Ever since Pau Gasol
blossomed in 2001 while playing in this contest, a number of NBA team representatives, including Scouts, Presidents and GM's have circled the date of this prestigious event in a thick black marker months and months in advance. It's a great opportunity for scouts to see a large collection of present and future draft prospects competing against each other, as well as to evaluate the development of drafted players who still remain in Europe, and to look at some of the players who slipped between the cracks when they were younger and to collectively smack their foreheads and vow for that never to happen again. It's a nice chance to take in a lot of basketball at a very high level of competition, as the entire Cup is played in just a few days in the same city and under an immense amount of pressure from the teams, media and fans, not to mention the presence of the important representatives from the best league in the world. The tournament is set in a knockout elite-eight format, with the participants consisting of the host team along with the top seven clubs in the first half of the ACB's regular season. Usually, those teams feature the best draft prospects playing in Spain, and naturally some of the best players in Europe overall.
The King's Cup itself has become a model for sporting events all across Europe. The massive success achieved in Spain, especially drawing such a large amount of media attention in a country where soccer is a dictatorship, has transcended borders, and its format has since been adopted by other countries.
The result is a crucial event for players with NBA aspirations, as this will probably be one of the few chances the head honchos of NBA teams will get to see those players live this season, and the draft or market stock for these players can be seriously affected.
This year the competition played in Seville from the 26th to the 29th of February has attracted more than 20 teams. So let's see who has and who hasn't helped himself in the tournament:RISING STOCK:Rudy Fernández
1985, DKV Joventut, Spain, SG 6-5 (3 Games, 15.3ppg, 5.7rpg, 2.7 apg, 2spg, 1bpg, 51.6% FG)
Amazing, unbelievable, there are no words to describe the impact of Rudy in this tournament considering his age. In fact, he was selected MVP (on a controversial decision, the media opted for the local and more popular choice) despite losing the final. Every scout present at the Cup will leave with his name written in big letters. He had already been drawing attention for some years with great performances in youth tournaments, and the focus on him had already been heightened because of the incredibly fast way he has been adapting and producing in a League as tough as the Spanish one, where he's ranked third in efficiency among Spanish players. But his exhibition at the Cup exceeded all expectations. He has proved to be an all around shooting guard who can do everything on court. Great athleticism, amazing skills, high basketball IQ, surprising maturity, competitiveness and mental toughness, everything already in a teenager who only lacks a little bit of size (although he plays bigger than 6-5) and some strength as he's very skinny. He started the Cup with a solid performance at the quarterfinals crowned with a couple of key baskets in overtime. In the semi-finals against the powerhouse F.C.Barcelona, he was one of the main reasons for his team's victory, breaking again and again the rival defenses with his quick penetrations. In the final against the other Spanish powerhouse Tau Vitoria he did a little bit of everything, scoring in a number of ways, including three treys, rebounding, blocking shots and defending. The inability of his teammates to give him the ball down the stretch may have been one of the reasons for the loss in the finals. He had the best play of the Cup, a reverse dunk off an alley-oop which brought the house down. I think he has definitely earned a place in the first round when he decides to declare. And at the age of 18, this teenager can only go up from here.Luis Scola
1980, TAU Vitoria, Argentina, PF 6-9 (3 Games, 30mpg, 22.3ppg, 8.3rpg, 70%FG)
The best player on the team that won the tournament. The Spurs draftee scored from the paint at will all weekend long. Giving an exhibition of his impressive paint game, he became a scoring machine. He particularly excelled during the semi-finals, scoring 22 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in the first half of the game to almost finish off the game early on. The opposite team, the host Caja San Fernando, started the game with a man to man defense that Scola burned with his post movements. Later, they changed to a zone defense, but Luis found a way to receive the ball and score several mid-range jumpers that eliminated any hope of victory of the local team. Another 22 points on great percentages in the final sealed the win for Tau Vitoria in this Cup. Despite some defensive flaws, Scola has proved again to be ready for the NBA, but are the Spurs ready for him? With Malik Rose
under contract for a long time and their cap space likely to be spent on his countryman Ginobili, the swingman Turkoglu and other positions in more desperate need of help, it looks like he might have to stick around at least another year. Anyway, the Spurs know they have yet another very nice player foreign player in the Argentinian whenever they are ready for him.
