Rudy Fernández, 6-6, 1985, Shooting Guard, Joventut
24 mpg, 16.2 ppg, 53.9% FG, 46.2% 3PT, 3.3 rpg, 1.9 spg
In what has been a dream season so far for Rudy, there can't be a single doubter who won't admit that Rudy has improved dramatically, both on the court as well as in the mental part of the game too. Sure, his first step remains a liability and he still isn't a top player when it comes to creating his own shot. But this is finally the time that he is using his athleticism the way he should and he is emerging like a real scorer, a true star, not a simple contributor. And all that while being a rookie in such a competitive league.
Getting to his game, Rudy has created many headaches for opponents with his offensive presence. He is getting stronger, is mobile and athletic, focused, enthusiastic and highly competitive. He runs the floor particularly well, can cut impressively and has a great feel for the game, while his hunger for winning is only getting stronger over the course of the season. He slashes well, has some natural shortcomings with his dribble and some one-on-one difficulties, but finishes spectacularly well and, overall, knows how to use his body and pull out defenses. He shoots well behind the arc, although he has still a lot of work to do with his off the dribble jumpshot. He knows when to pass, when to ask for the ball and he can free himself with optimistic results.
Defensively, he has a "nose" for the ball and he has good footwork. He doesn't get beat laterally easily, is improving his body control, and is smooth and lanky in avoiding screens. He might not be quite quick enough to matchup up with all of the most athletic guards the NBA will throw at him, but he has the tools to contain and do a good enough job. His frame unfortunately hasn't grown much since 2004 when he was first recognized as a top prospect at the Copa del Rey, but he won't be facing significant physical problems in the NBA, if he keeps working the way he does.
Overall, this has been a great season for Rudy and much more intrigue is bound to come in the top-16 round with Joventut facing fair competition and seeking a surprising top-8 qualification. We are asking for more and will be looking to see him continue to make strides.
Jonas Maciulis, 6-6, 1985, SF/SG, Zalgiris
30 mpg, 12.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.4 spg
Maciulis has a very good body for the wing position and is strong and experienced enough to make good use of it. His basketball IQ is rather high for his age and he is already a competitor, after just half a season. He struggles sometimes and there are some shortcomings in his game, but he is athletic enough and has quite a good wingspan to cover for them. Maybe in the long-term, it will be proven that he isn't big enough to be more than a decent small forward, but this is his natural position and he has been learning it pretty well so far. If he needs to play some shooting guard in further stages of his career, he won't be bad, but he will have to work on his shooting and ball-handling skills, both of which are not the best parts of his game. In any case he could emerge as a nice big first-pass guard, with his ability to take advantage of his teammates and become more creative.
Defensively, Maciulis is very good. He can provide his team with decent size and he has the footwork and passion to prevent opponents from outmuscling him. Very good use of both his strong hands and his feet give him a lot of steals, making him probably the most complete youngster on both sides of the floor this season. He is a fighter and has good defensive positioning to add in his overall fine ability to fill the stat-line, while he is a rather good shot-blocker for his age and height, still lacking the timing to compete with older and bigger players though. Maciulis is not your typical European prospect in the sense than he is more of a bruiser than he is naturally skilled, but it wouldn't be a shock if a team decided to gamble on him in the 2nd round to see if he can develop the rest of his game over the course of the next few seasons in Europe.
Ricky Rubio, 6-5, Point Guard, DKV Joventut, 1990
18.1mpg 3.6ppg 2.5rpg 3.3apg 3.5spg 2/10 3FG
On the offensive side, Rubio shows the poise and decision making of an accomplished veteran, improving all the time at running his team and being a pass-first playmaker with very good court vision and ballhandling ability. He is good at slashing to the basket thanks to his technique,excellent length and decent quickness, showing patience and intelligence once in the lane to dish the ball off to open teammates or finishing by himself. He has some troubles finishing in traffic though since he doesn't get great elevation off the floor and is weak physically. His lack of a productive pull-up jumper is also a notable weakness, since once he gets separation from his defender, it is quiet predictable that he will go all the way to the basket looking to score by himself or passing the ball to a teammate. Rubio's major weakness at the moment is his shooting ability, he doesn't excel from any range, showing questionable motion on his shot and a real lack of consistency.
There is a certain excitement every time Rubio steps on the floor, as he has been producing remarkable results despite all the pressure from the fans and media. Ricky is certainly an unbelievable talent-- his competitiveness, intelligence and maturity is brilliant for a 16-year old. While he might not have the physical tools of some other European players, Rubio is currently a top prospect in the Old Continent and with the level he currently shows it would be a real surprise not to see him developing into a star player in one form or another. By the time he will be eligible to enter the draft, Rubio should be among the top players in European competitions and a very likely lottery pick, possibly the first European guard ever selected in the Top 5.
Dimitriy Khvostov, 6-3, 1989, Point Guard, Dynamo Moscow
8 mpg, 2.6 ppg, 0.9 apg, 1.3 T/Os
As for his drawbacks, there are many holes to fill, but he isn't more than a kid and he has long ways to go. His thin frame may not be growing much. He is thin and weak and the bad news is that if he gains a lot of weight, he may be losing his nice mobility. As for his point guard skills, most would swear that Dimitriy can pass. But since we don't see it; they can only make this hypothesis, because he sees the court well. He is so confident with the ball on his hands and maybe thinks too highly of himself, meaning he doesn't really come out with that many assists, or at least as many as he should be providing his teammates with. A good idea would be to focus on that part of his game in the limited playing time he will be getting during the top-16 round and leave the offensive show for the Russian Superleague games. Right now, his task is to keep growing and improve his playmaking abilities, because otherwise, he may be seeing a step back in the following months of the year, especially with so many scouts checking his game in the upcoming U-18 Euro Championships.
Manuchar Markoishvili, 6-6, SG/SF, 1986
30.5mpg 10.6ppg 2.9rpg 1.4apg 1.4spg
Markoishvili is a tough nosed defensive player, very aggressive and motivated. He makes full use of his physical capacities and always delivers maximum effort. However, there is again the question of how good he would be against athletic NBA swingmen, since he doesn't have great lateral quickness, nor size. On the offensive end, Markoishvili has steadily improved his jumper, which does not have text book form and could certainly use a quicker trigger, but he has a high release point and has been quite accurate when given a good look. He has also improved at creating his own shot, being able to get enough separation with his fairly solid ball-handling ability. Markoishvili is also an above average passer from static positions, while he is not quite as good off the dribble.
Given the depth of the 2007 draft, if Manuchar declares he would probably go undrafted. However with another good Euroleague campaign and showing some more improvement in his game, Markoishvili could hear his name called late in the 2nd round next year. As already stated there are serious doubts about his potential, but Manuchar is a solid all-around performer with a great attitude and work ethic. He will most certainly establish himself at the highest levels of Europe as a good role player, but we are not sure if he has enough to be a successful NBA player.