While the Adriatic league is still a talented league in European standards, we must say that this year there is certain drop in quality. Most of major stars and prospects are gone, including Roko Leni Ukic, Marko Tomas, Marko Banic, Ivan Koljevic, Drago Pasalic, Milan Majstorovic, Semih Erden and even 16-year old Bojan Bogdanovic who signed for Real Madrid, although he will stay in the area on loan with Zrinjski for a couple years. Our Director of International Scouting, Luis Fernandez talked about this problem in more depth earlier this summer.
Teams from this area can not compete financially with clubs from Western Europe, so their destiny is to produce young talent and sell them off to richer franchises. This league is generally known and is often discussed here on DraftExpress because of the prominent role that youngsters enjoy at a very early stage in their careers. The Balkans is known as the most prolific pool for NBA talent outside the United States and this generation also features some players who will most likely end up in the NBA. Draftexpress presents to you the prospects, stars and top teams of the Adriatic league for the 2005/2006 season.
To read more, make sure to check out the official website of the Goodyear Adriatic League.
Zagreb, a Popular Place Amongst NBA Scouts in 05/06
KK Zagrebs Ante Tomic impressed everyone with his performance this summer at the European Junior (U-18) Championships. He has enormous potential and is considered one of the top European prospects for years to come. Antes senior career is just about to start as he kicks off the first season in which he should see significant playing time with KK Zagrebs senior squad.
Tomic should be in good hands as KK Zagreb is known for their development of young talent, and Ante should get the same chances to develop that Marko Tomas eventually did. However, dont expect big stats from the kid immediately, as he is still just 18 years old. KK Zagreb has a poor roster this season and Tomic should find his place in the rotation as his main competition will be veteran Dzevad Alihodzic and Denis Vrsaljko, who are both average players. It wouldnt be a huge surprise to see Tomic eventually land the starting job if he can show a good attitude and begin to capitalize on his huge upside.
Tomics skill level is already higher than many Centers in this League, as he can play both on the perimeter or inside the paint with equal success. A couple of years ago Tomic was a PG, but then he hit a ridiculous growth spurt and went from being a 6-4 guard to a 7 foot center in just one year. He is still in process of adapting to his height and therefore has a typical body for an 18 year old European center, being rail thin as you can probably imagine.
Ante is the best Croatian prospect in some time and with the right work and attitude could be a high lottery pick in the next couple of years.
Tomics teammate from the Croatian Junior national team, Aleksandar Ugrinoski, returned to Cibona after being loaned to Dubrava last season. Ugrinoski is in a tough position as he is the 3rd string PG on the roster behind Scoonie Penn and Davor Kus. The best solution for both sides might be to loan him to another squad, but so far it seems like Cibona isnt interested.
Ugrinoski improved significantly last season playing for Dubrava, a small team where he was allowed to run the team at the senior level for the very first time. He was also very good at European Junior Championships, although inconsistent. Aleksandar is among the most talented players in his 1988 age group in Europe and is considered an especially talented passer at 6-4 and just 17 years old. It is very questionable whether Ugrinoski is going to see any minutes this year though, besides garbage time, as he is playing for a team who will be competing in the Euroleague in Cibona. Coach Drazen Anzulovic hasnt showed much faith in his youngsters in previous years, but anything is possible.
The third Croatian draft prospect who will be playing in Zagreb is the most well known of the bunch, 19 year old Damir Markota, who will be facing the most important season of his young career so far. The 6-11 Markota was already featured this summer on DraftExpress in an extensive article detailing his strengths, weaknesses and prospects as a player.
Markota has been one of Cibonas best players during the preparation games, regularly scoring in double figures just like he did in last years preseason, after which he promptly disappeared when the season started. Hopefully for him this year will be a different case.
Markotas rival at the Power Forward spot for the Euroleague team is athletic American freak and former Arizona Wildcat Bennett Davidson. So far Markota has been posting better numbers that him in preseason and appears to be close to winning the starting job. A good showing in the Adriatic league and especially the Euroleague could see Markotas stock head back towards the mid-first round where he should be placed based solely on his upside.
Partizana Team to Watch
Unlike other clubs in this league, Partizan was able to hold on to its terrific nucleus of young talent, with the exception of Semih Erden who signed for Fenerbahce. This tradition rich city from the capital of Serbia and Montenegro will likely be another frequent stop on the itineraries of many NBA scouts.
7-2 Kosta Perovic finished last season in great fashion, scoring in bunches and constantly showing off his advanced offensive game before declaring and later pulling out of the NBA draft. Adding more of a back to the basket game to compliment his height and make up for his lack of athleticism would be a great way to continue to help his stock, though. His toughness and motor are the two biggest question marks around his game right now as he doesnt dominate the glass you would think he might at 7-2 and is also a poor man-to-man defender. If he can find a way to show some improvement is these areas he will probably get his fair share of looks in the first round.
