When you talk about skilled European big men who were drafted high then flamed out in the NBA, Nikoloz Tskitishvili is right near the top of the list. The No. 5 pick of the Denver Nuggets in 2002 and seen as a 7-foot project, but one that never panned out. He could never catch up with the speed and athleticism of the NBA game. Injuries slowed him. His skill never translated — he shot 30.4 percent overall for his career, 23 percent from three. In four years he was out of the NBA.
Now he wants another chance.
“I just turned 32, but I’m better,” he said. “I’m better at this age. I got stronger. I’ve got confidence. I got smarter….
“I’m 100 times better than I was,” he said. “It’s just very difficult for teams to understand that, because they are looking at the number, the age. If you ask me, this is the best shape I’ve ever been in and the best I’ve been playing in my career.”
Tskitishvili is honest in his assessment of himself back in the day — he wasn’t physically or mentally ready for the NBA. He wishes he had done what many Europeans drafted do and stay a couple more seasons overseas to polish their skills
“You can blame me or you can find some reasons to blame,” he said. “When they draft you as a No. 5 pick, really I shouldn’t have taken it, and stayed in Europe a couple more years. But you can’t say no to the No. 5 pick. You might never come to the NBA.”
He played last season for Champville of the Lebanese Basketball League. That is a long way from the NBA. Never say never, but if an NBA team is going to take on a big to play limited minutes, they more likely take on a young player who could be with them longer at a lower price, plus likely be a better trade asset.
But could he be worth a camp invite?