It’s been quite a journey for Goga Bitadze, who is not yet 20 years old. At the age of 16, the native of Georgia (the country) was getting minutes in the top league in Russia (VTB United), but for the most part, he mostly played at the junior level until last season, when he became a regular starter for Mega Bemax in the Adriatic and Serbian (KLS) leagues.
Thanks to an unexpected turn of events in December, Bitadze was allowed to leave Mega Bemax in midseason and join Buducnost, a superior Adriatic team that also competed in EuroLeague, the highest level of international competition. In all, the youngster played a total of 51 games (29 starts) for two teams in three leagues this season, averaging 23.4 minutes, 13.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game, with impressive shooting splits (.571/.400/.679). He was named the Adriatic League MVP, and won the EuroLeague Rising Star award, an honor that Luka Dončić held for the prior two seasons.
A highly-regarded prospect last year, Bitadze made significant strides this season, and has vaulted into lottery range. He is a mobile center, who is a consistent force on the inside on both ends of the court, while displaying potential on the perimeter. His conditioning and athleticism has improved over time, and he has transformed from a somewhat plodding big into a stretch five, who is light on his feet.
Going to Buducnost was a great move for Bitadze’s development. He was used far more in the pick and roll, scoring regularly on rolls to the rim and occasionally knocking down a jumper via the pick-and-pop. He proved to be an excellent target when rolling and cutting to the basket, displaying quick feet, reliable hands, and nice touch.
The rest of Bitadze’s offensive game remains a work in progress. In the post, he mainly relies on right-hand hooks and face-up drives/jumpers. He has steadily progressed as a spot-up player, but he is still somewhat reluctant to shoot and drive from the perimeter. Most importantly, he doesn’t display great decision making or vision, and he has yet to prove that he can be a consistent passer.
Defensively, Bitadze is what you would probably expect from a very large, young big man – far more effective around the basket. He is physical and not afraid to mix it up in the paint, though stronger and more mature players can push him around. Foremost, he is one of the best shot blockers in Europe. He is not explosive off the floor, but he has good length and excellent timing.
On the perimeter, Bitadze can struggle as a defender, lacking the ability to quickly change direction. He tends to loom around the paint, consistently giving a wide berth to shooters, and using drop coverage when defending the pick and roll. Overall, however, he plays with good effort and awareness, and is constantly communicating with his teammates. He has good anticipation and instincts – a nose for the ball, grabbing more than his share of loose balls, blocks, steals, deflections, and rebounds.
Coming off an impressive season and still having plenty of time to improve, Bitadze is an intriguing prospect. His Adriatic League stats are comparable to Nikola Jokić’s at the same age, but I don’t see him having as high of a ceiling. How successful he ultimately is in the NBA will depend on his improvement in a number of areas, including becoming more proficient as a perimeter scorer, a passer, and an overall defender.
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- Big body with solid length
- Efficient inside scorer, especially effective on rolls and cuts to the basket; made 62 percent of his 2-point attempts this season, and averaged 1.44 points per possession on non-post-up shots around the basket (92nd percentile)
- Promising pick-and-pop and spot-up shooter; made 40 percent of his 3-point attempts this season, and averaged 1.08 points per possession on half-court jumpers this season (80th percentile)
- Excellent timing as a shot blocker; finished second in the Adriatic League in blocks per game (1.73), and had he qualified, would have finished first in EuroLeague in both blocks per game (2.31) and block percentage (10.63)
- Scrappy rebounder; ranked seventh in the Adriatic League with 5.9 boards per game, and had he qualified, would have finished fifth in EuroLeague with 6.4 rebounds per game
- Gets to the free-throw line often (5.8 times per game this season)
- Plays with energy, effort, intelligence, and awareness
- Has made steady progress from a young age, with a good deal of potential for further growth
- Very good overall metrics; led the Adriatic League, by far, with 3.8 win shares, and had he qualified, would have finished third in EuroLeague with a player efficiency rating of 23.4
- Potential liability as a perimeter defender due to a lack of overall athleticism
- Unlike typical European big men, not a good playmaker; averaged barely more than an assist per game this season, with assist-turnover ratio of 0.6
- Can have trouble finishing around length, and needs to expand his low-post game to include more use of his left hand and shots such as fade-aways; averaged just 0.77 points per possession on post-up plays this season (37th percentile)
- Shows potential to score off the bounce, but basically limited to short, straight-line drives
- Solid mechanics, but not yet a proven shooter from deep, averaging just 1.8 three-point attempts per game
- Struggles with foul trouble (3.8 fouls per game this season)
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports mainly come from Synergy Sports Technology and RealGM.com, and occasionally from Hoop-Math.com and Sports-Reference.com. The photo was courtesy of the Adriatic League and Buducnost VOLI. Other outside sources are noted with links to the source.