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2024 NBA Draft: Projected Lottery Pick Suffers Concerning Injury

2024 NBA Draft Lottery

After turning down an invite to the 2024 NBA Draft Combine, Crvena Zvezda guard Nikola Topic sustained an apparent knee injury in Game 1 of the ABA League Finals.

The 18-year-old was helped off the court following an awkward landing, heading to the locker room after lying on the floor for a few moments. Though ruled out for the remainder of the game, he returned to the sideline rather than immediately getting further imaging. Characterized as a “non-contact left knee injury,” Eurohoops’ Johnny Askounis notes that a “setback on the same knee in January forced [Topic] to the injury list for nearly four months.”

Nikola Topic Suffers Concerning Injury

Topic is a projected lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. At 6-foot-6 and 200 pounds, he’s built in the mold of a jumbo-sized point guard like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Indeed, Gilgeous-Alexander may be apt comparison for the Serbian playmaker given his passing ability and scoring upside.

Averaging 15.0 points, 5.7 assists, and 1.0 steal in 28.8 minutes per game, Topic is at his best going downhill. This is in part because he’s a streaky outside shooter despite his deep range. However, it’s largely because he’s adept at using his size to score inside the arc.

Topic’s injury status would have been worth monitoring anyways. With the 2024 NBA Draft only a month away, it’s particularly important. He wouldn’t be the first promising player to slide down draft boards due to injury concerns.

However, this what’s considered one of the weaker drafts. Consequently, Topic may very well hold steady as a lottery prospect even with a less than ideal medical history. To that point, multiple teams selecting in the 1-14 range need an upgrade at point guard, such as the San Antonio Spurs.

Nikola Topic to the Spurs?

The Spurs have two picks (No. 4, No. 8) in the lottery. Topic may be a natural choice for them.

To start, Topic fills a need. San Antonio largely played without a starting point guard in 2023-24. While Tre Jones’ basketball IQ and playmaking were appreciated, his lack of size ran counter to the Spurs’ approach. Nearly half a foot taller than Jones, Topic won’t have that problem.

Furthermore, as a rebuilding team, San Antonio is more likely to keep their lottery pick rather than jump the gun just because a star may be available. 2024 Rookie of the Year, Victor Wembanyama, looks like he’ll be face of the league and the Spurs have to be shrewd about who they put around him. Like a newborn, the Frenchman is a sponge right now, and the wrong star could dim his bright future.

Lastly, because of San Antonio’s history with foreign-born players and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s Serbian roots, Topic may be more comfortable with their organization than any other. With regard to his development, overcoming potential language barriers can flatten his learning curve. Though Popovich only speaks English fluently, he has a slight grasp of Serbian.


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