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Scouting the Draft-Eligible International Prospects (Part One)
by: Jonathan Givony - President, Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
May 2, 2012
Our first article taking a look at this year's crop of draft-eligible international prospects, starting off with Nihad Djedovic, Leon Radosevic and David Jelinek.

Nihad Djedovic, 6-7, SG/SF, Galatasaray, Bosnia



Jonathan Givony

Nihad Djedovic has been on the radar for what feels like forever now. We first wrote about him in 2006 when he was 16-years old making his professional debut in Bosnia, and continued to follow him when he was signed by Spanish powerhouse Barcelona and invited to the Nike Hoop Summit in 2007.

His progression continued with solid showings at the adidas EuroCamp in 2008 and 2010, but he has yet to have his true breakout season since then, partially due to the situation with the team that owns his rights. Barcelona has repeatedly loaned him out to different teams year after year--back to his home club in Bosnia, to their affiliates Cornella in the Spanish third division, to fellow ACB team Obradoiro, to Italian and former Euroleague squad Virtus Roma, and most recently to Turkey, where he's finishing off the season in Istanbul with Galatasaray, who are currently in first place in one of the strongest leagues in Europe.

Barcelona still owns his rights and he is under contract with them for two more years, but they appear to be more interested in his younger brother Nedim Djedovic at this point, born in 1997 who they signed and is considered one of the most promising young prospects in Europe.

Djedovic has been enjoying consistent playing time for the past three seasons now in some of the top leagues in Europe—the ACB, the Italian league, the Euroleague, and now Turkey. Everywhere he's gone he's proven capable of putting the ball in the basket fairly efficiently, including this past summer at the European Championship in Turkey (Eurobasket), where he saw heavy playing time representing his home country of Bosnia.

Djedovic has excellent size for a wing player a 6-7, to go along with a strong frame and impressive athleticism for a European prospect. He can create his own shot prolifically thanks to his quick first step and strong ball-handling skills, showing good footwork, long strides, and the ability to change speeds and directions fluidly.

Very effective in the open floor, Djedovic has consistently shown the ability to get into the paint at every level he's played at, both in transition and in the half-court. His 2-point percentages have been impressive everywhere he's been—55% this season in both Italy and Turkey, 64% in Italy last year and 73% at the Eurobasket last summer (in just five games)—indicating that he's also a very solid finisher around the rim. He uses shot-fakes effectively on the perimeter and is able to take his man off the dribble in pick and roll and isolation situations, at times being asked to be his team's primary ball-handler and facilitator in the half-court.

The biggest thing holding Djedovic back at the moment is his propensity for turning the ball over. He coughs the ball up four times per-40 minutes this season, on nearly a quarter of his possessions, amongst the highest rates in the Italian league this season. He simply tries to do too much at times with the ball, over-dribbling wildly, trying to make very difficult passes, and running into brick walls. He's a little bit inconsistent in his approach in general, as his performance tends to fluctuate greatly from game to game, ranging from simply outstanding to very poor depending on which night you catch him on.

Additionally, Djedovic is just an average perimeter shooter at this point, converting around 35% of his 3-pointers this season on under one make per game, both career highs, up from 25% last season. Djedovic's instincts as a shot-maker actually aren't bad, poor shot-selection seems to be the main culprit here, as well as inconsistent shooting mechanics. He elevates extremely well off the floor creating separation from his defender, but he jumps a different height every time, and with a different release point.

Defensively, Djedovic is very solid, using his size and athleticism effectively to guard opposing wing players, which is perhaps not a surprise considering the level of competition he's played at the past three seasons. While he sports just an average wingspan (measured 6-7 in Treviso), he moves his feet well, puts a solid effort in, and has the lateral quickness to defend either wing position, which gives him the versatility to play at virtually any level of competition.

Although he's still working on becoming a consistently efficient player, Djedovic may be a little underrated at this point, as it's difficult to find many other players with his size, athleticism, shot-creating ability and experience available in the second round. His contract situation does not appear to be too much of a hindrance either, as there's apparently a good chance he will become a free agent this summer.

After playing on a very disappointing Virtus Roma team for a year and a half, an organization that appears to be in disarray at the moment, Djedovic moved mid-way through the season to Galatasaray, who are competing for a championship. He's getting plenty of minutes, and has had some solid performances, albeit inconsistently thus far.

With a deep playoff run in the very competitive Turkish league, Djedovic's talents will be on fully display for the next month and change, which could help improve his draft stock significantly. He is automatically eligible as a 1990-born prospect, and looks like a solid candidate for the second round for a team looking to draft and stash a promising international player.

Leon Radosevic, 6'9, Power Forward, EA7 Emporio Armani Milano, Croatia



Matt Kamalsky

Taking advantage of a unique opportunity last season when Cibona Zagreb's financial troubles pressed him into extended minutes in the Euroleague and Adriatic League, Leon Radosevic was an early entry candidate for the 2011 NBA Draft, but was forced to withdraw after injuring his foot at the adidas Eurocamp. Changing scenery and signing with powerhouse Armani Milano last summer, the 2012 season has been a change of pace for the Croatian big man. Playing a much less prominent role for a much more talented club, Radosevic has not gotten the opportunity to showcase his skill set, but remains one of the most prominent names in this year's crop of auto-eligible international prospects.

Standing 6'10 with a solid 240-pound frame and near 7'0 wingspan, the Croatian big man has good size for a NBA big ma. He lacks a degree of strength and is not a tremendously springy athlete, but has added some weight to his frame since last season, is quick off his feet, and plays with energy. He does not have ideal physical tools for a NBA player, but is not a complete slouch and has the offensive polish, high basketball IQ, and unselfish attitude to offer value as a role-player.

Unfortunately, Radosevic's role for Milano has offered little opportunity for him to showcase his offensive game. Scoring from the midrange and in the post with a simple, but polished offensive repertoire last season, Radosevic has functioned almost exclusively as a catch-and-finish option this season, doing what his coaches ask of him. He spends most of his time setting screens, rolling to the basket, and ducking in behind the defense when his teammates penetrate. Converting 61% of his finishing opportunities according to Synergy Sports Technology, Radosevic's touch around the rim does help him make the most of his limited scoring chances, even if he has only attempted a pair of jump shots this season.

Knocking down 40% of his jump shots and seeing a couple of touches every game in the post last season, Radosevic faces a unique challenge in terms of reaffirming his value offensively to NBA scouts. He's filled the roll he's been asked to in Milan, and done so very efficiently, but he'll need to remind scouts what he brings to the table on the offensive end at the Eurocamp in Treviso and in workouts in the coming months, as his current role does not paint him in a light that reflects his talent.

Defensively, Radosevic has struggled with the same things he had issues with last season. Asked to play the center position for stretches, Radosevic is simply not strong enough to effectively defend more physical post players around the rim, giving up too much ground and unable to deter interior scorers when they make decisive, aggressive moves to the rim. He's also a questionable rebounder, lacking the strength and explosiveness to pull down boards at a prolific rate. He does play with energy, helps his teammates, and does a decent job denying dribble penetration, but will need to get stronger and more active on the glass to alleviate concerns about his abilities on the defensive end.

