Long gone are the days when Divac and Stojakovic would represent Serbia at the highest level of basketball in the NBA. Since their retirements, Serbia has struggled putting out talent that could compete with the best basketball players from around the world.
To be fair, Nenad Krstic did have a pretty solid NBA career that lasted seven years. He was a pretty big piece when he played for the Nets, but tailed off when he joined the Thunder and then later the Celtics.
Darko Milicic never quite worked out after being drafted second overall behind LeBron James in 2003. Milicic played for six teams in 10 NBA seasons.
Aleksandar Pavlovic was on the Cavaliers team that made a big run to the NBA Finals back in 2007. Pavlovic played in the NBA until 2013 and is now without a club.
Nikola Jokic, Nemanja Bjelica and Boban Marjanovic currently represent Serbia at the NBA level. Being the youngest of the bunch, Jokic has the most potential, while Bjelica and Marjanovic bring plenty of experience from their days in Europe.
Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets–(Last season’s stats: 80 GP, 21.7 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.4 APG, 51.2 FG%, 81.1 FT%)
Considering it was his rookie campaign, Jokic had a tremendous 2015-2016 season. He finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, only behind Karl-Anthony Towns, and Kristaps Porzingis. This season, Jokic will have even bigger aspirations. The Nuggets will be hoping that last season was not a fluke, and if we are to judge by what he did with Serbia this past summer at the Olympics, I think he will be just fine. Jokic should get the nod as the starting C for the Nuggets and Nurkic will serve as the back-up, yet another very talented big man that the Nuggets have. With the likes of Faried, Gallinari and Chandler around him, Jokic has plenty of guys with NBA experience around him, which should make it an easy transition from his rookie year into his sophomore season. I fully expect Jokic to breakout in his second season and with his skillset, there is no reason why he should not.
Nemanja Bjelica, Minnesota Timberwolves-(Last season’s stats: 60 GP, 17.9 MPG, 5.1 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 38.4 3P%, 46.8 FG%)
His numbers will not “wow” you, but Bjelica still played a huge part in the Timberwolves season last year. He has plenty of experience playing in Europe, as well as the Serbian national team, which he has won three medals for at various competitions. Much of the same will be expected from Bjelica this season-leadership to a maturing T-Wolves team, his efficiency from both inside and behind the arc and energy on both sides of the ball.
Boban Marjanovic, Detroit Pistons-(Last season’s stats: 54 GP, 9.4 MPG, 5.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 60.3 FG%, 76.3 FT%)
Marjanovic was mostly a “garbage” time player last season for the Spurs, but the San Antonio fans and fans from around the NBA seemed to love him. Drummond will be the starting C for the Pistons, while Baynes will most likely serve as the back-up. It could be very tough for Marjanovic to get any sort of playing time, but with different match-ups vs players over 7’0, Marjanovic could potentially get the nod on some nights over Baynes.
Ogi is a graduate of Humber College’s Sport Management program. He is the founder of Blago Blogger Sports.