By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON – Celtics first round draft pick Ante Zizic is getting a change of scenery overseas, and Brad Stevens believes that is a good thing.
The No. 23 overall pick last June had been dominating the Adriatic League for his team, KK Cibona, posting 20 points and 9.2 rebounds per game on nearly 70 percent shooting from the field. In order to give Zizic some better competition and help the franchise financially, KK Cibona has loaned the 19-year-old prospect out to Darussafaka, a Turkish team, over a six-month window.
So what does this mean for the big man prospect? Well, he gets to play for the one of the best teams in the Europe and a world-class coach in David Blatt, who was let go by the Cavaliers last season. Those factors along with improved competition should only help the development of the 6-foot-11 center.
“David’s a really good coach,” Stevens said Tuesday. “I think, obviously, I don’t know what they are running or how they are guarding, I haven’t watched how they play, but David certainly has a great feel for the way that this league works and everything else.”
Zizic will be joining a frontcourt in Turkey that includes former Celtics Semih Erden and Luke Harangody. Two other ex-NBA players are also on the roster (James Anderson, Furkan Aldemar), making Darussafaka one of the premier franchises in the Turkish Super League.
“He’ll be practicing against and playing against very good players who are older, more experience and more accomplished, and then David will help, obviously, in that development as well,” Stevens added.
Zizic has an NBA out in his contract that will allow the Celtics to sign him as soon as next season if they choose. Reports from abroad indicate that the Croatian center wants to play in the NBA as soon as possible, so the best bet will be on him playing stateside in green next season after a few more months of development overseas.
“We’ve been following him really close,” Stevens said. “He’s had a great year up to this point. He’s got a high motor, he’s a tough guy. We’re excited about him being a part of our future.”
The Celtics can feel wise about electing to stash a center for the 2017-18 season based on how the current draft board looks for the 2017 draft. While the class is deep overall, it’s largely devoid of elite big man talent. Draftexpress lists just one power forward or center among their top ten prospects for June (Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen), making Zizic likely to be one of the most promising rookie bigs in the league next October.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.