Automatically eligible for the 2012 NBA Draft, Radosevic is our top ranked 1990 international prospect for a reason. He is a fundamentally sound all-around player with good size who can step away from the rim, run the pick and pop, and make savvy plays to score inside the paint. Scout have gotten to see very little of that from him this season, and considering his limitations defensively, his ability to show what he brings to the table offensively at a few key moments in the pre-draft process will likely play a role in what his draft stock looks like closer to June 28th.


David Jelinek, 6'5, Shooting Guard, FIATC Mutua Joventut, Czech Republic



Matt Kamalsky

After a strong campaign in his first season seeing significant playing time in the ACB and a promising performance at the 2011 adidas Eurocamp, David Jelinek appears to have taken a step back in his final season upon becoming automatically eligible for the NBA draft. The perimeter-oriented Jelinek continues to see significant minutes in the ACB, but has struggled to score efficiently all season long.

An average athlete with just decent size and length for a NBA shooting guard, Jelinek's perceived value at the NBA level has always been rooted in his ability to knock down shots from the perimeter. Connecting on some 46% of his three point attempts last season, his ability to stretch the floor and knock down open spot-up shots offered some intrigue. This season, Jelinek is shooting just 32% from beyond the arc, and has gone from shooting 52% in catch and shoot situations to connecting on just 29% according to Synergy Sports Technology. He doesn't seem to be shooting with the same fluidity and reliable follow-through we saw from him last season, lofting the ball at the rim from deep and short arming shots with a hand in his face, often coming up well short as a result.

Considering most of Jelinek's touches come on kick outs to the perimeter or when he's running off of screens—and just how efficient he shot the ball last season—such a dip in reliability is very significant. Lacking great quickness and ball-handling ability, Jelinek is not one to make plays off the dribble consistently, and is shooting only 41% from 2-point range (identical to last season) in the very physical ACB league due to his skinny frame and lack of explosiveness around the rim. The Czech wing been at his best this season when defenders have over-aggressively closed him out or trailed him as he runs off screens, as he's looked much more in rhythm pulling up for a jump shot from the midrange than he has off the catch.

Given his average physical tools, Jelinek doesn't create much offense for his teammates, but he's not selfish either. His struggles from the perimeter are not a result of him forcing the issue, and he willingly swings the ball instead of trying to re-find his stroke.

Defensively, Jelinek has shown some improvement this season. He still lacks the lateral quickness to be able to defend his position at the NBA level, but he's played with improved intensity this season. Often the target of on and off ball screens, Jelinek lacks a degree of strength and toughness fighting through contact, but does a decent job getting a hand in the face of shooters and not ball-watching on the weakside, something he did regularly last season. He'll need to get stronger and learn to deal with physical play if he wants to become a more complete defensive player in the European game down the road, but he is not giving up as much dribble penetration as he did in his first season as a rotation player in the ACB.

After a promising 2011 season, David Jelinek seemed to be turning the corner as a prospect. His play this season has certainly given scouts pause, as his effectiveness from the perimeter has coming crashing back down the earth. Such a dip couldn't have come at a worse time for Jelinek's NBA prospects, as he's automatically eligible for the 2012 draft, but if he can rediscover his touch, he could certainly emerge as a valuable role-player once again in the ACB down the road.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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Dusan Cantekin Playing Big in Serbia
by: Jonathan Givony - President
February 28, 2012
Jonathan Givony

Measuring in taller than 7-2 without shoes with a 245 pounds frame and a 9-4 standing reach at last summer's adidas EuroCamp, Dusan Cantekin was inevitably going to draw intrigue purely due to his incredible size.

This season, Cantekin has taken his play to another level as well, which could put him firmly in the mix to hear his name called in the second round as a 1990-born draft-eligible international prospect.



Born as Dusan Gavrilovic, he became a member of the Turkish national team by electing to receive a passport after being snubbed from the Serbian youth teams. He's signed to a contract with Turkish Euroleague powerhouse Anadolu Efes (Efes Pilsen), but has been on loan in his home country for the second season in a row at Mega Vizura, currently in second place in the Serbian league.

More than just a tower of a human being with a superb frame, Cantekin is a surprisingly mobile center who runs the court extremely well and shows impressive agility for a player his size. His conditioning looks much improved these days, allowing him to make his presence felt in a variety of ways on the court, something he's slowly learning how to do more and more of.

Offensively, Cantekin is not a very polished player at this stage, but he's been able to make an impact anyway against the relatively average level of competition he faces in the Serbian League. He scores nearly a point every two minutes he's on the court, converting a terrific 68% of his field goal attempts.

Cantekin does not show any real back to basket game, as his footwork is poor and he's not very physical backing down opponents to take advantage of his superior size. He gets most of his offense playing off the ball, as a pick and roll finisher, working off cuts, and running the floor in transition, sometimes beating opposing big men down the court.

Cantekin can finish with either hand around the basket and occasionally uses a jump-hook, but he's at his best when catching the ball in the paint on the move and elevating around the basket. His team has some lob plays in their half-court offense, which he can successfully execute. Cantekin can get off the ground better than you'd expect, but he doesn't always have to, as he's big and long enough to simply throw down dunks from a stand-still.

From the perimeter, Cantekin has the ability to make 15-foot jump shots inconsistently, something he should improve on in time judging by his solid shooting mechanics and decent 66% conversion rate from the free throw line. He also likes to attack his man off the dribble in a straight line, showing surprising agility getting to the basket from the mid to high post.

Still fairly raw in terms of overall polish, Cantekin is susceptible to the ups and downs within games that many inexperienced big men suffer through mentally. He'll miss some easy shots around the basket on occasion, and doesn't always show a great feel for the game in his decision making. Adding strength to his still developing frame and continuing to get consistent playing time should help, and so far this season he's clearly benefiting from playing 25 minutes for game for Mega Vizura.

Defensively is where Cantekin needs to improve the most right now, as it's clearly the weakest part of his game. With his size and mobility he should be a difference maker in the league he plays in, but that's hardly the case, as opposing big men tend to go right at him, and usually find success at a good rate in doing so. He doesn't use his body and height inside the paint well at all, giving up deep position very easily to inferior opponents, and getting pushed around without offering enough resistance.

Cantekin's fundamentals aren't great, as he never bends his knees and tends to defend with his hands instead of with his feet, which often gets him in foul trouble. He's very limited with what he can do on the perimeter—his coaches don't even ask him to step out on the pick and roll, and he does a poor job closing out on shooters.

To his credit, Cantekin will block shots on occasion (1.3 per-40), and he's a dominant rebounder in his league (12.3 per-40), tops in the Serbian first division.

Besides a very interesting showing in the Serbian Cup against Partizan, we haven't really had a chance to get a great read on how Cantekin stacks up against better competition, as the level of big men in the Serbian league is fairly poor. Once the Adriatic League ends at the end of March, the Serbian teams (Partizan, Red Star, Hemofarm, Radnicki) will join Mega Vizura in that competition, which will raise the level somewhat and maybe attract more scouts to evaluate him. Participating at the EuroCamp once again could be another way to be seen by NBA decision makers.

