Victor Wembanyama (’04), Nanterre 92, 7’2’’, C
15.8pts, 2FG-55.6%, 3FG- 20%, FT-82.4%, 12rebs, 0.8ast, 2.8stl, 3to, 6blks
One of the most intriguing prospects in Europe right now, not only because of sheer size but also because of a mind-boggling mixture of agility and quickness combined with a solid vision, decent mid-range shot and steadily growing confidence from behind the arc. Looked bolder on his attempts from the mid-range distance on this occasion, presenting a lot of turn-around jumpers, one-legged fadeaways and spot-ups. Didn’t have much luck from behind the arc only converting 20% (3/15) of his shots but can’t see why this number shouldn’t increase in the future as he already has a steady hand from the FT line, stroke looks good and was converting from the mid-range regularly. A nightmare to defend at this level, hard to contest because of very high release point, but also tough to stop on the way to the basket when cuts or tries to crash the boards.
Defensively showed very good awareness, not only when putting a lid on the basket and beating the all-time AdidasNGT record for the most blocks in the single game (9), but also in the passing lanes sticking his hands in the lanes and deflecting anything that dared to fly through his zone. Had some trouble physically, boxing out opponents and getting to position back to the basket which is understandable at this moment.
The big questions remain the same – How will his body change in the next few years? How much growing he has left? And how much muscle will he be able to put on his frame? Really looking forward to following closely his development in the future.
Azuolas Tubelis (’02), Rytas Vilnius, 6’9’’, PF
20.5pts, 2FG-66.7%, 3FG- 0%, FT-73.7%, 12.5rebs, 2.5ast, 2stl, 2.3to, 1.8blks
Started dominating from the first whistle and in the end got selected as an MVP of the tournament. At times the game looked too easy for him, it almost seem like a walk in the park, Azuolas was simply grabbing defensive rebounds, converting them to fast breaks going coast to coast and then to dunks at the other end. Was unstoppable in a straight line, has a bit mechanical dribble and is not the best at changing direction but clearly overpowered other players going downhill and didn’t seemed to be bothered by the contact getting a lot of 2+1 opportunities. Put up solid numbers from the FT line on this occasion after really struggling in the summer at U18’s. Had a lot of success playing face-up, challenging his defender 1 on 1 as well as rolling to the rim off the PnR, on both clearly preferred to go to the left and finish with his more dominant hand which made him a bit predictable. Did a nice job of distributing the ball from inside to shooters or cutters, when noticed traffic under the rim or help coming his way.
Didn’t have much to show from distance, only taking two attempts from behind the arc missing both and usual poor mid-range game, would benefit hugely if he could stretch the floor little bit for his team, but tends to stick to inside game.
Augustas Marciulionis (’02), Rytas Vilnius, 6’3’’, PG
18.3pts, 2FG-63.3%, 3FG- 26.7%, FT-76.7%, 3.8rebs, 6.5ast, 1.3stl, 3to, 0blks
Second player from Rytas who got selected to All-Star five after a very good tournament leading his team to the first place. Always aggressive in the lane, it’s where he usually does most of the damage, nicely separates from his man thanks to confident, dazzling dribble and takes appropriate action depending on defensive rotation. Able to shake off more persistent defenders inside with rapid deceleration or a euro step. Uses well his strength and good body control in the paint and is able to finish through some contact with either hand. Averaged most assists in the tournament, beautifully distributed the ball on his drives and on PnR’s, opens up a lot of opportunities for shooters outside with his drives and kicks, sees passing lanes opening up and takes full advantage of them with good timing.
Scrappy on-ball defender with active hands and always high effort level but I feel like he sacrifices his position too much sometimes to go after steals instead of playing sound positional defence. Doesn’t excel as a shooter, had a fair amount of shots taken from deep late in the clock to ‘’save’’ the possession so that brought the numbers down but still needs to be more consistent in that regard.
