Miroslav Raduljica isn’t helpless

(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

“We weren’t helpless. We’ve got big bodies too.”

When looking at Miroslav Raduljica, helpless is the last word that comes to mind. But he just wanted to make sure we all know that the Milwaukee Bucks have big guys that are NBA players too.

‘Slav addressed the media after Milwaukee’s 104-101 win over the Pistons Wednesday night at his lock, dressed in all black. In a Harley-Davidson leather jacket draped over a thick black hoodie and black boots over his NBA center sized feet, he’s is quite imposing presence.

But he had probably heard all day about the imposing center-forward combo that the Detroit Pistons would be sending out against Milwaukee. And now reporters were asking him if he was surprised about being able to stand up to Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.

On the court, at a distance, chasing down athletic marvels like the 6-foot-10, 270 pound Drummond, Raduljica loses some of that intimidation factor. He looks a lot more like us. That’s what makes a night like his eight point, eight rebound effort against the Pistons interesting. How does someone who meets the lumbering NBA giant stereotypes on the court so well, stay with one of these hybrid, 2014 big men like Drummond? Get physical.

“Yeah, I think this is the way to play with them, because they jump more than me and they’re more athletic than me,” he said. “So I need to find a way to keep them away from the basket.”

So no, Raduljica wasn’t surprised. And neither was he impressed with himself after a productive game. It all seemed very commonplace for him. While most have been surprised at the competency he’s displayed this season, he seems more annoyed that anyone would have expected anything different. Maybe his ability may have caught his coach Larry Drew off guard initially, but Drew wasn’t surprised at his strong play against the Pistons tough front line.

“He knows how to use his body,” Drew said after the game. “He does labor at times getting up and down the floor, but for a man his size, he knows how to throw his body around. Smart players, they understand what they’re up against and they understand where their advantages are and where their disadvantages are. I think if you were to put him in a foot race against their bigs, he’d lose every time.”

“But he understands and knows when he gets into a position, as far as being able to use his body, he does a great job of sealing. And he’s a really good offensive rebounder.”

He isn’t Giannis Antetokounmpo. This isn’t all that new to him, even if it is his first season in the NBA. He started playing professional ball in 2005, at age 17, when the rookie label fit him much better. Before coming to Milwaukee, he played for five different teams in Europe for varying lengths of time, some of them on loan from another team.

He’s confident he can compete and he seems to know his strengths and weaknesses, even if he doesn’t want to spend much time expounding on them. He’s Milwaukee’s leader in offensive rebound percentage this season, having grabbed 12.2 percent of available offensive rebounds when he’s been on the court. He also leads the NBA in contested rebound percentage at 58.2%, meaning the percentage of rebounds he collects is higher than anyone else. That’s where that strength helps.

“I don’t know. I just try to be in a good position crashing the board and … hustle on the board, let’s say it like that,” he said of his prowess on the offensive glass. “I don’t know. This is what I do.”

It’s what he does. He’s played just 294 minutes this season, the fewest on the Bucks by a fair amount. But, given an opportunity early with Larry Sanders battling a cold, he closed out the game against Detroit Wednesday and was productive, which is becoming less and less surprising for the rest of us. We’ve just been slow to catch up to him … which is probably the first time anyone has ever said that about Miroslav Raduljica.

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  1. The Big Slab of Beef….love his game. In a dream world,he would be our starting Center. Guess he must work on his foot speed,maybe he can improve. Future for BUCKS is positive with guys like Radj.


    • Dunno about starter, but I definitely think he can be a valuable role player, for those situations where you need an intimidating seven-foot tall Serbian with a chip on his shoulder.

  2. I might be crazy but from preseason to now, I think he has lost some weight. He looks to be moving much better than he was and appears to be fitter.

    Personally, I am shocked that he has such a nice touch around the basket. I was expecting a big body to take up minutes, rebound and bang people on defense, he has proven already he is much more than that.

  3. First, I want to give Coach Drew credit for leaving Miroslav in the game for the final minutes.
    Second, has anyone on the Bucks given us more production with fewer minutes than ‘Slav? It’s interesting how some guys with less in the way of physical athleticism can compensate with a combinations of good basketball skills and a good feel for the game. They seem to have a knack for getting off their shot, or making the right pass, or putting themselves in the right place at the right time. A couple of other good examples might be Larry Bird and Mark Jackson.
    I kind of look at ‘Slav the way I do Khris Middleton: I don’t want to get my expectations too high for them, but at the same time I don’t want to place limits on how far they can go in the NBA. I would just like to see them get a good chance to grow as players. Whether they’re selling insurance in a couple of years, become solid NBA players off the bench, or perhaps much more… I would enjoy having them get a fair opportunity to succeed with the Bucks. So far, to me, they both seem like winners.

  4. I counted at least three times Drummond and Monroe walked away rather than crash the offensive boards. Neither of them seemed to want to even make contact with the Buck’s strongman. He seems nice enough out there, but he must have done something to someone at sometime, because those Detroit guys wante

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  6. Oldresorter – good to hear from you. I really respect your opinions and insights; I read you regularly over the summer on BrewHoop.

    I am also impressed with Radulica’s basketball IQ. He moves better than I anticipated, doesn’t turn the ball over, and passes well. He has decent touch on his shot and some crafty moves around the basket. He has potential to be a solid back-up center next year and I am more intrigued when he and Nate Wolters are in the game

    • The other point is he is the anti-Anthony Bennett – he stuffed up his first shot at the NBA when he blew off a meeting with scouts, and this is his second shot.

      Useful backup at absolute worst – Im glad we’ve got him.