With his size, mobility and upside, Cantekin could be a player a team drafting in the mid to late portion of the second round decides to roll the dice on, just to see how he develops in the next few years.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com
 
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NBA Draft Prospects at the 2012 Copa del Rey
by: Jonathan Givony - President
February 23, 2012
A thorough look at the five major NBA draft prospects on the rosters at the 2012 Copa del Rey in Barcelona, which we attended.

Tomas Satoransky, 6-7, PG/SG, 1991, Sevilla

Jonathan Givony

Despite only narrowly qualifying for the Copa del Rey together with his Banca Civica Sevilla club, Tomas Satoransky managed to advance past the quarterfinals with a win over Unicaja, thus giving us (and the dozen or so NBA teams in attendance) two opportunities to watch him in Barcelona.

Satoransky saw almost all of the 28 total minutes he played at the point guard position, only attempting five shots overall, which is a fairly representative sample of the role he's asked to play for this team.



Measured at an impressive 6-7 at the adidas EuroCamp in Treviso last June, Satoransky has tremendous size for either guard position, even if his 6-7 wingspan and 207 pound frame are just average. He's a solid athlete, capable of playing above the rim, but not showing tremendous quickness in the half-court or the type of blow-by speed you expect to see from a player at his position in the NBA. Once appearing rail thin when we first saw him all the way back in the summer of 2008, he's done a nice job developing his body over the last few years, and will likely continue to fill out considering he's still only 20 years old.

After a terrific adidas EuroCamp performance last summer, many were expecting Satoransky to have a breakout year in this, his third season in the ACB. Instead, through 22 games, his minutes, usage rate and scoring output are actually down from last season, which is a bit disappointing.

The backup to American guard Earl Calloway, Satoransky plays a somewhat limited role for Sevilla, often being asked to just bring the ball up the floor, hand it off to a teammate, and then move to the corner and see how the offense develops. Watching his film from the entire season, Satoransky has noticeably lacked aggressiveness, often pulling the ball back in transition, deferring to teammates excessively, and even passing up good opportunities to score.

While it's clear that this team is built around the inside scoring prowess of Paul Davis (the league's best per-minute scorer), Satoransky's role makes him a bit difficult to evaluate. It's unlikely he would see many minutes (if any) at the point guard position in the NBA, making his situation in Sevilla very foreign compared with how he might be utilized at that level.

Further complicating matters is the way Satoransky's jumper has regressed as of late. Whereas last season he made 40% of his 2.5 3-point attempts per-game, this year he's both taking (1.5) and making (30%) less of these shots, while continuing to show the same unattractive mechanics we've seen throughout his career. With time and space, Satoransky is capable of making his catch and shoot jumpers, but things seem to fall apart for him when forced to shoot quickly and/or off the dribble.

While not overly aggressive with the ball in his hands, Satoransky has the ability to create offense for himself and others, something we've seen from him in other settings. He's a solid ball-handler with both hands showing good footwork and body control, and using nice court vision finding open teammates creatively. He doesn't always have the initial burst to turn the corner on his matchup, which makes it difficult for him to break down opponents in the half-court at end of shot-clock situations, and he lacks some strength, toughness and/or aggressiveness finishing plays around the basket.

Defensively, Satoransky has good size and plays with a solid intensity level, often being asked to put pressure on the ball, even very far away from the basket. Showing just average lateral quickness, he gets beat off the dribble a fair amount by smaller players, and may have an even more difficult time in the NBA where there is considerably more space to attack slow-footed guards, something that may be a concern moving forward.

While Satoransky's size and basketball IQ continue to stand out and leave room for optimism regarding his future, it's difficult to point out any one part of his game that will translate seamlessly to the NBA at this stage. Whether it's his role on this team, his youth, the overall style of European (and particularly Spanish) basketball, or just a lack of development, it's difficult to get overly excited about what Satoransky has shown up until this point this season.

Barring another tremendous showing at the adidas EuroCamp in June, Satoransky may have to wait until his draft-eligible year (2013) if his goal is to get drafted in the first round and/or get brought over immediately to the NBA next season. Otherwise he'll have to hope he gets picked by a strong organization in the second round and be optimistic that things work out for the best. To his credit, he is reportedly very much gung-ho about the NBA style of basketball and would likely do whatever it takes to make it in the NBA, which can't be said about all young European players these days.

Raul Neto, 6-1, Point Guard, 1992, Lagun Aro GBC

Jonathan Givony

After somewhat underwhelming performances over the course of 2011 at the Nike Hoop Summit in April, the adidas EuroCamp in June and the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in July, few would have expected Raul Neto to emerge as one of the most productive young players in Europe in 2012. That's exactly what he's done playing in the ultra-competitive ACB, on a playoff contending team no less, seeing a solid 18 minutes per-game.

Neto played just a single contest here in Barcelona, a loss to Caja Laboral, but was able to show quite a bit in his 24 minutes of action, both good and bad. Reviewing the film of his 21-game season thus far, his performance seems to be fairly representative of the kind of year he's had, complete with abundant highs and lows.



Measured in a few different places (Hoop Summit, Treviso) around 6-1 in shoes, with an average 6-2 wingspan, Neto is not the biggest or longest point guard you'll find. He's done an excellent job with his frame, though, appearing to have bulked up significantly, particularly in the upper body.

Athletically, Neto is a class above most European guards, showing terrific speed in the open floor and a very quick first step. This, combined with his aggressive nature, allows him to create his own shot exceedingly well, which he seems to have quite a bit of freedom to do in head coach Sito Alonso's up-tempo, high-scoring offense. This perhaps isn't a surprise considering Alonso is the former coach of Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernandez in DKV Joventut, but it's still fairly unique in European, and especially Spanish, basketball.

Neto does a good job creating high percentage shots inside the paint and getting to the free throw line, being particularly dangerous in transition, where he likes to attack retreating defenses. He possesses strong footwork and ball-handling skills, as well as the ability to change speeds on the pick and roll. Extremely aggressive with the ball in his hands, he attacks the rim ferociously, finishing extremely well around the basket, sometimes through contact, despite his average size and leaping ability. He also has a very nice tear-drop in his arsenal, which he's been converting at a very high rate this season.

While he's a very effective slasher, Neto's perimeter shooting needs work, as he's only converted 12 of his 41 jumpers (29%) on the season. He's able to make shots from behind the 3-point line on occasion (6/23 this season) with his feet set, but really struggles off the dribble, not showing the ability to pull-up in the mid-range area if opposing defenses close off the paint.

As a point guard, Neto shows clear strengths and weaknesses. On one hand he's a confident and creative player who can get to spots with the ball and find the open man unselfishly in drive and dish situations, sometimes in highlight reel fashion. On the other hand, he's not consistent at all with his decision making yet, as evidenced by his 36/31 assist to turnover ratio thus far this season. He looks very careless with the ball at times, over-dribbling and trying to make spectacular plays, which is something that should improve in time with added experience and maturity.

Defensively, Neto has been very effective thus far, which is part of the reason he's been able to carve out such an important role in the ACB at his age. He's extremely aggressive on this end of the floor too, putting excellent pressure on the ball and getting right up in his opponents fearlessly. He has quick feet and good hands, helping him rank in the top-5 in the ACB in steals per-40 minutes this season.

