The Utah Jazz point guard situation has been in a state of flux since Deron Williams bounced from Salt Lake City and Trey Burke was incapable of filling the former All-Star’s shoes as the ninth pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
Now that George Hill is entering unrestricted free agency and will undoubtedly receive lucrative offers from other competitive teams outside of Utah, the Jazz might have to look to address the need this offseason.
Instead of looking inside the NBA’s current talent pool, the Jazz will reportedly pursue Serbian point guard Milos Teodosic, according to David Pick of Eurobasket.
In an interview with CSKA Moscow president Andrey Vatutin, Pick noted the Jazz’s impending pursuit of the Euroleague star, saying, “CSKA will soon engage in one the greatest decisions the franchise had in a long time. Milos Teodosic — NBA or Europe? Several NBA GMs and scouts are eye-balling the Serbian wizard floor general.
"With ex-CSKA assistant Quin Snyder leading Utah into the second round of the playoffs with loads of international flavor, sources tell me the Jazz are bound to shoot Teodosic an offer-sheet. The Brooklyn Nets are also in active pursuit. People close to Teodosic estimate that he'll push for a deal in the 3-years, $25-30 million range.”
The Jazz aren’t strangers to looking for point guard help outside of the NBA.
After aquiring his Raul Neto's draft rights from the Atlanta Hawks in 2013, the Jazz signed the him to a multiyear deal in 2015 when the Brazilian point guard showed promise with CB Murcia, a Liga ACB and EuroCup team in Spain. Unable to adjust to the NBA’s pace, Neto fell out of Snyder’s rotation this past season, appearing in just 40 games after playing in 81 the season prior.
Teodosic has earned a worldwide reputation of being one of the best point guards currently not signed by an NBA team. In fact, NBA coaches considered Teodosic the best non-NBA player in 2016.
During his time with Euroleague powerhouse CSKA Moscow, Teodosic the FIBA Europe Player of the Year, Euroleague MVP, Greek Cup MVP (twice), Euroscar Player of the Year, All-Euroleague First Team (three times) and a Euroleague Championship in 2016. On the international stage, Teodosic led the Serbian National Team to the final game of the 2016 Olympics, pocketing the silver medal against Team USA.
All of those accolades have caused those with influence around the league to take notice of Teodosic, including Snyder.
“Teodosic can do just about anything he wants on the basketball court,” said Snyder in a 2014 interview. “He might be the best passer in the world. He knows that I think that about him too.”
Normally, it takes years for players coming from Europe to adjust to the NBA game. The talent, quite frankly, is on a different level. Getting accustomed to the size, speed and physicality is often the biggest hurdle.
Teodosic, however, could avoid most of the growing pains if he ends up in Salt Lake City, as his fit with the Jazz is arguably the best in the league.
The Jazz, who were a top-five passing team in the NBA this past season, play a style that’s conducive to success for players like Teodosic, who’s a pass-first guard. Teodosic is coming off the best season of his career with CSKA Moscow, despite turning 30 last year.
He averaged a career-high 16.2 points and 7.0 assists per game. Teodosic, a knock-down shooter, is a career 38 percent 3-point shooter and made over 92 percent of his free throws during the 2016-17 Euroleague season. Utah, as a collective unit, made slightly over 73 percent of their free throws this past season, which was good for 13th best in the NBA.
For comparison, Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio is considered a successful Euroleague transplant and didn’t gather a fraction of the success Teodosic has collected in Europe. In his last season with Barcelona in 2011, Rubio recorded 6.0 points and dished out 4.0 assists per game — totals that opened eyes in the NBA given how differently the game is played in Europe.
Now, this isn’t to say that Teodosic could step onto the hardwood in the NBA and expect to rise to the top of the position, especially since it’s the golden age of point guards, with virtually every team being led by someone of All-Star caliber.
But if Hill exercises his right as a free agent and leaves Salt Lake City, the Jazz could find themselves with a gem in Teodosic — someone who’s earned genuine respect in the NBA for the things he’s accomplished across the pond.