Maybe the Philadelphia 76ers don’t need non-roster reinforcements. There is one player putting on a show overseas in the Turkish Airlines League right now.
Filip Petrusev scored a team-high 23 points and grabbed six rebounds for in a 97-67 win for Anadolu Efes against Lokomotiv Kuban on Friday. It’s only preseason so take a deep breath. But the Sixers used a second-round pick (50th overall) on the 6-foot-11 Serbian standout in the 2021 NBA draft. The plan was for Petrusev to spend this season in Europe to hone his game, per president Daryl Morey.
The 21-year-old reached a one-year deal with Anadolu Efes after playing for the Sixers in the Las Vegas Summer League. Prior to that, Petrusev averaged 12.0 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 56% from the field in two college seasons for Gonzaga. He was named West Coast Conference Player of the Year in 2020 before heading back to Serbia due to a lack of minutes.
Petrusev expressed interest in joining the Sixers “as soon as possible” in his post-draft comments to the Philly media. He averaged 23.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in the Adriatic League during the 2020-21 season.
“I always try to set high expectations,” Petrusev said in early August. “Mine would be to just get to the NBA as fast as possible, start learning, start getting the experience as a young guy, and just finding my role. I want to be a starter one day. I want to be on a team that’s competing for championships. I want to be able to contribute.”
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Petrusev Committed to Growing Perimeter Game
Petrusev’s outside shooting and perimeter defense had been seen as a weakness early in his career. He didn’t go run and hide, or ignore it. He committed to improving there.
According to NBA Advanced Stats, Petrusev scored 1.15 points per jump shot in the half court [86th percentile] last season after attempting only a handful of three-pointers over two seasons at Gonzaga. He shot 41.9% from deep for Serbian club Mega Basket. It makes sense considering the rookie big man grew up idolizing Dirk Nowitzki and hails from the same country as fellow Serbian Nikola Jokic.
Decision to Leave Gonzaga About Minutes
His decision to return to Serbia over another year at Gonzaga was a deliberate one. While the Bulldogs did go on to advance to the NCAA Championship (they lost to Baylor 86-70), Petrusev got more minutes with Mega Basket where he quickly caught the eye of NBA scouts. That was something he expected to happen going into the 2020-21 campaign, according to EuroHoops.net.
“I wanted to show my full potential,” Petrusev said in January 2021. “I think I made the best decision because everyone watches Mega, they have players with a lot of potential and a lot of talent. I also did not know how the year would turn out in the NCAA, with the coronavirus, I didn’t know if Gonzaga would play any games.”