Neto's aggressiveness and lack of size, length and experience can get exposed on occasion by some of the extremely high quality guards that are found in the ACB, but considering his age (19) and the fact that this is his first season playing outside of his home country of Brazil, it's difficult not to be impressed by the toughness and competitiveness he's shown.

It will be interesting to see how Neto progresses from here and whether he can continue to build on his successful rookie season in the ACB next year and beyond. His quickness and aggressive style of play on both ends of the floor would seemingly translate very well to the NBA, which makes him a prospect to keep an eye on moving forward.

DNP's

-Augusto Cesar Lima – Lima hasn't had an easy season thus far. He wasn't able to play until December due to an injury, and then had to bide his time on Unicaja's second team in the LEB Gold waiting for his Spanish citizenship to become official. Now no longer forced to occupy the spot of an American (non-EU) player for Unicaja, the Brazilian is attempting to work his way into the struggling team's rotation, which has not proven to be easy due to their abundance of big men options.



Thus far he's played just 75 minutes for Unicaja this season, the majority of which have come in garbage time, and another 86 for their “junior” team Clinicas Rincon. Barring something dramatic changing in his situation in Malaga, or possibly another strong performance at the adidas EuroCamp, Lima may need to wait until his draft-eligible year of 2013 to get picked as high as his potential indicates he should.

-Rafa Freire –Freire is having a solid season as the backup point guard of Alicante, averaging 16 minutes per game, but was unable to play at the Copa del Rey due to a leg injury. We'll revisit his NBA prospects at another time.

-Dejan Musli- Its perhaps not a surprise that Musli didn't see a second of playing time for Caja Laboral at the Copa del Rey, as he's only played about 40 total minutes over the past two seasons. Musli has been loaned to the likes of Montegrenaro and Fuenlabrada to try and earn some playing time, but was quickly sent back to Vitoria due to concerns about his poor work ethic and questionable attitude.



Once considered the top prospect in his 1991 age group, Musli does not appear to have made very much progress since we first evaluated him as a 7-foot man-child dominating the U-16 European Championships nearly six years ago. He was able to score at will inside the paint in the junior categories, but has had a difficult time translating that to competition versus grown men at the senior level. We already had some concerns about Musli's development back in 2009, and he's seemingly regressed even more since then.

Players with Musli's size and strength are rare, but unless he's able to make some serious changes to his approach to the game on and off the court, he will likely have a very difficult time getting a major contract after his five year deal with Caja Laboral expires.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com
 
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Ognjen Kuzmic Emerging in LEB Gold
by: Matt Kamalsky - Director of Operations
February 18, 2012
Matt Kamalsky

Flying largely under the radar playing in the Spanish LEB Gold (second division), and throughout his career for that matter, big man Ognjen Kuzmic is a prospect that is beginning to generate some minor buzz in scouting circles, whether by proxy when NBA teams have scouted some of his talented teammates or thanks to his impressive size and productivity this season.



Listed at 7'1, 231 pounds, Kuzmic looks every bit of 7-feet and has a terrific wingspan to go along with a strong work ethic on both sides of the floor. While he might not have the explosiveness to throw down tip-dunks from the weakside or power his way above the rim from a stand still due to a lack of lower body strength, the native of Bosnia is a good athlete for a European 7-footer who proves to be surprisingly nimble for a player that size, often showing quick feet hedging the pick and roll and finishing above the rim after hustling up the floor. He still needs to gain a considerable amount of weight, but is still able to make an impact in the LEB Gold with his solid motor. The 1990-born prospect has already added some muscle to his frame in recent years and has a nice framework to build upon, but has a long ways to go in terms of strength and polish.

Coming from a fairly unique basketball background, Kuzmic started his career in his native Bosnia before spending parts of the next three seasons playing in both the first and second divisions of Finland, the country his family found themselves living in during and after the war in their native land. Emerging as a solid contributor at the age of 19 in the Finnish second division, Kuzmic returned to Bosnia at 20 last year and ended the year averaging 9.7 points and 7.3 rebounds for Celik Zenica. Discovered and signed by Unicaja Magala this past summer, Kuzmic has been following a promising learning curve in recent seasons despite his relative inexperience on the international stage (he's never been invited to any of the Bosnian national teams) and against high-level competition, and will be automatically eligible for the 2012 NBA Draft.

A key player on a roster dotted with younger international prospects such as Malick Fall and Maodo Nguirane, Kuzmic plays with Unicaja Malaga's second team, Clinicas Rincon, which currently sits last in the LEB Gold with a 4-19 record. Kuzmic has had the opportunity to practice with Unicaja's first team while playing extensive minutes with its counterpart in the second division. Though two other players in somewhat similar split-time situations, Alex Abrines and Augusto Lima, have seen more significant action in the ACB, Kuzmic has played essentially the entire season with Rincon apart from his 23-second debut for Malaga against Gran Canaria on opening day.

Averaging a solid 16.9 points per-40 minutes while shooting a respectable 53% from the field, Kuzmic is Rincon's primary interior threat and one of its leading scorers. With his team often playing with different rotations on a nightly basis depending on who is playing up with Unicaja at the time, Kuzmic sees his usage fluctuate game-to-game, but he has been quite possibly the club's most consistent contributor around the rim offensively.

Kuzmic is not a polished offensive player by any stretch, but has had some strong outings, including games of 22 and 17 points this season. Although he lacks a degree of polish and coordination around the rim, he makes his presence felt regularly inside the paint at this level. Despite his relative lack of strength, he does a very good job fighting for position on the block and uses his tremendous length and high motor to crash the offensive glass and create easy looks for himself with his hustle. Pulling down an excellent 5.3 offensive rebounds per-40 minutes, the young center is active on the boards.

When it comes to scoring the second chance opportunities he creates for himself, or the other finishing opportunities he sees around the basket, Kuzmic is a mixed bag. He shows decent touch around the rim, and while he's not afraid to take contact, he struggles to finish through it, is not explosive in a crowd, and simply has quite a few of his shots narrowly rim out. He'll finish plays with dunks when he has space and has shown developing finesse scoring moves, but is still learning how to make the most of his touches at the rim.

As a one-on-one scorer, Kuzmic faces similar challenges as he does as a finisher. He sees a significant number of his touches in post-up situations where he is creating his own offense, but appears mechanical and lacks consistency. It's clear that he's spent a significant amount of time working on this aspect of his game, but is still in the early stages of his development here. His footwork is not poor and he uses a soft, left-handed hook shot as his go to move on both blocks despite the fact that he is right-handed. On occasion, he even shows some potential away from the basket as a jump shooter, albeit inconsistently in a limited sample. Overall, Kuzmic is not a polished or consistently productive offensive player, but has some promising basic tools for a player still very early on in his development.

Defensively, Kuzmic is an impact player in the LEB Gold, blocking 3 shots (#1 in the league) and pulling down 8.1 defensive rebounds per-40 minutes, reminding somewhat of Fran Vazquez with his approach on this end of the floor. Coupling his size and length with his consistent energy level, Kuzmic is a threat to block shots on the ball and on the weakside, showing especially good anticipation and timing on occasion en route to leading the league in blocked shots. His instincts as a shot-blocker appears to be his most promising trait, and is certainly a skill that is in demand amongst NBA teams.

