22 - 30
July 2023
Player Spotlight: Nikola Topic - Serbia's relentless MVP
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Player Spotlight: Nikola Topic - Serbia's relentless MVP

NIS (Serbia) - Nikola Topic was crowned as the MVP of the FIBA U18 European Championship, after leading Serbia to its third title since 2017 and fifth in total.

It was the crowning achievement of what was a breakthrough 2022-23 season for the 17-year-old, in which he dominated junior competitions such as the ANGT and the U19 Adriatic League, while also becoming a starter for OKK Beograd's senior team in the Serbian KLS.

Considered as one of the top guards in the 2005 generation, Topic delivered the type of performance that was expected of him at Nis - a good reason for FIBA contributor Ignacio Rissotto to dive into his game.


Topic combines a gifted ball-handling ability, tremendous speed with the ball and a strong frame, which makes him a prolific self-creator on drives.

He puts pressure on opposing defenders in the perimeter, being able to string dribble moves such as crossovers and in-and-outs to get defenders off balance. Topic also possesses an impressive ability to change speeds and directions, which allows him to catch defenders by surprise and quickly create an advantage on his way to the rim.

Topic is really hard to stop with a full head of steam, in part due to his sheer physical profile. Standing at 1.95m, with a strong frame, Topic moves at a really good speed, which makes him really hard to stop, as he gets downhill with a good level of momentum. He combines that physical power with the tremendous poise he shows to handle the ball in traffic, where he keeps the ball on a string and controls the tempo extremely well with quick changes of speeds.

When it comes to finishing drives, Topic shows the combination of touch, extension and hangtime to convert tough lay-ups at the rim. Topic is also completely unfazed by traffic in these situations, as he actively seeks contact, looking to draw fouls and to create space out of sheer physicality. Topic also showed an intriguing floater game from a few feet away from the rim, which gives him yet another weapon as a finisher.

He also utilizes his ball-handling ability to make plays for others. He can manipulate and attract multiple defenders with crossovers and fakes, which he then exploits with simple-yet-effective passes on the move. His combination of poise, passing vision and accuracy makes him a perfect operator when playing off screens, baiting opponents and punishing them for making a mistake on defense.

With his passing vision, ball-handling ability and open-court speed, Topic is also an interesting transition passer, who can initiate the offense out of defensive rebounds and recognizes advantages quickly in the early offense and find open teammates with consistency.

If there was an aspect missing for Topic in Nis was his three-point shooting, as he went just 2-for-21 on attempts from beyond the arc during the tournament. His recent history as a jumpshooter should indicate that his performance in the tournament is not the full story, as he shot a combined 36.9 percent from three-point range across multiple leagues during the 2022-23 season. With that being said, it's clear that the jumpshot needs work, as the mechanics are rigid and somewhat segmented, not really flowing from one motion to the next, which led to a majority of the finishes being short or long.


While Topic is not necessarily the quickest player laterally, he is able to leverage his size and strength against opposing guards, staying in front and being physical against opposing drivers.

Topic’s best work, however, comes when he's off the ball. He's a strong defensive rebounder for the guard position, being really disciplined at boxing out and finding the ball when there's an opponent miss. He's also a factor as a help defender, getting in passing lanes, bothering drivers with timely digs at the ball and rotating to act as the last line of defense and contest shots at the rim.


With his performance in Nis, scouts were given a confirmation of what they had seen all through the 2022-23 season: that Topic is one of the best guards in the European junior ranks.

The next step for the 17-year-old, who recently signed a contract with Crvena Zvezda for the 2023-24 season, will be to maintain the level of impact he made on different competitions through the past 12 months, as well as to show that some of the concerns from this tournament, namely, his shooting, were not an indicator of his potential.

If he can do that, the NBA is not out of the question for a player whose unique mix of slashing ability, physical strength and passing vision should take him extremely far in his basketball journey.