With 7days Eurocup tipping off tonight and Turkish Airlines Euroleague next week, Eurospects team decided to take a look at all the best prospect, their fit within the system and potential role in two of the best international club competitions in Europe:
After great individual season with Siauliai where he ended up as Top scorer and rebounder of last LKL, Laurynas Birutis returned to parent club. By no means this role can be translated to domestic powerhouse but team got rid of Martynas Sajus and Martynas Geben (sent on loan) with whom Zalgiris frontcourt would be too tight, to maximize Laurynas playing time behind Davies and Kavaliauskas. Birutis is fairly mobile for 7 footer, can hit mid range jump shot with somewhat unorthodox mechanics, make hooks over defenders, roll & finish above the rim but is still far away from fitting a mold of NBA big nowadays especially if taken out of the paint on the defensive end. There is no doubt that playing under Saras will help his development and sooner or later he should belong to the highest European level but whether draft chances will be increased after this season? I am not sure and given his age only end of 2nd round is achievable. Next prospect to watch would be Matas Jogela. 1998 born swingman had some behaviour issues in NKL but was arguably the most improved among those with draft consideration in Europe which he moreover claimed in Chemnitz during FIBA U20s. Anyway lately, the team decided to send him to Dzukija where he will get way more minutes on the floor. Since Arlauskas commitment to Zags we may expect Zalgiris to invest more time and energy in Rokas Jokubaitis. Lefty PG with pick and roll prowess did fairly good job in pre season which has more value regarding that only one team member was away for FIBA Qualifiers.
Efes has one of the most athletic players of 99 generation in Onuralp Bitim. Youngster spared last season in Sigortam.net Bakırköy Basket and Anadolu Efes with double license. His outside shooting and overall contribution last year was a bit underwhelming but Bitim has something to prove this year. He played few minutes in U20 championship compared to earlier championships but his potential is so hard to pass on. In a loaded Efes backcourt, he is likely to find around 10 minutes when we look at the pre season games, especially in BSL games.
Another young wing from Efes team is Yiğitcan Saybir. Saybir was the MVP of the first evet BGL Final-Four last year, dominating the glass and slashing inside with much improved motor and involvement. Lefty with great wingspan, he still needs to get stronger in order to cope with experience players in Euroleague. It is very hard to see him play much in the competition due to as he has 3 guys in front of him in the rotation.
Talented wing – Santiago Yusta had decent role especially in ACB. Basically was given the same minutes as on loan to Obradoiro past two seasons. He converted nearly 32% of three pointers which is still underwhelming but he benefited from playing next to better teammates as in 2015-2017 he made just 19 from 102 3pt shots. Santi seems like natural replacement for Rudy Fernandez but until his older teammate is in good shape it won’t be easy to increase playing time for Yusta.
From other youngins Dino Radoncic after logging 41 minutes in the best European league last season went for a loan to Burgos. There is also Usman Garuba. Young hoop phenom is as pro ready as it gets for 16yo prospect from physical standpoint. However roster is obviously deep and stacked so episodes besides home ACB games with less demanding opponents won’t be easy to get. Three years older than him Luka Doncic appeared in 50 games three years ago but this seems like once in a generation case.
TADAS SEDEKERSKIS – After disappointing showing on loan to Burgos, Tadas went back to rebuild his stock in his motherland. He was more than solid with Nevezis and really shot the ball well. Anyway it is hard to expect big minutes for fluid and versitale forward behind Shavon Shields & Patricio Garino. Guy who could have extremely big attention is Ajdin Penava. However Bosnian kind of do it all big went undrafted last June and recently signed 4 year deal with Basque country based team. There is many more talents waiting in the line. Arturs Kurucs may not necessarily be overshadowed by brother anymore in future and 1999 born Raieste is already starter of Estonia and had big moments in FIBA Qualifiers.