7 foot Macedonian center Predrag or Peja Samardziski will be Perovic`s backup. Peja is still in the process of establishing himself at the senior level, last season he saw 13 minutes per game and this one could be a lot of the same as Perovic and returning league MVP Dejan Milojevic are usually coach Vujosevics first choice. Samardziski is a better defender than Perovic as he is quite a bit more active, but his offensive game is still somewhat limited as of right now. However, he is still only 19 years old and has plenty of time to develop.
Nikola Pekovic is another young, big kid from Partizan who played well at the European Junior Championships this summer. Unlike Perovic and Samardziski, hes a pretty decent athlete for his size with some intriguing skills, but it seems like he wont see too many minutes this season behind his more experienced, although also youthful teammates.
6-9, 1985 prospect Luka Bogdanovic had his ups and downs last season as he was moved from PF to the SF spot. This season Bogdanovic will have to prove that he can keep up with perimeter players, as this will likely determine a fair share of his chances of playing in the NBA one day. Another thing he could improve is his slashing ability, as he developed into strictly a one-dimensional shooter. The only other SF on Partizan is experienced and not very impressive Predrag Suput, so Bogdanovic should see big minutes.
Last but certainly not least is 6-5 combo guard Uros Tripkovic, who has by far the most potential of the four. The 19 year old Tripkovic was sensational in his first season with the senior team and is expected to continue along the same route this coming season with Blake Stepp out of the picture. Tripkovic has tremendous talent and offensive ability to go along with his very solid athleticism, but we need to improve on his poor shot selection. Defensively, he still has a lot to learn as well. Last season he often struggled to stay in front of his man. His body is very skinny also, but despite all these issues he is still Partizans best backcourt player already at a very young age. With Partizans lack of firepower in the backcourt, Tripkovic could very well end up scoring 15-20 points per game at least a few times this season.
The United Nations of Olimpija
After Partizan, the third most interesting team this season in terms of the NBA draft should be Union Olimpija from the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana, another team that will be participating in the Euroleague as well as the Adriatic League.
6-4 Israeli combo guard Yotam Halperin decided to try his luck here after warming the bench on a loaded Maccabi Tel Aviv team over the last few seasons, and will likely be followed closely. Halperin played very well during the preparation games and is fighting for a spot in the starting five with Finnish PG Teemu Rannikko. As a 1984 prospect, Yotam will be automatically eligible for next years draft and will have a reasonable chance of earning himself a spot in the 2nd round with good performances in the Adriatic League and Euroleague.
6-6 Georgian shooting guard Manuchar Markoishvili is another player who should see increased playing time this season. The 18 year old, whose rights are owned by Benneton Treviso, was the 3rd string SG last season behind leading scorer Marino Bazdaric and Marjan Mance. Now with these two gone and Saso Ozbolt injured, Markoishvili could very well be in the starting five when the season starts.
Markoishvili will need to show more consistency and versatility in his game first, though. His offensive game is not advanced enough for a SG and he will have to make some improvements in order to establish himself at this level. On the other end of the floor, his attitude and defensive ability are very good. Manuchar doesnt have a great upside, but with some improvement he could be 2nd round pick in couple of years.
6-11 Bosnia and Herzegovina native Hasan Rizvic is another one of Olimpijas new signings, coming off a strong season playing with Pivovarna Lasko last year. During the pre-season Rizvic was Olimpijas best scorer, which came as a surprise as he is not considered the best example of your super skilled European big man. Hasan is a borderline prospect as of right now who will need to have huge a big season in order to get drafted, as he is neither skilled nor athletic enough to get drafted based on his potential. He is a very solid defender who enjoys contact although his body is thin. Offensively he mainly plays with his back to the basket as his jumper isnt reliable. Rizvic competition in the frontcourt are former French National team player Vasco Evtimov and two NBA draftees in Milwaukees Szymon Szewczyk and Orlandos Ramon Van den Hare.
Other Prospects Around the League
18 year old Nemanja Aleksandrov is still recovering from an ACL injury, but once he does he have the tough task of living up his reputation as one of Europes biggest talents. The 6-11 and wonderfully skilled Aleksandrov was disappointing last season, playing without aggressiveness at times, seeing sporadic minutes and missing time due to injuries once he finally did get going. This season could be harder, not only because of the recovery process, but because his team FMP Reflex has Branko Jorovic at small forward and Dusko Savanovic at power forward, who happen to be their two best players and play the same position as Nemanja. Regardless, Nemanja has the talent to outplay them and could certainly see playing time if he can show the type of heart scouts are hoping to see out of him.
