The young player with the biggest impact on the 7DAYS EuroCup so far this season is Joventut Badalona guard Nenad Dimitrijevic, who has taken his already-strong game into a higher gear lately by cutting down on errors and getting to the free throw line.
Joventut's overall record of 12-2 is second only to Virtus Segafredo Bologna, and it's now one of just four teams to start the Top 16 with two victories. Joventut will face AS Monaco in consecutive rounds, starting on Tuesday in Spain, to break their first-place tie in Group E.
Dimitrijevic, who won't turn 23 until late February, is playing his second EuroCup season and is already bringing his experience to bear as the competition heads into the most consequential rounds of the season. Not only does the Top 16 decide which two teams in each group advance to the playoffs, but the best teams overall in this phase will guarantee themselves home-court advantage in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.
While he has been a key contributor off the bench all season, Dimitrijevic has raised his performance level even higher starting with the final game of the regular season, when he scored 23 points and posted a PIR of 27 in a home win against UNICS Kazan. Until that game, Dimitrijevic had been averaging 13.0 points. 4.0 assists and a PIR of 11.9.
When Top 16 and a new group started almost a month later, Dimitrijevic did not miss a beat. The 1.86-meter guard had 13 points and 7 assists for a 22 PIR to help beat Unicaja Malaga 86-95 on the road in Round 1. Then he had 12 points and 8 assists for a 24 PIR in a 95-90 home win over Nanterre 92 in Round 2. In the last three games, then, his averages have gone up to 16.0 points and 5.7 assists per game.
But what has helped his numbers the most is a combination unique combination of basketball IQ: Dimitrijevic has become more aggressive while taking better care of the ball at the same time. In those three most recent games, Dimitrijevic's turnovers have fallen from 2.6 on average to 1.0 while he is drawing more fouls, 5.7 as compared to 3.3 in the first seven games. And many are shootng fouls, hence his bump up to 5.7 free throws made per game from what had been 2.4 before.
So as his efficiency increased along with his production, Dimitrijevic's PIR has soared to an average 24.3 over the last three games, which is the best among all EuroCup players in that span. Looking at the Top 16 only, he's tied for the lead in average assists (7.5) and fourth in PIR (23.0) after two games, even though he ranks just 59th in minutes played, with 24:09 per game.
Despite coming off the bench in all but two games, not to mention his youth, Dimitrijevic ranks among the top 12 players overall this season in both scoring and assists per 40 minutes. Dimitrijevic ranks second on Joventut in scoring (13.8) and assists (4.5) despite playing fewer minutes, albeit slightly fewere, than six other players.
Watch for this young gun's increasing impact through the rest of the EuroCup season!