Player of the Week: Renaldas Seibutis
The very least you can say about Seibutis is that he has emerged as arguably the steadiest performer for Maroussi this season. He leads the team in total scoring (averaging 13.5 points) and you can always count on his effort and activity on the court while delivering good decision making. Hes constantly cutting and playing without the ball in the set offense, he doesnt hesitate to attack his opponents, he loves to run the floor in transition, and hes aggressive on defense, both in individual match-ups or team rotations. Despite that intensity, hes a guy that plays under control, takes good decisions and commits few mistakes. Indeed, his 1.3-turnover average is a very reasonable amount for a player who takes so actively part in his teams game.
So far, this isnt anything we didnt already know about Seibutis (lets recall, a former MVP in the U-21 World Championships a year and a half ago). Although there hasnt been any dramatic improvement in his game, the added consistency hes achieved with his three-point shot is very good news. Not that we ever doubted his ability to become a reliable perimeter shooter given his very nice mechanics and excellent accuracy from the mid-range area, but for a shooting guard like him, it was imperative to solidify an effective three-point shot to better contest elite defenses, and he seems to be on the right track. Seibutis credits a terrific 47.2% accuracy this season from behind the arc in the Greek League, not really very different from last season in Olympiacos, but displaying significantly more shot attempts (he went 5/8 from the arc this last week, for example). Still, its mostly spot-up jumpers, but you can feel the improved confidence in his stroke.
Most of his flaws NBA-wise are still there, though. Seibutis is not particularly gifted physically, with average size and a skinny body. However, hes visible stronger now, but still has a ways to go working on his frame. His athleticism is not on par with what you want for a NBA shooting guard. Among other things (some defensive limitations or poor ability to create his own shot), it limits his effectiveness in slashing situations, as hes not that explosive and doesnt enjoy the leaping ability to comfortably finish near the rim against opposition. Indeed, Seibutis often uses his drives as just part of his teams offensive flow, passing the ball after a couple of dribbles. He displays good criteria sharing the ball, but hes not an outstanding passer to create assists (averaging just 1.5).
Renaldas is already a nice player in Europe, and he will surely become a very good one, but the NBA looks a long shot right now, which obviously dont help his cause come draft night. Hes on loan in Maroussi, as his rights still belong to Olympiacos, where he might return next season, having the chance to play in the Euroleague again.
State of the Prospect: Whos Hot
Omri Casspi is on fire lately, showing impressive accuracy since returning from the Hoop Summit, crediting 71.4% shooting from the field in the last four games, while averaging 18 points per game in the last three. Last week, Casspi had 17 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals against Givat Shmuel, and 17 points and 6 rebounds against Ironi Ramat-Gan. The best part about it is that Galil Elyon has won all those last four games (with an incredible production in European basketball: 108.7 points per game!); actually, out of the last eight games they have only lost the one Casspi missed to play in the Hoop Summit.
Saúl Blanco continues with his excellent end of the season spurt. This time he particularly shined in the scoring department, netting 18 points with very nice percentages (7/9 FG, 3/4 3P), although his team Alta Gestión Fuenlabrada couldnt keep up with a much stronger DKV Joventut. If some NBA teams still havent done their homework on him, they better hurry up, because there are only two games until the end of the season for Blanco.
Luca Vitali stayed almost perfect last week against Upea Capo dOrlando, to help Premiata Montegranaro collect another victory that leaves the division-one newcomer very close to a playoff appearance. Vitali scored 16 points without missing a single shot, adding 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and not one turnover.
State of the Prospect: Whos Not
Ernests Kalve is having an off season due to injury troubles, as reports FIBA Europe. Apparently, the Latvian wing entered the season with a knee injury that hasnt allowed him to play much in Giessen, a German team where he was loaned to from Benetton Treviso, precisely searching for playing time. He has only managed to stay on the court for 64 minutes all season long, distributed in 10 games-- averaging 2.5 points.
DraftExpress recently learned about three European power forwards who submitted letters to declare for the NBA draft. Coincidentally, all three guys have several characteristics in common.
According to his agent Eric Fleisher, Nikita Shabalkin will be testing the waters after his excellent campaign with the Russian team Samara, particularly in the FIBA EuroCup Challenge, where he averaged 22.5 points and 7.3 rebounds. Standing around 6-8, while not displaying great athleticism, he doesnt look like the greatest NBA commodity. Still, he enjoys a nice wingspan, an excellent skill set (an intriguing low post game, solid stroke with nice range, handles to attack his opponents), hes fairly tough on the court and he shows a good basketball IQ, so its not completely out of the question that some team gambles on him in the second round.
The trio is completed with the Ivanov twins coming from Bulgaria, who are represented in the NBA by Andy Miller and Justin Zanik from ASM Sports/U1st Sports.
Although very similar players (what a surprise), Deyan Ivanov might look like the more talented one. Signed by the Spanish ACB team Caja San Fernando last summer, he played most of the season with Cajas second team in LEB-2 (third Spanish division), where he led his team in efficiency rating with averages of 13.7 points and 6.5 rebounds, and even made his debut in the ACB League with a 6-minute appearance back in December. He has been loaned a few weeks ago to Drac Inca in LEB (second division) in order to help them in the promotional playoffs. He has already played two games there, already averaging 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Deyan is a 6-9 1986-born power forward, rather mature for his age, who displays nice versatility in his game (he can effectively shoot the ball out to the three-point line, put the ball on the floor, deliver some moves in the low post or pass the ball with good criteria) while enjoying good intensity on court (hes quite tough given his youth).
His brother Kaloyan Ivanov is an extremely similar player, perhaps just a very slight degree below his brother in terms of passing game and skill refinement. Landing in a weaker Spanish team such as ViveMenorca, he has been able to spend the whole season playing the ACB League, averaging 4 points and 1.5 rebounds in less than 10 minutes per game. It doesnt look like great production, but its not easy to enjoy action in such a demanding league as the ACB.
Both Bulgarian twins share with Shabalkin their limited athleticism (NBA wise), and although they might be slightly taller, the Russian makes up for it with a better wingspan and skill repertoire. Shabalkin already attended the Reebok EuroCamp in Treviso last year, which could be a nice setting for the Ivanov duo to get exposure and compete against their peers (they are competitive guys who would likely fare pretty well there). However, if they dont manage to attract any teams attention, they will likely withdraw and wait until next year.