Player of the Week: Milenko Tepic
Coach Vujosevic is taking advantage of Tepics terrific basketball IQ by playing him at the point guard position off the bench. Considering he stands 6-8, thats quite an unusual situation. However, just reading his body language, seeing the way he brings the ball up the court, and analyzing how he distributes it while being pressured by his match-ups, he transmits the feeling that hes far from being a pure point guard. Still, he probably wont end up playing there, and regardless, it comes to show his excellent versatility. Tepic had always distinguished himself with his slashing abilities, taking advantage of his explosive athleticism. As he grew older, and the competition grew tougher, that explosiveness doesnt look as effective, even if his nice athleticism is still there (hes more of a fluid guy now). But hes certainly improved in other areas of his game.
Tepic still can beat his defender off the dribble on a regular basis, but not as easily as before. Now he relies a little bit more on his ball-handling and footwork. Besides, he has gained remarkable creativeness playing off the dribble, emerging as a great decision maker. Hes also a very reliable defender who shows nice lateral quickness and solid activity using his hands. Perimeter shooting is still his primary flaw, although he also has improved there. Actually, this weekends unique performance was possible thanks to his shooting accuracy, netting 4 out of 5 three-pointers. If he can add consistency here, he would likely become clear-cut first-round material.
If Aleksandrov was the leader of this outstanding Serbian generation in 2003, and Labovic stepped up and earned MVP honours in 2005, now its arguably Tepic who leads the crop and seems to realistically enjoy the most promising future. Actually, hes one of the most solid promises out of a Serbian pool that seems to be disappointing lately to some extent when it comes to producing star caliber players.
Taking a Long Look at
Ali Traore, who is lately going through the most successful weeks of the season. We had the chance to watch his 24-point performance in the French All Star Game and check his development since his showing at the Treviso Camp. Of course, an All Star game is not the best setting to evaluate a player actually, its a pretty bad one- but Traore left enough hints about his current playing style to devote a few lines here.
At the end of the day, Traore earns a living near the rim on the offensive end. Given his strength and nice athleticism, thats fine for European basketball, but if we consider NBA potential, the fact that hes only 6-9, not an outstanding athlete and barely shows any perimeter game, may severely hurt him. He will probably draw interest in the second round, but its highly unlikely anybody will invest a first-round pick in him unless he shows something else.
Markos efforts on defense and seriousness in his game have granted him the confidence from his coach and the necessary playing time to build his own confidence and leave behind the initial struggles of the season. Of course, the injury of Alex Mumbru, the starting small forward, has meant extra help securing plenty of action for him on court. The most important sign of this renewed confidence is exposed in his perimeter accuracy, one of his main sources of scoring production. In the last 16 games, hes knocking down virtually 60% of his three-point attempts. Hes almost money in the bank going for the spot-up jumper when left open, but he can also release his shot off the dribble or coming off a cut with nice quickness and elevation. He enjoys NBA range, which he frequently shows as he prefers to avoid any rivals hand on his face. Actually, hes not the type of shooter who can consistently get his jumper off with a defender close to him. When it comes to beating his match-ups off the dribble, Tomas does not look very improved though. Hes a nicely athletic player, but not the explosive type, while he still looks a bit slow driving the ball. However, he does get some production in these slashing situations, forcing fouls, shooting over his defenders at some point (although not nearly as much as back in the Adriatic League) or eventually netting the layup. Anyway, its not a consistent source of production his team can count on. For the moment, hes just a complimentary player on the offensive end who tries to take advantage of unbalanced defenses.
His defensive effort is what you can count on. Hes not a very strong guy, but he does a nice job with good positioning and solid mobility. He usually plays small forward, which helps him to keep up with his match-ups. Indeed, if we talk about NBA potential, he does not really enjoy the kind of explosiveness and athleticism you expect in a shooting guard. For a small forward, though, hes too skinny at this point and not particularly big (hes around 6-7 barefoot). Considering the shortcomings, his perimeter stroke alone wont grant him a place in the draft, although he will be a candidate to sneak into the second round. His potential doesnt look great anymore, even if hes expected to have a solid career in Europe. As for the remainder of this season, Real Madrid has just signed Marko Milic, which might affect Tomas minutes on the court should the team decide to play him at the small forward position.
State of the Prospect: Whos Hot
Danilo Gallinari seems recovered from the scoring hiatus he recently suffered for a few weeks. Already the previous weekend he had 14 points and 8 rebounds against Eldo Napoli. This last week, he improved to 17 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks leading Armani Jeans Milano to victory over Bipop Carire Reggio Emilia. As a 1988 player, these up and downs are logical, and dont change the fact that Gallinari is delivering an impressive season.
Stanko Barac had a career high 23 points leading Siroki to the victory over Split. He also added 8 rebounds and 5 blocks. Hes delivering quite a solid season, as expected after his notable performance in the U-20 European Championship. He averages 11.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in 27 minutes per game, and only once has fallen below the 8-point mark.
Renaldas Seibutis erupted for a 26-point performance in the FIBA EuroCup against ASK Riga. Adding 6 rebounds and 2 assists, still Maroussi lost the game in the overtime. Seibutis extended his good moment with 16 points and 2 rebounds in the Greek League, although Maroussi did the same losing against Olympia Larissa. It still might not be enough for Seibutis to secure a place in the draft, though. Despite enjoying 50% three-point shooting averages, netting only one three per game doesnt make the cut for a player like him. In order to improve his draft stock he would need to become a more dangerous perimeter weapon.
State of the Prospect: Whos Not
Aleksandar Ugrinoski doesnt seem to be shining much in the weak Austrian league, where he was sent by Cibona on a loan. The Croatian point guard plays near 20 minutes per game for Arkadia, which is not that bad, but averages 4.5 points and only 1.4 assists per game. For a guy whose main strength seems to be his passing ability, its kind of disappointing. Besides, in the last four games he only credits 2 points and 0.5 assists per contest.
FIBA Europe has named Rudy Fernández the 2006 European Young Player of the Year. Although he had strong competition in Rubio, Belinelli, Bargnani or Schortsanitis, its a well deserved honour. However, beyond what has been an impressive year for him, a couple of circumstances might have given him extra help. First, hes currently the hottest youngster in Europe by a big margin, and everybody knows that recent achievements are usually weighed more heavily, even subconsciously. Second, he was the MVP of the Final Four of the top league organized by FIBA Europe, the EuroCup (a third-tier pan-European league).
Anyway, Rudy brought excitement again this weekend in the ACB League. Recording his first double-double of his ACB career with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists and 5 steals, he secured the victory for DKV Joventut against Granada with 6 points and 2 steals in the last 18 seconds of the game.