Often sitting in the center of his team's zone, Kuzmic is not often asked to defend away from the basket, but he has fared relatively well when he has had to, surprising shooters with his length as he steps out to contest them. Managing to block quite a few midrange jump shots, Kuzmic leaves his feet whenever he closes out a shooter, and though his competitiveness and desire to contest shots is promising, his lack of fundamentals away from the basket is abundantly clear.

To take the next step defensively, the center will need to improve his ability to deal with stronger players in the paint, as he already struggles with post-oriented scorers who are able to seal him and back him down at this level.

Considering that he has not yet seen significant action in the ACB, Kuzmic is not a terribly well-known commodity. His level of competition is certainly a concern, but considering the leagues he played in early in his career, LEB is a major step up for the young Bosnian, and his productivity is indicative of his promising set of tools on both ends of the court. In one of the weakest automatically eligible crops of international prospects in recent memory, a player like Kuzmic could be a candidate for teams look for a low-risk, high-reward “draft and stash” prospect in the second round, as he's seemingly earlier in his development than many other players his age. He is currently playing under a 3-year contract with easy outs for the NBA or another European club.

Feedback for this article may be sent to matt.kamalsky@draftexpress.com
 
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Nike International Junior Tournament Kaunas: Elite Prospects
by: Jonathan Givony - President
February 14, 2012
A recap of the top prospects from the Nike International Junior Tournament in Kaunas, Lithuania.

Rasmus Larsen, 7-0, Center, Vaerlose BBK, Denmark, 1994



Jonathan Givony

Rasmus Larsen only played 27 total minutes at this tournament due to a groin injury that has reportedly been plaguing him for a few months now, but he nevertheless had no problem showing off his significant talent level.

Having added around 20 pounds of bulk to his frame since the last time we saw him at the adidas EuroCamp in Treviso last July, Larsen simply looks like a different prospect now. His confidence and ability to make his presence felt on both ends of the floor have skyrocketed, allowing him to emerge as one of the most talented young big men we've seen this year on either side of the ocean.

Standing around 7-feet tall, with a solid wingspan and a terrific frame, Larsen looks the part of a NBA big man prospect and then some. His upper body is extremely well developed in particular, while his lower body is solid. He's very mobile for a player his size, running the floor well, being capable of playing above the rim, and looking extremely coordinated.

Offensively, Larsen possesses a versatile skill-set, appearing capable of impacting the game in every way you'd want a big man to. He can establish solid position in the paint and has the footwork and ball-handling skills needed to create shots for himself, usually opting to finish with a hook shot or turnaround jumper. On the perimeter, he's a very proficient ball-handler, able to put the ball down and attack his matchup, and even looking capable of passing on the move with either hand. His jump-shot looks excellent, both with his feet set or off the dribble, and he shows range out to the 3-point line. He uses shot-fakes well, makes his free throws and generally seems to have a very good feel for the game to go along with his excellent fundamentals, a testament to the coaching staff that has worked with him.

Defensively, Larsen's size, length and mobility make him a huge presence inside the paint, particularly at this level of competition, where he's simply a man amongst boys. He shows good timing as a shot-blocker, and can even step outside and hedge screens out on the perimeter, not looking out of place when forced to step out of the paint like many big men often do.

There aren't that many question marks about Larsen's physical attributes or skill-level at the moment, but some concerns do exist about his approach to the game. For one, he looks far more interested in playing out on the perimeter at the moment, which would be a shame if that continued at the senior level considering how much potential he has as an interior scorer. Pretty much every time he sets a screen, he prefers to pop outside for a jumper rather than roll into the paint and receive the ball where he could attempt a much higher percentage shot.

Defensively, there are some question marks about his toughness, as he doesn't look exceptionally active crashing the glass and seems to avoid contact at times. Part of this might have to do with his injury, but he was noticeably missing on rotations inside the paint and didn't look very physical setting screens on the other end of the floor. Like most players from Scandinavia, he'll have to overcome the perception that he doesn't play with enough emotion on the floor.

Nevertheless, Larsen is likely to be considered one of, if not the, top prospect in the 1994 international class when it's all said and done, as players with his combination of size, mobility, smarts and skills are difficult to come by. Even if at one point Larsen considered taking the NCAA route, it appears that now he's leaning more towards signing somewhere in Europe next season where he can continue to develop against higher level competition than he's currently able to find playing in Denmark.

Tomas Dimsa, 6-4, Shooting Guard, Zalgiris, Lithuania, 1994



Jonathan Givony

Scoring nearly a point per-minute over four games and converting 79% of his attempts inside the arc, it's safe to say that this was a successful showing for Lithuanian wing prospect Tomas Dimsa, who was also named the tournament's MVP.

Slightly undersized for a shooting guard at 6-4, with a fairly narrow frame, Dimsa doesn't look like much on first glance, but quickly changes that perception as soon as he steps out on the court. He's simply an exceptional athlete for a European prospect, quick in the open floor, bouncy around the basket, and regularly playing above the rim in highlight reel fashion.

Dimsa gets most of his production at the moment in transition and cutting off the ball for explosive finishes. He's a developing shot-creator who can beat his man off the dribble with an excellent first step, being mostly a straight line dribbler who struggles at times with changing directions with the ball. Due to his skinny frame, he has some issues finishing through contact, but is such a great leaper that that's rarely an issue at this level of competition. Dimsa has a good feel for the game and appears to be a very solid passer as well, rarely forcing the issue and making some impressive drive and dish plays.

As a shooter, he can get streaky but appears to have good potential, making a handful of jumpers over the course of this tournament, and even showing some ability to create separation in the mid-range area off the dribble.

Defensively, Dimsa is highly competitive, using his lateral quickness to put good pressure on the ball and regularly making plays getting in the passing lanes. He had some impressive moments skying through the air for above the rim rebounds, but will likely need to continue to add strength to his frame as he gets older to handle the physicality of European basketball.

One of the older prospects in attendance, already having turned 18 in January, Dimsa produced accordingly relative to this talent level. He appears to have plenty of room for growth in various parts of his game, and is surely a prospect scouts will want to keep track of down the road due to his supreme athletic tools.

Khadeem Lattin, 6-9, PF/C, Canarias Basketball Academy, USA 1995

Jonathan Givony

Surely one of the most interesting stories at this event, Khadeem Lattin is a rare prospect who elected to take the diametric opposite route most players here are looking to—leaving the US for Europe at the tender age of 16. Lattin and his support group were reportedly not happy with the pace of his development in Texas and the grassroots world of summer basketball and opted to spend his final two and a half years of high school at Canarias Basketball Academy.

Located in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco, but officially a part of the territory of Spain, the CBA is a basketball academy run by an American coach named Rob Orellana. The academy recruits prospects around Europe who are interested in playing NCAA basketball, helping them get academically eligible for college and giving them exposure through tournaments such as this.

Khadeem is the grandson of Dave Lattin, the starting center of the famed Texas Western Miners team (featured in the movie “Glory Road”) that broke down racial barriers as the first all-black starting five in NCAA history.

Standing around 6-9 with big hands, very long arms, and a frame that will likely fill out nicely in time, most of the intrigue surrounding Lattin revolves around his strong physical profile. He is a solid athlete who can make his presence felt in the paint on both ends of the floor, even if he lacks significant polish at this stage.

