It is said that in modern basketball, big men need to be versatile and learn how to play away from the rim in order to be effective. In the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague, however, old-school centers are very much alive and dunking – as evidenced by Nikola Milutinov, who recently signed a multi-year deal with CSKA Moscow. The 2.13-meter Milutinov gives you everything you can expect from a center: rebounds, blocks, dunks, put-back baskets, but is also an excellent pick-and-roll player with great timing for alley-oop opportunities. His five seasons in Olympiacos Piraeus playing for pick-and-roll ace Vassilis Spanoulis paid off in plenty of skill-mastering. Milutinov has slowly but steadily become a dominant force in the paint, a strong, resilient force with a true big-man mentality: if he gets the ball down low, he aims to slam it on the heads of his opponents.
What’s more, Milutinov has polished his low-post moves over the years. He owns a very effective jump-hook shot and can now score with either hand around the basket. He has put on a lot of physical work to keep composure while being fouled. Even if he is pushed off-balance, Milutinov can still keep the ball up and eventually score. He may have a lot of classic features in his game, but Milutinov is a modern center able to run the floor like a guard and finish with a fastbreak slam. He is not a great ballhandler, but makes sure that every time he gets the ball around the rim, he finds the best option to score. Milutinov has great coordination to establish himself in the low post, outstanding hands to receive passes and quick feet to execute around the rim faster than most big men. He also has great patience and determination when zeroing in on the rim to raise his percentage of makes.
Indeed, Milutinov owns an impressive career two-point shooting rate of 62.0%, having hit 444 of 716 shots to date inside the arc. Only two players with more attempts have better career two-point accuracy in EuroLeague history: Gustavo Ayon (63.5%) and Alex Tyus (64.2%). In the last three seasons as a full-time starter, Milutinov did even better, hitting 305-of-464 shots (65.7%) and leading the EuroLeague in total rebounds, grabbing 584 in the last three campaigns. Over that period, Milutinov also led in average rebounds, at 7.2 per game, and ranked fifth in PIR – first among big men – with an average of 17.6. Last season, Milutinov pulled down 3.6 offensive rebounds per game, the best average ever in the EuroLeague for anyone playing over 20 games in a season. At just 25 years old, Milutinov is already a dominant center. Now, he is set to enter the prime of his career with CSKA, a team that is always hungry for success.