33pt breakdown: Darko Milicic’s overrated talent level
It appears Darko’s time in the NBA is up for now, after he parted ways with the Celtics to go back to Serbia.
Everyone knows Darko Milicic is one of the biggest busts in history. His name will live on in sports bust infamy for generations as the player taken over Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.
However there’s still believers in the Darko pick. And by that, I mean those who claim Darko’s failure came down to simply landing in the wrong situation – being benched by Larry Brown and having his confidence shattered. Or, some claim, Darko simply never had the heart or work ethic to reach his potential. But for these believers, Darko indeed could have been a superstar and that the Pistons evaluated his upside correctly when they picked him 2nd overall.
Here is my take on Darko’s talent level:
Physical tools: This is where Darko’s talent is most impressive. He is a legit 7 foot+ player and has an impressive mix of strength and athleticism. Darko is certainly one of the most physically gifted big man prospects of the last 10 years. Even in his subpar career he blocked shots at a terrific rate. I will say Darko had the talent to physically impact the game at a near dominant level due to shotblocking defensively and explosiveness/strength offensively.
Skill: Nothing about Darko’s skill talent in the NBA has impressed me. He can’t even finish clean up baskets and lay-ups at the rim consistently, let alone show any signs of strong skill in the post or shooting the ball. Darko’s skill game is where in my opinion, his pre draft analysis was most off. The reason being that according to reports, Darko showed an amazing amount of skills in workouts. Darko was compared to Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic for his deep range and 3pt potential, to Kevin Garnett for his point guard handling and passing ability and to Pau Gasol for his post talent. The problem is he showed all of this in an empty gym. Darko may be single handily responsible for teams taking workouts much less seriously, since it’s become obvious that there’s many skills players show in the gym that they simply can’t perform in a game setting where the speed and intensity and precision of defenses make it impossible to pull them off unless perfected. Darko has shown very little in-game skills.
Feel for the Game: This is arguably Darko’s biggest weakness. He has always looked like a stiff, unnatural player who makes the game look difficult. He shows poor court awareness both offensively and defensively and often botches plays. Darko’s feel for playing basketball is poor to say the least. This is likely the reason Darko’s passing never made an impact on the game, despite it appearing he had some skill at actually throwing the passes. Without court vision a player can’t see the passes to make them.
Adding it up: Darko is an extremely impressive physical talent, but has showed very little skill or feel for the game/basketball IQ talent. Even if giving him a kind grade of 10 in physical tools, a grade of 2 in skill and a grade of 2 in feel for the game would make his total score 14, which is about average talent for an NBA player using this metric.
There’s no doubt that Darko if he played or worked harder would have had a better NBA career and perhaps landing in a better situation for him than Larry Brown’s Pistons would’ve helped. But my guess is that this alternate timeline Darko would’ve gone down a path resembling Samuel Dalembert or Deandre Jordan’s careers, starting centers who blocks shots, rebound and get clean-up baskets but don’t have the skill or instinctual talent to be a star, despite stunning physical tools for a center. Darko was misevaluated because of the workout sessions stage of the draft process making him look like a much more talented player from a skill and intelligence perspective than he was. My take on his talent level is he’s an impressive body but I’m not seeing anything else that says star potential.