FMP has another interesting forward in 6-11 Zoran Erceg who also prefers to hang out on the perimeter. The 18 year old was loaned last season to Borac Cacak, where he played quite well.
One of the newcomers to the league is Vojvodina with two intriguing prospects in 6-6 shooting guard Milenko Tepic and 7 foot center Vladimir Golubovic. Tepic is an athletic guard who enjoys good slashing abilities, while Golubovic is a big and strong center without much in terms of skills or athleticism. They were out of Vojvodinas rotation last season, so getting consistent minutes this year would be an achievement for them.
Red Star has a bunch of youngsters, but none are considered top prospects at the moment. We will mention newcomer 6-1 PG Igor Milosevic, who should see big minutes in the backcourt. The 19 year old Milosevic played in Greece over the last couple of seasons and is a member of the Greek junior National team.
A weak Helios team features three borderline prospects; 6-3 PG Jure Mocnik and 6-5 SG Domen Lorbek played prominent roles last season, while new kid on the block is 6-5 SG Klemen Lorbek, the best Slovenian player at the European Junior Championships. Both Lorbeks are brothers of Climamio Bologna big man and Indiana Pacers draftee Erazem Lorbek.
KK Zadar has an intriguing player in 6-11 Center Jure Lalic, but with Todor Gecevski and new signing John Whorton on the team he probably wont see too many minutes on the floor. Lalic has great size and very soft hands. He is an exceptional rebounder, which is surprising due to his average athleticism and strength. However, he has a very nice frame and could get much stronger down the road. The 19 year old Lalic can play with either his back to the basket or facing up, but might like the explosiveness to be a first round prospect.
Other Prospects in the Area
This league features only 14 clubs from 4 countries so some interesting players from poorer teams dont get a chance to compete in the Adriatic league. Instead they will play in their domestic league Championships, which the Adriatic clubs will join in the latter stages. There are many very good NBA prospects scattered about here as well, although this makes them just a little bit harder to track down if you are only coming for a week like many scouts do.
KK Split is famous for producing NBA players and Hrvoje Peric and Franko Kastropil might be the next ones. Last time when we saw Kastropil he looked out of shape, being completely overweight. However, he is 7 feet tall, strong and with some athleticism, which might be enough for consideration in the 2nd round when the time comes. The 6-8 Peric was on a tear during preparations until an injury stopped him. His most impressive performance was against Atlas where he scored 25 points to go along with 8 rebounds and 7 assists.
FMP Reflex loaned Serbian Junior National team stars Milos Teodosic and Dragan Labovic to Borac Cacak. Borac is sort of FMPs 2nd team, as they are on good terms with them. Still, it is somewhat odd as Labovic and especially Teodosic could have probably worked their way into FMPs rotation. The 6-5 18 year old Teodosic is a very talented PG with great size and passing skills, while Labovic is a 6-9 PF who is extremely advanced for his age, although probably lacking NBA type athleticism and being a bit undersized.
Buducnosts flashy 6-4 point guard Nenad Mijatovic is another unlucky talent who wont see exposure on a major stage this year. He didnt exactly impress at the European Junior Championships, but is very talented and is still making his first steps on senior level. Buducnosts roster isnt too strong so the 18 year old Mijatovic should get more time on the floor than last year, which means well have a chance to see if he can run a team against senior competition.
6-9 combo forward Vladimir Dasic is another talent from the Serbia and Montenegro European Junior Championships team. He was very close to signing with Real Madrid, but it seems like he will stay another year in Podgorica. Dasic is a very athletic and versatile wing forward who started to produce in the 2nd part of last season. This year he should do even better.
Another Serbian prospect is 17 year old Nikola Dragovic who plays for the little known team Avala. Dragovic is a 6-9 wing forward who left a very strong impression with his style of play at the last Reebok Eurocamp according to our Italian scout Marco Fracasso.
The last name to mention is Hrvoje Kovacevic, a 6-5 Croatian combo guard who impressed Efes Pilsen coach Oktay Mahmuti during his trial with the Turkish club. They wanted to sign him and then loan him off for a year or two, because they already have 4 foreigners which is the limit there. Kovacevic didnt accept and instead returned to Slavnoski Brod where he will be playing another year.
Who Can Compete with Milojevic for MVP?