1979, Tau Vitoria, Argentina, SF 6-7 (3 Games, 19.7ppg, 9.3rpg, 2.7spg)
Juan Carlos Navarro
Closely followed after the Argentinean performance in the World Championships in Indianapolis in 2002, he received the special attention of Jerry West
, among other GMs, last season in this same tournament, and has proved again this year to be the most complete and NBA ready player taking part in the Spanish basketball competitions (and perhaps all over Europe). He displayed a great array of virtues and skills. Intense, powerful and physical as always, he defended, shot the ball, rebounded, blocked shots, came up with steals, got easy points off penetrations, in transition, and by getting to the line. He was along with his teammate and countryman Luis Scola
, the biggest reason for Tau's victory. There are many NBA teams interested in him for the next season. He has stated that he won't go to the States to warm the bench, but I think sooner or later, somebody will show him the money and he'll leave for the League. He's good enough to get big minutes on most NBA franchises. But he won't be cheap....at all.
1980, F.C.Barcelona, Spain, G 6-4 (2 Games, 30mpg, 25ppg, 9/13 3P)
Impressive performance by the Spanish guard. After a great quarterfinals game where he led his team to the victory, he was forced into the game in the second quarter of the semi-finals with an injured finger, as F.C.Barcelona were 17 points down in a game where they were heavy favourites. Navarro single-handed kept his team's hopes of victory alive until the last couple of minutes with an impressive outburst of 27 points in 23 minutes. He showed his typical array of offensive weapons, particularly a deadly three-pointer and his unstoppable high arching lay-ups after penetration, also drawing many fouls in the process. Selected in the second round by the Wizards in the 2002 draft, it's not very likely Navarro will end in the NBA anytime soon, as his stock in Europe is very high, there are some doubts about his ability to adapt his game to the League, and it doesn't seem that Washington needs another combo guard at the moment.Fabricio Oberto
1975, Pamesa Valencia, Argentina, PF/C 6-10 (1 Game, 23 minutes, 16 points, 5 rebounds, 8/11 FG, 5PF)
Oberto amazed with his post game. His execution was as brilliant as usual, showing excellent footwork, a good physical game and impressive mobility. He was also solid on the glass and again showed his nice court vision, although he seemed a bit slow on defense. He got early in foul trouble being limited his production and his ability to help his team to win the quarterfinals. Fabricio is not getting any younger, and if he wants to try the next level, he should do it now. Since Oberto put a show with his Argentinean teammates at the Worlds in 2002, many NBA teams have showed interest on him. His contract with Pamesa Valencia ends this summer, and it will be the time to say now or never.DROPPING STOCK:Tiago Splitter
1985, Tau Vitoria, Brazil, PF/C 6-11 (3 Games, 5mpg, 0.7ppg, 1.3rpg)
Tiago suffered the consequences of the importance of these games, seeing very few minutes of action, he and wasn't able to show anything significant in the few minutes he received. So he might have hurt his stock for this year's draft. It seems nobody will repeat the Tskitishvili experiment with a high pick, so the playing time has become crucial. Anyway, it's getting more and more likely he'll wait to declare in order to mature and improve his game, and therefore raise his draft stock.Arvydas Macijauskas
1980, Tau Vitoria, Lithuania, SG 6-4 (3G, 13.3ppg, 2apg, 44.8% FG)
The hype around Macijauskas had been quite intense since the very beginning of the season, so the expectations were high, and although his performance was quite good, he disappointed to some degree. He was closely followed by his defenders all tournament long, and he had a hard time finding open shots to show his amazing touch from outside. Even so, his presence made his teammates life much easier. It's not likely he'll move from Vitoria anytime soon, as he's under contract until 2006 and doesn't exactly fit the typical physical demands of an NBA shooting guard. Personally, I think he could be a heck of a shooting specialist off the bench for any team.Dejan Bodiroga
