Top Non Draft-Eligible Euroleague Regular Season Performers (Part Two)

Top Non Draft-Eligible Euroleague Regular Season Performers (Part Two)
Feb 15, 2008, 10:32 pm
Top Non Draft-Eligible Euroleague Regular Season Performers (Part One)

Top Draft-Eligible Performers in the Euroleague Regular Season

David Andersen, 6-11, Center, CSKA Moscow, 1980
14.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, .4 blocks, 1.4 assists, 1.1 turnovers, 52% FG, 61% 3P, 91% FT, 26 minutes

After a bit of an off-year by his standards last season (10 points, 5 rebounds per game, 46% FG), David Andersen has bounced back as strong as ever in 07/08, having what might be considered a career-year at the ripe age of 27. He’s also doing it while playing for arguably the best team in all of Europe. Andersen was forced to step up to the plate following the serious injuries suffered by fellow CSKA big men Matjaz Smodis and Alexey Savrasenko, which has made him something of a go-to guy for the Russian powerhouse this season.

Looking at his physical tools, it’s not hard to see why he was drafted with the #37 pick in 2002. Showing great size, a terrific frame, solid strength, and solid athleticism, Andersen would have had no problem competing in the NBA had the Atlanta Hawks ever decided to bring him over. He’s a fluid and highly coordinated big man on top of that, capable of getting to where he needs to on the floor and looking highly reactive to things that occur around him.

Offensively, the impression that we’re looking at an NBA caliber big man only increases when evaluating with the terrific versatility that Andersen displays. We’re talking about an ambidextrous player who produces both in the low post as well as facing the basket, and can also do some things in between as well. Andersen has some raw back to the basket skills, being capable of backing his man down to a certain extent and finishing with a pretty jump-hook with either hand, or a phenomenal turnaround jumper. He has excellent touch here, but isn’t the toughest big man you’ll find around, and thus has problems finishing in traffic at times, especially when faced with contact.

Facing the basket is where Andersen looks more comfortable, as you can tell by the phenomenal percentage he shoots from behind the 3-point line, an astounding 61%. His mid-range jumper is also excellent—he’s very dangerous on the pick and pop--and if there was any doubt about his touch, consider that he shoots an amazing 91% from the free throw line. He can also put the ball on the floor, not showing the greatest first step, but just serving as another weapon he has at his disposal to keep the defense honest. He’s also an excellent passer, evidenced by his positive assist to turnover ratio. Generally speaking, he’s a mistake free player who seems to know his role on the floor and is very efficient on top of that.

As far as weaknesses are concerned, you have to start with his defense, which is incredibly poor. He shows very little in the ways of fundamentals here, not being physical at all trying to deny his man space, showing average awareness defending the pick and roll, and looking pretty soft in general on this end of the floor. He’s not a shot-blocking threat at all, and just isn’t much of a presence in the paint in general, something that opposing teams seem to take advantage of if they have a strong back to the basket player they can throw the ball to. He’s also just an OK rebounder.

Even with that said, there is no reason in the world why Andersen couldn’t play in the NBA if he wanted to. Considering the type of big men that Atlanta Hawks fans had to suffer through over the past few seasons, it almost seems negligible that they didn’t even explore this option when they’ve held his draft rights for so long, which is exactly what has happened as we’ve been told. Even with Al Horford and Shelden Williams in the mix now, Andersen would still probably be a good fit, as he seems to compliment both of them fairly well. It’s not clear what it would take to get a deal done financially considering that he plays for probably the richest team in Europe, but it’s still definitely a conversation worth having. At age 27, he still has quite a bit left in the tank.

Hollis Price, 6-1, Point Guard, Lietuvos Rytas, 1979
17.3 points, 2.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 3.1 turnovers, 1 steal, 49% FG, 43% 3P, 86% FT

The absolute catalyst behind Lietuvos Rytas’ surprise first-place finish in Group E with a stellar 11-3 record, Hollis Price took another huge step this season in establishing himself as one of the top American point guards in Europe.

A waterbug point guard, relatively small at just 6’0 ½ in shoes, but with supreme quickness, Price is one of the top scorers in the Euroleague at over 17 points per game. He’s first and foremost an outstanding shooter, hitting 43% of his attempts from behind the arc, while ranking at the top of list in terms of made 3-pointers this season. Price has slightly strange mechanics, leaning and even jumping forward on most of his attempts, looking slightly off-balance, but you can’t argue with the results he gets. He can come off a screen or pull-up off the dribble, and seems to gain effectiveness as the game moves on, hitting his peak in the fourth quarter.

He’s also an excellent ball-handler, quick as the devil and capable of going either left or right, changing directions incredibly well and being very difficult to stay in front of. He’s very creative with the way he manufactures situations for himself and his teammates, doing an excellent job finishing at the rim relative to his size, due to his explosiveness and the aggressiveness in which he attacks with.

