2008 Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso, Day Two

2008 Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso, Day Two
Jun 08, 2008, 04:25 pm
2008 Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso, Day One

Day two of the Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso was long and eventful, starting with three hours of drills (three on three play, four on four, pin-downs, spread and kicks, light shooting) followed by a lecture by David Blatt. The head coach of Dynamo Moscow and the Russian national team spoke extensively to the young players about the importance of “having a game,” with his main point to emphasize how much it will help them to develop a well-rounded skill-set and understanding of basketball.

Blatt broke down the intricacies of what makes a successful player in fine detail—whether it’s passing, shooting, dribbling, athleticism, and having “special skills” a coach knows they can rely on when they put them into the game. That could be rebounding from the guard position, controlling your man on the defensive end, helping out on team defense, being aware, mature and recognizing situations around you, and just being a smart, complete all-around player. He even went into some basic tactical solutions to different things they may encounter as early as this following evening, giving them a taste of what it’s like to play for a demanding coach in a very high level of competition.

As soon as Blatt’s lecture was over, we were granted a pretty special treat, two of the top international big men in this draft—Omer Asik and Semih Erden—rolled into the gym to participate in a private workout alongside Giorgi Shermadini, Henk Norel, Goran Dragic and Rudy Mbemba. The players were put through a number of drills—ball-handling, the Mikan drill, finishing through contact in the post and coming off a screen, pick and rolls, pick and pops, 5-spot shooting from mid-range, running the floor, and then competitive 2 on 2’s and 3 on 3.

Omer Asik clearly stood out from the pack as being the most intriguing big men in attendance, almost from the very start. He had the best frame of the four (great size at a legit 7-feet, good shoulders, a solid lower body, a nice 7-2 wingspan and 9-4 standing reach) to go along with the best motor and the most athleticism of the four. He came out with a business-like mentality, dunking everything around the rim (even when it wasn’t called for), not giving anyone an inch to breathe defensively, pushing guys out of the paint mercilessly, shooting the ball better than expected in the mid-range drills, and just leaving a very solid (and quite competitive) impression despite the fact that there was only so much you could take away from watching him in this setting.

Offensively, he’s nothing to write home about this point, even though he does have nice hands, a good feel for the game and some all-around craftiness that allows him to be fairly effective at what he does well (mainly finishing in close proximity to the basket). The fact that he was here working out for all to see was clearly a feather in this camp’s hat, as only a select number of NBA teams will be able to evaluate him in a private setting. It was hard not to come away from this workout with the impression that if he keeps progressing the way he has over the next few years, he’s going to be a huge steal in the second round.

Asik’s teammate and country-mate Semih Erden looked intriguing enough to warrant another glance as well. He has a good frame, legit size, solid mobility and very nice footwork in the low post. He did not shoot it all that well, but still showed enough ability and upside to warrant being picked somewhere in the second round to see how he develops over the next few years.

Goran Dragic was here as well, although it’s not quite clear if he’ll be playing tomorrow or not. He showed some nice bounce in his step getting up and down the floor and getting off the ground, but besides his athleticism, it was hard to tell too much.

After a short lunch break, we were treated to two games between four of the five teams in attendance, and then a compilation of some of the camp’s top players matched up against a severely weakened U-20 French National Team.

Tomorrow things get even more interesting, as potential lottery pick Nicolas Batum lands and will either play in a game or conduct a private workout.

Player Evaluations

Donatas Motiejunas-
Three or four years younger than most of the players at this camp, it wasn’t hard to tell how much more raw Motiejunas (12 points, 3 rebounds, 2/5 2P, 3/5 3P) is compared to the others. He air-balled a 3-pointer early on, and seemed to struggle with his lack of strength at times on defensive end and especially on the glass. He did settle in offensively as the game progressed, though, knocking down a few shots from mid-range and beyond the arc, making a very nice left-handed drive with a quick first step that he was unable to finish, dropping in a beautiful hook shot, and leaving other glimpses of his considerable potential. He obviously has a long ways to go, and thus may not be ready to contribute heavy minutes already next season for Zalgiris (and thus be able to think about the NBA draft), but there is a lot to look forward to if he stays patient and continues to work on his game.

Vladimir Dasic
-Dasic had not one, but two of the best games of the entire day, starting with an excellent 15 point, four rebound outing in just 15 minutes, followed by a 16 point, 8 rebound effort in 25 minutes in the all-star game against the French U-20. He was super aggressive all day long, showing no hesitation putting the ball on the floor in the half-court or after grabbing a rebound on the defensive end, going coast to coast a number of times, and displaying an excellent first step and nice fluidity finishing around the basket.