Offensively, Lattin is fairly limited, getting most of his production at this tournament by running the floor, crashing the offensive glass, and finishing any plays his guards were able to create for him around the basket. Not very aggressive in this setting with the ball in his hands, his post moves, jump shot, and overall ball skills appear to be unpolished. He scored 17 points total in his four games here, playing only 15 minutes on average, still seemingly adjusting to the very different style of play of European basketball and even looking a bit passive at times.

Defensively is where Lattin is able to make more of an impact at the moment. Although his intensity level was up and down at this tournament, he's capable of blocking shots, getting deflections and coming up with some extremely impressive rebounds when he's fully dialed in. His quick feet and excellent length allow him to step out occasionally to the perimeter, even though he still has a long ways to go in terms of gaining experience and improving his instincts and overall feel for the game.

A year younger than most of the prospects here—not turning 17 until this April—Lattin is clearly still in a very early stage of his development both physically and skill-wise. He has some nice tools to work with, and is surely a prospect worth keeping track of in the future, especially if he grows another inch or two.


Marius Grigonis, 6-6, SG/SF, Zalgiris, Lithuania, 1994



Jonathan Givony

Marius Grigonis did a solid job showing his all-around game at this tournament, averaging a terrific 13 points (59% 2P, 36% 3P), 7 assists and 6 rebounds in just 23 minutes per-contest.

A 6-6 small forward with a versatile game, Grigonis has good size for the wing to go along with a solid frame and athleticism. A very confident, aggressive offensive player, he is extremely decisive putting the ball on the floor. Showing solid ball-handling skills, body control and footwork, he got to the free throw line at an excellent rate at this tournament. Grigonis is a very adept passer on the move, doing a nice job keeping his head up and finding teammates diving to the rim for easy finishes or spotting up on the wing for open shots.

He's not quite as prolific of a shooter as he is a slasher, but is able to make jumpers both spotting up or off the dribble, sinking 4 of the 11 3-pointers he took here.

On the other end, Grigonis plays with a solid intensity level defensively (and in general), looking most adept at guarding the small forward position at the moment. He crashes the glass and is quick to ignite the fast break.

While it's difficult not to be impressed by the way Grigonis was able to dominate the (fairly weak) competition he faced on his home court in Kaunas, there are some question marks still about how that might translate to the senior level. He's not an exceptional athlete for one, and will surely need to adjust to playing off the ball more than he does for this team. His body language was questionable at times too, particularly with the referees and his teammates, which may just be a sign of immaturity.

Grigonis' upside might not be off the charts as far as the NBA is concerned, but he looks like a potentially useful player for the team that is developing him, Zalgiris Kaunas. We'll have to see how he looks over the next few years as the competition he's facing stiffens.

Clint Capela, 6-9, Power Forward, Chalon, Switzerland, 1994

Jonathan Givony

Regularly putting up huge numbers at the U-16 and U-18 Division B European Championships representing his home country of Switzerland, Clint Capela (or Clint NDumba-Capela) had a decent amount of intrigue leading up to this event. His performance here was ultimately fairly disappointing, but he did show that he has the tools to develop into a solid prospect down the road.

Capela's potential stems mostly from his phenomenal physical tools. Standing somewhere around 6-8 or 6-9, he has an incredible body for a player his age, to go along with a huge wingspan. He's an exceptional athlete on top of that, running the floor very well (when motivated) and being very explosive around the basket.

Offensively, Capela struggled to make a consistent impact at this tournament, only converting 44% of his field goal attempts and a paltry 33% of his free throws. He doesn't have the footwork to score with his back to the basket, and is far too limited on the perimeter to do anything consistent facing the rim either.

Capela's ball-handling skills are raw and his perimeter shooting ability non-existent at the moment, even air-balling a free throw at one point. Occasionally he would show the ability to beat his man from the high post off a single dribble with a quick and very long first step, but he wasn't always able to finish this moves. His basketball IQ appears to be limited, and he had trouble making simple catches at this event due to his poor hands. As the tournament wore on, he grew increasingly frustrated with his poor play, and began to display poor body language around his teammates and coaches.

Defensively, Capela has the physical tools to guard any of the opposing frontcourt positions and be an absolute dominant rebounder, but he rarely showed an inclination to give his best effort, especially when things weren't going his way on the other end of the floor. He tends to lose his focus and jog the floor lackadaisically in these moments, making some very careless mistakes.

Despite the very negative tone of this report, it's clear that Capela can easily turn things around for himself if he finds the willingness to do so. Significantly changing his approach to the game will make a big difference, as will working on his skill-level and improving his knowledge of the game. Players with his physical tools are extremely difficult to come by, so it's not out a stretch to say that he still has time to develop.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com
 
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Kulagin Coming Alive in Russia
by: Jonathan Givony - President
February 7, 2012
One of the most intriguing young guard prospects in European basketball, Dmitry Kulagin is playing the best basketball of his career for surging Triumph Moscow.

Jonathan Givony

Moving from Novgorod back to his hometown of Moscow to play for Triumph (alongside fellow draft prospect Sergey Karasev) this past offseason, Dmitry Kulagin got off to a slow start in his new situation. Recently, however, he has been playing exceptionally well, living up to the terrific promise he displayed this summer at the U-19 World Championship in Latvia.



Through 30 games, across three competitions (the Baltic League, EuroChallenge and Russian PBL), Kulagin is playing a solid 24 minutes per-game, averaging 15 points (46% 2P, 32% 3P, 68% FT), 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, and 4.2 free throw attempts per-40 minutes. His team has won their last six games in the PBL and is now in 3rd place, with Kulagin inserted into the starting lineup and playing some of his best basketball as of late.

Kulagin still hasn't fully been handed the keys to this Triumph team, which makes sense considering his age, inexperience, and the level of competition they are playing at. He shares the backcourt with 6-2 American scoring guard Tywain Mckee, who also likes to have the ball in his hands and is a somewhat streaky shooter. The two are learning to cooperate better and better as of late, even collaborating this past weekend on a terrific win over UNICS Kazan, a team that is currently 3-0 in the Euroleague Top-16.

Even playing as a combo guard, Kulagin remains one of the most intriguing young guard prospects in European basketball, showing a very NBA-friendly combination of confidence, fluidity, and talent with the ball in his hands that is very unique on this side of the ocean.

A superb ball-handler, Kulagin creates his own shot exceptionally well thanks to his ability to change speeds and directions intuitively. He beats players off the dribble regularly in isolation and pick and roll situations, doing a nice job reading the floor and deciding whether to drive and dish, pull-up for a jumper, or go all the way to the basket and finish strong. He draws fouls at a very good rate thanks to his shiftiness and aggressiveness with the ball, but needs to improve on his 68% shooting from the free throw line.

As a decision maker, Kulagin remains a work in progress, as evidenced by his 1.6:1 assist to turnover ratio and 18% turnover rate. He makes some spectacular passes that illustrate his terrific talent-level and feel for the game, but tries to do a little too much at times and can end up forcing the issue.



Kulagin's perimeter shooting is also improvable. He's making just 32% of his 3-pointers, but appears to have good mechanics on his jumper and the ability to make tough shots off the dribble. He tends to fade away unnecessarily at times on his pull-ups, kicking his legs out and not being on-balance. His shot-selection is average at best, which may have something to do with his less than ideal role playing off the ball at times.

