There are just some events in life that are accompanied by a small but regular occurrence that would make us say ‘ah, it wouldn’t be X without X.’
An example that springs to mind off the bat would be ‘it wouldn’t be a Tottenham Hotspur season without inexplicably losing 0-3 at home to a bottom-half team’ (such is life as a Spurs fan). You get the general idea — there are happenings that accompany an event that help make that event what it is, even in a small capacity.
It wouldn’t be the NBA Draft without an international prospect from the ever-changing Serbian club Mega Basket, who in recent years have gone by names like Mega Leks, Mega Bemax, Mega Soccerbet, Mega Mozzart and now Mega MIS (all for sponsorship reasons).
While the name changes, you’ll likely know them as ‘that team that wears pink,’ and other funky colors. This year is, of course, no exception, which brings us to today’s prospect.
19-year-old forward Nikola Durisic (or ‘Djurisic’ depending where you look — including his own Instagram — but listed as Durisic on his team’s website, his jersey and NBA documents) is one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft class due to his level of production given his age (just turning 19 in February), and he turned eyes back in 2022 winning MVP with Mega’s U18’s at Euroleague’s Adidas Next Generation Tournament as he guided them to victory.
Though he’s 6-foot-8 and plays forward, he has a lot of guard tendencies and plays more like a guard or a guard/forward hybrid: he’s not the screen-setting forward. He wants the ball (sporting a usage percentage of 26%) and wants to make things happen, for better or for worse.
Across all competitions, Durisic averaged 13 points per game on 41% shooting from the field on 10.8 attempts, 21% from three on 3.9 attempts, 69% from the free throw line on 3.1 attempts, three rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 3.3 turnovers and 2.8 fouls in an average of 28 minutes in 30 games played, 28 of those in the starting lineup as Mega finished 6th in the Adriatic League with a 12-14 record, per Real GM.
Off the bat, I think those are some impressive numbers from someone who turned 19 during the latter stages of the season in a professional league. Sure, the three-point shooting numbers, turnovers and fouls aren’t going to do him much favor, but for a just-turned 19 year old I think this is impressive.
Let’s take a look at the tape and see what’s what with Durisic, who wears number 11.
Without a shadow of a doubt the best offensive aspect of Durisic’s game is his ability to drive, so let’s start there.
Here, Durisic drives into the space afforded to him and takes it, extending and using glass to convert his layup:
Coming from an out-of-bounds play, Durisic splits the defense and attacks the rim with vigor, finishing with the left-handed dunk:
This time Durisic rejects the screen before driving right and again extending and using glass to finish the play, plus the foul:
Using the screen on this possession Durisic drives inside and strides through the lane and finishes with the reverse:
Against one of the best teams in the league, Durisic drives to his right and does a good job adjusting to evade the defense to finish at the rim:
From the opposite wing, Durisic attacks the defense after a failed attempt on a steal and shows his strong intent to attack the rim as he adjusts to finish:
As you can imagine this ability on the move is also dangerous in transition too, both on and off the ball.
Here, Durisic fills the lane in transition, receives the ball and finishes at the rim:
Durisic sometimes gets out ahead of the play when there’s a chance for a fast break opportunity, and he does so here, receiving the ball and finishing with the dunk:
Again, Durisic gets out in front, receives the ball and a strong take to the rim to score, plus the foul:
Durisic gets to the free throw line over three times a game, and most of these are created on the move, on drives, in the halfcourt or transition.
I really liked this play in transition where Durisic receives the ball and sees the large man standing between himself and the rim and decided to attack the rim and draw the foul and free throws:
This time Durisic grabs the rebound leads the break himself, getting up early to attack the rim and draws the foul and free throws:
On the switch, Durisic drives inside as he shifts hands and draws the foul on the help defender and earning two free throws:
This is as good as it gets offensively for Durisic, sadly.
Durisic is quite turnover prone, and some of these do come on drives situations:
The biggest issue, however, is the lack of a jumpshot right now: 21% from three on 3.9 attempts per game.
His ability to slash/drive inside will be useful up to a point but in the NBA this is harder to immediately translate, especially in the halfcourt. Not having an effective jumpshot means teams can just back off you and better defend your drives anyways...and then you’re in a tough situation. Priority number for for Durisic has to be developing a respectable jumpshot.
Here’s a few examples of his misses for visual reference:
Whether it’s in catch-and-shoot scenarios:
Or off the dribble:
Durisic averaged over four assists per game and he did show playmaking talent, so let’s look at a few of his assists/opportunities and how they came about.
As good as place as any to start would be the openings Durisic creates with his penetration, as he does here after this drive:
On the short drive here, Durisic creates an opening and an opening he could easily fill himself, but he delivers the short pass to his cutting teammate for the assist:
Here, Durisic gets to the baseline, spins and finds his cutting teammate for the foul and free throws at the rim, a lovely bit of play:
Again Durisic gets inside, spins, draws the defense and finds his teammate for a three-point opportunity:
Let’s look at some pick-and-roll playmaking.
To start, a nice pass over the top of the defense after the roll for the assist at the rim:
Durisic shows good awareness of his surroundings on this possession as he runs the pick-and-roll and leads the defense one way before firing the ball back to weakside for the assist on the three:
On the double-action in the middle, Durisic finds the roller inside but is denied the assist by an explicable miss:
I wouldn’t call Durisic’s playmaking in the pick-and-roll top class but at 19-years-old it really could be a lot worse: he’s got good feel and awareness for what’s around him and that’s a good place to start.
However, Durisic averages over three turnovers per game and Durisic does make some bad decisions/passes at times to create these turnovers.