Dejan the Serbian Barkley Milojevic has been a dominant force under the basket in this area for the past couple of years, despite being only 6-6 and not particularly athletic. Milojevic averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds of the last few seasons and was by far the Most Valuable Player of the last edition of the Adriatic league. Dejan is considered one of the most skilled big men in Europe, combining great skills in the post with a reliable jumper. He is a very intelligent player that always makes good decisions, while being a good defender and great rebounder for someone his size. He is a great example of a player that can be a star in Europe and probably nowhere else.
Former UNLV Runnin Rebel and one time Philadelphia 76er Kebu Stewart from Vojvodina is a newcomer to the league as his team didnt compete in prior editions. Stewart averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds in YUBA (Serbian) league last season, while outrebounding Milojevic on two occasions when their team meet. Stewart should know how to take advantage of his athleticism and strength, which is superior to most of the centers in this league.
James Scoonie Penn returned to Cibona Zagreb after one season with Scavolini Pesaro. In his previous stint with Cibona, after a slow start, Penn played very well, leading his team to some important wins in the Euroleague, while averaging 14 points and 4 assists in the Adriatic league. Scoonie is a favorite of coach Anzulovic and should be the leader of rebuilding Cibona Zagred. Penn played pretty well for the Miami Heat in their summer league last year, but couldnt draw much interest from the League. His size at 5-8 is what will probably always keep this speedy point guard out of the NBA.
Josip Sesar is a familiar name to all fans from this area as he is known as one of the biggest headcases in basketball. Sesar had all the tools to become the next great Euro guard, but struggled to live up to expectations despite starting his career in great fashion. As years went by, Sesar got worse and worse, much of which has to do with his mental strength or we might say weakness. The former 2nd round pick of the Boston Celtics is now playing for Siroki, a poor team from Bosnia and Herzegovina where he is a superstar. Sesar has been scoring around 30 points per game during the pre-season and should compete for being the top scorer of the Adriatic league. Sesar can shoot the lights out, while also being a very good penetrator. His play on other side of the floor is a different story, though, as he shows a very poor attitude and absolutely no desire to defend.
Cibona Favorites for the Title
Cibona Zagreb is our pick for the Adriatic league title this season. They have a good lineup featuring point guard James Scoonie Penn and two sharpshooters in Damir Rancic and Marino Bazdaric in backcourt. Davor Kus and veteran Davor Marcelic should provide good depth on the perimeter. Cibona also has more then enough size and athleticism in the backcourt with Bennett Davidson, Damir Markota and Marton Bader, while veteran Mate Skelin should also prove useful.
In the same categories as Cibona belong the two other Euroleague teams, Partizan Belgrade and Olimpija Ljubljana. Partizan has the MVP of the League Dejan Milojevic surrounded with talented youngsters Kosta Perovic, Luka Bogdanovic and Uros Tripkovic. Their biggest hole is at the PG spot with young Boris Bakic being the only real playmaker on the team.
Olimpija brought up many new players, they are deep at the point with Finnish Teemu Rannikko, Israeli Yotam Halperin and Croatian Vedran Morovic. After the departure of Marino Bazdaric their biggest star is Saso Ozbolt, an athletic combo guard who will miss a big part of the season due to injury. Without Ozbolt the best scorer should be veteran sharpshooter Jimmy Oliver. Hasan Rizvic could be a major force in the frontcourt, while Vasco Evtimov, Szymon Szewcyk and Ramon Van den Hare should provide some rebounding and defense.
Croatian champion Zadar has a good roster despite losing their best scorers Marko Banic and Kyle Hill. They signed ex-Warrior Dean Oliver and Center John Whorton to replace them. They have also young floor general Jakov Vladovic, tough and athletic defensive specialist Juby Johnson and two quality bigmen in Frano Colak and Todor Gecevski. The young Johnson will likely be the star of this team and will be expected to continue his improvement offensively.
Last seasons winner Hemofarm sold or lost 4 of their starters - Nebojsa Bogavac (Breogan), Petar Popovic (Benneton), Antonio Meeking (Charlotte Bobcats) and Jasmin Hukic (Ural Great). They bring in Rashad Wright, Nebojsa Joksimovic and Vladan Vukosavljevic, but is very doubtful if it will be enough to defend the title.
Red Star and FMP decided to stick with their youth, but they should be strong candidates for the Final 8. The host of the Final 8 will be Bosna, who is very ambitious this season. Their main post presence Kenan Bajramovic signed for Marioupol, but they replaced him with talented PG Aleksandar Gajic and power forward Jasmin Perkovic from their rival Siroki.
Vojvodina also have a good shoot at the Final 8, while Siroki, Zagreb, Lasko, Geoplin and Helios have pretty weak lineups and it will be a major surprise to see one of these teams in the first half of the table.
As always, Draftexpress will keep you posted all season long about what is happening in the Adriatic league.