As a point guard, Price is streaky at times, but is very solid in a number of areas. He’s very good at using the pick and roll, and does a very nice job pushing the ball up the floor and getting his team in transition. Rytas plays a slightly more deliberate style than most Euroleague teams, and Price seems to do a good job moving the ball around unselfishly and helping his team find good shots (which they do exceptionally well). With that said, he’s their main facilitator, and when things break down and the shot clock gets into single digits, he’s usually the one expected to take responsibilities and make something happen.

It’s in these instances in particular that Price can look somewhat wild, showing questionable shot-selection, making risky passes, and being fairly turnover prone. He’s always been known as more of a scorer than a playmaker, and although he’s improved in this area, this still holds true today.

Defensively, Price is definitely on the small side, although his 6’4 ½ wingspan helps him to a certain extent, as does his terrific toughness and lateral quickness. His lack of strength means he will struggle at times getting through screens, and can also be overpowered by bigger guards, but to his credit, he does a good job of not backing down, as has been his reputation throughout his career. He is prone to some mental lapses, though, and is not much of a threat in the passing lanes.

Price is a very energetic player, a fan-favorite, who shows great heart and is not afraid to step up in clutch situations. He seems to be reaching his prime five years into his European basketball career, and will likely be snatched up by one of the traditional Euroleague powerhouses this summer.

Louis Bullock, 6-1, PG/SG, Real Madrid, 1976
13.5 points, 1.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.2 turnovers, 1.4 steals, 50.5% FG, 52% 3P, 92% FT, 24 minutes

31 year-old Louis Bullock can probably be viewed as the absolute best-case scenario for a high scoring American combo guard coming out of college. A graduate of Michigan in 2000, Bullock scored over 2,200 in his collegiate career (3rd all-time at Michigan), but saw all of his records eventually erased from the record books because of a long-lasting and well documented recruiting scandal. He was drafted with 42nd overall pick of the 1999 draft, but is still yet to ever play in an NBA game. Still, Bullock probably isn’t sweating things, as he is currently in his 6th season playing in the Euroleague, in the second of a three year contract with Real Madrid, and is amongst the highest paid American players in all of Europe.

Bullock is a scorer’s deluxe, a super smooth 6-1 combo guard who can put the ball in the net in a variety of ways, but rarely forces the issue. He’s not the most athletic player you’ll find in the Euroleague, but is able to get to where he needs to on the floor thanks to his terrific timing, ability to change speeds, and his outstanding feel for the game.

His perimeter shooting is probably the strongest part of his game, as evidenced by the 52.4% he shoots from behind the arc. Per minute, Bullock is the most prolific 3-point shooter in the Euroleague, showing NBA range on his jumper, with beautiful mechanics, a quick release, and the ability to set his feet and square his shoulders as soon as he catches the ball. Bullock has a terrific mid-range game as well, and will absolutely kill anyone that dares go underneath a screen defending the pick and roll. He just knows how to go out and get shots for himself, and is rarely rattled by a defender trying to contest his shot. Bullock can also create extremely well for himself, showing outstanding ball-handling skills, combined with exceptional footwork and terrific hesitation moves, which gets him to the rim virtually whenever his team needs him to.

What separates Bullock from other combo guards is the fact that he lets the game come to him, playing at a speed that is unique only to him, and rarely if ever forcing the issue, as evidenced by his 1.2 turnovers per game. He’s also extremely unselfish, knowing when it’s time for him to step up and give his team offense, and when it’s time to step back and become more of a facilitator.

Defensively, Bullock is fairly average, as he possesses poor size for the shooting guard position, and is not particularly quick or long to compensate for that. He does put in a pretty solid effort, though, and is smart enough to know how to get the job done adequately enough. He is a very poor rebounder for his position, though, only pulling down 1.2 boards per game.

All in all, Bullock is the exact prototype of what European coaches look for from their American guard spot, a smooth, superb scoring combo who can fill it up in a hurry but can play within a system. Madrid hosts the Euroleague Final Four this year, and his team will look for him to help lead them there.

Ksistof Lavrinovic, 6-11, PF/C, Montepaschi Siena, 1979
13 points, 4 rebounds, .6 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks, 63% FG, 63% 3P, 69% FT, 21 minutes

Ksistof Lavrinovic is having the best season of his professional career at the age of 28, ranking 3rd in the Euroleague in points per-40 minutes pace adjusted, first in 3-point shooting accuracy, 5th in blocks, and 2nd in PER.

We’re talking about a typical late blooming big man, who atypically spent two years in jail between 2000 and 2002 with his twin brother Darjus after being convicted of rape, and therefore took a bit longer to burst onto the European scene. Lavrinovic has great size at 6-11, a superb wingspan, and a decent frame that could probably still add weight comfortably. He’s a very good athlete, blessed with solid quickness and leaping ability, who has become a real go-to scorer for Siena this year, averaging 13 points in just 21 minutes of play.

Lavrinovic is Siena’s main post-presence offensively, the player everyone looks to drop for drop-offs as they make their way into the paint. He’s very reliable here, showing nice hands, excellent touch and the athleticism to finish most everything that comes his way underneath the rim, although he struggles at times to finish through contact or with his left hand. He’s not the most advanced shot-creator in terms of showing crafty post-moves or an aggressive back to the basket game, but is rather more of a finisher.

