Today, we take a look at Nenad Krstic, the man most famous for sinking jumpers and throwing a chair.
Nenad Krstic's early history is much like that of Serge Ibaka. He was a decent player in Europe, averaging good numbers on KK Partisan, and won three Serbian championships with the team. NBA scouts took notice, and he was drafted in 2002 by the New Jersey Nets. However, this was during the Kidd and K-Mart era of the Nets, which would peak in the following season when they contended with the Lakers for the title. They didn't have a overwhelming need for a rookie, so he stayed with KK Partizan for two more years, where he won two more national championships.
When the Nets began to decline, they brought Nenad Krstic over from Europe, and he was better than expected. He averaged 10 points a game, was named to the All-Rookie team, and was one of the few bright spots in the playoffs for the Nets, scoring 27 points against the Heat in Game 2 of the first round. He continued to shine as a player through the 2006-2007 season, averaging 16 Points, 7 Rebounds, and 2 Assists. However, disaster struck when he blew out his knee in the middle of the season. After he returned in 2007-2008, he ceased to be a rising star and became hopelessly average. He was not re-signed by the Nets, and left to Russia in order to hone his game.
He averaged 10 points a game while he played for Triumph Lyubertsy. But it was sufficient in impressing some NBA teams, most notably the Thunder, who signed him in December. Upon arrival, he was seen as the teams answer to their problem as Center, and provided a significant boost to the team in the late season. He was a big part of the Thunder's 2010 playoff run, but he was eventually traded to the Boston Celtics in February of 2011, as he was not seen as tough enough to run with the more inside-oriented centers of the NBA.
I don't think many people held expectations for Nenad Krstic. Going into this season, Krstic had become accepted as a part of the team, but the average fan didn't really think he was going to develop a whole lot. At 28, his card has been marked as a center with decent skills and a nice shooting touch.
But in Oklahoma City, most people didn't really go for that type of player. Most emotion directed towards Krstic would usually be for his lack of activity in the paint or his failure to hit a wide-open shot. Yeah, I'm using weasel words, but if you listened to the emotion of the arena or in a local sports bar, you could pretty much tell that Krstic was not the most liked player on this team.
That being said, there were some expectations. While we saw Krstic have field days against teams like the Kings and Timberwolves because of their soft big man defense, most fans would have liked to see that against some teams that actually mattered. They also expected a basic level of rebounding and about 6-8 points a game. If nothing else, then making sure he that he did his job and didn't become a liability had to be the Thunder's #1 priority.
Regular Season Grade: C-
Krstic's stats declined this season, with other players like Ibaka and Harden taking on increased roles. But he did fulfill his role basically as well as he did in previous season, just in a reduced way. And while he can't be blamed for it, his reduced offensive role made him become more of a defensive liability than an offensive asset in the minds of many. As a result, he gets a C-, barely falling short of what was expected of him.
Post Season Grade: N/A
Most Memorable Game:
His most memorable game this season had to have come against the Orlando Magic on January 13th. It sticks out in my mind for two reasons. The first reason is that he had a great game, scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, and thoroughly owning Dwight Howard on the offensive end, as Howard usually camped out in the paint, and was unwilling or unable to stop Krstic's jumpers. Unfortunately, the converse effect was applied twofold, as Dwight Howard exploded for 39 Points and 18 Rebounds, completely unhindered by Krstic's defense. This, unfortunately, was indicative of Krstic's entire Thunder season. He has great offensive game for a seven footer, but with how bad his defense is, it almost counter-balances itself.
Most Memorable Single Moment:
This one is harder to pinpoint, because Krstic was never in at the end of a game, with most of his action coming during the first and third quarters. But I think that I can cheat on this one and say that the video below is what we'll all remember Nenad Krstic for.
A Krstic-Schortsanitis fight is something that most basketball fans dreamt about until that day. After the fight during the Greece-Serbia friendly before the 2010 FIBA World Championship, Krstic spent the night in jail. His excuse for pulling up the chair was that he saw some Greek fans about to attack him, but nobody really bough the excuse.
The incident did a lot to destroy his reputation as a softie, but it did result in him being suspended for part of the World Championship and lowered his status in the eyes of Thunder management, who work to find players of good character.
While he's no longer with the Thunder, Krstic should see at least a few more years in the NBA. He had some great games for the Celtics, and could be seen as a short-term solution next year should either of the O'Neals decide to retire. However, I could also see him be a decent back up center for a good team, kind of like a poor man's Mehmet Okur. He's mostly reached his peak in terms of potential, but should he want to improve his game, he can work on his post moves, cutting to the basket, and help defense.
When he does fall out of the NBA, I could easily see him having a twilight run on a Euroleague team, like KK Partizan. He's still got some run left in him though, and I look forward to see where he ends up next.
A: Far exceeded expectations
B: Exceeded expectations
C: Met expectations
D: Did not meet expectations
F: Fell far short of expectations