three-point shooting. Well, his rookie season he was a major disappointment.
Under the reins of Avery Johnson and P.J. Carlesimo, the 27 year-old rookie struggled mightily. He averaged just 3.5 points per game and 1.8 rebounds while hitting just 38.4% from the field and just 34.3% from three-point range. Teletovic played just 9.4 minutes per contest in 53 appearances. Carlesimo used Teletovic for exactly one minute in the Nets first-round playoff defeat to the Chicago Bulls; a series that went seven games.
It was clear that the coaches quickly lost trust in Teletovic. He looked like a severe liability on defense and was a trick pony on offense whose one trick did not even work that well. When he would shoot the ball, he simply did not look confident in doing so. His NBA, which took so long for him to start, looked in danger of coming to a quick end.
But Nets management decided to make major changes the following offseason, and with that would come maybe a final shot for Teletovic in the world’s best basketball league.
The team had already fired coach Johnson early in the 2012-13 season and decided to follow suit by doing the same to Carlesimo once the team made an early exit in the playoffs.
GM Billy King made a surprising hire by bringing in Jason Kidd to coach the team only several days after he retired as a player. Then the team made drastic changes to their roster by trading for the likes of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Added with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, the Nets starting five looked like a lineup that could compete with anyone.
Alas, things don’t usually go as smoothly as one might anticipate. The Nets got off to a rigid start and lost Lopez for the season to a broken foot.
Kidd started using basically everyone in his lineup as he tried to figure out the best combination for the Nets to succeed. Eventually, Kidd instilled a small-ball lineup that allowed the Nets to spread the floor out for their shooters. With that, Teletovic was receiving more minutes and more opportunities than he had at any point in his rookie season. Finally, Teletovic was able to get comfortable with his role in the team and his performance certainly increased.
With his play increasing towards the end of November, Teletovic had finally started to receive consistent minutes off the bench.
The month of December was in many ways a coming out party for Teletovic. He averaged 10.2 points per game and was showing his prowess as a long-range shooter, connecting on 29 of his 68 attempts from deep.
On January 24th at home versus the Dallas Mavericks, Teletovic had a monster performance. Teletovic scored 34 points, making 12-18 shots from the field and 7-11 from three and grabbing six rebounds. More importantly, the Nets won the game 107-106.
Teletovic would continue his strong play through the rest of the regular season, finishing the season with averages of 8.6 points per game and 3.7 rebounds while playing 19. 4 minutes in 72 games. He shot 41.8% from the field and 39.0% from deep. He finished with 22 games in which he scored 10 or more points per game, four games with 10 or more rebounds and two double-doubles.
Another significant improvement was his Teletovic. While he certainly is far from being a great defender, Teletovic can hold his own. A major attribute of his is that Teletovic is not afraid of anyone.
Throughout the season it was evident that Kidd believed in Teletovic more so than Carlesimo and Johnson had at any point. He rewarded his coach with solid play off the bench.
In the 2013-14 playoffs, Teletovic struggled a bit but still finished with five games having scored in double figures. He had big performances in Game’s Two and Three versus the Miami Heat. In Game Two, the second year forward scored 20 points and hit 6-9 from three-point range. In Game Three, Teletovic hit four three’s, finishing with 12 points and six boards on the night in the Nets lone victory of the series.
Kidd showed even more trust in Teletovic by allowing him to guard the human locomotive LeBron James a few times in the Nets series versus the Heat. James can beat anyone one-on-one, but Teletovic certainly did not back away from the challenge.
“This year with Jason has been a lot different,” Teletovic said. “The first day when he came in he told me, ‘Listen, we need you this year. We know what you’re capable of.’ ” (Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today Sports)
Even his second round opponent gave him high praise. “He can just flat-out shoot the ball,” James said. “There’s only a few guys in our league who can do that, and we have a guy like that on our team in James Jones who just comes in and if he touches the ball and lets it go, you believe it’s going in.” (Jeff Zillgitt, USA Today Sports)
Looking to the Future
Teletovic has one more year left on his contract with the Nets. He figures to be a big part of the Nets offense just as he was last season.
His ability to shoot the ball causes other forwards to leave the lane. This creates space for all of his teammates. As evidenced by this shot chart from NBA.com, Teletovic can shoot from just about anywhere on the court.
His teammates are fully aware of his abilities and they trust him. When they draw double teams they know they can look to swing the ball to Teletovic. If the defense has left him, there is a good chance he will make them pay.
With renewed confidence, look for Teletovic to have another solid year with Nets next season.