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Who is Nikola Milutinov, the Euro-stash Nets acquired in Spencer Dinwiddie S&T?

2019 FIBA World Cup - Serbia v USA Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Is Sean Marks trying to rectify a mistake made by his old team while getting value for his current one?

As Fred Katz of The Athletic disclosed early Thursday morning, the final piece of the Spencer Dinwiddie S&T turned out to be Nikola Milutinov, a Serbian seven-footer who was taken by the Spurs in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft but never signed by San Antonio. It was a rare Draft miscue by that organization. The Nets acquired his rights in the final iteration of the Dinwiddie trade along with a 2024 second rounder, the right to swap second rounders in 2025 and an $11.45 million trade exception.

It seems doubtful that the 26-year-old will join the Nets, particularly this season, but he was intriguing to Marks six years ago when he was the Spurs assistant GM in charge of the Draft ... and it seems still is.

First the basics: Milutinov is a legitimate seven-footer with a wingspan three inches longer. He is among the best big men in the Euroleague with a proven record as a winner, having won a combined four championships in the Greek, Adriatic and Russian leagues over the last eight years. Last season, before he went down with a season-ending shoulder injury in January, he was averaging 10 points and nine boards, making him the Euroleague’s top rebounder.

Here’s some highlights from this past season...

He’s more a traditional big whose main responsibility is finishing pick-and-rolls and dominating the boards. He is not a 3-point shooter ... or at least wasn’t asked to be in any of his European stops. Athletic but not hyper athletic, a good but not great post passer. He’s neither Nikola Jokic nor Rudy Gobert but looks serviceable. (And yes, that’s CSKA teammate Mike James on the other end of those pick-and-rolls.)

So what’s his contract situation? He’s starting the second year of a three-year deal that made him the third highest paid player in Europe this past season. He earned $2.5 million (net of taxes) which puts him behind only two former NBA players, Nikola Mirotic and Shane Larkin ... and just ahead of James who joined the Nets at the end of March. (James is an unrestricted free agent after the Nets declined to extend him a qualifying offer.)

According to reports at the time of his signing with CSKA last year, he didn’t have an NBA “out” for another two years. However, an European insider told NetsDaily Thursday that after his injury, his future with CSKA may not be all that clear. He’s pricey by European standards and CSKA made it to the Euroleague Final Four without him (or James.)

Typically, Euroleague teams want buyouts if one of their players is signed by an NBA team although CSKA let James go without a buyout. Their management was just happy to save money on his contract. Assuming all that happened — and again, it’s unlikely — he and the Nets would have to negotiate a salary package. Since he’s more than three years past his Draft, he is no longer governed by NBA rookie scale for the 26th pick in 2015, which would have paid him around $1.2 million.

Would he be interested in coming to the Nets? Good question. He criticized the Spurs a year ago for not being that interested in him. In an interview with Eurohoops, Milutinov didn’t mince words.

“To go there, I need to be invited to go there. I never had something official from them. It was only just talking. They were never serious about taking me, and I cannot go there by myself,” he said. “They need to show me their will to take me and they didn’t in the previous years. I don’t regret it.”

That, of course, is not how the Nets operate with their stashes. As Isaia Cordinier, the Nets French stash, told our Alec Sturm earlier this summer, the Nets are in constant touch. As we’ve reported, the team has even set up instructional sessions in Europe for its stashes.

In that same Eurohoops interview, Milutinov said he didn’t foreclose the possibility of joining an NBA team.

“I don’t think about the NBA because I know where I will be next season. Maybe in the future I will think about it again about going there.”

Again, it’s all unlikely, but as any Nets fan knows, stranger things have happened.