Just Who Is Emir Preldzic? Bosniak Hero, Washington Wizard
Editor’s Note: Just who is Emir Preldzic? Or, more accurately with fancy accent marks, Emir Preldžič? (And I think pronounced as if the ‘D’ were silent and as if there were an ‘H’ at the end.) Exactly.
Preldzic is the guy to whom the Wizards obtained the rights from Cleveland in the Zydrunas Ilgauskas-Antawn Jamison trade. The official team press release didn’t divulge much information about him, so Truth About It correspondent, Adam McGinnis, hit the internet highways to find out about one of the Wizards’ latest acquisitions.
Now, along with Vladimir Veremeenko, whom Ernie Grunfeld drafted with the 48th overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft, the Wizards’ Euro-Stash Cache has been doubled to two. Keep reading for what Adam was able to put together on Preldzic.
Emir Preldzicis a 6’9″, 220 pound, 22-year old, point forward who can play multiple positions. He is a dual citizen of Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Phoenix Suns selected Preldzic with 57th overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft and his rights were immediately sold to the Cleveland Cavaliers for cash.
Preldzic is currently playing for Istanbul’s Fenerbahce Ulker of the Turkish League, where he teams with a pretty stacked roster. Roko Ukic (who played 13 games with the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this season), Gordan Giricek (384 total NBA games, last with Phoenix in 2007-08), Lynn Greer (remember when he helped lead the 11th seed Temple Owls to the Elite Eight of the 2001 NCAA Tournament?), and Tarence Kinsey (who appeared in 50 games with the Cavaliers last season), all get run for Fenerbahce Ulker, also known as the Yellow Canaries.
This season, in 18 games, Preldzic is averaging 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is shooting 62% from 2pt, 48% from 3pt, 56% from the field overall and 91.5% from the free-throw line. Preldzic starts and is second on the team in minutes per game (23.5), among those who have appeared in more than 10 games.
In the Turkish Basketball League that also features the likes of Josh Shipp (UCLA – ’09), Josh Heytvelt (Gonzaga – ’09), Quincy Douby (Rutgers – ’06), Shan Foster (Vanderbilt – ’08), Brad Buckman (Texas – ’06), Brandon Bowman (Georgetown – ’06), Richie Frahm (Gonzaga – ’00), Olu Famutimi (Arkansas – ’05), Travis Garrison (Maryland – ’06), Dominic James (Marquette – ’09), Chris Johnson (LSU – ’09), Jack McClinton (Miami, FL – ’09), Darius Washington (Memphis – ’06), Kedrick Brown (143 NBA games), Charles Smith (New Mexico – ’97 and 142 NBA games), Bostjan Nachbar (317 NBA games), and the gun-toting Lonny Baxter (Maryland – ’02), Preldzic is 8th in the league in assists and 10th in Efficiency Rating. He was also selected to participate in Turkish League’s 2010 All-Star Game.
Fener Ulker is currently in 2nd place in the first division of the Turkish League with a record of 16-3. They crushed the top team in the league, Efes Pilsen, 79-60 on Sunday, February 14th. Preldzic tallied a solid overall line of 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Fenerbache Ulker also played in the Euroleague, which consists of the top 24 teams from different countries that must qualify to enter. This is the most elite non-NBA league in the world. Fenerbahçe Ülker completed its Euroleague season at a disappointing 3-7 and did not qualify for the playoffs after reaching the quarterfinals in 2009.
In 10 Euroleague games, Preldzic averaged 6.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 0.9 steals per game. His shooting clips: 51% from 2pt, 19% from 3pt, 36% overall, and 67% from free-throw line. Obviously you’d like to see better numbers from the kid against high-quality competition.
Emir had 11 points, four boards, and two assists in the final. He averaged five points, three rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game in the tournament’s three contests.
Professional Career Background:
Preldzic began his career playing with the KK Celik Zenica youth teams in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He made his pro debut with Čelik Zenica in the Bosnia and Herzegovina League during the 2003-04 season. In the 2004-05 season he played with Triglav Kranj. He then moved to the Adriatic League club Geoplin Slovan for the 2005-06 season. In 2007, he signed a 4-year contract with the Turkish Euroleague club Fenerbahçe Ülker.
Preldzic’s coming out party on the international scene was his stellar performance on the Slovenia Under-20 team, and he was only on it because Bosnia-Herzegovina passed him up for their U-18 and U-20 teams.
In the bronze medal game of the U-20 European Championships, Preldzic, who was then 18 years old, scored 29 points to lead the Slovenian team to victory.
Preldzic holds no ill will towards BIH for the past snub, and he is still refusing to be on Slovenia’s team due to a desire to play for his homeland. This public patriotic demand has propelled him to rock-star status amongst his countrymen and women back in Bosnia and Hervzerovgnia.
