Mirza Teletovic was more a meteor shower than shooting star with the Milwaukee Bucks. He wasn’t there long, but the man’s tenure was better summed up by volume than precision. The 6’9” Bosnian power forward didn’t start his NBA career until well into his 20’s, but he quickly became a pet favorite of Jason Kidd’s during his lone season coaching the Brooklyn Nets. It made total sense then that, after a sojourn in Phoenix, Teletovic would make his way to Milwaukee during the Great Cap Spike of Summer 2016. Unfortunately, the 3-year, $31.5M deal Teletovic signed never came to full fruition due to reasons beyond his control as pulmonary emboli effectively ended his career.
Teletovic started his international basketball career as early as 2004-05, eventually establishing himself as a quality gunner from 3-point land. With his frame, he made perfect sense as a stretch-4 for the Nets when they swooped in and handed him his first NBA contract at age 27 in 2012-13. He went on to play three years there, with his best season from a pure per-36 production standpoint coming under Kidd in ‘13-14 (16 points per game, 6.9 boards on 41.8%/39.0%/71.0% shooting splits). After another season in Brooklyn under Lionel Hollins, before his finest professional season of his career in 2015-16 with the Suns. Nailing 39.3% of his 9.8 3-point attempts per-36, Teletovic seemed like a natural fit in the frontcourt, a spacing big who could play with Giannis or give him a spell and still be a deadly offensive weapon for bench units.
His rollercoaster 3-point shooting percentage was unfortunately on a downslope that 16-17 season with the Bucks. He ended the year shooting just 34.1% on 9.7 3-point attempts per-36. The Bucks brought him in as a 3-point specialist, and he took that moniker to heart. With a piddly 8.8 PER (lowest of his career), Teletovic offered little as a rebounder with the Bucks asking him to remain around the perimeter. He took an ungodly percentage of his shots from three too, a career-high 73% 3-point attempt rate. Only Davis Bertans and Luke Babbitt had a higher 3-point attempt rate than him that season.
The one positive from a team perspective, the Bucks had a +4.5 on/off net rating differential for Mirza that season. Even their defensive rating improved with Mirza on the court, despite him generally having issues carrying his weight on that end of the court. Part of that was that nearly half his minutes came alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, who he often worked off of as a floor spacer and gravity-creator.
Mirza’s contract placed him at fifth on the team that year, behind Greg Monroe, Khris Middleton, John Henson and *gulp* Miles Plumlee. Was he the fifth most valuable member of the team? No, not by any metric. He was 13th in Win shares per 48 and PER. His spacing and the attention teams paid him certainly played a part in keeping the floor spaced, but it was mitigated by his so-so shooting and defensive foibles. The reason Brook Lopez’s off-shooting year can be forgiven is the immense value he adds defensively. Teletovic was more of a turnstile, and lineups with him and Giannis as the nominal frontcourt defenders was woefully inadequate.
Every Bucks fan will remember his unconscious willingness to fire away, early in the shot clock, on a trailing triple above the arc though. He was born to shoot that jumper. Indeed, behind Giannis, Mirza took the second highest percentage of shots on the team in the 22-18 (very early) range of the shotclock per NBA.com. And lest we forget his sincere dedication to driving the ball with little success. The Mirza blinders, yet another powerful recollection of his time with the Bucks.
He never justified his deal that season, and it seemed destined to be an albatross contract before he started hot in 2017-18, hitting 46.7% of his 3-pointers through 10 games (45 attempts). Then, a left knee injury sidelined him, as the organization eyed a possible December return. That return never came, with doctors discovering blood clots in his lungs. The second such diagnosis of his career, Teletovic remained out for that season. Milwaukee wound up using the stretch provision on his contract to elongate his deal to $3.5M over three years, and waived him in March 2018 to make room for Brandon Jennings. It freed up some short-term relief, and if Teletovic was deemed medically unable to return, his salary would get permanently cleared. We all know the rest of the story, and Teletovic is now enjoying his time as President of the Basketball Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Were it not for his career-ending injury, I’m not sure he would’ve landed this low on the list, or he could’ve removed himself from it entirely had his slick shooting ways returned.
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As for the deal and fit, $10 million/year is pretty low-risk value for a useful rotation player . With all kind of money flying around in this free agency, $10 million isn’t necessarily a steal, but it also isn’t going to burn a hole in your salary cap, either. Teletovic likely won’t start, but can probably fit with just about any lineup the Bucks roll out, helping space the floor and knock down shots, something the Bucks offense sorely needs. All in all, this is a move that should help the Bucks bench and shooting needs without putting too heavy of a dent in their cap space.
Brew Hoop Worst Contract of the Last Decade Ranking
10. Ersan Ilyasova (2012; 5-year, $40M; team option last year)
9. O.J. Mayo (2013; 3-year, $24M)
8. Mirza Teletovic (2016; 3-year, $31.5M)
Here’s the next poll:
What is the BEST Bucks contract out of this bad bunch?
This poll is closed
2010 John Salmons (5-year, $39M; partially guaranteed last year)
2010 Drew Gooden (5-year, $32M)
2013 Larry Sanders (4-year, $44M)
2015 John Henson (4-year, $44M)
2016 Matthew Dellavedova (4-year, $38.5M)
2016 Miles Plumlee (4-year, $52M)
2017 Tony Snell (4-year, $44M)
This poll will close on Thursday, May 14 at noon.