No Competition for China and Chen Jianghua
That was pretty much the story of the Asian Junior Championship. Not one single team gave the least bit of trouble to China on its way to the final victory. The average score margin exceeded the 44 point mark, ranging from 16 to 94 points. It was the South Koreans in the final being the only squad that could keep the margin below the 20-point barrier, but there wasnt even the slightest sense of fear for an upset all game long. The competition was just too poor, with teams that severely lacked size and talent.
Anyway, even if he didnt abuse his skills, Chen operated at will on the court, as virtually no defender could keep up with his incredible quickness, excellent ball-handling skills and footwork. Creative finding his teammates off the dribble, he also looked in love with his one-handed layups (he removes his left hand sooner than usual) that he delivers attacking relentlessly the basket. Hes also in love with his off-the-dribble jumpers, executed with nice quickness coming off the drive (particularly in terms or elevating off the floor) or after a pump-fake and a dribble. Still a bit of a streaky guy, he looked fairly reliable shooting the ball, indeed more reliable than in past occasions, showing better shot selection.
He did often take over the point guard role in transition, either going all the way for the layup or distributing the ball, many times early in the fast-break with long full-court passes. He has a knack for pushing the ball up the floor quickly.
Despite playing as off-guard, Chen is a playmaker all the way when we think about his future. Fortunately his team Guangdong Tigers seems to think the same, as thats the position he played full-time the few times we saw him last season with the junior squad. In the National Teams, its usual to see players evolve off their ideal positions, as the talent pools are usually limited, and while some positions lack good players others suffer overload, so a positional redistribution is needed in order to keep a highly talented squad on the court.
Chen was surrounded by a number of nice players, although none of them are in his league potential-wise. The best is probably Zhou Peng, his teammate in Guangdong, who is likely bound to become a very good player for the CBA, even perhaps for the national team a few years down the road.
The Chinese frontcourt featured some nicely athletic big guys, like Delehei, who enjoys a decent shooting stroke, or Li Xiaoxu (both are born in 1990 and stand around 6-9), role players that produced in transition by running the court very well and in favorable situations in the set offense, taking advantage of their size superiority. Still no one was anywhere near Zhou in terms of skills.
The backcourt brought some intrigue beyond Chen Jianghua. Especially because of Han Shuo, a 6-6 shooting guard born in 1989 who sporadically played some point guard while displaying an interesting skill-set.
Tiago Splitter Cashing in on Scolas Absence
Wed been saying it again and again: if Argentinean superstar Luis Scola left Tau for the NBA, Tiago Splitter could easily blossom into a major force in European competition. Well, it didnt happen, but a two-month injury is working well enough to illustrate us on the matter. The first outcome: Splitter grabs the MVP award in the opening tournament of the ACB League, the SuperCopa, played this past weekend.
Despite being an official competition that everybody takes seriously, the SuperCopa is still more of a preseason tournament where teams are still out of rhythm, just gearing up for a long and demanding season. Played in a Final Four format, the four teams featured were all the semifinalists in the last ACB League, and all also happen to play in the Euroleague this upcoming season: Tau Vitoria, Unicaja Málaga, DKV Joventut and Winterthur FC Barcelona.
Tau rolled over Barcelona in a semifinal where Splitter almost matched Barças big-men scoring by himself, finishing with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Actually he felt rather comfortable playing against a team that hardly delivered any kind of consistent defense. The final against Unicaja Málaga was certainly a lot tougher, but Splitter found his options to amass 19 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Still, Splitter worked with the ball too. Far from the basket, we could see him at various times putting the ball on the floor to take advantage of his superior quickness. Near the basket, he looked for low-post scoring, showing some effectiveness and nice soft touch, although his moves could still gain some polish. Anyway, whenever he didnt see a clear option, he quickly passed the ball, usually back to the perimeter, getting as a result great accuracy from the field (66.7%).
All in all, he was the continuous inside reference of the team. Whenever he wasnt on the court, Taus offensive game suffered, as the teams game is based on a dialogue between the point guards and big guys, and the other inside players didnt show nearly as much of a good sense for taking decisions. On defense, he stayed solid, even if he had some forgetfulness, but struggled a little bit rebounding the ball. He definitely can improve his effort boxing-out.
Anyway, a well-deserved MVP award for him that only increases our expectations regarding his performances at least until Luis Scola comes back from his injury.
The draft intrigue didnt finish with Tau Vitoria; DKV Joventut featured a couple of highly regarded youngsters: Rudy Fernández and Ricky Rubio.
Joventut gave Unicaja Málaga a run for their money, displaying excellent defense and an offensive game where Rudy seems to have definitely taken a step ahead. Although losing shooting accuracy (1/6 beyond the three-point line; his percentages drop significantly when hes not open), Rudy took over the offense asking for the ball, taking decisions, trying to create game off the dribble.
Perhaps the results werent particularly brilliant (he finished the game with 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 steals) but this is the right direction for him; its time to grow as a player and assume more responsibilities.
On defense, he did just fine, like Ricky. Both took part in the pressure defense that tried to drown the opponents game even before half court. As Rudy did, Rubio had 4 steals, showing once again his ridiculous ability to come away with the ball.
Staying rather cool as usual, Rubio struggled trying to perform his point guard duties, as coach Scariolo ordered a close defense to deny him the ball in his own court. It wasnt his most brilliant day, not being able to significantly produce off the dribble (he scored only 4 points in the game). Still, coach Reneses kept him almost 20 minutes on court, sometimes as a shooting guard, which only follows the pattern seen in preseason.
Rubio has been getting consistent playing time, even starting in a few games. He stole the show early this month against Etosa Alicante, leading Joventut in scoring with 18 points and surprisingly hitting 4 three-pointers (the perimeter shooting is his biggest weakness). Everything points towards Rubio continuing to get some minutes once the real season starts in the ACB League, and perhaps even in the Euroleague.