Stefan Nastic will be joining two of the best teams in the NBA this summer. Last Friday, it was announced that he had inked deals with the summer squads of the 2014 champion San Antonio Spurs (who just made a HUGE splash in free agency this summer) and the 2015 champion Golden State Warriors. Not bad company to keep for the 6'10.5", 245-lb. center with the 7'2" wingspan -- a 5th-year senior with the Cardinal (he red-shirted his initial freshman season, 2010-11, after breaking a bone in his right foot during his fifth game).
Nastic is a Kareem Abdul Jabbar Center of the Year candidate and Postseason NIT All-Tournament Team honoree last season, Nastic averaged 13.4 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1 block during the regular season. He also shot 75.4% from the free-throw line, an exceptional percentage for a center; from the field, he shot 47.2% this season. His 58.3% 2-point field goal shooting percentage last season was good for the 6th best such mark in the Pac-12. His offensive rebounding percentage of 9.7% was good for 8th, and his total defensive rebounds (149) came in at 10th. He had never averaged more than 11.1 minutes a game for his first three seasons with Johnny Dawkins. Granted, he took on a bigger role and logged 19.7 minutes a game in his prior four seasons for the Farm. He averaged 29.7 minutes this season as a starter), so those older stats aren't nearly as important in assessing Nastic's potential at the next level. He also boasted a pretty-sick 25.7% usage rating and a 19.9 PER last year, which are both quite good. PER's are weighed so that an average rating across the NCAA is 15. That 25.7% usage rating was 9th in the Pac-12. In the Cardinal's run to the NIT title, the Serbian big man averaged 10.6 points and 7 rebounds.
The big knocks on Nasty Nastic that may preclude his linking up somewhere for the preseason? He only played significant minutes during his last two college seasons with a relatively mediocre college program, and put up just-OK scoring, rebounding and blocking averages when he got that opportunity. His aforementioned efficiency in accumulating the scoring and rebounding stats, however, should not have been overlooked; granted, they were high marks in the Pac-12, and did not rank particularly high across all NCAA D1 teams. A lack of athleticism also hurts his NBA candidacy on both ends of the floor.
As a primarily a below-the-rim player, he has to continue developing the shoulder shakes and drop steps he employed in college to create space. Nastic himself has indicated that he wants to focus on upping his strength, which would certainly aid his low-post play. Playing for the Serbian national team over several summers has encouraged his passing game, which, while solid, is turnover-prone. Another perceived negative -- at 24, Nastic is one of this season's older rookie prospects -- 40 of the 60 drafted players this year were one-and-done freshmen, putting them in the 18-20 year-old demographic. With the younger players, scouts see "upside" and elevated ceilings. As a consequence, the older guys are somewhat marginalized (the National College Player of the Year, Frank Kaminsky, was drafted 9th this season in part because he was a 4-year player).
The most prohibitive element of Nastic's college history, though, is the inescapable fact that he was a fouling machine as soon as he started netting real minutes on the team. He ranked 1st in the Pac-12 in personal fouls during his junior and senior seasons, and actually was 1st across the entire NCAA in personal fouls last season, with 137 (pretty bad, but not as bad on a per-minute basis as his 119 during the 2013-14 season).
Ultimately, Nastic is somewhat more of an ambiguous prospect to me than, say, his Stanford teammate Anthony Brown, a rangy wing with crazy length, who is very much en vogue across the L and will certainly merit some run on a talent-starved Lakers team. Nastic's future, on the other hand, may be in 10-day NBA contracts and a more lucrative EuroBasket career. You can watch Nastic with the Spurs this week on NBA TV, and you can see him re-join old running mate Chasson Randle with Golden State over the weekend.