The tournament scored a major success by bringing back last years champion, while getting Cibona was also an excellent decision. FMP delivered some stretches of really high quality basketball that had a fair reward in the final triumph. Its a very well-rounded squad that plays team basketball while not renouncing to the individual talents of its players. Still, they did struggle to beat Real Madrid in the semifinal and especially F.C.Barcelona in the final. But we should keep in mind that the teams go-to guy, Dejan Musli, wasnt here for the first two days and was noticeably out of rhythm in the couple of games he played.
The level showed here by Zeleznik easily translates to the National Team, to the point that Serbia looks like the clear-cut favorite in the junior category this year, both in the Mannheim tournament and in the European Championship, particularly since chances are Ricky Rubio will play in the Olympics with Spain.
Lets take a look at the most interesting players from the former Yugoslavia seen in the competition.
1991, PF, 6-10 Real Madrid
Mirotic is a finesse player, obviously extremely skilled, and very versatile. Pretty long, he stands around 6-10 right now, but doctors have reportedly projected him to grow up to seven feet. His frame, even if not the best around, is decent, but hes still pretty much a skinny guy. He neither stands out by possessing outstanding athleticism, but he shows very nice mobility on the floor, actually displaying more than enough for a guy of his characteristics. He is very coordinated and is blessed with terrific hands, which makes everything easier for him.
Its hard to think about any single skill he should feature on the offensive end and doesnt; perhaps a better use of his left hand finishing around the basket. Anyway, in the junior category, hes as much of a face-up guy as a back-to-the-basket player. He can effectively shoot the ball with range out to the three-point line, and can even fire off the dribble. If necessary, he uses pump fakes to unbalance his opponents (or double pump fakes) and puts the ball on the floor with both hands with impressive ease to attack players even smaller and quicker than him. He also showcases excellent footwork in the low post, and has solid footspeed and a soft touch to put the ball in the net. Mirotic is an able passer either with kick-outs off penetrations or from the low or high post. He also runs the floor very well, and is a guy who almost always stays under control.
Real Madrid is wisely encouraging his versatility by allowing him to do virtually anything on the court. And he does, filling the whole entire floor, so hes as soon working in the lane he just as easily be in the high post or behind the arc. Actually, he took the ball up-court himself several times, but he still doesnt force the issue and never crosses the line of an individualistic player.
The biggest hole in Mirotics game is his defense, and its not even that serious. He could eventually intimidate smaller opponents thanks to his length, also coming up with some steals, but hes not the most intense guy in this regard. However, hes a solid rebounder that takes advantage of his hands, length and positioning.
Anyway, Mirotic has emerged as one of the very top prospects born in 1991 and beyond, certainly for the international game, but likely with NBA potential as well.
Real Madrid had another big guy from Montenegro on trial, Davor Barovic, a 6-11 left-handed and skinny guy with a decent mid-range shot, some footwork, passing ability and decent athleticism. Born in 1990, he doesnt look like a greatly talented player, but he might be interesting down the road.
1991, C, 7-0, FMP Zeleznik
Not particularly known for his athleticism, he looked even slower than usual, which limited his effectiveness, particularly on the defensive end, where he had proven to be a dominating force in previous tournaments. But in LHospitalet he struggled somewhat to stay in front of his opponents, particularly whenever they stepped out of the lane. Again, it was probably a conditioning issue. Offensively, he settled for three basic situations. First, the open static shot: hes still not a reliable player here, but will likely evolve into a solid mid-range shooter, while he even tried from the three-point line. Second, the low post: where he needs to continue developing his footwork and moves, as he basically turns looking for a right-handed jumphook whenever he receives the ball, showing no counter moves and limited options if his match-up anticipates his movement. At least, he seems to be developing a decent touch around the basket. The third option was to pin his opponent down and ask for a lob over his rival, which proved to be a productive situation given his physical superiority.
We can say that Dejan probably disappointed considering his reputation as MVP of the past U-16 European Championships, but it was likely entirely due to his physical condition. Well have to wait for a better opportunity to dig into his game.
1990, SG, 6-6, AXA F.C.Barcelona
At the end of the day, Djedovic showcased his preference for the long range shot, which looked improved from the last time we had saw him. He showed very good range, off the dribble ability and solid mechanics. Still it would be desirable that he didnt forget his slashing game, a danger already visible when he plays with the pros, where he settles for perhaps too many jumpers. Although he delivered some nice passes, we missed a bit more creativity from Djedovic, some go-to leadership that didnt simply rely on his scoring power. Hes able to do better in this department, in our opinion. A good defender, the Bosnian probably wasnt as focused in this regard given his improved offensive role on the team.
