While Josh Childress
has been the major attraction for scouts evaluating this years overseas free agent crop, Marcus Haislip
has provided quite a bit of intrigue in his own right. A former lottery pick of the Bucks in 2002, Haislip played only 79 games in his three year NBA career. Discouraged with his lack of development, Milwaukee cut ties with the incredibly raw 610 power forward only two seasons into his rookie contract. After spending a season in Indiana as an insurance policy off the bench, he found himself out of the NBA.
Four years later, Haislip has established himself as not only one of Europes most exciting players, but his skill set is radically different than it was when he left Indianapolis for Istanbul. While Haislip definitely looks like an NBA player at this point, some of the things that kept him from being successful in the League initially are still present in his game.
With three years of European experience under his belt, Haislip is now is his second year with Spanish powerhouse, and Euroleague Final Four contender, Unicaja Malaga. With former Spanish Olympic Team Head Coach Aito Garcia Reneses at the helm, Haislip has led Unicajas to arguably the most impressive start in club history. Despite playing next to a handful of other former NBA players in Boniface N'Dong, Robert Archibald
, Jiri Welsch
, and Omar Cook
(as well as Spanish national team PG Carlos Cabezas
), Haislip is unquestionably the teams top option and most dynamic presence.
Through twenty-five games this season (sixteen in the ACB where Unicaja is 12-4, and nine in the Euroleague where they are 7-2) Haislip has put together some very impressive statistical outings, especially in domestic play where he is averaging 16.1 points per game in only 27 minutes of action per-contest. While the athleticism that made Haislip a lottery pick is responsible for some of his success, its the development of his offensive repertoire that earns him mention here.
Coming off of a three year career at Tennessee that was characterized by little except a big junior season littered with highlight reel dunks, Haislip lacked the polish to make an impact offensively on the NBA level. Over the last few years, Haislip has become a much more complete player on the offensive end. He has slowly but surely developed the perimeter shooting stroke, ball-handling ability, and scoring instincts that he desperately needed to make a productive NBA career.
This season has been a mixed bag for Haislip as a shooter. His stroke is significantly sounder than it was during his NBA career now featuring great lift, good mechanics, and a pretty quick release. He shoots a very respectable percentage from three (40.0% in ACB play but only 28.6% in Euroleague games), and shows some inconsistency from the outside. After starting the season on a tear, hes cooled off significantly, due in part to a groin injury that has limited him since December. Haislip is the definition of a rhythm shooter connecting at a great clip when he can step into his shot in transition or in drive and dish situations. However, his mechanics dont allow much room for error, and Haislip has struggled mightily since hurting his groin, which has limited his ability to elevate like he usually does. After spending the first few months of the season amongst the most efficient three point shooters in the ACB, Haislip has fallen back to earth missing all eight of his attempts over Unicajas last three games. Despite these struggles, Haislip has become a legitimate three point threat, and his current shooting percentage seems to reflect his true shooting ability better than it was early in the year. On the season as a whole, he is shooting 34/91 from beyond the arc, or 37%.
In addition to adding a perimeter shot to his repertoire, Haislip has also become more comfortable attacking the basket when he receives the ball on the outside. Hes not a flashy ball handler, but his explosive first step makes it tough for the majority of power forwards to stay in front of him, which helps him draw plenty of fouls. The improvements in his outside shot force defenders to respect his range, and this allows him to take advantage and attack the rim. Aito Garcia Reneses does a very good job creating space for Haislip to go one-on-one against his defender in his offensive sets. Despite showing solid mechanics on his pull up jumper, Haislip prefers to take the ball to the rim when he puts it on the floor. Hes a fantastic finisher at this level due to his athleticism, and does a nice job taking contact and getting to the line when he cant blow past the defense and create an easy look. His ability to recognize when he should and shouldnt drive has helped him significantly, and his perimeter shot selection appears much better for this reason.
While Haislip is significantly more polished in some aspects of the game, he still struggles in others. Despite being taller and vastly more athletic than the players attempting to defend him, Haislip struggles to score on the block. The mechanics on his jumper dont allow him to make many shots off balance or attempting to maneuver away from defenders. His tendency to force some shots from the post only makes this feature of his shot more apparent. While hell knock down a periodic turnaround jumper or short-hook shot, he could stand to develop better shooting touch around the basket, face up more often, and look to pass out of the post more often.
While Haislip still struggles in some areas offensively, his lack of progress in other areas is more troubling. Averaging only 5.2 rebounds in ACB play (4.6 in Euroleague games), it is apparent that the athletically gifted forward isnt making a concerted effort to make an impact on the glass. Though some of this lack of production can be attributed to the presence of good rebounders such as Boniface NDong, Robert Archibald
, and Unicaja mainstay Carlos Jimenez
, Haislip often doesnt look to rebound outside of his area. In addition to not showing ideal effort on the glass, Haislip shows even less effort on the defensive end. His 7.8 rebounds per-40 minutes is an extremely poor figure, and is indicative of the type of rebounder hes been throughout his entire career.
Despite being able to come up with an occasional highlight reel block, Haislip usually looks disinterested on the defensive end. He has the tools to alter some shots each game, but doesnt show great awareness when defending the weak-side. His lack of bulk will get him into some trouble on the block, but he actually does a nice job going straight up and not fouling though he doesnt do a great job keeping up with pump fakes and up-and-under moves.
Even though he isnt all that engaged on the defensive end, he is more than capable of defending perimeter oriented big men effectively. Given his lateral quickness, wingspan, and leaping ability, Haislip has all the tools to be at the very least a solid defender. However, it seems somewhat unlikely that he will begin to buy into that end of the floor at this point in his career. While this is something that he could definitely stand to work on, Aito has shown that Haislips inconsistent defensive intensity isnt impossible to plan around with the right personnel in place.
Despite still having some nagging weaknesses, there is absolutely no question that Haislip has developed into an NBA player. With that said, he'll likely need to rebound from his shooting slump and carry his team deep into Euroleague play to draw serious enough offers to make the economics of a return trip across the pond worthwhile. If he shows a bit more defensive intensity and continues to produce as such a high rate, he should have no problem finding interest come this summer. Whether or not NBA teams can compete with the multi-million dollar offers that are likely coming his way in Europe remains to be seen, though.