Facing the basket is where Lavrinovic prefers to play the most, though, as his incredible 63% accuracy from behind the arc (on nearly 3 attempts per game) would attest. He can also hit shots from mid-range on pick and pop plays, showing beautiful shooting mechanics and absolutely no hesitation hoisting up everything and anything that comes his way, with the utmost confidence. He’s clearly one of the best big men in Europe when it comes to knocking down shots with his feet set.

When it comes to putting the ball on the floor, though, he struggles, as his ball-handling skills are average and his poor decision making ability gets a bit exposed here. Lavrinovic isn’t what you would call a smooth or fundamental player-- his basketball IQ is not the highest, and he’s not immune to taking bad shots or turning the ball over. He’s not much of a passer, as you can probably guess by the fact that he averages nearly four turnovers for every assist he gets, in fact, he’s a bit of a black hole.

Defensively, Lavrinovic is pretty average. He gets backed down by opposing big men fairly regularly, as he isn’t the toughest or most physical player you’ll find. His feet also aren’t very quick on the perimeter, meaning he struggles defending pick and roll plays, and generally looks very upright in his stance trying to stay in front of player. It’s pretty obvious that his awareness isn’t the best, and he’s extremely foul prone on top of that, which is the main reason he only plays 21 minutes per game. You can’t ignore his physical tools, though, as his size, length and athleticism are all top-shelf for a European big man (the reason he gets so many blocks and steals), and largely allow him to get by in spite of his lack of fundamentals.

As a rebounder, Lavrinovic is mediocre, grabbing only 7.7 rebounds per-40 minutes, which ranks him just 37th in this category in the Euroleague. Considering his physical tools, he should be in the top-10, but his lack of toughness and fundamentals hinder him from doing so.

All in all, Lavrinovic is one of the best offensive big men you’ll find at this level, and could probably take his game to the next level (the NBA) if he so desired. He probably couldn’t play for Gregg Popovich or Jeff Van Gundy, but Don Nelson or Mike D’Antoni would surely be able to find room for him…

Jeremiah Massey, 6-7, Power Forward, Aris Thessaloniki, 1982
15.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 1.1 blocks, .9 assists, 1.1 turnovers, 54% FG, 75% FT, 19% 3P, 31 minutes

From a pure statistical standpoint, you’d be hard pressed to find many more impressive players in the Euroleague than Jeremiah Massey. The 6-7 Kansas State product has been playing in Greece since he finished college in 2005, and is on his way to establishing himself as a very important player in Europe, fairly soon. He recently acquired a dubious Slovakian passport (his team Aris has a magical ability to get all their American players European passports somehow) which should make him even more of a commodity on the open market once his contract is over.

An undersized left-handed power forward, Massey might be the most athletic big man in European basketball. He’s unbelievably quick and explosive, showing freakish leaping ability and being able to get off the floor and make incredible plays with the greatest of ease. He’s become a bit of a crowd favorite for that reason, and his dunks are a regular fixture in top-10 highlight reels here.

Offensively, Massey isn’t the most skilled guy around, but he’s so much more athletic than everyone else he faces, that it doesn’t even really matter at this level. The left-handed jump-hook shot is his go-to move, and he likes to face the basket and attack his matchup off the dribble with his terrific quickness, which draws quite a few fouls. He’s not a bad ball-handler, but he has a tendency to abuse this skill, which results in some bad turnovers.

Massey is an unbelievable asset to have in transition, as he regularly beats his matchup up the floor and is rarely going to miss once he gets the ball with space to operate. He also shows great toughness, which gets him some production simply by moving off the ball, catching in the post, and grabbing offensive rebounds, where he really seems to excel. You’ll never see him back down from anyone, which is why he finds a way to be productive despite his lack of size. Massey’s jump-shot is not pretty, but that doesn’t stop him from attempting one and a half three pointers per game, of which he hits only 19%. He can hit a mid-range jumper, but again, with streaky results. He’s actually not a bad passer.

Massey’s problem is that he doesn’t seem to know (or care) what his limitations are at this point, often looking out of control with his post-ups, showing very little ability with his right hand, taking wild turn-around and pull-up jumpers, and generally not being a very reliable player in terms of the consistency or focus he brings to the floor. His lack of size makes him a very average rebounder on the defensive end (as opposed to the offensive end where he is terrific)—a product of the poor fundamentals he shows boxing out his man.

Massey is a feast or famine type defender, gambling excessively in the passing lanes, showing poor awareness, leaving his man to help out aimlessly, and often getting lost in the process. His footwork guarding the perimeter is average, but his quickness, wingspan and explosiveness allows him to come up with quite a few steals and blocks (although only with his left hand). The fact that he’s so undersized means that bigger interior players can just shoot over him, though.

At this level, the positives Massey brings to the floor far outweigh the negatives, especially when we’re talking about a mid-level Euroleague squad like Aris, considered the third best team in Greece. To make the step to the next level, Massey must continue to work on his fundamentals and decision making skills, since many top European coaches won’t always tolerate the way he plays. The NBA at the moment seems out of reach considering his size.

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