He’s looking much more like a small forward than he did last year, which is a really promising development considering his excellent frame and above average athleticism at 6-9. His ball-handling skills look better and better, giving him the ability to create his own shot from the perimeter, while displaying great touch shooting the ball from beyond the arc, going 4/6 from that range on the day. He played smart basketball on top of that, getting in the passing lanes and coming up with an incredible 10 steals in the two games, many times to make good passes ahead to open teammates in transition. He actually ranked 6th in the entire ULEB Cup in that category (tied with Ricky Rubio) this year playing just 20 minutes per game, so maybe that stat shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise.

One good day at the Eurocamp doesn’t erase an entire season of disappointing play (and he’s not even in the draft, so it probably doesn’t even matter), but the background information we received about the professionalism of his team Buducnost from impartial people here at the camp leaves some room for optimism. At age 20, he clearly still has a lot of upside to continue to improve, so he’s surely a name to continue to follow. He was once considered by some as a potential first round pick down the road, and with a good season in a new situation, it won’t be too hard for him to get back there.

Henk Norel
The impression you got about Norel’s play will likely heavily depend on which part of the day you were in Treviso for. People who were here for just the morning session and the Omer Asik/Semih Erden workout likely weren’t too impressed, while those in attendance for the evening all-star game probably came away thinking very highly of the Dutch big man.

Early on, Norel clearly struggled with the strength and physicality of the big men he faced in the morning and workout session, as Vladimir Stimac, Omer Asik and Semih Erden pushed him around mercilessly and made him look very far away at the moment from being able to compete at a high level. Defensively is where it seems like he’ll have the most problems, as he just doesn’t have the girth to hold his spot on the block on either end of the floor.

His play in the evening showed a lot more about why he’s such a highly regarded prospect by those who follow the Spanish leagues closest. Norel looked incredibly smart and active, running the floor extremely well, boxing out for every rebound, hustling for every loose ball, getting up and finishing well around the rim, and doing all the little things his team needed to come away with the victory. He reads the floor well and is very fundamentally sound for a guy that hasn’t been playing basketball for that long. He even knocked down some shots from mid-range and even a 3-pointer from beyond the arc. He got to the free throw line 10 times and knocked down 8 of his shots, while also hitting 7 of his attempts from the field, giving him 17 points (and 7 rebounds) in just 22 minutes.

That’s the beauty of the evaluation we were able to make from the entire day—seeing all of the strengths and weaknesses of a prospect through numerous drills, workouts and games, giving you a fairly complete picture for an early-entry candidate like Norel. Those who weren’t here might be interested to know that Norel is claiming to be “90% likely to stay in the draft,” according to his agent, stating the very heavy interest they are getting in the mid-2nd round.

-Mantas Kalnietis
Kalnietis (13 points [5/8 FG] 8 assists, 29 minutes) showed many of the same strengths and weaknesses he did last year, giving us a glimpse into the considerable potential that he clearly possesses, while also letting us know quite clearly why he struggled to consistently get minutes with Zalgiris in the Euroleague this season. Starting with his blazing speed in the open floor, his terrific finishing ability around the rim, his ability to create shots for himself on the perimeter and then find the open man on the drive and dish—Kalnietis has physical tools that few 6-5 guards have in this draft.

He also has his fair share of weaknesses, though, particularly his inability to take care of the ball, his average perimeter stroke, his poor wingspan which hampers him defensively, and his limited feel for the game. Just like we did last year, though, seeing him excel in this setting makes us feel like he should be able to contribute a bit more at a high level of competition, something that he wasn’t able to do that much of this season once again. Considering his upside, it might not be such a bad idea to invest a late 2nd round pick in him, just to see if he manages to pan out somehow in the next few years.

Alexey Shved- Under the watchful eyes of his head coach Ettore Messina, Shved did a very nice job showing his ability to create his own shot and elevate from mid-range and even beyond the arc to get his picture perfect shot off. He had 18 points (5/7 2P, 2/5 3P) in 32 minutes, with seemingly every one looking more spectacular than the next. Shved looks more like an American guard than a European at this stage of his development. He’s a good athlete, his ball-handling skills are excellent, and he has all kinds of terrific shot-creating tools at his disposal in order to free himself up and create space from the perimeter. He can’t be considered anything less than an absolutely terrific shooter, particularly from mid-range with his pull-up jumper.

On the negative side, at times he has the tendency to over-dribble and force bad passes, leading to unnecessary turnovers. He’s clearly more of a shooting guard than a point (his possible future position) at the moment, although he did do a solid job at times finding the open man on drive and dish plays or in transition. Shved needs to learn as he gets older how to do a better job not forcing the issue and knowing when to slow down.

Very surprising was how aggressive Shved was crashing the glass on both ends of the floor, coming up with an excellent 13 rebounds in the process. It’s clearly something he’s been taught (tip of the hat to Ettore Messina, see David Blatt’s speech earlier in the day), and it played a big role in his team staying in this game. They eventually lost, but were +10 with him on the floor. Not quite ready to play heavy minutes at a very high level of competition considering his extremely slender frame, Shved has a world of potential at his disposal, and will very likely continue to draw quiet, but steady buzz in NBA draft circles over the next few years.

