It was a matter of life and death for both teams. Odds were, and still are, against either Partizan or Joventut making the quarterfinal round in the Euroleague, but Uros Tripkovic
gave his team a last thread of hope by leading Partizan with a Euroleague career-high 26 points in a superb performance. Tripkovic, more in a shooting specialist role than ever, was splendid from the floor netting 6 of his 8 three-point attempts, and gifting the viewer with his usual picture-perfect mechanics that are just a delight for the senses. He did most of the damage from the perimeter, but still had time to capture 4 rebounds.
It has been one of the few bright moments he has delivered this season. Actually, his development in the last three years cant be considered anything but disappointing. His production has even regressed from what he had delivered in past years. Hes still a double-digit scorer in the Euroleague, but his point per game production has slightly and constantly decreased in the last three seasons (from 10.7 to 10.1 ppg), which is not what you expect from a 20 year old player. That regression is even more evident in the Adriatic League, going from 13.3 ppg in the 2004/05 season to the 10.5 ppg hes currently averaging, while also involving shooting percentages (from 47% to 43%). On the contrary, his accuracy has slightly improved in the Euroleague during these years, although always trapped in mediocrity (from 36% to 38%). Meanwhile, his assists are again down after peaking in the 2005/06 season and his turnovers have steadily decreased in both competitions.1966
So what is this all about? Is there any reason to explain these statistical trends that Uros has delivered these years? Well, it probably has a lot to do with his role on the team, how he seems to have evolved from a creative guard to almost a shooting specialist.
Whenever you see Tripkovic, just as had happened to us for the first time at the 2004 U-18 European Championships, his shooting mechanics stand above the rest of his game. Hes so elegant, so balanced and orthodox in the release, elevating so high with his jumper, that you always get the impression that hes on the verge of becoming a deadly shooter, even if his percentages tell another story for the moment (he combines for an average 36% this season). He can go for a simple spot-up jumper, come off a cut to receive and instantaneously elevate for the jump shot, put the ball on the floor and step back to gain space for the release, use a crossover to unbalance his rival and just shoot over him, etc. His body is always under control in the air, no matter how complicated the previous move was. Actually, hes not a player that gains so much accuracy with a wide open shot.
But Tripkovic game can go well beyond that shooting role (and actually does, although to a limited degree). Hes a fairly smart player, a guy who usually makes good decisions, is a nice passer, and a team player. He has the ability to split defenses with a solid first step and nice ball- handling skills, although he perhaps lacks some aggressiveness attacking the hoop. We can consider him athletic, particularly by European standards; hes quick, reactive, and a decent leaper, although he rarely plays above the rim. On defense, hes a solid player, but doesn't always succeed against elite wings. Actually, in the last Euroleague game he had a hard time keeping up with Rudy Fernández
, even if the Spanish player had a poor day from the field. He has also gained some strength that helps him to operate on the court, even if theres still work to do in this department.1987
Something we miss about Uros game is more aggressiveness and activity taking decisions with the ball. Hes a guy who can virtually disappear from the court in certain stretches. He was supposed to take over the offensive load of Partizan sometime during the last two seasons, and it just hasnt happened. His scoring outburst against Joventut was a matter of getting good shooting looks and finaly seeing his long-range bombs falling, but nothing he aggressively looked for. He seems comfortable deferring to others and keeping a secondary role, which is not a bad thing by itself, but still disappointing for the kind of player we thought he could become, an effective go-to guy, at least for Partizan.
So even after flirting with the point guard position, Tripkovic is now a full-time shooting guard. The arrival of the very solid Vonteego Cummings
mid-way last season not only has stuck him on the wings, but has taken a lot of creative pressure off his shoulders. So that would explain why he dishes out less assists, and why his turnovers have decreased, as he handles the ball less than he did in previous seasons. Not enjoying as much of the ball, it also would explain why his scoring has gone down, as hes not a player who aggressively looks for his shots. Regarding percentages, the obvious level differential between the Euroleague and the Adriatic League might explain the different trends. In the Euroleague, his accuracy is likely benefited lately from the better shots he takes with a more secondary role in the team, while it wouldnt be so far-fetched to think that the superior confidence he enjoyed in past seasons would make up for the worse shot selection he used to show as a combo-guard in the Adriatic League. Perhaps were reading too much into stats, but it makes some sense.
Anyway, Tripkovic is still a solid prospect for the second round, a talented guy with some very useful skills. Besides, we shouldnt rule out the possibility that he blossoms sometime in the future. Again, hes only 20 years old.