Roundup: Tripkovic Strikes Back

Roundup: Tripkovic Strikes Back
Mar 26, 2008, 12:27 am
Player of the Week: Uros Tripkovic

We didn’t see this coming. After going scoreless in the Euroleague, Uros Tripkovic unexpectedly exploded this weekend for consecutive 20+ point performances in the Adriatic League. He hit first in a delayed game against the archrival Cibona, knocking down 22 points, and then improved to 28 versus Split, both easy victories for Partizan. He’s starting to feel comfortable in the domestic competition, where he averages 16.6 points over the last seven games. Not by coincidence, his perimeter stroke seems to be back, as he’s hit 46% of his three-point attempts in that very same span (9/20 in this weekend’s games combined).

3042[c]Photo: ABA League[/c]

After all, Uros looks every day more and more like a pure sniper, and his game heavily depends on his shooting accuracy. From standstill positions, coming off cuts, off the dribble, Tripkovic tries in almost every possible fashion, sometimes even overdoing himself with difficult attempts. On the other hand, he’s lacking some aggressiveness attacking the basket and struggles getting anything done going off the dribble against his match-ups. Besides, the presence of point guard Milt Palacio and the emergence of Milenko Tepic as a creative force, are pushing his game towards off-the-ball duties.

In the end, his season averages are still below past seasons, and neither is he particularly standing out with great defense. Too often he just goes unnoticed, and seems to lack a certain bit of fire in his game. At this point, we shouldn’t expect to hear his name called on draft day. That is unless he really heats up for the remainder of the season.

A Look at…Nando De Colo

De Colo is becoming the steadiest and most creative force on his team Cholet, which speaks volumes about his maturity and value as a player. At this point, he’s a guy oozing with confidence, but on top of that, he already a valuable guard, really talented, highly skilled and also rather gifted from a physical point of view. He has a nice set of tools and the feel for the game to make everything work.

Not highly explosive, instead De Colo brings to the table very good size for his position, a nice physical build –he’s already relatively strong and has no problem dealing with veterans-- and solid quickness. He’s athletic for European standards, but likely falls in the average category, at best, if we’re talking about the NBA.

Never a one-dimensional player, however De Colo shows preference for his jumper. He’s a solid gunner who can drop three-point shots on a regular basis, although mostly from standstill positions or just in easy and fluid off-the-dribble approaches. Once he gets inside the arc and closer to the basket, he shows more versatility on his release, off-the-dribble mechanics in wilder attempts, and even some slight fade-away moves if necessary. Eventually, he might rush his perimeter shots a bit too much, instead of looking for other options.

The French kid usually plays as a combo guard, sharing the playmaking duties with his teammates. However, you can see how naturally it comes for him to play the point. A very solid ball-handler, although improvable with his left, he shows nice court awareness and is willing to dish the ball as soon as he identifies a good option. He can play the drive-and-dish card, to exploit pick-and-roll options or just to move the ball from the perimeter, looking for three-point opportunities or entry passes; anyway, his solid court vision and understanding of the game allows him to find his teammates on a regular basis.

As aforementioned, he’s not a highly explosive guy, so it’s not like he can light up a rival at will. He can take his chances in the one-on-one game using his ball-handling and quickness, but often relies on screens, while he likes to attack with his right hand. He shows nice footwork and some solid ability to finish with lay-ups, also with his left hand. He proves to be a tough guy whenever he goes inside, taking contact, using his body, and not feeling intimidated. However, he could probably produce at a bigger rate here, considering his size and skills.

Defense is a matter of concern for De Colo. He shows limitations in his lateral quickness that jeopardizes his ability to successfully match up against quicker point guards (your everyday meal in the NBA). His activity is decent, but not great. However, he’s a smart guy who should be able to make up for his defensive shortcomings –up to a certain extent- with an extra degree of intensity, while taking advantage of his superior size.

Draft-wise, De Colo seems like a very probable bet to appear in the second round. The first round seems like a bit of a long shot at this point. He probably needs to erase the concerns about his defense in order to move his way in there.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Hot

Danilo Gallinari keeps on rocking, with big game after big game. This past weekend he buried 28 points, with 3 rebounds and 3 assists, on Snaidero Udine for another victory for Armani Jeans Milano. Indeed they are getting closer to securing a berth in the playoffs after a horrible season start (when Danilo suffered an injury, by the way). Gallinari has scored in double digits in every single game of the Italian league he has played since November, and only once missed the 15-point mark since mid-December. Constantly climbing in the scoring rankings, he has reached the sixth position with 17.9 points per game, and will probably enter the top-3 if he continues at this pace.

Rafael Hettsheimeir had a monster game this past week, scoring 31 points and grabbing 11 rebounds as he led Plus Pujol Lleida to a demolishing win over Villa de los Barrios in the Spanish LEB.