Cameron Hildreth (‘02), Barking Abbey, 6’4’’, G
25.8pts, 2FG-63.9%, 3FG- 33.3%, FT-72.4%, 6.8rebs, 4.3ast, 4stl, 4to, 1.3blks
Despite being quickly implemented into the roster from another British team, Cameron transitioned very smoothly and finished as one of the breakout performers in Kaunas. Lead-guard, fluid with the ball, has a nose for defensive rebounds, after grabbing the ball was often taking it aggressively downhill and delivering points on the other side. In half-court doesn’t have the fastest first step but is able to take defenders off balance with a nice array of hesitations and convincing pump fakes to get inside and distribute after drawing the attention of the defense. Generally unselfish and doesn’t have trouble finding his teammates but could be sharing the ball a little bit more in transition offense. On drives all the way learned how to bounce off opponents away from the basket, keep composure and finish off the glass to avoid a contest. Half of his attempts came from behind the arc where he showed a lot of confidence, moved well off ball to get to a position, didn’t hesitate given room, showed pretty good range and was making important shots. Even when tightly guarded was able to create space in isolation by using step backs and fadeaways when closer to the basket.
Defensively was making small mistakes like going under screens on shooters, from time to time focusing too much on the ball instead of his man as well as biting on fakes but showed generally good instincts when helping from the weak side, great feel for steals slashing through passing lanes and was vocal well communicating with his teammates.
Led the tournament in four statistical categories – points, steals, field goals made, fouls drawn and managed to make a lot of noise with a whole Barking crew and put London on the basketball map for the years to come.
Paulius Murauskas (’04), Zalgiris Kaunas, 6’7’’, F
15.5pts, 2FG-65.4%, 3FG- 23.5%, FT-61.5%, 7rebs, 1.3ast, 2.3stl, 1.8to, 0.5blks
2004-born Paulius was a top scorer and rebounder for Zalgiris and got recognized with an All-Star five honours. Nice to see him expanding his game in the lane, looked a lot more confident driving straight all the way to the basket than in the summer. Was able to finish strongly around the rim, played through contact as well as energized himself and his team after big plays.
Looks tough- minded and to have a very competitive nature, wasn’t backing down despite playing against two- year older opponents and even at times seemed to be enjoying himself having physical scraps inside with bigger players. Needed to keep reminding myself he’s only 2004 as he was on par with the rest of the competition for the most part. Great body with impressive wingspan and an already good level of strength, showed some defensive versatility performing pretty well both inside and outside, done an especially good job on Victor Wembanyama, trying to make his life as difficult as possible, limiting his performance to 0 points when defending him.
Has a tendency of picking up silly fouls, needs to be more careful, was too aggressively battling his way through traffic for rebounds, sticking his elbows out on offense or jumping over the backs of other players resulting in foul troubles which for example significantly limited his performance in the Final. Rather average shooter at the moment, takes a while to set his feet and pull off, don’t impress with his percentages both from behind the arc and FT line but doesn’t get discouraged and keeps taking his chances.
David Mutaf (’02), Fenerbahce Beko, 6’5’’, SG
22pts, 2FG-59.3%, 3FG- 43.9%, FT-100%, 6.8rebs, 2.5ast, 1.5stl, 2.5to, 0blks
David was bringing a lot of experience to the table from previous years at AdidasNGT and lead his team in scoring, rebounding, but also the whole tournament in 3 percentage getting an impressive – 43.9% (18/41). Lefty sharpshooter with a smooth release, able to use screens to his full advantage and get in the shooting pocket, quickly sets his feet and pulls off with a good-looking stroke. Lethal both from catch and shoot as well as off the dribble. At times had some questionable moments with his selection and unnecessarily leaned on his attempts but took a lot of responsibility delivering points from outside in crucial moments or late in the clock. Not enough aggressive in the lane, plays with success in transition, rapidly leading the way but half-court game still needs to improve, not confident in his less dominant hand, predictable, avoids finishing with it around the rim. Doesn’t draw many fouls, only showed up twice at the charity stripe. Good rebounder for his size, presented good feel cutting through passing lanes and starting breaks that way but sluggish in rotation and gives up his position too easy 1 on 1.
