Player of the Week: Manuchar Markoishvili
After a solid but unspectacular season start, Markoishvili erupted this week for back-to-back 27 point performances. He first hit in the ULEB Cup, where his team cruised past Pau Orthez, and then continued the scoring effort in the Ukrainian Superleague against MBK Mykolaiv. He also had 3 rebounds in each game while adding 3 assists in the domestic competition. Although both were easy victories against rather average squads, he just needed 25 minutes in each game to get the job done. He since added another 19 points game to his resume just yesterday in the ULEB Cup at Lukoil Akademic, albeit in a loss.
Although falling a bit short for the NBA when you combine his size, athleticism and skill repertoire, he nicely fills the bill for the Old Continent. Hes a strong guy with good size at 6-6 and solid legs that he successfully uses on the defensive end. Offensively, his jumper emerges as his best weapon. Hes a pretty effective player releasing his high-arching shots off the dribble from mid-range. Still, the most notable progression in his game lately might be his improved long-range accuracy. Not only is he more prolific from three-point range, but this last week he hit at a fantastic 9/13 clip, and so far this season hes netting almost half of his attempts from behind the arc.
Beyond his shooting abilities, although he can consistently put the ball on the floor, you might miss some off-the-dribble creativity in his game to be considered a top-shelf shooting guard prospect. Still, if he manages to keep his shooting percentages up, and considering his solid defense, he might have a chance at hearing his name called somewhere in the second round of next years draft.
A Look at
Its been only 15 months since that memorable game, since that unforgettable championship. Thats not even a year and a half.
When he drives to the basket now, Rubio can eventually face a 7-1 massive center that statistically tyrannizes the strongest domestic league in Europe and answers by the name of Marc Gasol. No big deal for Ricky. He has learned to shoot the ball, even increasingly better in off-the-dribble mode, has adjusted his slashing game in order to sneak between any kind of defense, and has figured out how to finish around the basket against serious opposition. This weekend, he came up with 25 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals against Gasols Akasvayu Girona, to lead his team to another victory that secures Joventut another week leading the ACB League.
Yes, you could say hes a leader on the leading team, which makes him pretty much a leader in the whole league. And actually, besides being a leader on the floor by taking decisions and stepping up when things get ugly, his stats tell a similar story. At the tender age of 17, he ranks third in efficiency ranking in the ACB (only behind, precisely, Marc Gasol and his teammate Rudy Fernández) despite playing only 25 minutes per game. Of course that feat at that age is something completely unheard of in the competition, and nobody has ever come close. In the end, every stage of Rubios career is so far a piece of basketball history.
Playing this season in the competitive LEB league (Spanish second division) with a strong team such as Plus Pujol Lleida, Rafael is becoming an increasingly useful player in Europe. This weekend, he had 21 points and 6 rebounds in barely 26 minutes coming off the bench, to help his team clinch a valuable road victory over Fundacio BasquetInca.com. Hes averaging 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in less than 23 minutes per game so far in this campaign.
However, as he becomes more productive at this level, his ceiling as a player seems to be growing thicker, and not precisely at a very high point. Standing 6-9, looking really strong, Rafael has evolved into a very inside-oriented player, virtually a center in a power-forwards body. He has gained a lot of weight lately, which is hurting his quickness, leaping ability and explosiveness. While he used to be considered a good athlete, he falls into the category of just decent at this moment.
This physical evolution is driving Rafael even closer to the basket, making him a pure center. His first offensive option is usually the low post. He uses his big body pretty well, and his first objective is usually to bang with his match-up without the ball, pushing him as close as possible to the hoop, so he can receive and just turn around to leave the ball on the glass. If hes not close enough to the basket by the time he gets the ball, hes not nearly as effective, usually opting for turnaround jumpers or just to pass the ball, which he does nicely. Rafael doesnt enjoy great footwork, just some basic stuff, and neither is he skilled releasing jump-hooks.
Rafael is basically an off-the-ball player. You wont see him putting the ball on the floor to attack his opponent. Instead, he looks for open shots near the basket, often finding space from the baseline when a teammate slashes, while being able to finish with powerful dunks whenever he receives under the rim. Hes actually quite aggressive attacking the rim, and he wont hesitate to try a dunk, even against opposition if he thinks its reasonably possible. Hes also pretty active in pick-and-roll plays as the screener, although hes not the most effective guy in these situations. Being an inconsistent spot-up shooter, he enjoys range out to the three-point line, but so far has failed to turn his stroke into any serious scoring weapon.
An OK defender, you wont see Rafael being outmuscled around the basket. However, he can eventually get beat by skilled post players who go strong inside and execute moves that Rafael, focused on not being banged, doesnt expect, and doesnt contest. Hes a solid defender on pick and rolls, nicely flashing out to stop the dribbler, but hes not always equally effective on defensive rotations, sometimes a bit shy when it comes to stepping into the way of an opposing slasher. Besides, hes not particularly intimidating, given his limited size and leaping ability. A decent rebounder, he takes advantage of his body to gain position, although he sometimes doesnt properly box-out.
Being automatically eligible this season, there isnt really much justification to rationalize spending a draft pick on Hettsheimeir. Unless he can make an impression in the NBA pre-draft camp or the EuroCamp in Treviso (showing up in better shape would help), his options are close to none.
State of the Prospect: Whos Hot
Ivan Paunic enjoyed possibly his best game this season with a 23-point performance in the Adriatic League against Zadar, superbly rounded out with 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. Still, he couldnt avoid the loss for Vojvodina. An aggressive and incisive off guard, Paunic will need to gain consistency with his long-range stroke in order to become more of a regular scorer.
Peja Samardziski had a bittersweet week. Although he emerged as a very solid presence in FMPs inside game, his team lost both games in the ULEB Cup and Adriatic League. The Macedonian center had 12 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists against Besiktas, and improved to 20 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks against Cibona. Samardziski has made some nice strides this season, and averages a combined 13.1 points and 8 rebounds in 24 minutes of playing time.
Danilo Gallinari seems to have provided real energy to Armani Jeans Milano since his return, and now they are starting to win games with some regularity (also thanks to some roster and coaching changes). Danilo was solid in the Euroleague, playing almost the entire game in a valuable road win against Aris to finish with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals. However, it was in the domestic league where he blossomed for 21 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals to lead his team, again on the road, over Snaidero Udine.
Luca Vitali led his team Premiata Montegranaro to another victory with 22 points and 3 steals. The versatile albeit unathletic Italian guard continues improving steadily, becoming a very important piece in a squad comfortably placed in the playoff area of the Italian Lega ladder.
State of the Prospect: Whos Not
Kalnietis showed very intriguing stuff in the last two editions of the Treviso Camp, while he earned MVP honors in the ULEB Summer League in Jesolo a few months ago. But hes a type of player that excels in the open court, in non-organized basketball with plenty of transition play, but who struggles so far when it comes to executing playmaking duties in well-structured offenses at high-level settings, like the Euroleague, for example. In the end, hes a long-term point-guard prospect.