With the Nets in a cap crunch and in danger of being subject to the dreaded repeater tax, they will have to make some difficult decisions as to who to keep on their roster for next season. Free agency will play a big role in those decisions as key starters Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young will likely opt out of their contracts and test the market. General Manager Billy King and the Brooklyn front office have made it clear that they’d like to retain both, so they may have to keep spending at a minimum if they are unable to unload the bloated contracts of Deron Williams or Joe Johnson.
As a result, power forward Mirza Teletovic may have to accept a lesser salary than his market value in order to return. Coming off a season cut short by blood clots in his lungs it’s questionable whether the Nets will even offer him his qualifying offer. Add that to the fact that even when healthy, he shot 38.2 percent from the field, and some may expect a cold market. However, he’s been productive when allocated consistent minutes.
As a talented stretch forward that has seen inconsistent playing time in Brooklyn, Teletovic will at the very least be looking for a steadier role. Because of that, these are some of the teams that could be interested in the 29 year-old Bosnian sharpshooter.
The Kings have a desperate need for an efficient power forward as the closest thing on their current roster is Jason Thompson. They inquired with Brooklyn about the availability of Mason Plumlee during the season, but the Nets balked and a trade never transpired, according to ESPN. Now with Teletovic a Restricted Free Agent, they may be able to secure another Nets big man who may even be a better fit next to center DeMarcus Cousins.
With Cousins occupying the paint, Teletovic would be free to roam the perimeter and get open shots off double teams. More importantly, however, is that Teletovic is a willing passer and once teams run out to defend him he’s smart enough to toss the ball back into Cousins when he gains post position. With the basketball IQ to turn down a perimeter shot and drive when given the opportunity, Teletovic should get more chances to feed Cousins down low off of shot fakes if his man rotates.
Add in a healthy Darren Collison who loves to drive and kick and the Nets power forward could be an excellent fit in Sacramento.
The Rockets were bounced from the Western Conference playoffs after getting outgunned by the Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. A large part of that was due to inefficient scoring from everyone outside of Dwight Howard and James Harden. Terrence Jones looked lost for the majority of the playoffs and Josh Smith’s production was a roller coaster ride to say the least.
With Smith a free agent, Houston has a huge hole to fill next to Dwight Howard if they don’t believe Jones can take the next step towards establishing himself as a starter in the league. They could turn to Lithuanian big man, Donatas Motiejunas, who’s coming off a season ending back injury, but at seven feet and 255 pounds, he may be better suited as a backup center.
Without any capable power forwards signed for next season aside from Jones, Teletovic would immediately be in line for 22-24 minutes and could even start for Houston on Opening Day. As much as Josh Smith likes to believe he’s a stretch forward, his career .285 field goal percentage from three says otherwise. He also takes several unadvised shots during games when an extra pass would be more beneficial to his team. Teletovic on the other hand sports a career .362 three-point field goal percentage and rarely takes off balanced shots.
He’d also arguably be the best fit next to Dwight Howard since Howard’s time in Orlando playing with Hedo Turkoglu. With James Harden attacking the basket every game, Teletovic would see more open shots than he did with Brooklyn and a rotation of he and Jones would keep both fresh and productive.
The Wizards could have potentially had a longer playoff run had John Wall been completely healthy, but in the process, they reportedly realized that they were better off with a stretch forward next to Marcin Gortat, according to Fox Sports. With Nene open to accepting a bench role and possibly on the trade block, that leaves only Otto Porter as a forward with range out to the perimeter.
At 6’8 and 198 pounds, Porter has the body of a small forward and may need to play there next season should Paul Pierce depart in free agency. Former Net Kris Humphries has already begun attempting to extend his range, but seeing much progress beyond 10-15 feet this late in his career is unlikely.
Teletovic’s range would fill a huge whole and allow them to groom Porter as their small forward of the future. Playing with a premier point guard like John Wall and alongside another dead-eye shooter in Bradley Beal would certainly result in more open shots than he saw playing with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and he’d probably get a significant amount of playing time should Nene be traded.
San Antonio Spurs
If there were Vegas odds on where Teletovic will land, it’d likely be in San Antonio where Greg Popovich would utilize him better than the three coaches the Nets have had since Teletovic arrived in Brooklyn. Outside of Boris Diaw, the Spurs have no one capable of playing power forward on an every game basis should Tim Duncan be considered a center, as coach Popovich has repeatedly said. With uninspiring options in Tiago Splitter and Aron Baynes as the only big men on the roster next season, San Antonio will need to somewhat retool their roster with affordable players who fit what many term the “Spurs culture”.
Selfless players always willing to make the extra pass and value teamwork over the individual represent the epitome of the Spurs culture and Teletovic is just that. This season that willingness was so strong he actually over-passed and conceded open shots. In San Antonio, however, he’d be encouraged to take those shots and with the Spurs’ reliance on the three-pointer in recent years he’d certainly have an excellent chance at flourishing.
With Tony Parker’s penetration and Duncan’s dominance in the paint even at age 39, Teletovic would be able to fill a complementary role. With Danny Green and Marco Belinelli free agents, the only sharpshooter locked in for next season is backup point guard Patty Mills. Should Green or Belinelli leave for greener pastures in the form of a large contract, Teletovic would replace their offense spark off the bench and could even start down the road.
Although Coach Popovich has never mentioned Teletovic by name, he did speak about a team the Spurs played in 2013 regarding their mishandling of a “foreign kid” who was “open all the time” and wondering “What the…? I can’t get the ball”. Considering Teletovic played 10 minutes in the Spurs blowout of the Nets that year, it was almost certainly him he was speaking about. If Popovich gets the chance to coach that “kid” he may be able to take Teletovic’s game to its limits.
*No matter how much competition the Nets have for Teletovic’s services, they should at least offer him his $4.2 million qualifying offer making teams spend at least that much for the opportunity to sign him for next season. Anything beyond that price tag will be difficult for the Nets to match, so if one team believes Teletovic can return to top form it shouldn’t be surprising to see him in another uniform come October.
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