Elmedin Kikanovic stepped up big for Red Star in the ULEB Cup’s Eight Finals, becoming the premier scorer on the team during the two-legged series. In those two games, he averaged 17.5 points (combining for a terrific 15/20 from the field) and 5.5 rebounds in barely 24 minutes, although his team ended up losing against a rather strong Besiktas. A few days later, he recorded a career-high 19 points, with 4 rebounds, to lead Red Star over Zadar. Back to the ULEB Cup, Kikanovic again showed his superb ability to finish around the rim. Still very skinny, he got easily outmuscled in the low post, in rebounding situations or whenever there was contact –he had to battle with the likes of Predrag Drobnjak or Kaya Peker, but he still managed to produce thanks to his very solid off-the-ball game, his good hands and excellent touch. He seems to be making solid strides with his mid-range jumper, while he showcased again his soft touch around the rim with his right-handed jumphook, his good footwork on the lane and his nice ability to finish with dunks as he takes advantage of his great length. His poor frame is likely slowing down his physical development, but he might be quite an interesting guy down the road, at least for European basketball.

Kaloyan Ivanov managed to pull down a ridiculous 20 rebounds in just 26 minutes of playing time this past weekend in the ACB League. It looks even more unreal when you consider that he was averaging only 2.6 prior to this game. His effort on the glass, complimented with 9 points and 2 assists, allowed ViveMenorca to collect a one-point victory over Iurbentia Bilbao. Ivanov, who stands 6-9, is playing mainly at the small forward position. He’s not greatly athletic, but he can shoot spot-up perimeter jumpers, he can put the ball on the floor taking advantage of unbalanced defenses or relatively slow match-ups (his average quickness and ball-handling skills doesn’t allow him to beat opponents at will), and he constantly cuts towards the lane and attacks the offensive rebound in order to cash off his superior size at his position. A very active guy, he can eventually suffer from his lateral mobility on defense, while he’s not a great low-post defender. He’s automatically eligible this year, although given his lack of elite athleticism and refined skill set, it would be surprising to hear his name called in the draft. Anyway, he’s becoming an increasingly productive player in the demanding ACB League, having reached the 20-minute mark in each of the past five games.

Dragan Labovic dropped 24 points for the second consecutive week in the Adriatic League. This time it was against Olimpija Ljubljana, and he only needed 21 minutes to achieve it (plus 4 rebounds and 3 steals) while helping FMP to get a two-point victory.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Not

Caio Torres is delivering a rather disappointing season so far for MMT Estudiantes. With the team struggling to not be relegated out of the ACB League, he has not only failed to step up, but his averages have dropped from last season to 3.7 points and 1.9 rebounds. Torres is struggling to put the ball in the net with the accuracy you expect from an inside big guy. His lack of athleticism is hurting him when it comes to finish near the rim –some extra work on his conditioning wouldn’t hurt him- and he still hasn’t developed a reliable hook shot. He could also show more intensity, particularly on defense, where he lacks some aggressiveness to fully take advantage of his big body.

Rounding Up… Vilagarcia Basket Cup

The Vilagarcia Basket Cup was held this past week, a youth basketball tournament played in the northwest part of Spain that is establishing itself as a very prestigious date on the European calendar. Indeed, according to the organization, up to eight NBA teams were expected to scout the event.

Featuring a mixture of Spanish squads -such as Real Madrid, F.C.Barcelona or Unicaja Malaga-- and foreign teams--Zalgiris as usual, Khimki and Mega Aqua Monta-, while apparently following an U-22 age limit (there was a wide array of ages, with players born from 1986 to 1992), the talent pool was pretty interesting. Several players had previously shined in L’Hospitalet, for example Nikola Mirotic, Nihad Djedovic, Papa Abdulaye, Michel Diouff or Augusto Lima. We had seen others in summer competitions, like Donatas Motiejunas, Zygimantas Janavicius, Vaidas Cepukaitis, Sarunas Vasiliauskas, Siim-Sander Vene, Dusan Katnic, Stefan Stojacic and Pablo Aguilar; or just in other settings, such as Vilmantas Dilys, Bojan Bogdanovic or Mamadou Samb, to name a few.

We had the chance to take a look at the final, which pitted Unicaja Malaga against Khimki. The player making the most noise on the Russian team was a pretty much unknown seven footer who answers by the name of Timofey Mozgov. Born in 1986, he barely has any experience in first-division basketball and, as far as we know, has never played on any of the Russian National Teams in a FIBA competition. Anyway, the guy looks impressive at first sight, exhibiting a superbly built 7-1 body. He’s really strong, actually too strong for his less developed rivals, but he also showcased nice athleticism. Indeed he showed flashes of dominance during the tournament, although we can never forget that he went regularly against significantly younger players.