All in all were talking about a very mature player who is ready to step on a LEB Oro (second division) court, perhaps even play in the ACB, but with an intriguing enough combination of athleticism, size and skills to keep an eye on. The NBA might be a long shot, but hes bound to become an elite player in Europe.
1990, SF/PF, 6-10, Cibona
Very long, also pretty skinny, Zubcic displays nice quickness for his size, and particularly enjoys an extremely solid first step to attack his opponents off the dribble, being able to go both ways, although he rarely finished himself his slashing attempts and opted to pass the ball. Indeed, he passed the ball much more and significantly better than he had showed in previous competitions, although he sometimes struggled when he was under pressure. At the same time, we perhaps missed a bit more aggressiveness looking for his own points. He was often unselfish to a fault, while his team didnt run any play for him for long stretches. However, hes a guy who has some troubles to consistently put the ball in the net at this point. His jumper is anything but solid; he shows nice range, its mostly a spot-up effort, but he needs to polish up his mechanics, and find better balance on his release. Hes not particularly creative and effective with his layups if he needs to finish in traffic, while he will rarely use his length to dunk the ball over his opponents. From the low post, he often settles for turnaround shots, indeed preferring to look for non-contact situations.
Theres as much promise in his game as there is uncertainty. Zubcic is not the most aggressive guy around, and risks being eventually labeled a soft player. He also lacks a real position now, and maybe in the future. For a small forward, he displays very poor lateral quickness on the defensive end, while his perimeter skills need serious refinement. For a power forward, hes too skinny, and carries a questionable frame in order to add weight. He will probably end up playing as a modern face-up power forward, trying to take advantage of his quickness off the dribble and his ability to shoot the ball--even if he will need to seriously work on his long-range accuracy.
1990, SG/SF, 6-6, FMP Zeleznik
In terms of skills, his outstanding shooting ability clearly stood out. He barely missed a single three-pointer where he enjoyed some space to get his shot off (and he didnt need that much). It was mostly spot-up attempts, and the opponents often ended up assigning Andreja a defender who would not provide any defensive help in order to permanently stay with him. Milutinovic shows beautiful mechanics, but despite his accuracy, he still could enjoy some adjustments in the way he releases the ball.
Its not only about shooting, but Milutinovic can easily put the ball on the floor and attack his match-ups. If he doesnt find a clear lane to leave the lay-up or the space to release an off-the-dribble mid-range jumper, hes pretty effective finding his teammates with kickout passes. He also runs the court extremely well and generally speaking, his basketball IQ looks pretty high, usually taking good decisions.
A good contributor on defense, he used his length to work the passing lines and come up with a bunch of steals that provided easy transition baskets (FMP runs the fast-break really well). He also was productive cleaning the glass, again thanks to his wingspan, but also due his activity and positioning.
1990, PF/C, 6-9, Cibona
However, Radosevic was part of the mess on the offensive end. His eagerness to put the ball on the floor and play off the dribble didnt help his team at all. If we focus on his development as a player (which is the main point at these categories), it was nice to see him trying new stuff, but theres a huge load of work ahead of him, because he didnt look effective at all. Not only are his ball-handling skills still poor, particularly his left hand, but his general body language and coordination needs serious refinement if he wants to become a useful face-up guy, not to mention his extremely inconsistent jumper. On the other hand, to work on his face-up abilities shouldnt imply to forget the low post. A player with his build should also be developing back-to-the-basket moves to cash in on his physical advantages, but unfortunately we didnt see any of that in LHospitalet.
1990, PG, 6-3, Cibona
The Bosnian is very hard to stop in transition, but struggles against well structured set defenses. Hes not precisely a distributor, more of a drive and kick passer, and often a bit individualistic. He needs to keep working on his decision making and focus on providing good solutions for his team as a whole. Although able to shoot off the dribble from mid-range distances and enjoying three-point range, Hodzic also needs to gain consistency with his jumper. Solid on defense, often surprisingly aggressive chasing the boards, hes a pretty active guy.
FMP ZELEZNIK, THE FACTORY
The champions for the second year in a row, FMP looks like the team to beat if they come back next year. They were crowded with first-year players (born in 1991) that should build an almost unbeatable squad for next season.
That makes three first-year players in the starting five, but theres more coming off the bench. Among them,
If we talk about second-year players, and rounding out the starting five with Milutinovic, we have to mention
Its quite shocking to think that every single guy on FMPs roster looked like an interesting player in one degree or another. They are stacked. And just consider that last summer this team provided the U-16 EC MVP (Dejan Musli), U-20 EC MVP (Milos Teodosic), U-19 WC MVP (Milan Macvan) and the best player of the best team in the U-18 EC (again Macvan).
At this point, nobody will argue the fact that this team from Belgrade is right now the top basketball factory in Europe.