Uncovering the Bucks’ Mystery Man

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The Bucks signed Miroslav Raduljica to a two-year contract yesterday, coming to terms with the Serbian center one day after waiving Gustavo Ayon.  According to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the 7-foot-1, 280 pound Raduljica got a contract for $3 million over two years with a non-guaranteed third year — leaving him a virtual match for the salary space allotted for Ayon for the 2013-14 season.

Raduljica led Azomash Mariupol to the Ukrainian Superleague Finals while averaging 14.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in 53 contests.

While not off-the-radar entirely, the move probably leaves a lot of Bucks fans wondering exactly what type of player the Bucks got in the transaction and how exactly we got to this point.  The 25-year-old was eligible for the NBA Draft three years ago, but went undrafted.  Again from Gardner,

Babcock said Raduljica might have been drafted in 2010 but he did not compete at the Eurocamp in Treviso that year after his club threatened to hold his pay if he participated. But his representatives did not communicate that to NBA scouts.

So Raduljica signed a five-year deal with Anadolu Efes (Ersan Ilyasova’s former team in Turkey). Efes promptly loaned him out to Alba Berlin, Partizan Belgrade, and Azvomash in consecutive seasons, so in essence, Raduljica has played in the top leagues of Germany, Serbia, and Ukraine over the past three years.  Efes held a team option for the final two seasons of his contract.

Perhaps it should be concerting that Efes couldn’t find a roster spot for Raduljica, but the Bucks could.

Murmurs arose at the beginning of April that the Bucks held an interest in the Serb, and it was about that same time that his play improved.  Prior to March 27, Raduljica averaged 12.5 points in 21 minutes per game.  After that point, he averaged 18.4 points  in just under 28 minutes per game — and that improvement came largely in the playoffs against the better teams of the top Ukrainian league.  Azovmash made it all the way to a seventh game of the finals before bowing out.

As a measuring stick, Miroslav’s numbers last season compare favorably to those of Kyrylo Fesenko, who also played in the Ukraine last season.  The Bucks were reportedly interested in the former Jazz center when their depth in the middle was shaky a season or two ago, but he ultimately signed with the Pacers.

  • Raduljica: 23.0 mpg, 14.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 61.6% FG, 72.6% FT
  • Fesenko: 18.6 mpg, 10.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 64.5% FG, 41.0% FT

Of course, Fesenko never caught on with Jerry Sloan in Utah to the point of earning double-digit minutes in a season.  But the two players are roughly the same age, size and skill level.  Fesenko is a bit more physical inside, and Raduljica has a better touch as a scorer.  When they met in the playoffs, Miroslav’s Azovmash squad took a 4-1 series win over Fesenko and BC Donestk.

Here is some video of Game 2 of that series.  Raduljica, who plans on wearing #9 in Milwaukee (freshen up your Yi shirseys!) sports the #9 white jersey, while Fesenko is in the #44 black jersey. (WARNING: serious case of WTF!-level music.)

Moments of note

  • 0:44 — Rajuljica finishes a layup inside.
  • 1:10 — The club music starts getting creepily weird.
  • 1:20 — Raduljica hedges on pick-and-roll defense like he’s wearing bowling shoes on an ice fishing pond.
  • 1:25 — Fesenko smash! His hair is even more Fesenko-ish than it was in Utah.
  • 1:40 — Rajuljica finishes a dribble-through post move against a smaller defender.
  • 2:15 — Raduljica catches on a dive to the rim and whips a snazzy hook pass to a teammate for an open spot-up jumper.

Raduljica won’t be as good or frequent a passer as Ayon, but he makes enough passes to open teammates to show that he gets the basic gist of it.

Below is the video of Raduljica’s 27-point, 10-rebound game on March 27 game that marked his turnaround point for the season and propelled his playoff burst.

  • 0:15 — Another fine kickout to a shooter, this time from the post
  • 0:30 — A pair of putback dunks
  • 2:30 — Another putback, finishing with his left and drawing a foul

Larry Sanders is going to love going against Raduljica in practice.  Unless Miroslav can push Larry out of the way, Sanders is going to get a lot of chances to swat his shot, because not only is Sanders a great leaper, he’s a quick leaper — it takes virtually no time for him to get off the ground.  Raduljica is just the opposite:  he doesn’t elevate well at all, and it takes him forever to do it.

Here is video of Raduljica’s best statistical game; he scored 30 points and snagged 10 rebounds coming off the bench.  He makes a game-saving steal to seal a win in the final minute of the game.  (Granted, it’s an astonishingly bad pass, but hey, game-saving steal!)  Somehow the makers of this video also created Green Day’s first-ever nine-minute song — as if the world truly needed that.

In the 2:00-to-3:00 minute range, Raduljica flashes some shifty low-post footwork and gets beaten badly on a back-door move.

Here’s one last video of a game from Raduljica’s most recent season, this time highlighting a diversified skill set. (Azovmash is in the blue jerseys.) In addition to a lot of clean up buckets around the rim, we also get to see Miroslav working well as a roll man ( a role he looks quite comfortable in) and dunking one ball so hard that it pops back out.

He puts it back in again and draws a foul.

Raduljica isn’t going to be a world-beater.  He’ll rightfully be the third- or fourth-string center for the upcoming season.  His skill range is uncannily close to Zaza Pachulia’s.  He should be a good offensive rebounder, a guy who won’t get pushed around for rebounding position, and almost by default, he has one of the better sets of post moves on the Bucks. But he’s not terribly athletic and he won’t be a defender or rim protector like Sanders or John Henson.

With those skills coming at a price of $1.5 million per season, the Bucks probably paid a fair price for a 7-foot-1, 25-year-old center.

Categories: The Off Season

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  1. I haven’t actually seen him play, but from the outside it looks like an upgrade at the third string center position(over Ayon).

  2. Randall Delaney

    Agreed Bucks1988! Always nice to see the Bucks taking chances (although not a huge one, it’s still exciting!). I think the Bucks have wound up solidifying the PF and C positions. I’m starting to see a team that may have the right players to actually surprise people.

    • Randall, ever the optimist you are. The Bucks keep adding players at positions they don’t need. HE WILL have about the same impact as Joel as the above commenter mentioned. Your thought process regarding the Bucks is cute in a child-like sort of fashion, but in no way is it reality. The more I look at this season, the more I see tank. Which is good for my wants for the team, I guess.

  3. ?? Gus was very athletic for his size and showed a lot of promise while he was in there.. I truly believe Gus would of gave us more and he will be a spot on #2 center for a team in the coming years!

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