Nemanja Nedovic looks to earn his spot

To say a player is at a career crossroads in just his second season in the NBA is usually an overreaction.

But in the case of Nemanja Nedovic, it is wholly accurate.

With the signing of Shaun Livingston, Nedovic is in a battle to be the third point guard on the Golden State Warriors.

But the former first round pick has strong competition from undrafted free agent and former Ohio State star Aaron Craft, who played for the Warriors in Summer League.

Craft won’t shoot the lights out, but he brings a gritty defensive presence that Nedovic lacked throughout his first season.

The transition to The Association hasn’t been easy for Nedovic, who came over from Lietuvos Rytas in Lithuania. And that might be an understatement.

Nedovic only appeared in 24 games for the Warriors, hardly scratching the rotation while being limited by both injuries and inconsistent play.

He was bounced back and forth to the NBA Developmental League a total of 14 times throughout the season, where he showed flashes of potential for the Santa Cruz Warriors.

With Santa Cruz, Nedovic averaged 14.9 points and 4.2 assists per game, even posting back-to-back point totals of 31 and 29. But he was limited to just 15 games due to injury.

Nedovic told SFBay that being sent down so often and battling injuries led to a tough year, but he still kept a positive attitude:

“It was hard, it was a season with a lot of ups and downs. …  I learned a lot, I think it was a great experience, first of all off the court and then of course on the court.”

The Warriors face a decision regarding the future of their second-year guard. They have until October 31 to exercise or decline Nedovic’s $1.5 million third-year-option for the 2015-16 season.

If they choose to decline the option, Nedovic would become a free agent after the 2014-15 season.

The only first-round pick to have their third-year option declined last season was the Hawks’ Jared Cunningham, unless you count Royce White, who was waived by the Sixers.

This might seem like a premature end for someone hyped as the “European Derrick Rose.” Hyperbole in America, but in Europe, sincere praise.

Nedovic addressed his expectations coming to America:

“When I got here, a former Serbian player, big star in the NBA, he told me that when you come over here you have to accept that in Europe you are the man, you will be the star and over here you’ll be just a role player fighting for minutes and fighting to get into the rotation and I was cool with that.”

In order to get Nedovic, the Warriors bought their way into the first round of the 2013 draft, initially obtaining the No. 26 pick before trading down twice to get to No. 30.

Nothing’s over for the Serbian guard yet. He just wrapped up Summer League under new head coach Steve Kerr. Kerr even singled Nedovic out after the Warriors’ final Summer League game:

“Well summer (league) is usually about a few key players, obviously ‘Nedo’ improved and wanted to get some experience, which he did.”

Nedovic averaged 9.4 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in five Summer League games, though he couldn’t match his first game total of 17 points.

Comparatively Craft averaged 7.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.6 steals per game. The difference may come down to that one elite skill, for Craft that is obviously his defense, whereas no one quite knows what that is for Nedovic.

Nedovic himself might not even know what that skill is, but the one thing he does know is, he needs to get better:

“I worked on my overall game, I was shooting a lot, I spent my whole summer in Oakland working out, getting to know the coaches. It’s all about the attitude; if you have a positive attitude everything’s going to be good.”

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