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Vasilije Micić vs. Real Madrid: Micić flashes in pick-and-roll

Adidas Eurocamp - Day 1 Photo by Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

In the 2014 NBA Draft, Sam Hinkie and the Sixers used the 52nd overall pick to select Vasilije Micić, a now 25-year-old Serbian guard standing 6’4” and currently playing for Anadolu Efes Istanbul of the EuroLeague. Before he had a breakout season with Anadolu Efes in 2018-2019, Micić bounced around clubs in Europe. But Micić has developed his game to such a degree that he was named to the All-EuroLeague Second team this season. EuroLeague.net writes of Micić:

Vasilije Micic turned his first season with Efes into a memorable one by posting career-high numbers while leading the team to its best season in years and its first Final Four appearance in nearly two decades. The EuroLeague MVP for November, Micic was second on his team in scoring (12.1) and steals (1.1) and ranked third in the EuroLeague in assists (5.7). All three numbers represented career bests in his fifth EuroLeague campaign. Micic raised his game even higher in the playoffs; he was Game 1 MVP after dropping 21 points and 7 assists on FC Barcelona Lassa. He followed that with his second career double-double (10 points, 10 assists, 3 steals) in Game 5. Micic ranked second in the playoffs in assists (6.6) and fifth in steals (1.6).

Following such an impressive season by Micić, it is possible he has resurfaced on NBA radars. According to EuroLeague.net’s Antonis Stroggylakis (his article cites a Russian website and I am sorry but I cannot read Russian, so I cannot testify to the accuracy), Ettore Messina of the San Antonio Spurs was quoting as saying the following:

“Great game, great season. [He is an] NBA player. If it were for me, I’d love to see him in San Antonio! We talked a lot about Micic with Gregg Popovich, several times. He’d greatly fit into our team. How he played with Larkin should be shown at the coaching clinics. Though it’s just what we would like, does not mean that he will come. I do not know who has his NBA rights, we haven’t contacted his agent, I do not know his status, we have not done anything yet, what I’m telling you is my personal point of view”.

Well, Mr. Messina, the Philadelphia 76ers have the rights to Vasilije Micić. And with that said, now seems as good a time as any to analyze some games featuring Micić.

First up: Micić & Anadolu Efes vs. Real Madrid, January 24th, 2019. I’m going to post quite a few clips, so keep in mind that Vasilije wears #22.

Defense

Going off of this game alone, I’m certainly dubious of Micić’s ability to defend at the NBA level. I don’t know the European game well enough to say if Real Madrid was targeting Micić or if they just utilize the pick-and-roll heavily in general, but Micić often got torched as a PnR defender.

One of Micić major problems is dealing with screens. Not only is he slow to get around them, he’s slow to recognize them. It’s a little perplexing watching him routinely fail to anticipate screens — if I didn’t know better, I’d say he relishes running into 250 lbs bodies:

At 25-years-old, Micić is very possibly just about at his athletic peak, so any improvements he’ll make on defense will likely depend on effort, anticipation and IQ. But in this particular game, Micić almost never showed pride in his defense. It is one thing to not have the ability to be disruptive on the defensive end, it’s another to not even try. Take a look at the following clip:

  • Play #1 above starts with Efes on offense. Walter Tavares of Real Madrid emphatically blocks an Efes layup attempt, and Anthony Randolph starts a break in transition. On the far side of the court on the wing, you can see Micić make absolutely zero effort to chase his man, who pulls away with ease.
  • In Play #2, maybe there was a miscommunication on the switch and Micić was caught in no man’s land. Still, he doesn’t even attempt to regroup or follow the big into the lane — he just sort of stands there and unconvincingly spreads his arms out.
  • Play #3 is another example of Micić simply not caring enough to get back in transition. First of all, while Efes is on offense, Vasilije is clearly winded and meanders into the corner as he places his hands on his knees and sucks for air. When the play goes awry and Real Madrid gets a chance to run, Micić hardly even jogs back on defense.

To summarize: Micić was not at all disruptive on the defensive end in this game. He doesn’t have the explosiveness to swipe steals or cut off lanes, he isn’t quick or aware enough to avoid screens and he does next to nothing on the glass. Possibly worse, he often doesn’t seem to care.

There are however a few caveats I need to note:

  • Micić is frequently asked to defend the point of attack. He almost certainly will not be if he were to join the NBA.
  • Micić played the most minutes of his career this season and likely saw his highest usage ever. He touches the ball on seemingly every offensive possession, and even when he doesn’t, he’s used as a decoy a la JJ Redick, running all over the court. It’s possible he needs to improve his conditioning more than his willingness to defend.
  • We’re working with a one-game sample size so far.

Offense

The offensive end is where Micić shines, where people get excited about his potential. It’s plays like the following three that impress:

Micić has a killer instinct when he’s attacking. He uses a reliable handle, the threat of a well-timed pass and a three-level scoring ability to get buckets. He’s often operating in the pick-and-roll or coming off screens, and he draws a ton of attention:

Unfortunately, James Anderson (!) misses the wide open three, but it was made possible by Micić’s gravity.

Vasilije is by no stretch a selfish player; he threads spicy passes with gusto, leading his teammates into good looks by first manipulating space:

(He does like to drive only to kick-out, which could lose effectiveness in the NBA.)

Micić’s jumper, for the most part, looks fine. He actually appears to shoot more fluidly off of the dribble than out of a set stance. In the following clip, there are four different jump shots. The first two are off the dribble, with the second being probably the prettiest shot he had all game. Shots three and four are of the catch-and-shoot variety, and I find a deficiency in both — see if you can spot it:

So, what’d you think? I notice a significant dip in his motion before rising up out of catches. As my colleague Dave Early explained to me, this may not necessarily be detrimental; there are successful NBA shooters who have a similar motion. But at 6’4”, I can’t help but feel Micić would benefit from eliminating the dip to shorten up his motion and produce a quicker trigger.

This game gives me some confidence that Micić could succeed in a combo guard role. Efes has a rotation that works two point guards into the fray with Micić in Shane Larkin and Rodrigue Beaubois. During those minutes, Micić takes on an off-ball guard role and moves frequently to cut to the hoop or find space to spot up:

Summary: If I were in an NBA front office, I’d certainly be concerned about Micić’s defense. It could be the aspect of his game that keeps him from getting his shot in the NBA, especially considering how little roster space Philly might have given their needs — Brett Brown may not have the patience for a 25-year-old combo guard who doesn’t try on defense. However, given Micić’s offensive capabilities and versatility, he deserves some consideration from Elton Brand. If Vasilije can tread water on defense or at least successfully hide, he may be able to take on a role in which he provides an offensive spark off of the bench as he takes his turn initiating offense when Ben Simmons or Jimmy Butler are getting a breather.

Remember, this is all based on a single game. I’ll continue to do a few more game re-watch write ups, and watch plenty of games on my own time, so we can all arrive at a more clear picture of Micić as an NBA prospect.

Before we conclude, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give you the free throw form:

Definitely segmented, probably fine. He shot 81.9% from the line (on 1.9 attempts per game) this season, trending upward from last season’s 70.7% (on 2.3 attempts per game) last year. He’s at 74.4% for his career.

Per-36

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