NBA Roundtable

Tskitishvili’s Tryout

In Draft, General NBA, International Ball on June 28, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Nene and Skita

This is an old report, from two weeks ago, from the Memphis Commercial:

Former highly touted NBA lottery pick Nikoloz Tskitishvili’s response was concise when a Grizzlies free-agent camp came to his attention.

“Why not?” said the 7-foot Georgian forward.

The feeling was mutual.

I came across this article awhile back but I didn’t get around to pointing it out until now. I found it very interesting to hear Skita’s name once again, and find out what he’s been up to over the last few years.

The Grizzlies explained their camp

Why does taking a look at Tskitishvili make sense for the Grizzlies?

The answer is simple.

“We figured why not take a shot?” Griz general manager Chris Wallace said after watching the session in FedExForum. “Maybe there’s something there.”

These workouts seem to have an overall “what the heck?” feel, given the presence of familiar names whose NBA careers have flamed out for one reason or another. Former University of Tennessee guard Chris Lofton and ex-Griz forward Andre Brown were among the free-agent campers vying for the approval of team brass.

Skita continues

From Denver to Golden State to Minnesota to Phoenix, Tskitishvili didn’t show much, if any, NBA potential.

The 26-year-old contends he now has more to offer.

“I came in the league very young, and I didn’t get the chance to play a lot,” Tskitishvili said. “So I decided to play three years overseas. I had a lot of fun. I got my game right. I learned a lot, and hopefully it will help me in the future.

“I got stronger. I rebound better. It is what I needed. I was physically weak in my years in the league. Especially with my height, I needed to be stronger on the inside. I’m good outside and I can shoot the ball, but I have to get better inside.”

Chris Wallace remembers back to the 2002 draft — Skita was the fifth pick, made by Denver’s Kiki Vandeweghe

Wallace didn’t scout Tskitishvili before the 2002 draft because his employer, the Boston Celtics, entered that draft without a first-round pick.

“But I remember he got his spot in the draft based on a workout or two in Italy,” Wallace said, adding that Tskitishvili’s NBA path was similar to Griz center Darko Milicic’s.

“When you don’t get to play,” Wallace said, “and you’re a high draft pick, it complicates your development.”

Skita agrees

Tskitishvili admits that if he had to do over, he wouldn’t have attempted an NBA career so soon.

“I was not experienced. I came here at 18 years old, and had never played a lot of games,” said Tskitishvili, who averaged 3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in his first three seasons. “I was drafted as a talented guy, but had never developed my experience. I had a good shot. I could dribble the ball. I had all the techniques, an inside-out game. I just couldn’t get it all together.

“If I was 25 years old, I wouldn’t have cared about (being taken with the fifth pick). When you are young and taken at No. 5, people expect a lot from you. Sometimes you get down on yourself. I was the No. 5 pick, and I should be better than this. If I could take my time back, I would wait and come at this age. … Now, I want to show that my weaknesses have gotten better. They know that I was a shooter, a perimeter guy, but I am just showing them that I have gotten better.”

Since this free agent camp was two weeks ago and since Skita has signed with the Grizzlies, I think it’s clear that he didn’t impress the Grizzlies brass enough to get a job offer. Ah well.


Skita has been playing in Spain for Alta Gestion Fuenlabrada Madrid. Last season he averaged 20 minutes, and came up with 8 points and four rebounds per game. It’s interesting to see his rebounding numbers, which are fairly solid, a vast improvement over the very weak rebounding numbers (Bargnani territory) he posted in the NBA.

Skita always had raw shooting talent but inability to reproduce that in games hurt him when he was younger. Interestingly, there’s a major improvement there too. Last season, Skita shot 51.6% on two pointers, 44% from three point range with half of his attempts from coming from behind the arc, and hitting 70% of his free throws. Very efficient scoring.

Ersan Ilyasova

I thought it would be interesting to give a quick comparison to Ersan Ilyasova, one of Europe’s best forwards, a former Bucks forward and a player who will someday soon return to the NBA. Ilyasova also plays in Spain, for the great Barcelona.

In the Spanish League, Ilyasova played 21 minutes a night, averaged just under 10 points and just under 7 boards per game. Ilyasova’s shooting numbers are nearly identical to Skita, at 51.6% on two pointers, 44.7% on three pointers with slightly over a third of his attempts coming from that range, and 73% on free throws.

So a little bump in per game scoring, and big bump in rebounding (55% more per minute).

Side Note: The Milwaukee Bucks should strongly consider bringing Ilyasova back over to the NBA this offseason. With Richard Jefferson off their books, they could now afford to bring him over. Ilyasova may be a better option long term than Villanueva, something Bucks’ GM John Hammond should consider when thinking about what contract makes better sense for the Bucks going forward.

Final Thoughts

Tskitishvili is 26 years old now. It’s nice that he’s found a place where he can play successfully, but at glancing look it appears he’s still a fair bit behind where he’d need to be in order to come back to the NBA and make an impact.

I might try to catch a game of his next season. I’d love to see him play.

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