If we're talking about potential free agent international big men, Fabricio Oberto
has to be given consideration considering his resume and combination of size and skills. This 30 year old Argentinean has proven himself again and again as one of the top big men in the world for several years now with his performances in Europe, especially with his national team.
After five seasons with Atenas, a team from Córdoba in Argentina, becoming the best big man in his country and winning various individual and team titles, he tried making the NBA for the first time, but could not find a spot in the League. So in 1998 he started his European adventure with an initial stop in Greece to play for Olympiakos. After a so-so experience, TAU Vitoria from Spain signed him at the end the 1999 season. In Vitoria, playing for coach Ivanovic, he established himself as one of the best paint players outside the NBA and helped make TAU one of the most feared teams in Europe. A Euroleague final appearance and an ACB League title were his best achievements so far. For the last three seasons he has played for Pamesa Valencia, also in Spain, with a team full of stars that has underachieved given the expectations and huge investment, failing to qualify for this past season's Euroleague and even missing the Spanish playoffs. Oberto is not to blame, as he played quite a good season and delivered his usual effort and solid playing level, indeed getting an ACB League personal best with averages of 14.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Oberto has been one of the leaders and the main post player of the wonderful generation of Argentinean players that placed their National Team among the elite teams of the world. At the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis he led his team with 5.6 rebounds and closely trailed Manu Ginobili in the scoring department with 13.3 points per game. Against the US he scored 11 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. The following year in the Tournament of the Americas, he put on a memorable offensive show against Tim Duncan
, finishing the game with 17 points on 8/9 shooting from the field. He helped Argentina win the Olympic gold medal last summer in Greece, averaging 8.7 points, 4 rebounds and 1.7 assists in the tournament, while having 6 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in just 17 minutes (due foul trouble) in the Argentinean win over the US. Strengths: Fabricio Oberto
is one of the best paint players outside of the NBA. He's a tough, skilled big man, with nice mobility, for whom the paint is his natural home where he feels comfortable and everything seems much easier for him. He displays a great post-up game, showing very nice footwork. He loves to spin and release a slight fade-away shot, which is very difficult to stop. He also can score using his mid-range jumper out to 14 feet on a regular basis. Quite a nice passer, Oberto usually finds the right man when double teamed. In transition, he runs the floor as a trailer pretty well. He plays hard on defense and never avoids physical contact. It's not easy to post him up at all. He is a good rebounder due to his positioning and hustle; and can also block some shots while showing very good timing. He's a player with character, who plays the game with passion, displaying great intensity like most of his countrymen, and who shows a very good understanding of the game. Weaknesses:
Oberto isn't a physical freak. While he's pretty strong, his athleticism isn't top notch. His vertical leap is average for a power forward, as is his quickness. As a result, his rebounding and blocking production aren't outstanding and he may suffer while defending quicker, more versatile players outside of the paint. He can play as both a power forward and center in Europe, although he's a little slow for the four spot, and a little undersized (6-10) for the five.
The level of intensity that he brings on defense often earns him easy fouls, and he usually has to spend more time than desired on the bench. For a player with his ability to go to the line so often, his horrible free-throw shooting is one of his worst weaknesses. This last season, his percentages were well under 50%. It's really sad considering his decent mid-range stroke. Why sign him?
With the lack of reliable big men in the NBA, it's surprising to see Oberto still playing in Europe. He would be a solid presence in the paint for any team, especially for teams that play a more team-oriented style of play. Forget about weak foreign dudes; Fabricio is tough as nails, ready to step into a NBA court and fight against anybody. With the lack of low post threats in the NBA, he could really be valuable. Just a handful of guys all around the NBA display his combination of low post skills, distribution abilities and toughness. He should try to improve his free-throw shooting, though.
At the age 30 he isn't getting any younger, and he has realized that it's now or never. Oberto escaped from his contract in Valencia and is now free to sign with any team, with the NBA being his primary target. Of course, he will demand a guaranteed seven-digit offer, probably for a few years at least, but he's totally worth it. The usual suspects from last year, the Bulls, Spurs and Kings are all rumored to be interested. The Sonics and Cavs could also jump in with offers according to sources. If he doesn't get anything done in the States, the most powerful European teams will be waiting him with the arms open.