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 detailwhether its 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 its like to play for a demanding coach in a very high level of competition.
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 wasnt 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, hes 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 camps 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, hes going to be a huge steal in the second round.
Asiks 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 its not quite clear if hell 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 camps 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.
Hes 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 shouldnt come as that much of a surprise.
One good day at the Eurocamp doesnt erase an entire season of disappointing play (and hes not even in the draft, so it probably doesnt 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 hes 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 wont be too hard for him to get back there.
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 hell have the most problems, as he just doesnt 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 hes 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 hasnt 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.
Thats the beauty of the evaluation we were able to make from the entire dayseeing 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 werent 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.
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 wasnt 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.
On the negative side, at times he has the tendency to over-dribble and force bad passes, leading to unnecessary turnovers. Hes 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. Its clearly something hes been taught (tip of the hat to Ettore Messina, see David Blatts 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.
When it came to make plays, he came up with mixed results. Hes 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 doesnt dominate his first step, sometimes traveling or looking too tentative. In the low post, he lacks a polished game to just execute when hes 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 its not always consistent, although hes showing nice accuracy here, even netting some excellent turnaround attempts. Hes 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 (its 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 hes only helping his stock with his performance here. Its almost impossible at this point to see him falling out of the first round, even if his agents probably wouldnt 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.