On the drive, Durisic gets to the rim but when he attempts to find a teammate from a tough position it ends in a turnover:
On the pick-and-roll attempt the pass from Durisic ends up with an interception and a loss in possession:
This next possession is an interesting one, and one that might speak to a larger problem. To end the half, Durisic is seeking the ball. His teammate doesn’t seem to want to give the ball to him and you can see his frustration at either Durisic and/or the coach. When Durisic’s attempted pass inside is deflected and ends in a turnover his teammate sinks his hands into his knees, clearly not happy with what just occurred whether Durisic was at fault or not:
It’s just a bit of a mixed bag at times with Durisic. This play where he attempts this odd underhand pass in transition about sums it up:
There’s a bit to be said here and not a lot of it good, sadly.
To start, there are some good moments from Durisic defensively: he shows flashes.
He does a good job here getting around screens/bodies to get up a good contest on the jumpshot which is missed:
Here, Durisic does a good job plugging the gap and halting the advance to the rim and gets his arms up to challenge the runner which is missed:
But more often than not there are defensive errors, fouls and just sheer lack of effort — it was not enjoyable watching Durisic’s body language on both sides at times and his lack of effort defensively.
To start, Durisic is faked off his feet in the corner and his error — as well as his teammate’s — leads to a clear driving lane to the basket:
Again Durisic leaves his feet, almost inexplicably on this possession as he almost bunny hops away from the ball and the defense breaks down behind him to make up for his mistake but can’t prevent the basket:
Off the dribble, Durisic is beaten and decides to put his arm on the back of the offensive player and commits the foul:
Fouls like this are really common for Durisic and he frequently ran into foul trouble as these racked up:
Here, Durisic leaves his man to attempt to go for an unsuspecting steal from behind, doesn’t get close and ends up leaving his man in the process who receives the ball and hits the three:
In transition, a lazy attempt on a reach with little effort to play the man and just hope the steal works out:
It is the lack of effort at times which is difficult to watch, plays like this happened more than you’d like where Durisic shows no desire to get out and attempt to close-out a shot attempt:
That particular shot he just watched go in was the dagger in a six point game with just half a minute to go. Instead it goes to nine and the game is finished.
Here, he just stands there and simply watches the shot attempt go up — no effort, no desire to do anything at all:
On the drive here, a similar issue...just dig, make an effort to even just make a swipe on the way by, it’s better than doing absolutely nothing:
Too often there are possessions on both ends where Durisic is drifting through — there are spells where he’ll go through minutes without making an impact on the game. I don’t know whether he knows he’s not going to be at Mega next season but I didn’t like his body language on the court and I think he could be an even better player under a coach that’ll light a fire under him or where he gives a s**t, frankly. He’s got to care and I didn’t get that impression always from him on the court.
These things sour Durisic somewhat, because there’s a lot to like at such a young age. He can get a basket for himself, he can get to the rim, get to the free throw line, he can collapse a defense, he’s solid at finding teammates, he has decent awareness of his surroundings and can pick out these openings — all at 19-years-old in a professional league. He’s got guard skills in a 6-foot-8 frame.
It’s a shame that defensively it’s not there right now, but more so for a lack of effort. His three-point shooting also really drags him down right now: he shoots over 50% on his twos, but because his three-point shooting is so woeful it drags his overall field goal percentage to 41%, which isn’t fantastic.
Let’s take a look at how other outlets view Nikola Durisic ahead of the draft and...the consensus isn’t stellar.
Sam Vecenie of The Athletic doesn’t have Durisic ranked inside his top-58 of his mock draft but does place Durisic 58th on his overall big board. The Ringer doesn’t have Durisic mocked nor placed on its big board, and CBS Sports similarly does not project Durisic inside the top-30.
ESPN rank Durisic 60th overall on their ‘Best Available’ list, with Jonathan Givony having this to say about Durisic from May 2022:
Djurisic has good size for a wing, standing 6-8 with a strong frame. He’s a versatile player who can handle the ball, pass on the move and has clear shot-making prowess, even if his decision-making and efficiency left a lot to be desired this season. Djurisic was able to carve out a role as a 17-year-old playing versus grown men in the Adriatic League because of the physicality and intensity he brings on the defensive end, as he looked capable of slowing down guards, switching onto bigger players, denying off the ball and pushing much older players around despite his youth and lack of experience.
Djurisic will be well-positioned to have a strong season next season on a team that is run by his agency and is historically committed to giving young players minutes and the opportunity to play through mistakes. To rise into the top 20, he’ll need to cut down on turnovers, improve his finishing ability around the basket, and show that his excellent 3-point percentages this season can be maintained with higher volume. Finding a way to mature in terms of his body language and interactions with teammates, which can be very poor at times, would go a long way as well.
I honestly didn’t see the defensive physicality and intensity on the defensive end — I never got that impression watching Durisic — but him being able to carve out a role as a young player against pros in the Adriatic League is undeniable. Givony referenced that Durisic would need to cut his turnovers and ‘show excellent’ three-point shooting numbers and...neither of those things happened sadly and that seems to have really hurt his stock, despite his production at his age. Givony’s account also corroborated my own view of Durisic’s poor body language and interactions with teammates, and this likely hasn’t helped his stock either.
I think there’s enough talent and potential upside for Durisic to be drafted, stashed and then you hope that he develops a three-point shot and finds it in himself to be a better teammate. If he can do those things and reign in the turnovers slightly then I think this is a solid stash. My feeling is that he’ll end up undrafted but I think a team should take a late flier and find him a situation where he can develop on and off the court..and hope he makes the step.
Nikola Durisic is likely to be available at 46th overall for the Atlanta Hawks but I think it’s likely they pass on the opportunity here. I do still think a stash pick makes sense for the Hawks for financial reasons but I think this selection is better if used elsewhere.