Preldzic’s dual citizenship has sprung a messy situation between the Slovenia and Bosnia Hervzerovgina (BIH) national basketball teams. Slovenia named Preldzic and a few other Bosnian natives on their national team roster for International competition. BIH countered by placing Preldzic on their team, even though he was already declared ineligible by FIBA because he had played on youth Slovenian national teams.
Preldzic grew up in Slovenia and was a member of their National Team throughout all younger categories. Still, recently he was called by both, Slovenia and Bosnia to play for their national team and it seemed that Preldzic has chosen Bosnia. When it all seemed to be done deal, with only confirmation from FIBA being waited on, a new twist happened.
FIBA has rejected application from Bosnian Federation for Preldzic to receive back Bosnian citizenship so that he could play for them. One of the reasons cited was that Slovenian Basketball Federation did not give the approval for such action. So, for the time being it seems Preldzic will remain an naturalized Slovenian international. Whether he will ever play for Slovenia remains highly doubtful, given the fact he has stated on numerous occasions he will only play for Bosnia.
Here is Emir’s page with 1,781 fans. He usually will answer messages left for him.
Preldzic was born September 6, 1987 in Zenica, SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, SFR Yugoslavia and is a Bosniak. There have been several NBA players born in Bosnia and Herzeovina but almost all of those were either Bosnian Serbs or Bosnian Croats.
From my research, Mirsad Turkscan (currently Preldzic’s teammate with the Yellow Canaries), appears to be the only Bosniak to ever play in the NBA. His career consisted of 19 games with Bucks and Knicks. Turkscan was born to Bosniak parents in the former Yugoslavia and moved to Turkey to play basketball, obtaining Turkish citizenship.
Preldzic’s overall game is improving and he is logging important minutes on an elite club. He appears to be a play maker and a match up problem for defenses. Emir’s outside shot has become more effective as some of his outstanding Turkish League shooting percentages bear this out.
Preldzic did not shoot well in recent Euroleague play compared to his Turkish games. He struggled mightily in four games against the top two teams, MontepaschiSiena & Regal Barcelona, in his Euroleague division. (Side note: Ricky Rubio and Juan Carlos Navarro play for Regal Barcelona, along with Maryland’s Terence Morris; Rubio’s Euroleague stats look pretty pedestrian.)
This evidence is anecdotal but it potentially raises concerns that his game could still need a lot of seasoning in order to compete at a NBA level.
Without watching any tape of his play, it’s hard to evaluate his court awareness, defensive limitations and true value.
Turkey’s Basketball League is not as strong as Spain, Italy, France or Greece, but it’s no slouch either. Preldzic’s experience going up against top-notch competition in Europe can only help his development in the NBA. It will be intriguing to see how Preldzic plays in Fenerbahce Ulker’s chase for the Turkish League Championship.
Fenerbahce (16-3) and Efes Pilsen (17-2) met in last year’s finals with Efes winning the 7-game series, 4-2. (Notable Efes players are Preston Shumpert (Syracuse), Bootsy Thornton (Dunbar HS, Maryland, St. John’s), and the aforementioned Charles Smith and Bostjan Nachbar).
Preldzic is not a throw away prospect and he has legit NBA potential. He definitely took a leap this year in his development. Considering the new transitional state of the Wizards, I see no reason why Emir could not be in the mix for a roster spot in 2010-11, or at least a summer league participant.
Here are break-downs (some dated) of Preldzic’s game:
Emir possesses good size and length for the small forward position, but has a fairly skinny frame, and seems to be an average athlete. Preldzic is very streaky with his jumper. Off the dribble, Preldzic has the ability to get to the basket when going right, but struggles to finish when forced to go against more athletic players. He generally likes to use his off arm to create extra space, which leads to a good number of offensive foul calls against the Slovenian forward. When attempting to go left, he seems to lack both the ball-handling and finishing ability necessary to reach the rim. In scrimmage situations, Preldzic shows nice feel for the game, on both ends of the floor. He can play help defense with great effort and fundamentals. Overall, has the toughness and basketball IQ you like to see in a young player, but his streaky shooting and skinny frame have to raise some concerns.
by Stevan Petrovic
Strengths: Preldzic possesses good shooting touch and a nice feel for the game … Very long and fundamentally skilled young player … He can hit 3 point shots as well as mid-range jumpers with accuracy (good spot-up shooter) … His shooting touch and mechanics are fluid. Emir can handle the ball in the open court and be a point forward when needed or push the ball in the fast-break; He can also drive the ball well and has sufficient ball handling skills … He reads the defense and defenders well and recognizes when to drive to the basket and when to pull up for the jump-shot … He shows good body control while driving to the basket … Showing some slashing ability. A team player who sees the court well and knows how to make the right pass … His length and quick reflexes helps him to be active on the boards (anticipates where the ball is going to land well). Moves well laterally and has quick feet.
