Mar 5, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA: Minnesota Timberwolves center Darko Milicic (31) dunks the ball in the first half against the Los Angeles Clippers at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
“With the second pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select Darko Milicic….”
Well, we all know how that turned out. The Pistons passed on future All-Stars Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade in order to select the 7-footer from Serbia.
After a journeyman career around several NBA squads, Milicic has now found his way to Boston. Initial reaction probably wasn’t so great by Celtics’ fans. What is one of the biggest busts in recent NBA history going to provide the Eastern Conference Final runner ups? Well, the answer could be “plenty.”
One thing the Celtics were lacking before his signing was some size. Boston had Jason Collins, Fab Melo, and Chris Wilcox to back up Kevin Garnett when Garnett decides he wants to play center again. For the meantime however, Garnett will likely begin the season at his natural four spot in order to conserve his body for the playoff stretch at center.
So who could begin the season at center? Collins, surely not. Melo, absolutely no chance. Wilcox proved solid last season, but he is coming off heart surgery. So who is left? Yup you got it, Milicic.
So what can Milicic bring to the table? Size, first and foremost. He’s a legitimate seven feet and around 275 pounds. He can take the nightly physical pounding from other centers. He’s a decent shot blocker. Twice in his career he has averaged more than two blocks per game. For comparisons sake, Garnett has also averaged two blocks a game only twice in his career.
Is Milicic the same type of defender as Garnett? Absolutely not. The thought of that is blasphemous, but he can protect the rim which is something you need from your last line of defense.
Milicic also has a fairly skilled offensive game. He can knock down the mid range shot which will help spread the floor, giving Rajon Rondo more space to operate. His post game is not refined, but from time to time he can get two points in the paint.
He also steps up when needed. The one season Milicic got to play significant minutes in the post season, he averaged 12.3 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game. That was in 28.8 minutes per game for the Orlando Magic in 2007. If the Celtics can get that kind of production in the post season from him, Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge will in no doubt be pleased.
Unfortunately rebounding, which has been one of the Celtics’ biggest downfalls in the past several seasons, will not be vastly improved with Milicic on the court. His career best is 6.1 rpg in the 2007-2008 season. Can’t win them all right?
So will he start? It remains to be seen, but he has a fair chance.
Remember that he is only 27-years-old and entering the prime of his career. He’s also on a one year deal, fighting for a future NBA contract. If Milicic comes in focused and prepared to learn from Garnett, there is no reason to believe he can’t unveil some of the potential that once made him the second overall pick.
Of course all this starting talk is contingent on Garnett beginning the season at power forward. If Garnett agrees to begin the season at center then either Brandon Bass or Jeff Green would play the other post position. Luckily, with training camp right around the corner, Celtics’ fans should soon get answers to these many questions posed.