Roundup: Maciulis Outmuscling the Euroleague

Roundup: Maciulis Outmuscling the Euroleague
Jan 30, 2007, 02:13 pm
Player of the Week: Jonas Maciulis

After several weeks performing at superb level in the Euroleague, it was about time for Jonas Maciulis to receive Player of the Week honours in our roundup. Aris suffered his last playing effort, as the Lithuanian had 16 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals to lead Zalgiris to the victory over the Greek team. He has become the most indispensable player for coach Grigas, and stays on court for very long stretches. In the last seven games at the top European competition he averages 15.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2 assists and 3.4 steals in about 35 minutes per game.

Zalgiris has already run out of chances to advance to the Top-16 in the Euroleague, so (basically) the sole purpose of the remainder season rests in recovering the Baltic and Lithuanian throne from the hands of Lietuvos Rytas, their biggest rival in the area. Precisely Zalgiris played the last game of the Baltic League in Vilnius against Rytas. Maciulis recorded a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals, paving the way to another victory for his team with a physical exhibition in the paint.


It’s no surprise that he’s such a valuable piece for his coach, as Maciulis provides a great physical lift whenever he’s on court. Offensively, he feels extremely comfortable near the basket, a situation he’s actively looking for lately, whether posting up his rivals, slashing towards the basket or cutting to receive in the paint. At 6-6, he’s not that big for a small forward, but he’s an impressively strong athlete -especially considering his age- who loves physical contact. Jonas is particularly useful when sharing the floor with bigs who enjoy some range with their jumpers, such as Jankunas or Mottola in Zalgiris’ case, so he can take advantage of larger spaces in the paint. Anyway, he can also play in the perimeter, and doesn’t look bad at all shooting off the dribble from the mid range area. Displaying three-point range as well, he still struggles when it comes to show consistency, and his mechanics are a bit slow, so he needs to be quite open to enjoy some effectiveness.

However, it’s not that far-fetched to think that Maciulis could eventually develop more than a decent perimeter stroke. Given this case, even the NBA might emerge as an option for him. His wingspan, athleticism, explosiveness, strength and aggressiveness should be able to make up for his lack of size up to a certain degree. Furthermore, he’s an able defender, a nice ball-handler, a reliable passer and a guy who understands the game. Just to provide an approximate idea about what we’re talking about, he could turn into some kind of shorter version of Andres Nocioni.

Taking a Long Look at…

…Nihad Djedovic, who enjoyed one of his best outings of the season against Cibona. The 17 year-old wing matched his career-high 14 points and had a career-high 6 rebounds for Bosna on the road against a Euroleague team such as Cibona Zagreb. The team from Sarajevo was edged by the Croatian powerhouse by 5 points, but it’s still a meritorious result considering the different strength of both squads.

It might result surprising to see a kid born in 1990 regularly starting for an Adriatic League team, even if Bosna is not particularly strong this year, but Djedovic earns every minute he’s rewarded on court. As we stated after his showing in the L’Hospitalet Tournament, the degree of maturity that Nihad enjoys is truly remarkable. That impression is equally strong watching him in the Balkan competition. He’s a guy who rarely commits mistakes while he isn’t afraid of trying things. Despite his youth, he’s not a player you would fear to have on court, as he usually provides positive actions for his team and is a reliable defender.

Djedovic is a 6-6 shooting guard, nicely athletic (particularly when talking about his quickness), well-built, actually pretty mature in the physical department, and well-rounded in terms of skills and basketball IQ. He displays a rather complete package that starts with a nice shooting stroke with off-the-dribble ability and nice range (although he needs to gain consistency from the perimeter). His mechanics are pretty good, knowing how to balance himself perfectly placing his feet to ignite the release. He can attack his matchup showing nice handles and aggressiveness going both sides, finishing himself with either hand or easily finding his teammates, whether an open player in the perimeter or feeding some roll after a pick or an screen. He doesn’t abuse of the dribble and takes quick decisions.

From the moment you start watching him, you can’t ignore the level of activity he displays. He’s restless, never stops. Partially, that’s why he’s already a nice defender. He enjoys a good lateral mobility and always keeps an eye on the passing lines, staying very active with his arms and hands although not risking his defensive position. He pays attention to the team defense and also contributes in the rebounding department. Actually, he’s quite a team-oriented guy. After the Spanish wonder boy Rubio, he’s likely the best 1990 player in the Old Continent. However his potential doesn’t look as impressive as his current playing level when you consider the maturity –physical, mental and technical- he already enjoys. Already signed by the European powerhouse Winterthur FC Barcelona (he plays loaned in Bosna), he’s a kid who should evolve into an elite wing for international basketball in the future (and, why not, eventually have the chance to pursue a hypothetical NBA dream).