Serge Ibaka

Definitely a less impressive outing by Ibaka in this second day in the camp (game 1: 18 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, 6/9 FG, 1/1 3P, 27 minutes; game 2: 8 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 4/6 FG, 24 minutes). At this point, he’s kind of a highlight reel to a certain extent, and there weren’t that many highlights to write about. Still, he had the opportunity to showcase his ridiculous athleticism on both ends of the floor with some dunks and blocks. The guy is just a panther, graceful and flexible, but powerful at the same time, a pleasure for the eyes when he’s flying towards the basket.

When it came to make plays, he came up with mixed results. He’s often struggling when he puts the ball on the floor. You can see his doubts when it comes to deciding what to do whenever he receives the ball with a defender standing in front of him. He still doesn’t dominate his first step, sometimes traveling or looking too tentative. In the low post, he lacks a polished game to just execute when he’s fed, and many times would weigh his options, even turning around to face the basket.

Actually, he often ends up settling for a jumper, extremely hard to contest given how high he gets with his leaping impulse and his high point of release, but still not entirely reliable, partially because he relies way too much on that impulse and it’s not always consistent, although he’s showing nice accuracy here, even netting some excellent turnaround attempts. He’s also not showing any passing game or whatsoever. He struggled getting offensively involved in the game against the U-20 French squad, likely because he was too tired (it’s been an exhausting season for him, as he had never played that many games before, and was forced to play two more today). Defensively, as impressive as his blocks look, he relies too much on his athleticism, and sometimes forgets to get the job done on the ground.

Regardless of all the criticism we can write about his raw game, Ibaka is still head and shoulders the most intriguing prospect in the camp for this draft, his potential looks off the roof –still having a lot of room to keep improving-, and he’s only helping his stock with his performance here. It’s almost impossible at this point to see him falling out of the first round, even if his agents probably wouldn’t mind him being free from the restrictions of the NBA rookie scale. Unfortunately for NBA teams wishing to join the party late and bring him in for a workout, the exhausted Ibaka is headed straight to Barcelona from here, so those who snoozed on coming to the Eurocamp will likely have to settle for film and second hand reports. It sounds very unlikely that he will pull out of the draft.

Fabien Causeur

You can always find in the EuroCamp players that, despite not enjoying a NBA potential, emerge as extremely solid performers. Casseur is one of them, a very solid shooting guard who is already enjoying solid playing time in the French ProA squad Le Havre. Slightly undersized, the left-handed Frenchman shows a nice frame and pretty decent athleticism. A very solid long-range shooter, showing quick and fluid mechanics, he has been very reliable from spot-up positions, even regularly connecting some off-the-dribble attempts, especially in the morning drills. Although not as effective in the evening game (8 points, 5 rebounds, 3/9 FG, 2/5 3P, 22 minutes), he did deliver a pretty solid outing. Causeur can really handle the ball, although he struggled trying to create off the pick-and-roll, but he looks like a rather smart and fundamentally sound player who takes good decisions on a regular basis. A solid defender, he should be able to make a very good living in European basketball.

Artem Zabelin

In terms of potential, Zabelin emerges as one of the top players in the Camp. However, this seems to be the never-ending story for him, as he’s already 20 years-old and still gets physically abused, but he has certainly made some serious strides in the last years. Very long (his wingspan is nothing to write home, about but his standing reach was the second best in the Camp, only behind the freakishly tall Sergei Ilin), quite athletic and reactive, very coordinated, he’s a very active player with a very intriguing skill repertoire that still needs to be polished. He showcased a very promising jumper, excellent footwork attacking the basket, some improvable ball-handling skills and some ability to finish around the rim. He particularly shined in the morning drills, showcasing impressive athleticism for a 7-2 big man, but when the evening game came (9 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks, 4/10FG, 31 minutes), he was regularly outmuscled down low and struggled playing off the dribble. However, he did a fine job on the defensive end, using his physical gifts and showing excellent activity, even collecting a number of blocks, where he showed pretty nice timing coming from the weak side.

Oleksandr Kolchenko

What a shooting outburst by Kolchenko (game 1: 22 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 7/10 FG, 5/7 3P, 31 minutes; game 2: 13 points, 2 rebounds, 5/9 FG, 3/6 3P, 16 minutes). The Ukrainian point guard was red-hot from everywhere on the floor, connecting on all kind of long-range bombs, either in static fashion or firing off the dribble, off crossovers or fade-aways, open or contested, showing impressive confidence and rhythm, successfully creating space while showing very nice mechanics. Showing decent size for a guard, both in terms of size and frame, he’s also pretty athletic and can attack the basket off the dribble with nice aggressiveness, although he’s not a particularly gifted slasher (his ball-handling and footwork are average). Neither particularly creative, he’s not looking like much of a team player, but mostly a volume scorer.

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