Warriors’ pick Nedovic seeks to prove he’s NBA worthy

This is my article on the Warriors’ first round pick Nemanja Nedovic. This will run Tuesday in the Press Democrat’s newspaper sports section.

Nemanja Nedovic, the 22-year-old point guard from Belgrade, known in America as the Warriors’ recent first-round pick, known in Serbia as the “European Derrick Rose,” plans to play in the Las Vegas Summer League which takes place from July 12 to 22.

“The Warriors want to see what my qualities are, how I can help the team,” said Nedovic on a conference call with Bay Area reporters Monday morning.

“It’s their decision if I’m going to be on the roster or not. From my point of view, I’m ready to come over and play for the Warriors next season. Hopefully, my dream will come true.”

He sounds ready, at least. He speaks fluent English — no need for a translator — so he’ll have no communication hindrances.

He also spent his childhood moving around Europe, so he should be ready to move halfway around the world to the Bay Area.

He was born in Serbia, and then he and his family moved to France because his father was a professional handball player. From France, they moved to Austria for five years, then to Germany for one year, then to Italy for one year and back to Serbia.

Nedovic started playing basketball in Italy in 2001.

He initially modeled his game after his favorite player, Kobe Bryant.

Today, Nedovic is extremely familiar with the NBA, including the Warriors. “I followed them a lot this year,” he said.

“It’s a little bit hard in Serbia because we have to wake up at two, three, four o’clock in the morning to watch the games, but whenever I had the chance, I woke up and watched, especially the playoffs this year.

“I know the team has very good 3-point shooters, and I think I can help with my aggressiveness attacking the rim, making the defense collapse and finding the open shooters.”

If Nedovic shows he can do those things in the Summer League, he could take Jarrett Jack’s job as the Warriors’ backup point guard as early as next season.

Jack currently is a free agent. He was one of the best backup point guards in the NBA last season, and there’s a chance he’ll soon sign a multi-year contract with another team to be their starting point guard.

Nedovic is cheaper, younger, and more athletic than Jack. But Jack’s a veteran who can run a team when Stephen Curry is playing shooting guard or sitting on the bench. Nedovic has to prove he’s ready.

“I don’t expect anything to be given to me,” said Nedovic. “I want to earn my minutes. I want to earn my spot on the roster. I will work on every aspect of the game, but especially on my midrange game and my defense. I think I’m able to guard quicker players, but the NBA has a lot of athletic point guards, so I want to be ready.”

Jack is a good mid-range shooter — he made clutch shots in the playoffs — but he’s not an effective defender. In the playoffs, Ty Lawson and Tony Parker both averaged more than 20 points per game against the Warriors’ point guards, Jack and Curry. Neither player was athletic enough to guard Lawson or Parker.

Nedovic is athletic, and if he can cover quick point guards, he’ll give the Warriors something they don’t have. If he can also run the point and hit the mid-range jumpers — a big if — he’d be an upgrade over Jack.

Nedovic has a combination of traits no Warrior has had since Baron Davis. “There are not a lot of European guards who are as athletic as me, who can dunk and beat players one-on-one easily,” said Nedovic. Like Davis, Nedovic can create his own shot, dunk over a shot-blocker and draw a foul. Curry can’t do this. Neither can Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes.

Monta Ellis never could do this — he was a finesse player. Nedovic can do it rolling out of bed. That’s why he’s called the “European Derrick Rose.” Or maybe it’s the kneepads. Both Rose and Nedovic tend to wear kneepads. “I like to wear kneepads,” said Nedovic. “I don’t think anyone wears kneepads in Serbia.”

Either way, Nedovic brushes off the comparison.

“Maybe I’m the European Derrick Rose, but I’m not the real one. Derrick Rose is a great, great player, very fast, very strong. I have to work a lot to get to his level,” he said. “I have my own qualities, and I hope to earn respect and make my name in the NBA.”

If Nedovic can be at least the European Jarrett Jack next season, the Warriors will be happy.

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