Nike Hoop Summit Scouting Reports: Guards

Nike Hoop Summit Scouting Reports: Guards
Apr 11, 2012, 10:11 am
Scouting reports on Leo Westermann, Aleksandar Cvetkovic, James Robinson and Vytenis Cizauskas.

Nike Hoop Summit Scouting Reports: Wing Players

Leo Westermann, 6-7, PG/SG, 1992
ASVEL-Villeurbanne, France

Jonathan Givony

The most experienced prospect participating at the Nike Hoop Summit, Leo Westermann is a starter for a team vying to make the playoffs in ProA France, which was very evident watching himself conduct himself on and off the court.

Measured at 6-7 in Portland, Westermann has outstanding size for any of the backcourt positions, even if his average 199 pound frame and mediocre 6-4 wingspan aren't feathers in his cap. He's not an impressive athlete either, noticeably lacking great quickness and explosiveness.

What Westermann does possess is a terrific feel for the game, which has allowed him to establish himself as one of the most productive players in his age group in Europe, and should help him reach a very high level in professional basketball when it's all said and done.

Despite his height, Westermann operates primarily as a point guard for his ASVEL team in France, which operates at a deliberate pace that suits his style of play. A big part of his offense comes on the pick and roll, where he does a good job getting his teammates involved intelligently, using both hands and making crafty passes in a variety of ways. He likes to throw lob passes over the top of the defense when trapped out on the perimeter, and has excellent timing using bounce passes to find cutters diving to the rim.

Westermann is generally a very unselfish player who reads the floor well and likes to make the extra pass. He shows excellent leadership skills despite his youth, constantly directing teammates and doing a good job executing in the half-court.

Also capable of playing off the ball, Westermann stood out as one of the purest shooters on the Hoop Summit World Team, with his picture-perfect mechanics. That's translated to his play this season as well, as he's hit a terrific 47% of the shots he's taken with his feet set through 38 games according to Synergy Sports Tech. This gives his coach some nice versatility to work with, allowing him to be paired alongside a smaller scoring combo guard in the Monta Ellis/Lou Williams mold.

Westermann's biggest shortcomings revolve around his inability to create shots efficiently inside the arc. He does not possess a great first step or overwhelming quickness, which makes it difficult for him to beat his man off the dribble and renders him fairly ineffective in transition and isolation situations. Westermann does not get into the paint all that often in the half-court, and when he does, his average frame and explosiveness make it difficult for him to draw fouls or convert at a high rate around the basket. Unfortunately his team has been relying on him pretty heavily for offense since Tony Parker left at the end of the NBA lockout, which he's struggled with at times in the form of turnovers. He coughs the ball up on nearly 25% of his possessions, amongst the highest rates in Pro A.

While Westermann is clearly skilled and versatile enough to find a niche for himself on the offensive end, defensively is where scouts might have the biggest question marks about his NBA potential. He shows nice intelligence, timing, intensity and toughness using his size to his advantage jumping in the passing lanes and doing his best to compete in one on one settings, but often has a hard time staying in front of quicker guards due to his average length and lateral quickness and will need to add strength to his frame to help fight through screens.

Although he is not oozing with potential due to his average physical tools, Westermann shows an intriguing skill-set as a big, unselfish guard with strong perimeter shooting ability and intangibles. While his stat-line didn't jump off the page at the Nike Hoop Summit, it was obvious that his smarts and experience played an important role in the World Team coming up victorious. Westermann will likely continue to move up the European ladder and looks like a strong candidate to reach the very top-level of competition there, which could make him an interesting player for a NBA team to “draft and stash” for a few years to see how he continues to develop.

Interview and Highlights:

Aleksandar Cvetkovic, 6-2, Point Guard, 1993
Red Star, Serbia

Matt Williams

Already seeing some playing time off the bench in a strong level of competition in the Adriatic League, Aleksandar Cvetkovic showed his maturity on both ends of the floor over the course of his week in Portland. The 18-year old point guard was far from dominant in the game itself, but did a fine job distributing the ball, and playing team basketball, especially in the first half.

Standing 6'2 with a skinny frame, Cvetkovic lacks great size, strength, and athleticism, but he does a very nice job compensating for that with quick footwork, timely changes of speed, and solid ball-handling ability. Though he struggled with the length and quickness of the USA Junior Select Team's guards on a few occasions, he was still able to turn the corner and get into the paint consistently, although he does not have the bulk or the explosiveness to finish much of what he creates around the rim.

Cvetkovic's offensive game revolves around pace and positioning. Despite his lack of great leaping ability and explosiveness, he makes things happen with his dribble. Keeping his man off balance with hesitation moves and using his defenders momentum to his advantage, Cvetkovic controls the game with his ability to get to spots on the floor. An exceptionally savvy passer and crafty finisher, the young guard has terrific court vision, is able to take what the defense gives him, and makes consistently sound decisions with the ball, even under pressure.

