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Following the footsteps of Balsa Koprivica’s development

Preseason games show that Pistons ‘draft and stash’ hooper has some way to go

NBA: Summer League-Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

As we await the beginning of 2021-22 season for the Detroit Pistons, we can already watch and discuss the game of Balsa Koprivica, who just finished a preseason with his European club where he’s stashed. His Partizan Belgrade played nine games in preparation to the new season. And the Serbian player looks to be learning and getting better. Does it mean he has a future in the NBA? That remains to be seen, and he’s still got a long way to go. But it’s encouraging to see him grow.

The good thing is that Partizan plays the defense and offense to the Pistons liking. They switch quite a bit on defense and employ quite a bit of a movement on offense. However, Detroit’s No. 57 pick does not always deliver in those sets. On the first clip we can see he is confused while trying to figure out whether to switch or not when defending P&Rs which results in him being late to roller or positioning himself too badly to contain him.

When he decides to switch more decidedly, there’s still something to be desired. In the next clip, we can observe him leaving too much space for the guard.

Although he tries to recover, due to prior mistake, he’s so far out position that, needing to recover hard, he’s unable to avoid committing a foul on a shot. He also can be found being too late in transition.

But it’s not all so bad on that end for Balsa. The following film shows him in a better light: despite his size, he shows to be able to move nimbly enough to bother players playing off the dribble, be it driving bigs or dribbling guards.

He also shows to have the potential to be imposing rim protector.

Balsa’s offense within the system relying on some deal of movement is also something that needs work. The next film shows him being confused while trying to set picks for his teammates.

The following film, in turn, shows him having trouble catching the ball on the move.

On the other hand he looks quite solid on DHOs and setting screen assists.

After all, he can find his way through all those screen-sets… and do this while also displaying nice touch, footwork and some athleticism on a roll… even by stepping into the way of his teammates.

Finally, he shows some potential on offensive glass.

As well as a passer.

So, overall, there are things in Balsa’s game that carry some promise. But he needs to continue adding to his game. In college he showed some more advanced off-the-bounce plays, and it’d be nice to see him exercise those more. Some post plays and long guns would be also welcome. In a word, he definitely needs to keep playing and developing his game.

And this might pose a problem. Until the last preseason game, it looked like Koprivica will be buried in the depth chart of the Serbian team. Partizan might be shopping for a more proven starting center. Then, there is Alen Smailagić who, although being listed as a PF, was played in preseason as a C and he was doing quite well there. Smailagić already has NBA experience under his belt as well. So it’d very likely that he’d be higher in pecking order for playing time at the five spot than the Pistons No. 57 pick. But that’s not all. The Belgrade club also has another young big, Dusan Miletić, who in first preseason games looked to be more productive for the team. So, all in all, it seemed that Balsa might be fourth at the depth chart and this would mean no too much playing time, if at all.

However, after sitting couple of games, Balsa got some more burn in last preseason matchup against Killian Hayes’ former team, Ratiopharm Ulm, when Miletić fouled out, and did very well as you can see on the clips (well, except one case) scoring 14 points in one and a half of quarter. Thus, Balsa made a strong case to move up in the depth chart.