1973, F.C.Barcelona, Serbia & Montenegro, SF 6-9 (2 Games, 11ppg, 6rpg, 3apg, 37.5% FG)
Bad tournament for the biggest star in Europe (whose rights for the NBA are owned by Sacramento), and one of the best specialists in these type of do or die games. He looked slower than ever, and although he tried, he wasn't able to find a way to score consistently. The full-time saviour couldn't do it again, and the feeling of disappointment is inevitable. The time for Bodiroga to try the American adventure might have passed. He could do OK, but right now it wouldn't make a lot of sense as his best years may be behind him.Federico Kammerichs
1980, Pamesa Valencia, Argentina, SF 6-9 (1 Game, 13 minutes, 7 points, 2 rebounds, 3/3 FG)
Since being drafted by the Blazers in the second round of the 2002 draft, his game hasn't improved a bit. He's still the same physically gifted but very raw player. When you're near 24 years old and so immature on court, the chances of a serious improvement are not particularly good. Kammerichs proved again to be a very intense player, fighting for every rebound, but also making bad decisions and showing his highly unpolished skills. I don't think he will ever make it to the League.THE JURY IS STILL OUT:Christian Drejer
1982, F.C.Barcelona, Denmark, SG/SF 6-10 (2 Games, 8mpg, 5ppg, 2rpg, 4/7 FG, 3PFpg)
After bolting from the Florida Gators, the Danish youngster is making his first steps in European top level competition. He saw very little playing time in Seville, as coach Pesic preferred to stick most of the time with his usual rotation and Drejer got some quick fouls. He was crucial though in the quarterfinals in limited minutes, with back-to-back three pointers that changed the face of the game. On the other hand, he looked very static without the ball in the set offense, just standing beyond the three point line. I think he will enjoy extended minutes in the very near future, so he will have the chance to prove his abilities.Anderson Varejao
1982, F.C.Barcelona, Brazil, PF 6-10 (2 Games, 29mpg, 12ppg, 6.5rpg, 3.5spg, 50% FG)
His stock has been moving like a roller coaster over the last year, with a poor performance at the Euroleague Final Four that made his stock plummet, followed by a brilliant game against the U.S national team that again restored faith in him. In Seville, with enough minutes of playing time, he showed exactly the kind of player he is, his virtues and defects, strengths and weaknesses. He was among the best players on his team, not saving any effort or degree of intensity in his actions, looking solid on defense and shining eventually on the offensive end with different a couple of different moves, including some solid post plays (nothing too fancy), a couple of nice shots, penetrations and even a coast to coast transition play that he finished himself. Of course, his usual flaws were there too, in the form of bad decisions, gambles on defense, and just a lot of unpolished moves that showed his rawness. Every day he's less of a question mark, but his weaknesses are also becoming exposed more and more.Antonis Fotsis
1981, Real Madrid, Greece, SF 6-10 (1 Game, 15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1/6 3p)
The former Grizzly showed flashes of his talent and abilities, scoring in a number of ways, rebounding and blocking, but ultimately lacking consistency and heart. He showed his worst face at the end of regulation in the quarterfinals, with the game on the line, committing a silly turnover and not getting the job done on the offensive end. Fotsis is still a young player though. He clearly wasn't ready for the NBA when he left Greece in 2001, but his physical presence combined with a solid array of fundamentals was (and still is) intriguing. Since his comeback to Europe his game has matured, but he must keep on improving if he wants to try again in the NBA.TOURNAMENT SUMMARY:Quarterfinals:
Ricoh Manresa â DKV Joventut: 87-90 (OT)
F.C.Barcelona â Real Madrid: 80-79
Caja San Fernando â Pamesa Valencia: 86-76
Tau Vitoria â Adecco Estudiantes: 89-83Semifinals:
Caja San Fernando â Tau Vitoria: 63-88
DKV Joventut â F.C.Barcelona: 86-72Final:
Tau Vitoria â DKV Joventut: 81-77MVP:
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Image taken from Eurobasket.