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Year in Review: Filip Petrusev

From role player this year to superstar next year

Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review

When Filip Petrusev entered his name into the NBA Draft process last weekend, some people were wondering why in the world that would happen. If you take a look at the film of the Duke game in November, you will understand why. If you look at the offensive numbers, albeit a small(ish) sample size, you will understand why. If you talk to scouts who have watched Gonzaga play and practice, you will understand why.

In all likelihood, Petrusev will be back next season, and he will be one of the focal points of the offense, whether Killian Tillie returns or not. His offensive skillset and his body are already making scouts at the next level drool. He is today’s prototypical stretch big, who can knock down perimeter shots, but also has great footwork inside.

In the first month of the season when Petrusev was thrown into the fire immediately following Tillie’s injury, he averaged 9.6 points on 53 percent shooting and 4.6 rebounds. This includes a stellar 11-point performance against top-seeded Duke in Maui. If you want to dive into stats even more, you’ll see that his per 100-possession offensive rating of 130 was ahead of everyone except Brandon Clarke and Jeremy Jones.

We know Petrusev can shoot the ball, and we’ve seen his array of post moves, but the one underrated part of his game is the ability to draw fouls. His free throw rate (number of free throws taken per field goal attempt) was .620. If you average that out over 40 minutes, he would attempt 8.2 free throws, the highest per/40 on the team. And the best part is that he shot 85 percent from the line. In short, he’s an incredibly difficult player to guard.

Obviously, when Tillie came back, Petrusev was relegated to bench minutes. But it wasn’t because of his offense. His defense and rebounding abilities need some work in the offseason to become a complete player. BYU and Saint Mary’s would go right after Petrusev on the defensive end when he came into the game. His body is not a huge issue, but his positioning, footwork, and toughness on the defensive end severely limited his minutes in the second half of the season when Tillie returned.

Knowing all this, and having some workouts in front of scouts, you would imagine Petrusev will come back for the 2019-2020 season ready to become a breakout star. If you really want to read into it, he believes that he can realistically be a 2020 NBA Draft pick. If Tillie comes back, along with Drew Timme, Pavel Zakharov, and Oumar Ballo, the competitive nature of practice will help every single one of those front court guys become tougher, better players.

Regardless of Tillie’s status, though, Petrusev is going to be an enormous part of next season’s story. He should certainly average double figure scoring, and, hopefully, become a better rim protector and rebounder. If he does, you may see his name called in June 2020.