When the Utah Jazz drafted Ante Tomic out of Croatia with the 44th overall pick in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft, these 3 guys were in charge. Not a lot was known about him other than he was a young (21 years old at the time) 7 footer out of Croatia that could be left in Europe to develop for a few years and then come over to the Jazz. It was a nice, safe 2nd round pick and it didn’t take up any room on a Jazz roster that had just lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs to the Lakers and went on to lose in the 1st round of the playoffs to the Lakers at the end of the 08-09 season. Well those few years have turned into 5 years, and the mystery surrounding this player continues to grow. Where has he been? Who is he? Could he help out the Jazz next season?
According to his player card on ESPN, Tomic is “a highly-skilled big man. Used to be a point guard and has excellent ballhandling and passing ability. Nice midrange jump shot. Has good footwork around the basket and a variety of low-post moves. Good athlete.” NBAdraft.net adds that “ For a young player he shows great patience with his back to the basket, rarely rushing his moves. Plays angles well and uses counter moves in the post, making him a very difficult guy to contain when his game is on. His jumps shot is still developing, but he shows nice range and his release and form are fairly fundamental. Does not panic when facing a double team, instead shows his maturity and passing skills by finding open teammates. Works hard establishing position, moving block to block and using seals to receive the ball in the best spot possible. Knows how to draw fouls, using shoulder and pump fakes to get the defender in the air.” Even DraftExpress.com lists his best case scenario as Pau Gasol.
That is high praise for a young player. Based on those website’s breakdowns, he certainly sounds like a player the Jazz could use. So what are the negatives? At the time of the 2008 draft the consensus was that his biggest issue was the fact he was rail thin. He was listed at 7’2″ and only 220 lbs. His body was not ready for the beating of an NBA game and needed to mature a bit. NBAdraft.net also mentions that “for someone with his height and at his position, he is a minimal threat as a shotblocker. Defensively he gets outmuscled too easily and his footspeed is limited.” It is worth noting though that ESPN now lists his weight at 237 lbs. Comparing pictures of him in 2008 to this past 2012-13 season you can tell his body has matured and filled out. There is some muscle definition and the numbers are showing that he isn’t getting pushed around so easily anymore.
Since he was drafted, Tomic played for KK Zagreb in Croatia until 2010. In 2010 he signed with Real Madrid and played with them through the 2011-12 season and this year was his first with FC Barcelona. He reportedly signed a 3 year deal with Barcelona the past offseason. I do not know what sort of buy out agreement is in his contract, but he is under contract with them for the next 2 seasons. According to www.euroleague.net, he played in 30 games this year and started 25. He averaged 11.7 ppg on 64.1% FG. He is a 60.7% shooter from the line and averaged 6.5 rpg and 1.1 bpg. In the playoffs he averaged 10.4 ppg, 8 rpg, 1.2 spg and 0.8 bpg. He has career highs of 23 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 4 blocks.
I think Tomic could be a player that could help the Jazz next season. He would add length and I believe his scoring average would go up being more a focal point of a team’s offense. He has added weight to handle the beating of the NBA game. He would also be a mature 26 old who could hopefully overcome the language barrier by letting his play on the court do the talking. I don’t know what type of conversations Jazz management has had, is having, or will have with Tomic’s agent(s) and FC Barcelona but he is another player that could be a good fit in the Jazz’s youth movement. Hopefully we’ll be able to see what this guy can do in a Jazz uniform sooner rather than later.