In Appreciation of Ante Zizic

How the Boston Celtics' 2016 1st-round pick has taken EuroLeague by storm

Austin Green is an independent journalist and scout covering EuroLeague and NBA prospects in Europe. If you’d like to support LosCrossovers.com and see more articles like this, feel free to donate.

God bless Ante Zizic.

Darussafaka reportedly paid a $300,000 buyout to rent Zizic for the second half of the season, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s been worth every cent.

Zizic — the 23rd pick in the 2016 Draft — will likely join the Boston Celtics this summer. Until then, EuroLeague fans need to cherish every minute he plays here. Despite just turning 20-years-old on Jan. 4, his polished offensive game and relentless energy have made him one of EuroLeague’s best centers.

Zizic has only played in eight of Darussafaka’s 22 games, so he’s not yet eligible to appear on EuroLeague.net’s stats rankings. If he were, he would rank 1st in offensive rebounds (3.3 per game), 3rd in total rebounds (7.6 per game) and 4th in field goal percentage (67.3%) while averaging 10.3 points in just over 23 minutes a game.

He’s also been a breath of fresh air. Darussafaka’s 1-on-1 heavy offense can be painful to watch. Despite his teammates’ reluctance to pass the ball, it’s been a delight to watch Zizic do his thing when he gets the chance.

Let’s take a look at what makes the young Croatian special.

Offensive Rebounding

Zizic is a menace on the offensive glass.

That’s partly because of his physical tools. At the 2016 Adidas EuroCamp, he measured 6’11.5 in shoes with a 9’3 standing reach. But what really makes him a great offensive rebounder is his motor, timing, hand-eye coordination and understanding of positioning. He’s constantly attacking the glass, creating chaos, and coming away with the ball.

He’s not the most explosive leaper — his pre-draft no-step vertical of 26 inches is on par with the likes of Enes Kanter and Tiago Splitter, according to DraftExpress.com. But with his great timing and ability to predict where the ball will come off the rim, he has become a master of tip-ins and put-back dunks.

Pick-and-Roll Finishing

When his teammates do pass him the ball, Zizic capitalizes on his opportunities.

One of his most valuable skills is his ability to finish on the move. In the pick-and-roll heavy NBA, teams need centers who can catch and finish quickly with either hand. When you see the clips below, you’ll understand why many EuroLeague observers are frustrated that David Blatt doesn’t run more pick-and-roll actions for Zizic late in games.

Quick Decision-Making 

Zizic is a decisive offensive player. He often knows what he wants to do before he catches the ball and he’s good at punishing defenses as they react to something elsewhere on the court.

This was evident vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv in his 2nd EuroLeague game. When Maccabi played Quincy Miller as a small-ball 5, Zizic immediately attacked him in the post with a nice drop-step move.

When Maccabi had the bigger Colton Iverson on the floor, Zizic pump-faked the short catch-and-shoot jumper as Iverson tried to close out.  He then took one dribble and used his upper-body strength and nice touch to finish through contact.

Later in the game, he showed off his versatility, knocking down a no-hesitation catch-and-shoot J off a baseline out-of-bounds play.

These quick decisions are also a major reason why he scored 17 points at Milan and 14 vs. Fenerbahce in his last two games.

Ball-Handling

Coaches probably don’t want Zizic dribbling too much, but he has shown some nice ball-handling ability when pressed. In the first two clips he drives past athletic bigs Bryant Dunston (right hand) and Latavious Williams (left hand). In the third, he gets a defensive rebound and brings the ball up court when he can’t find an easy outlet.

Shot-Blocking

Zizic should be a very good offensive big man in the NBA, but he’ll likely struggle some defensively. As I mentioned, he’s not a particularly explosive jumper and he’ll need to improve his lateral quickness at the next level. Teams will probably be able to take advantage of him in space.

However, he is averaging 1 block per game, which only 9 other EuroLeague players are doing. He’s mobile, smart and has long arms, so he could develop into an average or above-average defensive center with the right coaching.

Conclusion

Ante Zizic is awesome. I love this dude.

He definitely has some things to improve. He only has 2 assists in his eight EuroLeague games. I don’t think he’s an unwilling or incapable passer, but Celtics fans shouldn’t be expecting the next Nikola Jokic.

Nor should they expect the next Krisptaps Porzingis. Zizic hasn’t attempted a 3-pointer in EuroLeague yet, although his free throw shooting (16/21, 76%) and smooth mid-range J indicate that he could develop 3-point range at some point.

What fans should expect is a tough, mobile center who will get buckets and hustle his ass off whenever he’s on the court. It’s been fun watching him at the EuroLeague level, and I would be willing to bet that he becomes an NBA fan-favorite next season.

Austin Green is an independent journalist and scout covering EuroLeague and NBA prospects in Europe. If you’d like to support LosCrossovers.com and see more articles like this, feel free to donate.

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2 Comments on In Appreciation of Ante Zizic

  1. michael b swecker // February 12, 2017 at 6:44 AM // Reply

    Nice write-up. Thanks for taking the time and effort. We are loin forward to watching Ante next year in Beantown.

    • Austin Green // February 12, 2017 at 6:50 PM // Reply

      Thanks for reading, Michael! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m sure Celtics fans will love him. He plays with the kind of energy and effort that Boston fans will appreciate

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