MACCABI TEL AVIV
MVP of FIBA U20 Europe Yovel Zoosman gained huge confidence boost and logged in 72 minutes in last two World Cup qualifiers for senior Israel team. This is very important considering his role in Maccabi upcoming season. He had some stretches when it seemed he doesn’t believe 100% in his skills and there was speculation about loaning him out, he resigned his contract after promise of bigger role. Personally I expect similar minutes in Euroleague as he had in Winners League while spending on the court about 20mpg in domestic competition. If shots falls in and if he proves his defensive capabilities on the highest European senior level he may get those 2nd round looks. Next best thing from Tel Aviv based club is definitely Deni Avdija. Local hoop phenom is not eligible yet in this draft but is ready for more than episodes which he shows in pre season. This season should prepare him well for bigger role in 2019/2020 where he can supposedly get first round consideration.
ALEIX FONT is coming from a really good season in LEB Gold where he averaged 12.5 PPG and established himself as one of the best SG in the league. Besides being one of the Barca B leaders, he also had an amazing FIBA U20s (16.9 PPG and impressive 50% 3pt FG). Crafty wing is a really efficient shooter who is able to get it off in nearly every situation. Aleix already made his pro debut with first team this preseason and left positive impression in the SuperCopa Endesa as well. Obviously very few prospects make this jump and there are players in the roster who can provide the same role. Anyway as a local prospect, he will most likely keep having opportunities in the ACB and in the course of time can become someone important.
GEORGIOS KALAITZAKIS – It is never easy for Greek prospects to have enough opportunities to showcase themselves and become more experienced while being a part of any Athens based powerhouse. Kalaitzakis had up and down FIBA U20 championship in Chemnitz but as of now it seems that he won’t be sent away on loan. While still unlikely to see much daylight in Euroleague, he should become regular in domestic league. PAO has obviously great quality in backcourt but rotation is not super deep, season is long and as usual probably full of blowouts against Greek teams. After withdrawing his name the past June, Kalaitzakis must be very careful and precise with declaring his name to the NBA draft again. Decision will be made up to performances during the season but timing for this may not be perfect in 2019.
OTHER REGISTERED: Milic Starovlah (Budocnost), Andrei Lopatin (CSKA), Mert Akay (Darussafaka), Sinan Saglam (Darussafaka), Nelson Weidemann (Bayern), Efe Ergi Tirpanci (Fenerbahce), Ahmet Can Duran (Fenerbahce), Egehan Arna (Fenerbahce), Olek Balcerowski (Gran Canaria), Jovan Kljajic (Gran Canaria), Nikolaos Arsenopoulos (Olympiacos)
NICO BRETZEL – May be the most low key NBA prospect in Europe who is not widely recognized probably even in Germany. Hoping for coming out party this year but it is not that obvious. While Pro B should not be his level anymore it won’t be easy to find minutes behind Isaac Fotu, Gavin Schilling or Dwayne Evans who may check some small minutes on center position. Ulm probably built one of the most physical rosters in Europe which is somewhat very undersized and that can be the hope for 6’11 Bretzel. As of now he may be used just as energy big from the (deep) bench but it’s still a lot as you cannot underestimate it thinking of 211cm guy who runs the court as fast as any guard and can simply bother more experienced / older opponents by forcing them to chase him all over the floor while covering huge amount of ground defensively.
DAVID KRAMER – Was clearly one of the best players in Pro A last year and is just one year older than Louis Olinde or William Mcdowell-White. The youngest team without any import player was close to avoid relegation and huge credit for that goes to German wing. Made a great progress in Orange youth teams and could possibly become face of the academy but it’s unclear whether his role this season will be bigger than in 2017/2018 campaign. While Kramer clearly filled out his frame which didn’t affect the shooting touch and ability to pull up from the dribble he still has major issues like questionable decision making or inability to use his length defensively. But he is still on the rise and can be even considered long shot German national team candidate thanks to size, competitiveness and stroke combination.
MARCEL PONITKA – After highly successful showing at NBA Global Camp in Treviso some interest from foreign teams occured but we will still see Marcel suiting up for Asseco. The only Polish team in Eurocup built solid roster for their financial possibilities based on physicality and experience. Ponitka will compete for backcourt minutes with three experienced players: Krzysztof Szubarga, James Florence and Deividas Dulkys and thanks to his energy and competitiveness he should have a shot to create starting backcourt duo with American guard. While Marcel has clear cut role player potential as uptempo guy who can also excel in defensive or physically demanding tasks with less responsibility on ball, it is unclear as of now how much can he progress in such setting as a main or even secondary facilitator. And that is most likely must do in order to reach Eurocup level as import player in future.
