Player of the Week: Ante Tomic
7-foot-2 Center Ante Tomic is currently the most coveted prospect in the Balkans, and he is slowly living up to expectations by becoming one of top offensive big mens in the region and further.
This weekend Tomic posted a career-high 23 points in the Adriatic League, to go along with 5 rebounds and 2 assists, while Zagreb suffered a 3-point loss on the road against a more experienced and rather strong Hemofarm squad. Over the last three games, Ante is averaging 20.3 points and 6.6 rebounds, while shooting a magnificent 79.4% from the field.
Kristian Hohnjec, our Balkan scout, gives us his point of view on Tomics game.
Offensively there are very few players over 7-feet tall featuring such an impressive skill-set. Tomic is a complete threat, being able to play with his back to the basket, as well as step outside and nail a mid-range jumper showing fluid mechanics and solid consistency. Ante has very good footwork in the post, and an array of moves he can rely on: hook shot, spin move, drop step, turnaround jumper etc. Tomic is an exceptional passer from both the high and low post. When he has the chance, Ante can also put the ball on the floor exhibiting his nice ball-handling. His technique comes from the earlier days in his career, when he was playing the point guard position before growing from 6-3 to 6-11 in just a year.
Defensively, Tomic is not quite as impressive. Overall, he is an above average athlete featuring nice mobility, good footspeed and a long wingspan, but his vertical leap isnt up to par with his other tools. Hes also a very skinny player, who still gets pushed around the basket and suffers against stronger opponents. In general Tomic is not the kind of inside presence one would expect from a 7-foot-2 guy, he doesnt corral many rebounds and is well below average when it comes to shot-blocking. Before stepping on an NBA floor, Tomic has plenty of work to do in this department. He should bulk up, but also needs to show more toughness and aggressiveness on the defensive end.
If he continues improving, Tomic should be a lottery pick in a year or two given his enormous size and advanced offensive skills. Raptors assistant GM Maurizio Gherardini was in Zagreb the past month to check Tomic, while several scouts attend every Zagreb game.
Taking a Long Look at
Tiago Splitter, who is slowly but steadily getting back in shape. He scored in double digits in both the ACB League and Euroleague, where he recorded a double-double against Climamio Bologna with 11 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. Its interesting to remark the rebounding figure, because Tiago doesnt particularly stand out in this department. However, it has more to do with the great weakness of the Italian team inside rather than a particularly brilliant performance by the Brazilian. His game in general looks as usual, virtues and flaws included (he barely touched the rim on a mid-range attempt he took from near the free-throw line). He looks a little bit rusty after his injury problems when it comes to putting the ball on the net, but its nothing serious. However, were yet to see him stepping up, and with Luis Scola back on the team after his injury early in the season, there will be less opportunities for Tiago to shine. For the moment, hes back in the starting five sharing the frontcourt with Kaya Peker, while Scola comes off the bench alongside point guard Pablo Prigioni to provide a huge offensive spark. Off the topic: these kind of situations, like Theo Papaloukas, arguably the best player in Europe right now, coming off the bench in CSKA and the Greek National Team, looks pretty significant when it comes to checking the differences between the NBA and European basketball.
Semih Erden, who left several drops of his splendid potential in the Euroleague this week. He had 8 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals against Winterthur FC Barcelona, in a game that Fenerbahce Ulker virtually lost in the first half. Actually, Erden helped his team to relatively come back in the score in the third quarter with his nice display. He was a force near the basket on both ends of the court. Long (hes likely a legit seven footer in shoes while he enjoys a nice wingspan), fairly athletic and pretty strong for his age (his frame is really promising), he has excellent tools for defense, intimidation and rebounding. However, although perhaps not as much as usual, he lacked some concentration, not always delivering full intensity. On the offensive end, he dunked the ball easily with one hand, even facing opposition. This is a valuable and helpful skill for a big man in order to secure his points. He also delivered a couple of surprising drives, especially one in transition, successfully finishing after a perfect fake step that showed his improved coordination. Despite his inconsistency, Erden could easily get drafted in the future, but he will need to devote a lot more effort to challenge the first round.
