Role: Scoring big guy that will play 15 games
What can he do: Last year, Raduljica averaged 14 points in 23 minutes during Azomash Mariupol’s run to the Ukrainian Superleague finals. He is very accomplished on offense with the strength, footwork and touch that almost makes him the best Bucks’ best low-post player by default. He is also very confident in his mid-range shot and might just shoot a three if he gets the chance.
How can he make it in the league: Raduljica averaged six rebounds per game last season. That’s an underwhelming number, but it’s good enough. This is an extremely odd thing to say about a post player, but rebounding isn’t that important for Raduljica. He only needs to rebound enough to justify any playing time he gets. With his offense, he only needs to get above Ekpe Udoh rebounding numbers.
With his size and strength, he shouldn’t cede any ground in the low post in his one-on-one matchups. His major concern should be team defense. It might take him two to three years for him to catch up with the complexities of NBA defense. KL handles this better in an earlier post about Raduljica, but doesn’t look anywhere near ready to handle NBA-level pick-and-rolls
What can Zaza teach him: The one meme from all of Raduljica’s interviews is “what can Zaza teach you?” Obviously, Raduljica answers this in the nicest, PR-friendly way possible. But why even ask this question to begin with? What about what Larry Sanders can teach him? Or Ersan Ilyasova? Or Luke Ridnour? Or Caron Butler? There are plenty of veterans that can offer help. This question is only asked because they’re both Eastern European centers. Georgia and Serbia are nowhere near each other and have completely different cultures and languages. I would know. I am a two-time Urban Middle School Geography Bee third-place finisher.
Spirit Animal: Hopefully, he is The Big Show, but he could end up being Andre the Giant. Yes, Andre was affable and beloved, but he could never move well for a big man.
Additional Reading: Everything, and I mean literally everything you ever need to know about Miroslav Raduljica was written earlier this summer by KL.
Role: Low-usage defensive specialist
What can he do: Even with a year of pro ball under his belt, Middleton has had very little opportunity to provide any concrete evidence of what he’s capable of. He only averaged 17 minutes across 27 games last season. So the following conclusions are based off of a very small sample size.
Middleton is 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan. In limited playing time, he used that length to disrupt shooters – allowing only 0.88 points per possession according to Synergy. He was also excellent in defending the pick-and-roll – allowing only 0.58 points per possession.
Middleton was also moderately successful as in spot-up situations. He had a 37.8 3P% in spot-up situations.
How can he make it in the league: In college, Middleton was a mid-range shooter that excelled in isolation. If this was the ‘70s or 80s, Middleton could be a very good role player. Those skills are completely unfeasible in today’s league. If he wants to make it, then he needs to do everything that he did well last season (outlined above), do it better, do more of it, and do it efficiently.
Will he make it: Probably not. If you’re the type of person that believes in learning on the job, then there is no situation where it wouldn’t be a better idea to play Giannis Antetokounmpo over Middleton. Even if the Larry Drew believes it is better to have Antetokounmpo learn from the bench, the opportunities for Middleton will be very limited. His big break will not be coming with the Bucks.
Spirit Animal: mid-2000s James Posey
Additional reading: Mitch has a great scouting report on Middleton.
Who: Nate Wolters
Role: 3s on 3s on 3s on 3s
What can he do: Wolters is a baller. He’s not very athletic and doesn’t have good length for his size. He makes up for it by having every skill that you want in a scoring point guard. He isn’t bothered by pressure. He’s patient. He has a good floater. He can run the pick-and-roll well. Plus, he’s big for his position and can shoot. He is always under control. If everything works out for him, he’ll be the super version of Luke Ridnour.
How can he contribute: Despite all of the nice things said about Wolters above, if he gets a lot of time running the offense, then this season will have been a complete failure. It won’t just be a failure from a wins perspective, but it will be a sign that the Brandon Knight experiment has failed spectacularly.
I would like to see Wolters work beside Ridnour off the bench. Yes, that backcourt pairing has no quickness and won’t be able to guard anyone, but neither can the rest of the guards besides Brandon Knight. Ridnour isn’t the player he was in 2009, but he can still work well with bigger, younger PGs. Ridnour’s drive-and-kick game will give Wolters plenty of opportunities to spot-up. This will still give him some opportunities to handle the ball.
Goals: Be better than Gary Neal because Gary Neal is incredibly mediocre.
Spirit Animal: Hawkeye. He’s a normal guy with a few good skills, fighting superheroes with a basic long-range arsenal. Also, it’s my favorite comic book.
Additional material: Here is Wolters scoring 53 of his team’s 80 points against IPFW.