Nicola Berdini (’03), Umana Reyer Venice, 6’0’’, G
22.5pts, 2FG-50%, 3FG- 35.7%, FT-87.5%, 3rebs, 2.8ast, 3.5stl, 3.3to, 0.5blks
2003-born Nicola managed to put up impressive numbers on the offensive end and was second the best scorer in the event. Sneaky guard with a decent shot and developed mid-range game, swiftly navigates his way through tight spaces splitting the PnR’s, beating his man off the dribble and penetrating inside looking for options. Not much of a finisher around the rim, doesn’t have the body to absorb contact, rather average athlete, often stops with good deceleration and pops on drives avoiding going all the way in. Defensively doesn’t impress, although presented good moments picking pockets on the top of the key and taking the ball 1 on 1 coast to coast but still has long ways to go as a defender. Loses sight of his man and focus in rotation, often on straight legs, walks around, not much of an obstacle when helping from the weak side or on mismatches.
Davide Casarin (’03), Umana Reyer Venice, 6’5’’, G
17.5pts, 2FG-30.4%, 3FG- 17.9%, FT-67.7%, 5.8rebs, 3.8ast, 3.8stl, 4.8to, 0blks
Another 2003-born on the Italian team, Davide didn’t have his best tournament and was expecting him to have a bit bigger impact on this occasion. Looks stronger from physical standpoint than in the summer, especially upper body which allows him to dominate weaker guards 1 on 1 and compete with success on mismatches when fully engaged. Very crafty guard with swagger in his game, reads the game well taking defenses apart, creative in the lane both distributing the ball from the middle to his friend Nicola getting into the shooting position as well as to slashers.
Tends to make risky decisions; with his passes overcooking or overcomplicating some of them resulting in a high number of TO’s (4.8) as well as forcing shots inside when can’t fully separate, instead of focusing on getting his teammates involved more which resulted in poor – 2FG – 30%. On the other hand, a constant presence in the lane allowed him to check-in at the FT line regularly and was shooting on okay 67%. 3-point shot is still left to be improved, didn’t impress, 17.9% (5/28), couldn’t find the rhythm from behind the arc throughout the whole tournament. Defensively has a lot of good moments mixed with bad ones, when engaged looks very competitive but then when loses focus is not as sharp in rotation and gives up his position way too easy.
Adria Domenech (’02), Joventut Badalona, 6’10’’, F
19.8pts, 2FG-55.8%, 3FG- 30.8%, FT-90.5%, 7.8rebs, 1ast, 1.8stl, 2.5to, 2blks
Long forward with great mobility for size and a nicely developed, versatile offensive game. On PnR able to play both as a screen setter, quickly rolling to the rim or popping to the side for a shot as well as ball handler delivering it to bigs with good timing. Feel like he improved his outside shot a little bit and looked very good from the FT line which promises a lot for the future.
High IQ, understands the game very well and is able to counter defensive moves with passes across after getting the ball on PnR’s or sneaky drives inside when sees open lane. Very good playing off the dribble from the perimeter or face-up inside, has a pretty fast first step for a player his size and is a crafty finisher around the rim with a soft touch using either hand. Not as lethal back to the basket as face-up, sometimes has a hard time trying to keep his base which can be also seen on the other end when defending big guys inside. Nimble feet allow his to move smoothly around on defense and knows where he has to be to help, only occasionally has some trouble sliding, rotating quickly enough or recovering after screens when matched up against a lot faster opponents. Maybe not the most athletic or strongest player but compensates a lot with exceptional positioning for rebounds on both ends and easy shot opportunities.
Photo credit: Robertas Eismontas – Zalgiris