One of the less-heralded international prospects of the 1995-born generation that is automatically eligible for the 2017 NBA Draft, Alberto Abalde jumped onto the NBA radar prospect early in his career, but has taken a significant step forward in his early 20's, developing into a viable second round pick on June 22nd.
Emerging as a prospect as a 16-year old seeing rotation minutes at the FIBA U17 World Championship, Abalde came into his own the following year, averaging 14.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game for Joventut's junior team at the Nike International Junior Tournament in London. He won a championship there in front of numerous NBA scouts in town to take in the Euroleague Final Four, beating Mario Hezonja's Barcelona squad handily in the Final with a stellar individual performance (18 points, 9 rebounds in 25 minutes).
A versatile, high IQ player whose size and feel for the game stood out already at a young age, Abalde, a second generation pro, made his ACB debut as an 18-year old in March of 2014. Seeing regular rotation minutes for the first time with Joventut in the ACB last season, Abalde showed well enough, averaging 7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, to earn a 3-year deal with EuroCup power (now ACB champions) Valencia. Loaned back to Joventut, Abalde averaged 10.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in a breakout season.
Standing 6'7 with a 215-pound frame, Abalde has solid size for a wing and is a fluid athlete who plays with great energy. He isn't freakishly long or explosive, but can catch lobs, use rangy strides to attack closeouts, and is smooth with the ball in his hands.
Playing a significant offensive role for Joventut, alongside imports like Jerome Jordan, Garrett Stutz, and veteran Luka Bogdanovic, Albalde contributed in a variety of ways while finishing third on the team in usage rate. Splitting his time working off the ball and creating shots handling the ball in the half court, Abalde did his best working scoring opportunistically around the basket and making smart reads playing off his teammates.
Offensively, Abalde is a bit of a mixed bag, struggling at times to handle the outsized role he was forced to shoulder as a 21-year old at the highest level of competition in Europe. His combination of fluidity and leaping ability made him a fairly efficient finisher this season. With just over a third of his shots in the half court coming in Finishing situations in the half court, Abalde shot a remarkable 70% in close, ranking among the most efficient and prolific cut scoring wings in Europe, and converting at a strong rate attacking closeouts. Picking and choosing his spots well, scoring with both hands, and elevating to the rim with reckless abandon at times, the young Spanish wing buoyed his efficiency this season with great decision-making.
Abalde's strong shooting efforts inside were critical to his strong play this season, as he remains a work in progress as a jump shooter. After shooting 42% over 81 attempts from beyond the arc last season, he regressed to just 31% over 87 attempts this season. Struggling to make shots both off the catch and off the dribble, Abalde's struggles are concerning, but his mechanics are far from broke and his inconsistency this season appeared to be as much a symptom of his new-found role, as well as occasional bouts with a lack of confidence, as his tendency to short arm his release.
Abalde's lack of consistent jump shooting ability is a major issue at the NBA level if he's unable to improve, as he doesn't create very efficiently off the dribble. He has a strong first step attacking closeouts, but lacks a degree of strength and polish, shooting just 31% handling the ball in the pick and roll this season unable to create quality shots off the bounce. Doing a lot of little things, making hustle plays, and moving the ball well on the perimeter, Abalde's versatility, athleticism, and feel for the game give him interesting role-player potential, but his ability to spread the floor will be key to his ability to carve out a role in the NBA.
A competitive defensive player, Abalde lacks a degree of lateral quickness and length, which limits his ability to make an impact as a stopper. Appearing more comfortable on forwards than guards or quicker wings, and falling asleep off the ball at times, the young Spaniard's effort helps make up for some of his mistakes, but he has a number of things to clean-up on this end, as he'll need to become an effective team defender at the least to bolster his NBA chances.
Really shining at times this season with his size, athleticism and aggressiveness, in perhaps the top domestic competition in the world outside of the NBA, Abalde's role took a toll on his efficiency, but his upside as a utility wing make him an intriguing draft and stash candidate. The fact that he is signed for just two more years and will be in an ideal development situation playing in the Euroleague for Valencia only increases his attractiveness as a stash option. His pedigree, body of work and the strong reviews he receives from coaches also bode well for his future. This was a break out year for the young wing, which will garner interest from NBA teams in the coming seasons regardless of whether he gets drafted.