Away from the basket, Cvetkovic has deft touch on his pull-up and spot-up jump shots. His mechanics are extremely smooth and his footwork is incredibly advanced for a player his age, as he never seems to attempt a shot off balance. He makes good use of his floater, but is more apt to find the open man when he gets into the paint. Able to read the game and find the open man like a veteran, Cvetkovic seamlessly runs the gambit between role-player in an All-Star setting like this one, star for his team at the junior level, and spot player for Red Star possessing an uncanny knack for striking a balance between scoring and passing and blending into his surrounding to make sure he's helping his team win.

Defensively, Cvetkovic made a consistent effort to pressure the ball, did his best to fight through screens, and showed the same high basketball IQ he does on the offensive end throughout the week. Lacking the physical tools to make a major impact, the Serbia native was knocked around quite a bit on the defensive end, but showed great intensity nonetheless. It will be interesting to see how Cvetkovic responds to playing against more athletic guards at the professional level as his career progresses, as we got a very limited glimpse of how he'll fare against high level athletes at the point guard position this week.

Clearly one of the most mature players in attendance, Aleksandar Cvetkovic is a tremendous competitor who ranks as one of the most promising young guards in Europe. His lack of great physical tools limits his upside at the NBA level, but the degree to which he already compensates for that on the offensive end is extremely impressive. His progress on the senior level is very much worth tracking as it should provide some insight on how he'll be able to adjust his game against better athletes.

James Robinson, 6-2, Point Guard, HS Senior, Dematha HS (MD)
Committed to Pittsburgh

Matt Williams

A quintessential Pitt Point Guard, James Robinson (#45 ESPN, #79 Scout, #58 Rivals) showed quite a bit of intrigue throughout the week in practice and played the role of deferential facilitator during the Hoop Summit game. A late addition to the US roster after Marcus Paige suffered a stress fracture in his left foot, Robinson was perhaps the least highly touted player on the US Junior Select Team, but impressed over the course of the practices with his leadership on the floor and overall skill level.

Standing 6'2 with a ready-made frame for the college game, Robinson does not have elite quickness or explosiveness, but is a decent athlete across the board. He compensates for his lack of elite quickness by playing the game at different speeds and using his strength and toughness to his advantage when driving the lane.

A capable ball-handler with good fundamentals, Robinson has the makings of a solid distributor at the next level. He is by no means a flashy passer who will break down defenders in one-on-one situations, but he plays disciplined basketball, organizes his teammates, does what his coaches ask of him, and looks to find the open man. We didn't get to see much of that in the actual Hoop Summit game due to the highly disorganized nature of his team's offense, but that was extremely evident in the practice sessions leading up to the game.

As a scorer, Robinson shows the ability to knock down shots from beyond the arc in catch and shoot situations, and displays a knack for using his strength around the rim. He's not a creative finisher, and his lack of great speed limits his ability to get out in transition prolifically or beat opponents off the dribble regularly in the half-court, but his shooting ability is a major plus, as his consistent, reliable mechanics will keep defenders honest at the next level.

Defensively, Robinson plays with good intensity and doesn't give up anything easy. His quickness is not great, and he doesn't have a long wingspan (measured 6-2 ½), but he's a tough and team-oriented player on this end of the floor –two things that should endear him to Jamie Dixon early in his Pittsburgh career.

Though Robinson lacks the physical tools of an elite prospect, his efficient style of play is rather rare for a point guard his age. If he can develop his scoring ability a bit, his low-mistake style of basketball could make him a valuable commodity for the Panthers as they transition to the ACC, and possibly help him emerge as a legit NBA prospect down the road.

Vytenis Cizauskas, 6-3, Point Guard, 1992
Baltai Kaunas, Lithuania

Matt Williams

Perhaps the most physically mature player on the World Select Team among the guards in attendance, Vytenis Cizauskas is a physical, assertive guard who makes his presence felt in a number of areas by being relentlessly aggressive.

Standing 6'3 with a well-developed frame, Cizauskas is a solid, albeit unspectacular athlete. He isn't very bouncy, but plays the game like a bull in a china shop when he is attacking the rim with the ball in his hands, changing into contact and showing no fear going right into the teeth of the defense.

Offensively, Cizauskas can draw some fouls and score some points in the paint by virtue of his aggressiveness, but lacks much in the way of touch, creativity, advanced ball-handling skills, and perimeter scoring ability. When he does play with pace and gets into the midrange, he shows the ability to make the simple pass to the open man and can knock down a jump shot from time to time. He is not an inept shooter from beyond the arc, but he doesn't possess deft touch, releasing the ball on the way down and not proving very reliable from the outside without time and space.

Cizauskas is at his best on the defensive end, where his toughness, strength, and aggressiveness make him a terrific team defender and allow him to defend both guard positions with some effectiveness in half court situations. Fighting through screens, not giving up ground when his man looks to penetrate, and giving a great effort closing out shooters, Cizauskas's defensive intensity is certainly a plus.

Seeing significant minutes for Baltai Kaunas in the Lithuanian and Baltic Leagues, Cizauskas is by no means a terribly skilled prospect, but his intensity and confidence are rare for a player his age. If he can become a more reliable shooter and add some variety to his dribble drive game, he could emerge as a very solid player for Zalgiris in time. Not an exceptional athlete, Cizauskas has been able to overcome his weaknesses as a shooter at the junior level, and it will be interesting to see how his skill level develops as he continues his senior career.

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