PODGORICA, MONTENEGRO – JANUARY 18: Goga Bitadze, #11 of Buducnost Voli Podgorica during the 2018/2019 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 19 game between Buducnost Voli Podgorica and Real Madrid at Moraca on January 18, 2019 in Podgorica, Montenegro. (Photo by Savo Prelevic/EB via Getty Images)

Goga Bitadze is a 6’11” Center who is projected to go between the middle to the end of the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft. The nineteen-year-old was born in the country of Georgia but played in Serbia and Montenegro this year. His positives lie in his size, offensive versatility, shot-blocking, and skilled footwork in the post. Goga Bitadze doesn’t stand out in the athleticism department, but his high motor and floor spacing ability show enough promise to take a chance on in the first round.

2019 NBA Draft Profile for Goga Bitadze

Basketball Career

Bitadze first started playing professionally in 2015 for VITA Tbsili, debuting as the youngest player in league history at the age of 16. He didn’t make any impact there, only averaging 2.8 points, 1.7 rebounds, and .7 blocks in a little less than 14 minutes per game. Bitadze then signed with Mega Bemax in the Basketball League of Serbia where guys like Nikola Jokic and Ivica Zubac honed their craft.

He started putting up big numbers on a consistent basis during the 2018-19 season, averaging 20.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks in his final 11 games for Mega Bemax. Bitadze then went on the Montenegrin club Budućnost, where he held his own against tougher Euroleague competition averaging 12.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks in 13 contests. He earned the Euroleague Rising Star award for putting up the best season for any player under 22 years old. The Euroleague is considered the second-best basketball league in the world behind the NBA.

Bitadze declared for the 2018 NBA Draft but withdrew at the last minute to improve his fundamentals. He’s gone from being considered a middle second round pick to likely going in the first round since then. 

Goga Bitadze NBA Draft Outlook

Strengths

The Georgian is great as a roll man in pick and roll situations. In addition to being a strong finisher, he could do it with either hand. Bitadze is also a monster screen-setter thanks to his 250-pound wall of a body. Guys like Steven Adams and Tyson Chandler earned a stable place in this league by freeing up teammates with hard screens. If the roll option is taken away, the Bitadze can burn teams from the arc with his three-point shooting (around 40 percent with both Mega Bemax and Budućnost).

Another strength is his footwork in the post. His fundamentals are sound despite him not having the greatest foot speed. Bitadze can deploy an array of pivots and up-and-under moves to throw his defender off. It’s a great weapon to have in the back of his pocket if the defense tries to challenge him after the roll. Offensive versatility out of the pick and roll is an essential commodity in today’s state of the league. Bitadze has the toolset on the block that would come in handy for a variety of teams.

Goga Bitadze has solid instincts when it comes to snagging rebounds and contesting drives to the rim. He often finds great rebound positioning thanks to his feel for where the ball is going to bounce off of the rim. When he does secure the board, he can utilize his handle to create momentum on the break.

Bitadze is great an anticipating when a player is going to throw a shot up in a crowded lane. He will wait out mid-air feints for the best time to get the block. Rim protection and rebound anticipation are two indicators of his natural feel for the game.

Weaknesses

Although he uses his large frame well for screens, he hasn’t been able to execute fluid lateral movement defensively. He will often get beat by quicker and smaller guards or forwards, which makes him vulnerable to being ruthlessly targeted by NBA coaches via switches. Greater conditioning and diligent work with player development personnel is the clear path to improving his lateral movement.

Although his body is akin to a slimmer Nikola Jokic, he doesn’t possess Jokic’s passing ability. Facilitation is one key area he needs to strengthen. He never averaged more than 1.2 assists per game in Europe. Bitadze needs to make more passes on the short roll, which is where bigs like Draymond Green do loads of damage.

He’s fantastic when he does decide to pass out of the short roll, spotting open teammates on the perimeter and cutting to the hoop. Bitadze currently reads the game from a scorers perspective. He’s going to need to think like a facilitator if he wants to be a top-level NBA big man.

Another knock against him is his tendency to foul too often. When he isn’t in a groove with shot-blocking, he tends to pile up fouls quicker than you’d expect. He then gets frustrated which leads to a snowball effect of sloppy play. Bitadze often gets emotional after he bites on a pump fake in the interior. Temperament is a key area where he needs to improve, but that process may be fast-tracked if he’s surrounded by the right veterans.

Goga Bitadze Potential Landing Spots

Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets have a great rim-running, hustling big man in Jarrett Allen. Drafting Goga Bitadze would give a different type of threat off the bench. Bitadze would be able to stretch the floor better than Allen and hold his own defensively thanks to his timing. Brooklyn could even play both of them in the same lineup if their opponent tries to go big on them. The Nets traded the 17th pick in the draft to the Atlanta Hawks, so they need to hope he drops to the end of the first round.

Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics have multiple opportunities to take him in the first round with the 14th, 20th, and 22nd picks of the draft. They could use a skillful big man who has potential as a defensive anchor, especially if Al Horford departs in a trade this summer. Marcus Morris leaving in free agency would free up a ton of minutes for Bitadze too.

San Antonio Spurs

The other team that seems perfect for a guy like Bitadze is the San Antonio Spurs – the team with a track record of capitalizing on international talent. Despite their history with Europeans, they haven’t taken one in the draft since 2015’s Nikola Milutinov. He would surely start as a backup behind Jakob Poeltl but could work his way into the starting lineup with a stream of impressive efforts. He could give LaMarcus Aldridge space on the block by stretching the floor with his three. Bitadze would be a solid big man prospect if the Spurs don’t cash their pick in on a wing. They could gamble on him being available at the 29th pick, but he will probably be gone.

Philadelphia 76ers

Another team that could take Goga Bitadze is the Philadelphia 76ers. Boban Marjanovic is an unrestricted free agent this summer, which means center minutes will be up for grabs. Brett Brown could utilize Bitadze offensively in a similar way that he uses Joel Embiid. He already loves running post-ups, dribble hand-offs, and pick and roll sets with Embiid. Replace Bitadze with him in those sets and you have some offensive continuity while your star catches a breather. Goga Bitadze’s promise as a two-way threat also sets up the potential for an Embiid-lite type of player off the bench. The Sixers could take him with the 24th pick.

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