…Mirza Teletovic, who is partially making up for Tiago Splitter’s late struggles. While he’s not being able to provide the same impact as the Brazilian delivers for Tau when he’s healthy and on shape, Mirza fuels a more productive perimeter this season in the Spanish team. Indeed, he scored this weekend 18 points against Polaris World Murcia in the ACB League, and all came from the three-point line. Also this past week, he recorded a career high 13 points in the Euroleague, with 6 rebounds to round-up his performance. Still Tau is going through the worst phase of the season, and actually they were upset by the weaker Murcia.

Teletovic is a strong and explosive athlete whose first offensive option is the three-point shooting. His accuracy is pretty remarkable, even if his percentages have fallen a bit lately. It’s a static jumper, but he’s releasing the ball rather quick, helping to open the floor for his teammates. Many times, you see little offensive activity coming from him beyond this department. However, Teletovic is a nice ball-handler who can attack his match-up off the dribble, as well as he can take advantage of his body in the low post to produce near the rim. But it’s not common to see him doing this stuff, even if he actually played off the dribble a few times this week against Prokom in the Euroleague. Anyway, he’s a complimentary scorer who takes advantage of the attention that his teammates get.

One of Tau’s biggest flaws matches with one of Teletovic’s main weaknesses, the defensive rebounding. The Bosnian power forward is struggling while trying to clean the defensive board for his team. He only averages 1.8 defensive captures in the Euroleague and 2.3 in the ACB League. He’s not being able to impose his physical strength, wingspan and athleticism, more useful for him in the offensive glass. Besides, he lacks some intimidation in the paint. Mirza displays intensity, enjoys nice mobility and the strength to battle any rival, but he often can’t keep up with biggest match-ups near the rim, where his limited size gets a bit exposed.

For the moment, and even if Teletovic is a secondary player in Tau, the fact that he’s earning consistent minutes in a top European team can only be considered a positive sign. With more lights than shadows, he’s a serious player who contributes whenever he’s on court and doesn’t commit too many mistakes. Perhaps he’s not a very intriguing guy NBA-wise, but his combination of strength and athleticism makes him a credible option in the second round.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Hot

Yi Jianlian erupted for 40 points and 13 rebounds against Bejing this past week. His massive scoring effort was rewarded with a victory for Guangdong, currently the CBA leader with a 23-4 record.

Tadija Dragicevic is on fire lately for Crvena Zvezda, averaging 21.3 points and 6 rebounds in the last three games, all victories, combining the Adriatic League and ULEB Cup. European Champion this summer with Serbia and Montenegro at the U-20 stage, he’s a 6-9 power forward with good mobility, nice physical built and skill set. He can shoot with nice range, he can put the ball on the floor, he plays pretty well off the ball and he can eventually post up his defender. Showing a good combination of outside-inside game, a late spark in his perimeter accuracy is lifting his scoring production. However, NBA-wise he’s a bit of a tweener with limited size for a four and not that great athleticism.

Marco Belinelli dropped 21 points on the Italian leader Montepaschi Siena. It was a close game, but Climamio Bologna couldn’t finally cash in off the homecourt advantage. Anyway, it’s another good sign of recovering coming from Marco, who added 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals. He already ranks sixth in scoring in the domestic competition with 17.7 points per game.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Not

Nemanja Aleksandrov still hasn’t been able to completely shake off the dust accumulated during his injury days. He looked pretty bad in the ULEB Cup playing against Real Madrid, and only has been conceded another appearance in that competition. He seems to have lost some explosiveness and athleticism, looking more of a clear power forward now. He needs to get stronger, as he gets regularly outmuscled, and actually looks rather soft. However, his perimeter stroke seems more solid, which isn’t a big surprise since he has probably practiced a lot in this department during the recovering. Besides, in the Adriatic League he’s faring statistically better, averaging 7.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in the last four games he has played. After a year and a half sidelined, it’s early to conclude anything; just consider these few lines an update on his status.

Rounding Up…

You don’t see everyday a player in Europe recording 15 assists. With stricter accounting rules, that kind of amount becomes a rare achievement. Mantas Kalnietis did it for Zalgiris in the blowout victory against Sakalai. Actually, it was double-double performance, as he also netted 10 points.

The most curious part is that Kalnietis himself has been struggling during the season when it comes to create game for his teammates. Indeed, he was deferring most of the game creation to his point guard mates Marko Popovic, Vidas Ginevicius or DeJuan Collins (whenever they shared the floor with him), or shooting guard Marcelinho Machado. It wasn’t a coincidence that Popovic and Collins didn’t play, while Machado and Ginevicius combined for only 23 minutes.

Still this is a flash of light in quite an average season for the athletic Lithuanian guard. He still needs to settle down as a playmaker and distributor, but particularly his perimeter shooting remains a big concern about his game.

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