Player of the Week: Tadija Dragicevic
A familiar name for the last years (he was part of the brilliant U-20 Serbian team that won gold back in 2006), Dragicevic is an example your typical low-potential type player that breaks through due to other attributes, such as skills, character, intelligence or intensity. At 6-9, he is not particularly big for a power forward, and hes neither especially athletic-- just a well built guy with nice mobility who actually knows how to use it. More of a face up player, he spends time in the high post cutting towards the basket when his guards create advantages, or by playing the pick-and-roll with them. He course also can play around the three-point line, where he uses a double threat in the form of his perimeter shot and ability to put the ball on the floor. Hes a pretty smart player, knowing what to do on the floor and showing nice positioning.
His long-range shot is rather important for Dragicevic. Not only does it serve as instant point production, but it helps him to create slashing spaces to keep the defense honest. So far he credits a nice 7/17 from behind the arc this season, and indeed went scoreless (0/3) from that distance in his worst game, against Buducnost. Already last year he boosted his offensive production in the Serbian SuperLeague as soon as his treys started falling regularly. Its the usual spot-up shot of a forward, but its becoming increasingly effective.
Although not very explosive on his drives, Dragicevic can easily put the ball on the floor to beat his match-ups off the dribble, preferably if they are unbalanced and using his right hand. He rarely passes up an opportunity to go inside, and uses his body pretty well to keep the ball out of reach for the opponents, while hes aggressive and incisive attacking the basket. Around the basket he can finish with both hands, showing a promising touch.
A decent one-on-one defender, although not mobile enough to contest the small forward position, hes pretty underwhelming in his team defense, looking way too static in some situations where he should just jump in the way of the opponent on a defensive rotation. Neither a great rebounder, his perimeter oriented tendencies limit his production on the offensive glass, and he doesnt great desire to make up for his physical shortcomings.
Not an extremely intriguing profile indeed, but still Dragicevic should be able to make a good living in Europe. After all, and even in exceptional cases, guys with a comparable physical resume as Matjas Smodis or Jorge Garbajosa show how unexpectedly far can a physically-limited player can get when he puts everything else together perfectly.
Taking a Long Look at
The Spanish point guard played a fearless game, taking and making his open shots, running the court aggressively, delivering some nice passes and playing solid defense against the very quick NBA guards. What particularly makes him an intriguing case is his excellent athleticism, which will allow him to translate his game to more physically demanding competitions (such as the NBA).
At 6-3, Llull nicely fills the bill in terms of physical build, as he shows a good frame, with an already strong body considering his age. A promising ball-handler, still noticeably better with his right hand, his ability to dribble the ball doesnt limit his athletic gifts (for example, he can handle the ball at full speed). Enjoying the quickness to regularly beat his opponents, he can also knock his perimeter shots when he enjoys space, which makes for a really nice combination. However, hes not that active and effective taking his match-ups off the dribble, and despite his excellent three-point run against the Raptors, still emerges as a streaky guy with his jumper, also needing to work on his release off the dribble.
An aggressive player, active and fearless, Llull doesnt always manage to stay under control, sometimes overdoing things and getting himself into trouble in the process, showing questionable decision making. He can come up with nice passes, entries from the perimeter or kick-outs off the drive, but his distribution and ability to establish a rhythm for his team still needs to seriously improve. Hes still an inexperienced playmaker, and actually is getting most of his minutes with Real Madrid at the off-guard position, but he has the makings of solid point guard. A friendly game like the one he played against the Raptors was a perfect stage to showcase his strengths, playing transition ball where his athletic attributes can shine, and enjoying loose defenses that allowed him to operate comfortably.
Llull came back to Earth just a few days after, facing a real defense in the ACB League against Tau Vitoria. He committed 4 turnovers in less than 4 minutes of playing time, to some extent probably a result of his anxiety to meet expectations after his brilliant showing against the Raptors.
Anyway, Llull has shown great progress in his development over the last few years. In 2004 he was the third point guard, basically a bench warmer, on the Spanish Junior Squad that conquered the European title. Growing taller, stronger and more experienced, he made strides on the National Team (being an important piece in last summers U-20 silver-medalist Spanish team for example), while also getting burn in the rather demanding Spanish second division. He was becoming an interesting player to watch, and we did cover his signing for Real Madrid in the past spring, as well as his selection for the Treviso Camp. Hes now on an ACB and Euroleague team, while everything points towards him seeing regular minutes on the court. If he keeps improving, theres no reason why NBA teams shouldnt take him into account for the draft. He has the physical tools, some nice talent, and apparently the character and work ethic to put everything together.
State of the Prospect: Whos Hot
Ricky Rubio is so far taking that step ahead that his team needed from him considering the new configuration of Joventuts backcourt. Hes gaining aggressiveness on the offensive end, taking more decisions and scoring responsibilities, and actually making pretty good use of his newly-improved shooting stroke. With two games into the ACBs regular season, hes averaging 11.5 points, 4 assists and 3.5 steals. Beyond the numbers, hes a crucial piece--one of the primary engines--on the hottest team of the competition: after winning both games by a wide margin, Joventut tops the ACB standings.
Vladimir Stimac is off to a spectacular statistical effort in the Baltic League facing the toughest possible opponents. Hes averaging 18.8 points (with near 60% of accuracy from the floor) and 10.8 rebounds after playing Zalgiris, Lietuvos Rytas, ASK and Ventspils. Logically, his team Valmiera lost against the first three, but could come away with a victory against Ventspils.
Nathan Jawai has become one of the biggest surprises of the season. A rookie in the NBL out of the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), despite having been born in 1986, this seven footer is tearing up the Australian league with averages of 19 points and 9 rebounds through the first six games of the season, as his team Cairns Taipans stands with a very respectable 4-2 record. Expect to read more about him in the coming weeks, as soon as the DVDs land.
State of the Prospect: Whos Not