Part One: U-18 European Championships Prospects: Point Guards
Part Two: U-18 European Championships Prospects: The Wings
Part Three: U-18 European Championships Prospects: Power Forwards
This is the last chapter of DraftExpress.coms extensive coverage of the European Junior Championships. Centers are usually the most tracked and desired pieces in the international market, and we could see some guys here that could develop into very valuable inside players in the future.
France, PF/C, 7-1, 06/05/1988; 6.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg
Indeed this year he has looked much more of a post guy than last summer. Perhaps were let our imagination go too much, though, as after all, he got little playing time back in Belgrade. But with that athleticism, those surprisingly good hands, his jumper, and the way he handled the ball the few times he showed it, we certainly got the feeling that he could evolve into a power forward with a significant face-up game.
You cant really rely on just one competition, on one setting. Many factors chime in, like his coachs mindset, for example. But in this championship, enjoying consistent playing time, some of that intrigue seems gone. Particularly, we have found little trace of his ball handling skills. I dont think he faced a matchup and attacked him off the dribble even once. His shooting was still there; he regularly delivered a static jumpshot, although with quite limited accuracy.
So for the moment, were left with his low post game, which could be great if he managed to develop enough strength to battle with bigs at a pro stage (thats still quite a big if). After all, theres no better way to capitalize size (and wingspan) than sticking near the basket. Not being any low post dancer, the big French shows some moves to take advantage of his length, and whats perhaps even more important, he doesnt fear contact at all, which doesnt mean that his game doesnt suffer by getting regularly outmuscled. Anyway, it was a bit frustrating to see the problems he showed finishing near the basket. He rarely dunks the ball, and doesnt feel comfortable at all releasing the ball while suffering contact. However, he will likely resolve this problem as he gets stronger, although he might lack a bit of a soft touch near the hoop.
On defense, he has surely made great strides from last summer. Now he shows decent lateral quickness (well, he has basically learned to move laterally), and delivers great intimidation that, anyway, could still be a lot better. Ajinca didnt manage to become an intimidator against his rivals. He was a few times outsmarted by quick and skilled guys, while also outmuscled by stronger ones, although he often gets the job done regardless thanks to his incredible length.
Last summer we predicted that it would take at least two years to start figuring out where his development will take him. Its one year already and, despite the notable improvement in some areas, its still awfully complicated to make any kind of prediction.
Serbia and Montenegro, C, 7-0, 05/01/1988; 15.1 ppg (63.3% FG), 8.8 rpg, 2.8 apg
Anyway, despite Dasics offensive production, we can argue that the center piece in Serbia and Montenegro was actually Raduljica. He became a reference on both the offensive and defensive ends whenever he was on the court. Hes one of these uncommon bigs that actually plays inside and does pretty well what a center is supposed to do on the floor. He certainly has the tools, as hes not only a 7-footer, but a well-built guy with good strength for his age, also athletically solid and nicely coordinated.
Raduljica operates from both the high and the low post. Down low, he easily establishes position to receive the ball, showing a nice ability to score. With simple and solid moves, spinning and banging his rivals, he uses his body very well to get high-percentage baskets. He can finish around the rim with his both hands, showing a nice semi-hook shot. If hes not close enough to the basket, or just feels like theres too much traffic, or even just to make his offensive effort less predictable, he delivers a rather reliable turnaround jumper. He often suffered double-team defenses in the championship, but hes an excellent passer that uses his size extremely well to see the court and feed the right man. Indeed, he doesnt look obsessed at all about stockpiling points, but he weights what his team needs every time, and doesnt doubt for a second if he thinks that passing the ball is the better choice for the team.
Its a bit of the same story in the high post. Hes as reliable a passer from there, if not better. Looking for the basket, the mid-range shot gains importance here. He shows solid mechanics and accuracy (just as he does from the free-throw line), but he can also put the ball on the floor and attack his rival. Hes a fairly quick guy for a 7-footer, and enjoys nice ball-handling skills. His big men rivals often cant keep up with this type of skills. All in all, hes a very fundamentally sound guy.
Raduljica was also a very important defensive presence. With his size, strength, good mobility and excellent positioning, he became a defensive anchor in the paint. Perhaps hes not a super aggressive player, but you can see that hes always focused and delivers the right intensity.
Everything in Raduljicas game speaks the word solid, whether physical gifts, skills, and how he puts all together on the court showing a remarkable basketball IQ. He wont blow anybody away with stunning potential, but hes bound to become a very useful center.
Germany, C, 6-11, 30/08/1988; 15.1 ppg, 13.9 rpg, 1.9 bpg
We shouldnt expect anything else from a guy with his characteristics. Size, strength, athleticism, he has the complete physical package. Standing near seven feet, and enjoying a good wingspan, Ohlbrecht has a very nice frame and already some good strength for a junior player, showing visible improvements from last year. For a guy his size, hes an athletic player, with a nice vertical leap. With these gifts, good timing and the lack of any other big in Germany, he built his rebounding title, while also got notable shot-blocking production.
The problem comes mainly in his offensive role. It might be that he wants to be a power forward, or it might be that hes just soft, but Ohlbrecht made extremely inefficient use of his skills. Stubbornly planted on the three-point line, the German settled for way too many perimeter shots with very poor accuracy. You can bet hes not the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki; his mechanics dont go beyond the decent category. Considering his great limitations when it comes to putting the ball on the floor, the only positive outcome playing so open was his ball distribution from the very high post. Not that he particularly shines passing the ball, but he decently used his size to comfortably send the ball to the weak side, creating some options for his team.
Working in the paint was a luxury only regularly provided against teams with the frontcourt strength of Iceland, Israel or Ukraine. Only when he didnt feel intimidated he dared to become a regular visitor to the low post, getting nice production there. Actually, even if hes not the most polished post guy, he knows how to use his body to create easy baskets. He can finish with semi-hooks but he doesnt seem to enjoy too much of a soft touch. Of course, he can easily dunk the ball taking advantage of his terrific gifts and showing nice reactivity. Indeed, hes potentially almost unstoppable when hes really close to the basket, but many times hes just not aggressive enough to get the job done.
The clear-cut rebounding leader of the tournament and third in blocked shots, Ohlbrecht shows nice timing and just takes advantage of his physical skills to do the work. Actually, he didnt need to be particularly physical or aggressive to achieve those numbers.
Were hoping for a lot more from this guy. He has the tools to become a terrific player, but needs to improve his intensity and aggressiveness. He should have taken over his team, becoming the clear-cut leader, but he doesnt show that kind of mental attitude. He just doesnt like taking the heat.
KEEP AN EYE ON:
Actually he was perhaps the guy who tried the most complicated moves in the low post among all the players in the tournament. He doesnt always succeed, but he shows good footwork and nice ability finishing with both hands. He can also shoot from the mid-range area, with inconsistent results, as well as put the ball on the floor. A 1989 kid, next year he should be one of the best inside players in the next championship.