Tofas team is pretty much contained its domestic players coming to this season and its young core is getting more and more ready for the european competitions. 97 born Berkan Durmaz is set for a breakout season as he has been solid throughout the preseason games. 6’9 athletic forward with untapped potential will likely see more playing time in this Tofas rotation. He was another guy playing with double license in Sigortam.net Bakırköy Basket with Onuralp Bitim. This year he will get to focus more on Tofas team as valid option at 4.
Muhaymin Mustafa is the latest addition to Tofas backcourt. He had a good U20 European Championship this summer, looking much more comfortable playing isolation and pulling up inside the arc. A natural defensive anchor, it is possible to see him get on the court for solid minutes in rotation. Getting into a role will likely to be a process but Muhaymin has the tools to contribute to Tofas Eurocup run.
SEKOU DOUMBOUYA – The most tantalizing prospect in Europe upcoming season with realistic chance to end up as Top 10 pick. Athletic combo forward choose to play for Limoges over many other French teams for his (most likely) one and done Pro A & European competition season. The bar is set pretty high for someone who still didn’t turn 18 but Sekou is once in a generation type of project and his upside combined with possibility to get NBA buyout almost forces you to give him enough playing time even if some mistakes in his game still occur. Moreover it’s a smart step in between Pro B and NBA. Competing against players like Mateusz Ponitka, Josh Bostic, Kyle Weems or Elgin Cook will show where is he at with his development and if he is mentally ready for this and next step at such a young age. Unfortunately preseason and first rounds of Jeep Elite brings a lot of doubt so far.
Partizan has always been a hub for talented Serbian prospects as this far, so many had their first impressions on European basketball market with their performances in the team in the last decade. Starting off this season with a talented core filled with crazy potentials in Vanja Marinkovic, Marko Pecarski, Amar Gegic, Aleksander Aranitovic and Nikola Tanaskovic. Vanja is already an established vital part of Partizan bringing in much needed outside shooting to the team. Still very young with plenty of experience, he will be one to see leading the team in Eurocup. Very much improved handling the ball as secondary. We will see if he can follow the footsteps of Bogdan Bogdanovic and become a star in European basketball.
Pecarski had stellar output in U18 European Championship winner Serbia, as no other frontcourt duo was more effective than him and Petrusev. Slightly being undersize is a hurdle to overcome in order to contribute in Eurocup, but his knowledge of the game and instincts are pretty much evident in every part of the game. Anyway he will be a valid option at 4-5 with his improved shooting. It is possible to see him play more than last season having Landale and Gagic in front of him.
6’7 guard Amar Gegic spared most of the last season in Bayern Munchen II, putting in OK numbers. He definitely has something to prove this summer after underwhelming stint with Bayern Munich. It does not look like he will get to find a lot of minutes this year as well, staying healthy and making the most of his minutes will definitely add some more to his value. Outside consistency will be another factor going forward.
Aleksandar Aranitovic made a good enough return after missing most of 2017 with injuries. He is more likely to play around 10-15 minutes in rotation, bringing the court motor and energy to the court.
Getting a spot on the court will be hard task to accomplish for Nikola Tanaskovic. His energy and strength will be important coming off the bench but rotation looks already stacked as he has Zagorac and Velickovic in front. He will rather play more in domestic league.
ELIJAH CLARANCE – Word was already during the astonishing FIBA U20 Europe that Elijah may turn pro very soon. Fighting injury and it seemed that also lack of confidence in Illinois State didn’t prevent him from unlocking unbelievable potential. Elijah needs a lot of refinements but at the same time he possess elite of elite poise and athleticism. Personally I was really surprised that he didn’t end up in better situation (can’t imagine more apprioprate fit than ABA Liga team). Fraport backcourt is quite loaded (even considering their multiguard lineups) and basically it is some kind of two-way contract. Playing time is always appreciated but how much can you polish your game playing in German 3rd tier and just practising with BBL? Moreover the rule obliges Clarance after college dropout to be auto eligible for NBA draft already upcoming season. Being drafted from there happened probably only in Dirk Nowitzki case. Even crazy numbers may not convince NBA executives as Karim Jallow who has offensive liability to his game was scoring nearby 20 ppg in this level of competition. Let’s just hope that somehow Swedish guard finds a way to get proficient minutes with first team quickly…
Amine Noua made a progress and was one of the best ASVEL players already last season. His role was increased nicely, step by step last three seasons but there may be a limit. Double digit in French league and 8 ppg in Eurocup was not enough to bring serious NBA interest and Noua withdrew his name from early entry list. Anyway he surprised many people so we will see if he has some room for improvement left or if that level is his career peak. Another name is Theo Maledon. Lately French talented point guard signed his first professional contract with Tony Parker’s team. It is unbelievably hard to get playing time especially on point guard position at that age but if someone can make it then it’s Theo Maledon. His polish, IQ and mindset was always way beyond his age group since we started following him few years ago. While it’s hard to expect regular solid minutes since team added another experienced & high level PG (Mantas Kalnietis), Theo may occasionally appear on the court in home games but rather in domestic league. Anyway he is not eligible before 2020.