Mozgov’s offensive production was all about power in the lane. Although his effectiveness in the final was limited by the fact that Unicaja smartly played zone defenses, he still actively looked for low post position to deliver his stuff. Showing only decent footwork, he works his way to the basket looking constantly for body contact, in order to deliver a short-range baby hook, or even layups that he can also perform with his left hand. That was pretty much it. Besides some open looks he might get near the basket that he would finish with powerful dunks easily getting off the ground, we didn’t see much more out of him when it came to putting the ball on the net. He did try to shoot the ball, but looked rather inconsistent with his mid-range stroke. However, he emerged as being pretty accurate from the free-throw line, and even netted a three-pointer during the tournament. Also, we didn’t see him putting the ball on the floor if it wasn’t in the low post.

3044[c]Photo: Santi Rodríguez Olivella ([/c]

The big Russian delivered some defensive highlights, mostly in the form of spectacular blocks coming from the weak side. He certainly shows nice leaping ability for a guy his size. But even if his big body caused some troubles for his opponents, Mozgov’s effectiveness seems to be diluted by his poor understanding of the game. He struggles with positioning and timing, with the measure of his efforts, affecting his defense and rebounding. In the end, he’s rarely in the mix for a play, and it doesn’t particularly seem to be a problem of intensity.

In the end, Mozgov is a mixture of superb physical tools with a very raw package of skills and fundamentals, and he’s not a kid anymore. Although having been called up twice for the first team, he usually plays for Khimki’s second squad in the Superleague B (Russian second division), where he averages 15.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. It’s highly questionable if he will draw interest in the draft –he’s automatically eligible this year-, but it would be really nice to see him in a setting like the Treviso Eurocamp, facing stronger opponents.

Anyway, the tournament was finally won by Unicaja Malaga, and its point guard Rai Lopez was selected MVP. He’s a six-foot tall, pretty quick and nicely creative guy born in 1989 who had usually suffered from great inconsistency in his game, but who might be settling down a bit as a playmaker.

By the way, there was a three-point shootout with Nikola Mirotic –yes, the 1991 big man from Real Madrid- emerging as the winner. You gotta love this kid.

Nike Hoop Summit Rosters Released

USA Basketball was kind enough to send us the official roster of the Nike Hoop Summit International team. According to the press release:

“The '08 World roster features four guards in 6'0" Diego Gerbaudo (Real Madrid / Argentina), 6'3" Devoe Joseph (Pickering H.S., Ontario / Canada), 6'4" Zygimantas Janavicius (Zalgiris Kaunas / Lithuania) and 6'6" Aleksandr Kolchenko (BC Khimik / Ukraine).
The World Team also features five forwards, including 6'6" Emmanuel Negedu (Brewster Academy, N.H. / Nigeria), 6'8" Samardo Samuels (St Benedict's Prep, N.J. / Jamaica), 6'10" Serge Ibaka (CB Hospitalet (Spain) / Congo), 6'10" Angel Garcia (East Chicago Central H.S. / Puerto Rico) and 6'11" Tim Ohlbrecht (Bamberg / Germany).
The World roster is rounded off with a pair of centers, 7'1" Alexis Ajinca (Heyers-Toulon / France), who returns from the 2007 roster, and 7'4" Boban Marjanovic (Hemofarm / Serbia).”

Besides the American based high school player Samardo Samuels, considered arguably the top player in his class and discussed many times in depth here on DraftExpress, the top draft prospects are likely Serge Ibaka and Alexis Ajinca, both potential first round picks. Tim Ohlbrecht is an experienced player for this game’s standards, just coming off being a solid rotation player on a Euroleague squad with Bamberg. Aleksandr Kolchenko is someone who could heat up in the scoring column if the stars align correctly for him, but you never know quite what to expect from him.

There is a lot of size on this team, and a lot of athleticism as well, although the team’s backcourt leaves something to be desired. The Internationals will rely heavily on the ball-handling and playmaking skills of Zygimantas Janavicius, a talented Lithuanian guard discussed repeatedly here on DraftExpress, who has been in a bit of a slump dating all the way back to this past summer. If Janavicius or one of the other players doesn’t settle the game down early, things could get ugly (similar to last year) if they aren’t careful.

This will be a great opportunity for NBA scouts to take a long hard look at Serge Ibaka in particular, not just in the game but also in the practices held in the days leading up to the event. It’s widely rumored that he will enter this year’s draft if he has a strong showing. Alexis Ajinca and him could form quite a shot-blocking tandem inside, not to mention Boban Marjanovic (who might struggle with the pace of this game) and Samuels, who is no slouch himself.

DraftExpress will be represented by staff writer Mike Schmidt for the third consecutive year.

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