Weaknesses: A tweener. His lack of a true position hurts his chances … Very skinny player for his size … Lack of both upper and lower body strength really hurts him offensively and defensively too … Mediocre athletic ability at his best … Doesn’t like contact or to bang under the basket for position, which also hurts his ability to post up. His frame is average and may be a guy that loses mobility with added weight … Has to become a more consistent shooter Offensively he must work on his inside game and find his go-to move.
Preldzic plays a very European, Theodoros Papaloukas type-role for Fenerbahce, showing excellent ball-handling skills with either hand attacking his matchup, and showing excellent timing on his drives. His first step is somewhat underwhelming, but he makes up for that with the aggressiveness, high skill-level, and excellent feel for the game he brings to the table. His ability to change speeds is excellent, and like Papaloukas, he plays the game at a pace that is entirely unique to him. He likes to lull his man to sleep with a slow and deliberate dribble, and then blow-by him at the exact moment that he catches him off-balance.
Once in the lane, Preldzic is a bit limited in his ability to finish at the rim, as he lacks a degree of explosiveness and is not very strong either. He is a very crafty guy though, often coming up with some very tough finishes off the glass, but is not particularly efficient, as his 42.5% shooting from the field in the Euroleague and Turkish league combined would attest. Considering how much bigger, longer and more athletic big men are in the NBA, there are some legitimate question marks about how this part of his game will translate to the next level. The fact that he already manages to draw just under three free throws per game is not a great sign already.
Clearly his best attribute at the moment revolves around his passing ability. His four plus assists per game (quite a high number in Europe considering how stingy statisticians are) make him one of the better passers you’ll find at his position on this side of the ocean, and accurately reflect his excellent basketball IQ and fundamentals. He does a great job finding open teammates off the dribble, particularly on the pick and roll, showing a great sense for passing the ball exactly to the spot underneath the basket that his big man will end up at after setting the screen, often with great flair. The game seems to come very easily for Preldzic, which is what makes the way he might develop over the next few years so intriguing. His high-risk/high-reward style of play almost makes him fairly turnover prone though -he coughs the ball up on nearly 20% of his possessions.
by Brett Hutson
Preldzic is not a typical European swingman in the mold of Hedo Turkoglu and Peja Stojakovic, players who are known primarily for their natural shooting abilities. Instead, the 21-year-old has been utilized mostly as a point forward for Fenerbahce Ulker, the reigning Turkish League champions. With his excellent ball-handling skills, he’s thrived in that role, but there are other reasons why he’s been confined to playing the role of a point guard – namely, his lack of bulk and a poor outside shot. Preldzic is very skinny for a player his size and doesn’t have a great first step, which makes getting to the rim difficult and taking a pounding once in the paint even more debilitating.
He shot just 35.8 percent from the floor with Fenerbahce last seasons, including a dreadful 24.5 percent from beyond the arc. Defensively, he still has plenty of room for improvement. Preldzic’s long reach helps him get his hands in passing lanes, but his limited athletic ability limits him from being able to guard many quicker players. His high basketball I.Q. will likely get Preldzic drafted late in the second round, but look for a team to store him overseas for a few years so he can play regularly and give himself a better chance of sticking once he reaches the NBA.
Cavs bloggers had indifferent attitudes toward Cleveland acquiring Preldzic in last June’s draft.
Preldzic is definitely more NBA-ready than Christian Eyenga is right now, but Preldzic’s upside sounds pretty limited. He’s a 6’9” 220 lb wing player/point forward who continues the Cavaliers’ trend last night of going for versatile combo forwards. Preldzic, who plays in Turkey for Fenerbahce Ulker in Istanbul of the Euroleague, is a guy with tremendous ball handling skills and with a nose for driving to the hoop and finishing in the lane. His problem is that he can’t shoot. In 16 Euroleague games last year, he shot just 24.5% from three and 35.8% from the field overall, averaging 7.3 points in 22.6 minutes per game. It seems kind of unlikely to me that Preldzic will be coming to the US yet anyway, and he seems like a prime candidate to stay in Turkey for another year of seasoning.
Oh, and the Cavs also bought Emir Preldzic in the second, who scored 7.3 points on 36% shooting in Turkey last season, and whose “best-case” on DX is Theodoros Papaloukas. I’m going to hold off on buying his jersey for now. According to Windhorst, he’s more accomplished than our first-round pick.
Comments on Preldzic from draft night:
ESPN’s Chad Ford:
Preldzic is a Euro project who might pay off.
Cavs GM Danny Ferry:
Emir is a talented and versatile player that plays multiple positions for his team in Turkey. We are pleased to have his rights and look forward to getting to know him more.
Preldzic truly came into his own last season, making an impact as a point forward who was too quick for power forwards and too big for small forwards to guard. His ability to score, rebound and pass promise a bright future for Preldzic and those around him.
Emir, number 55, receives medal for his team winning Turkish National Cup last weekend.
Here are the fans at Fenerbahce Ulker’s victory over Efes Pilsen on February 14th.
Check out the amazing facility Fenerbahce Ulker is building.