After great summer in 2017 role of athletic forward – David Okeke slightly grew. Unfortunately dual citizen with Nigerian roots lost second half of the season because of being diagnosed with arythmia issue which required time off from the basketball. Situation is still complicated as according to the latest reports, Okeke may not be cleared to play for the next 6 months. Torino build young, American heavy roster and situation is somewhat experimental regarding lack of patience within organisation and newcoming hall of fame but 78yo coach. Despite all the accomplishments, Larry Brown was inactive last two years and never worked in Europe before. Another player to watch is Vojislav Stojanovic. Auto Eligible, tough 6’7 swingman who checks many boxes on 1-2-3 positions was bought out from Capo d’Orlando but given age, injury past he is unlikely to get any looks. Moreover situation is really dynamic and he may be loaned out or terminate the contract soon.
MARTYNAS ECHODAS – Already an established member of Lietuvos Rytas, Lithuanian youngster even showed up for national team playing against Hungary and Kosovo. He had a impressive season last year both in LKL and Eurocup, shooting inside the arc with ridiculous percentages, over 60% most of the games. Not much of a strech option but his offensive rebounding instincts and motor is not possible to teach, he has them in him. It is possible to see him turn into rebounding/scoring machine this year as well.
DEIVIDAS SIRVYDIS may be considered someone with higher upside than his older countryman. 6’7 forward is getting more and more attention especially since winning MVP award of Adidas Next Generation final tournament. Talented prospect had partial introduction to the European competition and was given significant minutes late in the season in LKL. Besides leading Perlas (affiliated club) role with the Rytas should keep growing steadily this and next year. Intriguing thanks to size, shot making/creating and ability combined with passing. However length and speed are not great. There is some buzz around his name already regarding the draft but if it happens then probably not in 2019.
VINY OKUOU – Big bodied but very agile Congolese center lost the best development period in his career as Unicaja wasn’t overly willing to loan him for longer stretches and at the same time not overly willing to give him enough minutes here. Hard to expect a breakout year from him anymore especially with Shermandini and Lessort in the roster. Good thing is that he adjusted to very limited role and really tries to make the best out of it with some occasional success.
OTHER REGISTERED: Sergi Garcia (Valencia), Tim Schneider (ALBA), Stefan Peno (ALBA) ,Jonas Mattisseck (Alba), Franz Wagner (Alba) , Bennet Hundt (Alba), Luc Loubaki (Monaco), Sofiane Briki (Asvel), Khadim Sow (Asvel), Zoran Paunovic (Red Star), Garai Zeeb (Fraport), Niklas Kiel (Fraport), Serkan Aydin (Galatasaray), Mate Fazekas (Ratiopharm), Till Pape (Ratiopharm), Marius Stoll (Ratiopharm), Christoph Philipps (Ratiopharm), Tadija Tadic (Partizan), Slobodan Jovanovic (Partizan), Mert Konuk (Tofas), Efe Besok (Ankara), Ercan Bayrak (Ankara), Toni Perkovic (Cedevita), Darko Bajo (Cedevita), Andrea Mezzanotte (Trento), Richard Freudenberg (Fraport), Timothe Bazille (Limoges), Timofey Gerasimov (Kuban), Aistis Pilauskas (Rytas), Marek Blazevic (Rytas), Morgan Stilma (Unicaja),