On defense, Kulagin looks slightly improved as of late but still leaves something to be desired. His excellent size and anticipation skills allows him to make his presence felt from time to time on this end of the floor, particularly when he's putting the effort in, but he's still often too upright in his stance and susceptible to biting on pump-fakes and gambling in the passing lanes. Kulagin's average lateral quickness will likely make it difficult for him to ever develop into a real lock-down defender, but he'll need to keep improving on this end of the floor if he doesn't want to be labeled as a liability. To that end, improving his focus, toughness, and fundamentals will be paramount

With the weakness of this year's point guard crop, Kulagin could reportedly very well elect to throw his name into the draft to see where he stands in the eyes of NBA talent evaluators. The way Ricky Rubio is playing in the NBA thus far surely won't hurt his draft stock, as the two share some similarities in terms of their style of play.

Kulagin is eligible to play in this year's Nike Hoop Summit and is apparently interested in doing so, and will also have a chance to show himself at the EuroCamp in Treviso as part of (at the very least) the Under-20 Russian national team.

NBA teams will want to do their due diligence on the conflicting reports surrounding his background, attitude, and off-court habits, something that will be very important considering the significant transition he'll potentially need to make moving from Russia to the US, but there's little question about his talent and ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com
 
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Zirbes Producing in Germany
by: Jonathan Givony - President
February 2, 2012
Jonathan Givony

One of the most productive draft-eligible prospects in European basketball, big man Maik Zirbes is someone who will certainly be drawing at least cursory looks from NBA teams this spring.



Listed at 6-10, 257 pounds, Zirbes has ample size for the center position he occupies, to go along with soft hands and solid length. Not particularly quick and notably lacking explosiveness, he is just an average athlete by European standards, and would likely be considered below average in the NBA.

Having turned 22 years old just a few days ago, Zirbes is in the midst of a breakout season on the European level, being arguably the most productive German player in the heavily American oriented German Bundesliga. He plays 28 minutes per-game for TBB Trier, which at 6-13, is currently in 16th place in the BBL and competing to avoid relegation to the second division.

Averaging a solid 16.6 points per-40 minutes while shooting an ultra-efficient 60% from the field (2nd in the BBL), Zirbes sees the overwhelming majority of his offense playing off the ball, through cuts, crashing the offensive glass, and as a pick and roll finisher.

He sets big physical screens and has good hands, nice length and soft touch around the basket, which makes him a very reliable finisher in the paint at the German league level. He plays with a solid intensity level, uses his wide frame to establish deep position in the paint, and is able to score effectively off drop-off passes despite being a largely below the rim player. He rarely turns the ball over and draws fouls at a strong rate (5.9 free throw attempts per-40 minutes), knocking down those attempts at a very solid 73% clip. He's also an excellent offensive rebounder (4.6 per-40), currently ranking 5th in the BBL in that category, thanks again to his good hands, length, and activity level.

On the downside, Zirbes does not possess a very wide repertoire of post moves with his back to the basket, and lacks the quickness and explosiveness to create space inside the paint and finish over length in traffic. This could make it difficult for him to become a very effective one-on-one inside player at the highest levels of competition.



He's largely an undersized center who rarely steps outside the paint, having only attempted a handful of jumpers this season, and not looking brilliant enough in the ones he did take to lead you to believe he is being held back in this area. He'll likely need to expand this part of his game and improve his perimeter polish and versatility to continue to be an effective offensive threat against higher level competition.

Defensively, Zirbes has clear-cut strengths and weaknesses. On one hand, he is active and uses his body pretty effectively inside the paint, being difficult for opposing centers to post up thanks to his wide frame and solid bulk. There aren't any many great back to the basket centers in the BBL to test him (other than possibly John Bryant, who had a career night, 27 points, and 16 rebounds against him), but he's largely done a solid job with the ones he's faced.

On the other hand, he lacks size for his position and isn't very prolific on the stat-sheet due to his underwhelming explosiveness. His 4.9 defensive rebounds per-40 average doesn't rank in the top-50 in the German league in that category—which is a major red flag—and he offers very little in the ways of interior defense, only blocking 12 shots in 19 games this year.

Zirbes has trouble stepping outside the paint on this end of the floor as well, being very limited covering the pick and roll in particular, where he struggles to cover ground due to his below average lateral quickness.

Only playing his second real year of high-level professional basketball, Zirbes is having a very good season and is surely drawing the interest of both bigger teams in Europe and NBA scouts with his productivity. He does not appear to have huge upside due to his average physical tools, but as a 6-10 big man who is putting up good numbers in a solid league, he could be viewed as one of the better prospects in what seems to be a very weak class of 1990-born NBA draft eligible players and thus may be a candidate for some teams looking to make a “draft and stash pick” in the second round.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com
 
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Introducing Nikola Ivanovic
by: Jonathan Givony - President
January 25, 2012
Jonathan Givony

One of the youngest players in Europe seeing consistent minutes at the highest levels of competition, 17-year old Nikola Ivanovic has steadily emerged as a productive and reliable point guard for Buducnost in his native country of Montenegro. Playing a solid 15 minutes per game in both the EuroCup Top-16 and Adriatic League, Ivanovic's role seems to be increasing week by week, up to 22 minutes per game in his team's last four contests.



Ivanovic does an excellent job of mixing up his scoring and his passing, not looking as shy or deferential as most young guards making their first steps in European basketball. He shows impressive confidence for a player his age, taking responsibilities on the court assertively like all teams expect their point guard to.

Standing around 6-3, Ivanovic has good size for a point guard, even if he's not particularly long or athletic by NBA standards. He sees the overwhelming majority (140/209 possessions charted this season by Synergy Sports Technology thus far) of his offense in pick and roll situations, where his creativity and aggressiveness really shine.

Displaying choppy footwork and excellent ball-handling skills, Ivanovic changes speeds impressively and shows good body control once in the lane. He gets into the paint at a very nice rate, at times changing directions with the ball and using a crafty Eurostep move. Ivanovic finishes at the rim much stronger than you'd expect a 17-year old to at this level of competition, getting to the free throw line at a very nice rate in turn. He still needs to get stronger and increase his explosiveness, but he's not afraid to put his body on the line, which is a good sign early on.

Capable of passing with both hands, and in a variety of different ways, Ivanovic reads the floor nicely and moves the ball effectively around the court, showing a very good feel for setting teammates up with easy baskets. He doesn't turn the ball over very often (just 24 times in 376 minutes this season, or 2.55 turnovers per-40 minutes), displaying impressive poise and maturity for a player his age.

Where Ivanovic probably needs to improve the most at this stage is as a shooter, as he's converted just 18 of the 77 jumpers he's taken this season. He's struggled badly to make shots with his feet set in particular, which is a bit odd seeing that he has very good mechanics on his jumper as well as a quick release. Ivanovic's pull-up jumper has been falling a little more consistently this season, especially lately, and the way he elevates off the floor and creates separation from defenders shows lots of promise.



