The Detroit Pistons draft pick that is getting away

Detroit Pistons center Balsa Koprivica (23). Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons center Balsa Koprivica (23). Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons drafted four players in the recent NBA Draft but only three of them will be at training camp. The fourth, Balša Koprivica, is headed back to his native Serbia, as he will be a draft-and-stash for Detroit.

If you want to watch three of the Detroit Pistons picks from the 2021 NBA Draft play, you will only have to go to Little Casers Arena to see the Pistons or, head to Wayne State and check out the new Motor City Cruise, a G-League team.

The fourth Pistons draftee? That would be a bit of a longer trip.

Koprivica has signed a three-year deal with KK Partizan NIS, a club team in his hometown of Belgrade in Serbia.

Koprivica actually was on Partizan’s youth team when he was 14, before he left to play high school basketball in the United States. So, it is kind of a return.

Balsa Koprivica will become a draft-and-stash for Detroit Pistons

Under NBA rules, the Pistons retain the rights to Koprivica even though he is playing for another team. Two years ago, Detroit drafted Deividas Sirvydis, but he remained in his native Lithuania for a year before joining the Pistons this past season.

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In the most famous draft-and-stash, the San Antonio Spurs had to wait three years before future star Manu Ginobli came over.

But even though Koprivica signed a contract with Partizan for three-years, that does not mean he can not come to Detroit sooner. Most European contracts have an ‘out’ clause, where a player can pay a buyout fee if they have interest from an NBA team.

At the start, it appears Koprivica, a 7-foot-1 center who played two years at Florida State, was hoping land on an NBA team this year. When he announced he was leaving college, he said it was “to pursue my dream of becoming an NBA player.”

Koprivica has actually been in the United States for a while. Before going to Florida State, he attended several American high schools. He even spent a year as a teammate of No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham at Montverde Academy.

Why isn’t Balsa Koprivica with the Detroit Pistons?

Koprivica worked out for a bunch of NBA teams and went to the G-League combine, so its not like he did not put in the effort. He also worked hard on developing an outside shot. With the Seminoles, he only attempted one three-pointer in his career.

The bottom line was, having a history of not shooting from outside, plus he only averaged 9.1 points in 19.5 minutes a game at Florida State, Koprivica was seen as a project by many NBA teams.

He lasted until the No. 57 pick in a 60-player draft, when he was officially selected by the Charlotte Hornets for the Detroit Pistons. The draft pick was part of the Mason Plumlee trade, which would impact Koprivica greatly.

While all the other draft picks, returning Pistons players and free agents were practicing at the Henry Ford Performance Center, getting ready for summer league, Koprivica could not participate until the trade with Charlotte was officially completed.

Koprivica only made one practice before the team was off to Las Vegas. While the player selected just five spots ahead of him, Luka Garza, was tearing it up for the Pistons, eventually making second team All-League, Koprivica barely played.

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It was kind of odd, having one of your draft picks sit while free agents were getting a chance to play. Yes, Koprivica had missed most of the practices but it was not like they were running something complicated on offense. Koprivica ended up totaling three points, seven rebounds and a block for summer league.

Maybe the deal with Partizan had already been set up, but a lot of Pistons fans were intrigued by Koprivica, and would have liked to see him get some action.

Koprivica really had little chance of making the Pistons this season, through really no fault  of his own. Detroit’s roster is over-stuffed, with 16 guaranteed contracts for 15 NBA spots, plus both two-way slots are taken and Jamorko Pickett has an Exhibit 10 deal.

There was no place on the Detroit hardwood for Balsa (pun intended)

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All the Pistons could offer Koprivica is a spot on its G-League team. He is undoubtedly getting paid more to play with Partizan and they compete in the EuroCup, so he will go against good competition. And he gets to go home.

Most likely, you will see Koprivica back in Las Vegas next year, as the NBA is still his dream.