Olek Balcerowski is one of the most talented bigs from 2000 generation in Europe and worldwide. He is a hope of basketball community in Poland to replace one day in the NBA Marcin Gortat who may be about to retire, as besides Lukasz Kolenda there is no other legitimate long shot candidates to fill the gap after “Polish hammer” anytime soon. Last year following AdidasNGT in L’Hospitalet I evaluated in depth his potential but now driven by curiosity and patriotism, despite being used to attending games live, I went through tapes from recent season to catch up on the progress and write short scouting sequel.
After making ACB debut last season, recently Balcerowski stepped on the court for the first time in Euroleague and even made this experience quite memorable by block & transition dunk sequence vs Fenerbahce. However those are just a small and occasional rewards. Main competition he participates in is still EBA Liga. He is having improved season comparing to previous one scoring wise (nearly 21pts per 36) while shooting 37.5% on 48 3pt attempts. Balcerowski mostly occupies 4 position and adjusts to guarding smaller players while having enough opportunities to expose and trying to translate his perimeter skills.
Olek’s development and playing time can be unfortunately affected moving forward by African bigs from Gran Canaria program who also emerge as potentially NBA prospects: Biram Faye and Khalifa Diop. Especially second one seems to be surefire draft candidate within next two years and he may crack the ACB rotation consistently starting from next season. Also 76ers stash pick: Anzejs Pasecniks may be very close to be ready for next step but Philadelphia simply doesn’t need him at the moment and it may not change very soon which blocks others.
Next season EBA Liga doesn’t seem like aprioprate environment for Olek’s further development anymore and ACB will likely remain still too challenging. Exploring Leb Gold loan options may be beneficial and right solution.
TYPE OF PLAYER
Olek is definitely more about skill than athleticism. He can be described as finesse big man who has natural flair for the game and kind of do it all ability. He can convert layups around the rim in elegant fashion, puts the ball down on the court with advanced handles for his size and constantly threatens the defenses with his outside stroke. Despite his, at times, too stubborn preference to face up opponents he is above average back to the basket operator who has good IQ and is refined, mature decision maker and even shows some playmaking upside notable for frontcourt player.
Often you can hear that big guys mature slower and need more time. Olek is perfect example of this and moreover was born relatively late in 2000 (19th of November). He is still baby faced with no mustache whatsoever. While getting physical is maybe not in his nature, he got stronger recently and draws a lot of fouls when matched up with power forwards on (mid) post area. Typically for Euro big his size he may lack advanced fluidity or reactivity on defensive end. He can look somewhat upright and his endurance considered in the context of fast paced American game is rather not overwhelming either. However time can work for his advantage to push those limitations as he likely reached his ultimate height and doesn’t have to deal with injuries caused in some degree by growth spurts in the past anymore.
So is Olek a Center or Power Forward, or maybe hybrid able to spend time 50/50 on both positions? While he is obviously more than just inside contributor and can handle the ball at least like comboforward how translatable actually are those ball skills? He can shot with reach over all PF defenders but his underwhelming agility doesn’t give him enough wiggle to create face up perimeter looks at will, neither he is explosive enough to make regular straight line drives. And it works the other way round as he may have at times troubles defending let’s say 6’9 very athletic slashers who possess three point & mid range stroke as well. To some degree it was causing problems on next level for Dragan Bender. Croatian, once tantalizing prospect whose production has been extremely disappointing for 4th NBA Draft pick and is closer to be labeled as a bust now, was sliding his feet much better as 18-19yo but is kinda too tall for position. At the same time he can’t bring enough physicality to rebound and fight inside with NBA 5 men.
The most accurate term may be too call Olek “shooting big”. His best case scenario could possibly be becoming Luke Kornet like type of player. +215cm of pure jumpshot which keeps the paint freer, able to challenge at the rim with a lot of size and survive thanks to high IQ & knack for the ball instead of big jump or quick legs. He is not elite in neither of those two crucial aspects yet but can eventually reach good enough level. And then in right circumstances add something extra to the table like grab & go or playmaking thanks to overall polish.
While he fits modern ball from his buddying skillset, his physical tools may not be the most desirable you can find. Time will show if his well roundedness can compensate enough for his average quickness or athleticism or if he has some room for improvement left in that matter. Anyway worst case scenario seems great anyway as he is likely to have at least very good career on highest European level and still remains must follow for NBA executives as potential draft & stash option.
From short term perspective people from his campus may be thinking about declaring him for 2019 NBA Draft (likely with intention to withdrew) to create some more buzz after season that he spent kinda out of spotlight. Also great opportunity would be attending Nike Hoop Summit which Olek still hopes to be invited for in order to remind American based executives how unique prospect he is by competing with his American peers and showing that he belongs.