On the defensive end, things haven't looked quite as encouraging for Ivanovic just yet this season, which is perhaps not a surprise considering his age. He doesn't have the length or strength to be much of a presence at this point, even if he does put a decent effort in. Going up against players who are at times twice his age, Ivanovic's technique needs plenty of work, as he's prone to getting out of his stance quickly, and will gamble excessively at times in the passing lanes. Not crafty, athletic or experienced enough to recover when beat, Ivanovic's lateral quickness is not terribly impressive at this stage.

While the early results have been mostly very impressive thus far, it will likely take a couple of years to fully evaluate the extent of Ivanovic's upside and determine how good he might become down the road. He likely hasn't reached his full potential both physically and athletically, and surely has room to improve his skill-level as his role on the floor evolves from backup to starter. Nevertheless, Ivanovic will be a very interesting player for scouts to follow as his career progresses, as he's obviously extremely talented. Right now, he's not even NBA draft-eligible, and can't be until 2013 at the earliest.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com
 
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Karasev Carving Out a Role for Triumph
by: Jonathan Givony - President
January 20, 2012
Jonathan Givony

With almost half the season already in the books, we continue to search for draft-eligible prospects making an impact in high-level Europe.



Arguably the most productive young player in Europe these days relative to his age might be 6-7 small forward Sergey Karasev, who has been putting up impressive numbers in the Russian PBL, the EuroChallenge and Baltic League. Playing 24 minutes per-game in 26 contests thus far, Karasev is averaging just under 12 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists, shooting a solid 50% from 2-point range and 36% beyond the arc—despite turning 19 just a few months ago.

Watching Karasev play, two things stand out.

First is the amount of confidence his coaching staff has in him. Often allowing him to bring the ball up the floor and initiate his team's offense, they give him tremendous freedom to make decisions with the ball, be it in pick and roll or transition situations.

Second are the confidence, maturity and basketball IQ Karasev displays in this featured role, which belie his age. He regularly appears to be a step ahead of his opponents in terms of anticipating what will happen next on the floor. This manifests itself most prominently in his passing ability, as he's able to get the ball to his teammates in every way imaginable, be it with bounce passes off the pick and roll, lobs over the top of the defense in transition, kick-outs to open shooters, post-entries, and more.

A natural lefty, Karasev is capable of dribbling and finishing with either hand. He's relied upon fairly heavily in terms of creating offense for his team, and shows a nice ability to change speeds to keep his opponent off balance. Karasev has excellent timing moving without the ball, and thanks to his rapidly improving his frame, is doing a better job getting to the free throw line, where he finds himself nearly 6 times per-40 minutes.



Just an average athlete in terms of his first step and overall quickness, Karasev may have a difficult time creating shots for himself and his teammates against higher level competition than he's facing right now. He struggles finishing around the rim in traffic at times, and thus would be well served developing his mid-range game, which is not very polished at the moment.

Karasev is capable of making shots from beyond the arc, but still probably isn't as consistent as NBA teams would like him to be with his feet set. He's making 36% of his 3-pointers on the season (30/83 in 26 games), but shows plenty of potential for growth in this area.

Defense is the other part of his game where he'll need to show improvement to play at the highest levels of basketball. Part of this has to do with a lack of strength and experience, but some of it has to do with his intensity level. He gives up too much space on the perimeter at the moment, lacking a degree of lateral quickness that would help him stay in front of more athletic opponents. He's shown some ability to rebound (6.4 per-40) this season, which is definitely a plus, and gets in the passing lanes on a semi-regular basis, thanks to his strong anticipation ability.

One of the youngest players who could possibly be eligible for the NBA draft with his late 1993 birthdate, Karasev may not be in a major rush to declare considering he's still proving himself at the Russian league level. The early signs have been very promising, so we'll have to see how he continues to develop in time.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com
 
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European Roundup: Furkan Aldemir, the Euroleague's last frontier
by: Jonathan Givony - President
January 2, 2012
-European Roundup: Shengelia's Breakout Year

Jonathan Givony

As the Euroleague advances into the Top-16 stage, just one draft-eligible prospect is still seeing consistent playing time. Turkish big man Furkan Aldemir is the last man standing, still warranting buying a ticket to a Euroleague game as far as NBA scouts are considering buying a ticket to a Euroleague contest are concerned.

Growing up playing for Pinar Karsiyaka in his hometown of Izmir, Aldemir had already started getting attention from scouts already at the age of 18 thanks to the gaudy rebounding numbers he was producing at the senior level. He entered his name in the 2011 NBA draft, but elected to withdraw upon signing a four year contract with Galatasaray, one of the richest teams in the Turkish league. This past summer he represented his country in the U-20 European Championship, leading the somewhat watered down competition in rebounding with an impressive 15.9 boards in 35 minutes per game.



Now just one game out of first place in the TBL and having qualified for the Euroleague Top 16, this has been a relatively successful season for Galatasaray thus far. Aldemir plays about 16 minutes per game on average almost exclusively at the center position, posting an efficient 18.7 points and 12.3 rebounds per-40 minutes.

Aldemir stands somewhere between 6-9 to 6-10, with a strong frame, good length, and average athleticism by NBA standards. He doesn't run the floor or elevate off the ground exceptionally well, but plays with toughness and intensity and is effective in the simple, but important role that's asked of him.

Aldemir rarely touches the ball outside the paint, with virtually all of his offense being created for him by teammates around the rim. He's utilized heavily as a pick and roll finisher, showing good hands and the strength to power his way up around the basket through contact, sometimes with a dunk. While not incredibly explosive with his finishes, he's not afraid to take a hit in the paint and get to the foul line, where he converts 65% of his attempts.

Not showing a very high skill-level on the perimeter, Aldemir doesn't possess much of a back to the basket repertoire either at this stage, displaying average footwork and touch. He'll likely need to develop some type of jump-shot later in his career if he's to evolve into a more significant role than the one he currently plays, but for now he looks very content simply setting screens and finishing anything his teammates are able to create for him around the basket.

Aldemir's main virtue as a prospect lies in his rebounding ability—ranking 2nd in the Euroleague on a per-minute basis in the group stage in that category. He boxes out well, is extremely physical, has soft hands and anticipates well. His strong frame and intensity-level pursuing loose balls would likely translate to any level of competition, and there is certainly value in that from a NBA standpoint.



Where Aldemir will likely need to improve the most to carve out a role for himself in the NBA is on the defensive end. He doesn't have great size for the center position, and likely isn't quick or agile enough to see many minutes (if any) at the power forward spot. He has some trouble already at the Euroleague level defending the post against more experienced players, giving up deep position inside the paint, biting on pump fakes, and being very foul prone.

While Aldemir's virtues as a rebounder, and the success fellow Turkish big man Omer Asik, will draw him plenty of attention from NBA scouts this spring, some may wonder how much upside he has beyond the role he currently plays for Galatasaray.

Aldemir can still likely improve his conditioning by toning his body and attempting to maximize his athleticism, but he doesn't project as more than a rotational big man at best for most NBA teams.

Cultural differences, his unique background, his lengthy contract and the increasingly lucrative nature of the Turkish league may prevent him from ever stepping foot in a NBA arena, but Aldemir could potentially provide good value for a patient NBA team looking to use their second round pick on a player they can draft and stash in Europe for a few more years.

Feedback for this article may be sent to jonathan@draftexpress.com
 
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