State of the Prospect: Whos Hot
Luksa Andric has been right on time for Cibona to help the Croatian team gain a winning record in the Euroleague by clinching the third victory of the season, and conquer the leadership in the Adriatic League by beating the previous leader FMP. After a slow start, Andric has boosted his production, averaging in his last four games 13.5 points and 4.2 rebounds. In the Euroleague, versus. Maccabi Tel Aviv, he was instrumental in building a comfortable point margin in the third quarter, consistently hitting 20 footers, staying active on defense (even if he made a few mistakes and still needs to gain strength to battle in the low post) while running the court very well, eventually finishing with 13 points and 5 rebounds.
Ali Traore delivered his first double-double as well and recorded season highs in scoring, rebounding, assists and minutes played this weekend, leading Le Havre to a close victory over Reims. He had 18 points, 14 rebounds and 4 assists in 31 minutes. Traore is producing consistently whenever hes given enough playing time.
Marc Gasol scored 19 points (career high) and grabbed 5 rebounds in Akasvayu Gironas victory over Polaris World Murcia. The Spanish center has scored in double digits in the last three ACB games, averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds. Akasvayu, the fourth best team in the league, is suffering the injury of Dalibor Bagaric, and Gasol has become the only reliable center on the squad.
State of the Prospect: Whos Not
Uros Tripkovic hasnt scored over 11 points since bursting out against Partizans archrival Crvena Zvezda on October the 14th. This week he went scoreless in the Euroleague facing Union Olimpija, and hes not making it up with the amount of good options he creates for his teammates. This is a big knock for a shooting guard who was supposed to emerge as the offensive reference on Partizans perimeter.
After his good showing in the U-20 European Championships, this is the time for Stanko Barac to fulfil his potential at the pro level. This week he took another step in the right direction with 22 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals for Siroki, although his team clearly lost at home against Buducnost.
The light at the end of the tunnel for Goran Dragic? In the loss against Akasvayu Girona, the Slovenian point guard had season highs in points (18) and minutes (34), also dishing out 4 assists without a single turnover. For a young wild-type of playmaker like him, still in need of settling down his game a little bit, its not easy to get playing time and be trusted by his coach in Polaris World Murcia, a team that desperately fights to remain in the very competitive ACB League. However, hes clearly the most talented point guard on the squad, and he should be able to earn starting status for good.
Dragics former team, Geoplin Slovan, features the three most interesting Slovenian guys born in 1987: Emir Preldzic, Jaka Klobucar and Gasper Vidmar who already had drawn some attention in the 2005 European Junior Championship. Vidmar had a season-best performance this weekend with 14 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists against Zadar in the Adriatic League. Hes a skilled 6-10 inside player, with good footwork and touch to score near the basket and a nice wingspan to make his job easier. However, he probably lacks the athleticism to be considered a serious NBA prospect at this point.
Another impressive performance by Ricky Rubio. As usual, his impact went well beyond his stats (8 points, 2 assists and 4 steals), leading DKV Joventut while on court to a +21 plus/minus rating in the 17 minutes he played. The game finished with Joventut up by 20 points over Etosa Alicante. Decision making and defense still remain his biggest strengths right now, while he currently tops the ACB ranks in steals (2.4 per game, tied with Hollis Price), truly an amazing achievement for a young kid like him.
Besides Rubio, only Nihad Djedovic, a regular starter in KK Bosna, gets any significant action from the 1990 generation at pro level. The Bosnian newspaperAvaz reported that the Balkan team might have reached an agreement with Winterthur FC Barcelona to trade the player to the Spanish team.
We completely missed Stefan Markovics performance with Hemofarm in the previous week, when he posted season highs both in the ULEB Cup (10 points facing AEK) and the Adriatic League (15 points and 3 assists against FMP). Born in 1988, he was the most interesting perimeter player on the Serbian junior squad this last summer, a rather complete 6-5 guard with nice handles, passing ability and shooting touch, while also showing decent athleticism, good defense and basketball IQ. Still, he didnt look that intriguing NBA-wise (its another story if we talk about Europe), even if he eventually officiated as a point guard. Still, hes surely talented enough to keep him on the radar.