Balsa Koprivica pumped to reunite with Cade Cunningham. Here’s how he fits with Pistons

Detroit Free Press

LAS VEGAS — Balsa Koprivica, the Detroit Pistons‘ 57th overall pick in this year’s draft, was certain he was going to end up with the team. He had a strong pre-draft workout with the organization, and said he fell in love its people.

Koprivica appeared on few big boards leading up to the draft after a solid sophomore season at Florida State. But the big man clearly had a fan in Troy Weaver, Pistons general manager, who has an eye for the center position. And on paper, Koprivica checks many of the boxes modern NBA teams covet from the position.

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He has great size, standing 7-foot-1 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan. He was efficient at the rim with soft touch and is a good rebounder. His athleticism is respectable. And on occasion, he even handled the ball in transition and finished plays himself.

The vast majority of second-round picks don’t pan out, particularly ones drafted after the 40th pick. But Koprivica was once a five-star recruit in high school before losing a star before his senior season, and he was also a full-time starter as a sophomore for a talented Florida State team that lost to Michigan in the Sweet 16 in March.

For the Pistons, the Koprivica pick is a worthy gamble. And he understands not only his strengths, but what the Pistons want to see from him.

“The things that I did in college were mainly just the main things that (the Pistons) liked about me, which were my activity and just be being able to run in transition and be able to defend on the perimeter and in the post and be able to rebound and set great screens,” Koprivica told the Free Press on Thursday. “That’s the main things that I was able to showcase in college, as well as my workout here. I was able to show some of that stuff as well. That’s pretty much it overall. Just in the workouts I was able to show off a little bit more shooting and just versatility on both ends of the floor.”

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Through 20 games last year, he averaged 9.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in just 19.5 minutes. He’s somewhat unique among the Pistons’ centers, being a big, bouncy center who thrives as a lob target.

Koprivica said the Seminoles’ switch-happy defense forced him to learn how to defend all five positions. He believes that versatility will help him at the next level.

“My coaches relied a lot on me to be able to disrupt the guards and be able to be the guy in the back of the defense that’s leading and talking and getting boards and just setting hard screens, because it helps the whole team in the flow of the offense, not be stagnant,” he said. “As long as I’m moving and setting quick screens and things like that. And obviously I had some freedom on the offensive end. I’m just looking forward to whatever the team needs me to do, and then just keep on getting better because it’s obviously a transition to the next level. I look forward to working and getting better.”

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We haven’t seen much of Koprivica during summer league, as he’s only played three total minutes thus far. He wasn’t available to join the roster until late last week, because Detroit’s trade of Mason Plumlee and the 37th pick for the rights to Koprivica wasn’t cleared until the free agency moratorium lifted last Friday. Tuesday’s game against the Houston Rockets was his summer league debut, and he tallied two points and a rebound.

He’s still acclimating himself to his new teammates, but he has a massive head start with one — Cade Cunningham. Koprivica and Cunningham both played at Montverde from 2017-18, and it sparked a friendship that persists today.

With three summer league games remaining, there’s a chance we’ll eventually see more of the Cunningham-Koprivica pairing in action.

“I just feel like our relationship off the court just translates right onto the floor,” Koprivica said. “We went to school together for a year and were able to spend a lot of time on the road, just living on campus, in school, having all the meals together and just having a couple classes together. Got pretty close with him over the course of the year and I’m just glad we’re teammates again.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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