Last MVP of the U20 European Championship Division A, Yovel Zoosman has been a vital piece for Maccabi Fox Tel-Aviv in 2018-2019 season. He also had some playing time with Israeli National Team in World Cup Qualifiers and it is looking like he will be a lock for the team for a long time in the future. Even though there were rumours of him getting loaned at the start of the season from Maccabi, he stayed and logged in some important minutes for his club both in Euroleague and Winner League. We can call this season as solid for him, even while he could have been more consistent throughout the season. We have witnessed an all around wing in U20 European Championship for Israel in Zoosman, with Maccabi he was surely getting less of a role but it can easily be admitted that he has some qualities that suits the mindset and understanding of a Euroleague team. There are few variables that will determine his future role in the team; outside shooting consistency and defensive impact. If his shots falls in and if he proves his defensive capabilities on the highest European senior level he can be considered as a candidate for 2nd round looks.
Breaking Down 2018-2019 season
It was expected to see Yovel Zoosman on the court around 20 minutes per game in Winner League while becoming a rotation player in Euroleague as well. He had slightly more minutes in domestic competition with around 25 mpg, in which he was able showcase his versatility and team player attitude. He was more careful as it should be in Euroleague with better shot selection than domestic league. In a loaded offensive team as Maccabi Tel-Aviv, it is easy to see Zoosman staying on the court as a complementary piece to both defense and offense. On offense he was not rushing or taking unnecessary responsbility, he cohabited team mentality and tried to play as a glue guy in which he was pretty successful. On defense, even though he does not have the full physical package, he was always working to his maximum. His outside shooting was no where near consistent this year with average of 32.5% in Winner League and 37.5% in Euroleague (with better shot selection). Interestingly, a good take from his season that he was always able to jump back after a poor performance with a much better one in the next game, which is an indicator of a strong mindset for a player at his age.
Offensively, there is definitely room to improve for Zoosman. As of now, he is a player that makes well timed off-ball cuts, but needs finish through contact better. He does not have the explosiveness, a quick first-step or staggering pace on the court but he plays with his mind more than with his athleticism. Furthermore, he is an average ball- handler at his best and more often fumbles the ball when bringing it up the floor or operating as the PnR ball handler. In the short time span he was playing as the primary ball handler in the season, he did not display good passing skills off the dribble but was more careless and could not cope with the defensive pressure when he has the ball in his hands.
Those problems dramatically limits his offensive capabilities and that is why we did not see him play isolation or dominating the ball often in the season. However, he is definitely has a good vision in times where he had to make the extra passes to spoil defensive rotations. More of a high basketball IQ team player at this stage, he never became the primary offensive weapon in the game but punished defenses on collapses. What is keeping him on the court is his versatility, good positioning and constant effort on the court on both ends. He likes to do the tasks that does not convert to the stat sheet, which is invaluable for a team with high standards and with already established offensive tools. He was pretty solid all year on spot-up jumpers where he was free from defensive constraints which is another vital aspect of his game. Yet, inconsistency in outside shooting when he faces a good close-out or inability to hit shots off-the dribble was the cause of his 31.6% beyond the three point line in all competitions.
Yovel Zoosman is easily one of the most underrated defenders in Euroleague. While he does not have the total defensive package physically, you can see that he wants to defend and do as much as he can. His competitiveness on defense allows him to stay more on the field even when he is not in a good day offensively. He fights when he is backed down by a bigger or stronger player and does his best to keep his position at all cost. His defensive work-rate is impressive but we cannot say that it is something that turns out in statsheet. He has good understanding of defensive rotations and overall defensive awareness but he is not a guy that snaps the ball out of his opponent. What he improved in the season was his anticipation of passes, and there is definitely more room for improvement in defensive side if his lower body gets stronger a bit more.
Zoosman has a game style that will not go away for some more time. He is versatile, has the ability to adjust to multiple roles in a team. However there are big questions for him if he is to play and succeed in NBA basketball in future. How much can he do in uptempo game? Can he defend much stronger and faster players on the perimeter? Which quality, skill of him will reveal in NBA level? Which attribute of him will be his strong suit? Those are the questions that leads us to become more skeptical about the prospect of an NBA success. It would be harsh to decide on his maximum potential yet. He is a valuable asset in Europe, with increased experience and getting better through playing might be the thing he is looking for right now. He has actually everything to be a solid Euroleague player for years to come when you look at his mentality and approach to the game. He showed some leadership skills in 2018 summer in which Israel won the U20 Division A Championship.
What I think about Zoosman now is pretty similar to what I was thinking about Cedi Osman’s NBA prospects. Of course they are two very different players when you breakdown their games but I want to focus on the similarities. Zoosman never had the transition threat Cedi Osman posseses. But at similar ages, they are both similar in terms of size, ball handling capacity, defensive effort and rebounding support. Cedi’s outside shot was somewhat inconsistent, where Zoosman is struggling time to time. Cedi became a much better player after getting drafted; started to play with the ball more, played a bit of Pick and Roll, made his outside shot a valid threat and got stronger a lot. He was looking like a fringe bench player in Cavs behind LeBron James and made the most of his time by learning further. The team that might take Zoosman is very important for his path in NBA, an environment that can lead him to get better. In the case he does not get drafted, he will have a successful career in Maccabi for a long time anyhow.
For now, NBA fit for Zoosman looks very questionable. But he is one of those guys that can improve himself in a good setting. There is a possiblity for him to go in late second round of the NBA drafted and then get stashed. He will have plenty of time to improve his skillset, get experience and master some of his aspects on the court. In order to play in NBA, he needs to break out of being Jack of all trades, master of none. Most important of all will be once again, increased percentage on spot-up jumpers and consistency through the season.