Player of the Week: Marc-Antoine Pellin
Lets see first what Jonathan Givony, who had the chance to catch some action from last weeks Euroleague game, has to say about Pellins performance.
Roanne just went nuts pushing the ball and scoring in transition. This is a team that wants to play free and open basketball and keep the tempo high in order to make up for their lack of talent at the Euroleague level, and Pellin was the key to that in this game. He was just too quick for anyone to stay in front of, and he did a great job making decisions and staying under control despite the speed of which the game was played at. He's also really strong, so when he decided to put pressure on the defense by putting the ball on the floor in the half-court, he was able to draw a decent amount of fouls. Defensively, he can sometimes look like an absolute pest. This doesn't turn him into a great draft prospect by any stretch (I didn't get to see him shooting at all) since he's even shorter than I am, but you have to give him a lot of credit for helping his team absolutely destroy a pretty good team from Rome that is currently in 2nd place in the Italian league, and just finished mopping the floor with Fortitudo Bologna only a few days before.
Pellin fills the bill very well when it comes to what an orthodox playmaker is suppose to do on a basketball court. He distributes the ball, involves his teammates in the game, pushes the tempo when necessary, stays under control, and takes shots only when theres a fair opportunity for him to score. Of course there are drawbacks, but in European basketball, thats a damn good start for a young playmaker to have a chance to hit the court.
Although pretty athletic, Pellin is not freakish in this department. Besides, hes not a guy who heavily relies on his quickness to play his game, hes not a ball-hog who tries to outrun everybody else, but a player that shares the ball any time he has the chance, and actively helps the fluidity of the offensive flow. Its not the most usual thing to see him attacking his opponent in pure one-on-one settings, but he often tries to take advantage of screens to split defenses. Hes really effective dishing the ball off the dribble, either in pick-and-roll plays or just as he penetrates and punishes a defensive rotation with the pass.
Actually, Pellin is a pass-first playmaker, especially because hes aware of his physical shortcomings and the subsequent limitations he suffers in order to finish again any kind of opposition. In the end, many of his points come in fastbreaks generated after steals, fully open layups or perimeter jumpers. Hes a solid shooter with three-point range and off-the-dribble ability, but he needs a lot of space to be effective.
Pretty quick on his feet, Pellin is capable of putting nice pressure on the ball, but hes not always equally intensive and aggressive. In line with what his team Roanne shows as a whole, theres often not much emphasis on the defensive end. Being so small, its pretty easy for him to come up with steals attacking his opponents dribble, especially in defensive rotations. On the other hand, he struggles mightily contesting shots or in any kind of post play, while his presence provides some relief to the opponents passing lanes.
Probably not a serious draft prospect, still born in 1987, Pellin could make a very nice living in Europe. In an age where size is becoming a trend at the point guard position (Papaloukas and Diamantidis rule in the Euroleague, while Rubio and Teodosic are the most promising youngsters), he certainly has things to offer despite his lack of size.
A Look at Serge Ibaka
The sick athleticism that Ibaka enjoys is well known at this point, but still his leaping efforts leave your jaw on the floor every time he tries at full intensity. Several of those 7 blocks came after amazing take-offs, often coming from behind a guy who was trying to finish near the rim (like in the photograph below). With his reactivity and length, hes a constant menace for his opponents. But it was not only a matter of flashy efforts, as he did a good job on his match-up. Ibakas lateral quickness is not outstanding (certainly not enough for a hypothetical SF future that doesnt seem probable at all), and even if he gets surpassed by a rival, he annoys him with his length, so he ends up being pretty effective. On the other hand, he needs to work on his team defense, improving his decision making when it comes to playing in the half-court. But still, you can eventually see him going for a rotation and flying back to his match-up in time to contest a shot that looked open a second before. All in all, his defensive potential is excellent, and were not necessarily talking about just the long-term future.
On the offensive end its another story, and Ibakas limitations become much more evident. For starters, hes living off his jumper, which is not even that consistent at this point. His mechanics are not very orthodox, lacking some fluidity and quickness on the release. He can keep roaming after setting a pick or just wait until his match-up goes for a defensive rotation and leaves him open, usually firing from the 13-19 feet range. Still, he does enjoy three-point range, and actually he scored in this game one of the lone two treys he has netted so far this season. Besides, his low-post game is usually resolved also with a jumper, in turnaround fashion. His footwork is visibly limited, and he doesnt seem to enjoy any kind of reliable jump-hook.
Were yet to see him attacking a match-up off the dribble. In this game, he did penetrate once, but only after his match-up gambled for a steal and left him open to go inside; he was about 26 feet away from the basket, and only needed one dribble to leave a layup right over the rim. Anyway, his ball-handling still dont look ready to be seriously contested.
Given Ibakas style of play, his movement without the ball becomes very important in order for him to be productive on the offensive end. However, hes not the most active guy in this department, especially deep into the game, and neither is he the brightest. Its not common to see him gaining his opponents back, cashing in off a defensive rotation near the basket or receiving the ball after a pick-and-roll play. He doesnt seem to display the best timing filling spaces on the court.
A good rebounder, he relies heavily on his athletic gifts and length, but still could make some strides with better work on the ground, while also better measuring the tempo of his efforts. Anyway, he also gets some scoring production just by attacking the offensive glass in search of put-backs.
Its easy to figure out that theres still a pretty long way for Ibaka to go. Hes still a player in the making, while its not that easy to predict how quickly or successfully he will be able to overcome his flaws. Draft-wise, his physical-athletic profile alone will draw very serious attention even in the short term. As long as he can defend and intimidate, knock down open shots and score some garbage points, hes almost a lock for the first round. But in order to become a big-time prospect, he will need to show something more, and probably to remain in Europe for a bit longer.
State of the Prospect: Whos Hot
Omer Asik made a very serious run at the Player of the Week nomination with his monster game against Efes Pilsen: 25 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals to lead Alpella over the Turkish powerhouse. Impressive.
Nikola Pekovic was another runner-up after his terrific performances in both the Euroleague and Adriatic League. 26 points and 6 rebounds in a painful home loss against Fenerbahce, and 33 points, 11 rebounds and 2 assists in an expected victory against Split, complete an unmatched statistical effort.
Danilo Gallinari is delivering go-to performances for Armani Jeans Milano on a regular basis, and this past week he led his team to two consecutive victories. In the Euroleague, he had 15 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists against Le Mans, in a performance already glossed over by Jonathan Givony. Gallinari continued in the Italian league with 22 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks against La Fortezza Bologna. He currently ranks 6th in efficiency in the domestic competition.
Anton Ponkrashov emerged as the hero in the very tough ULEB Cup game that pitted Khimki against Pamesa Valencia. Not only did he score 24 points, staying almost perfect from the field, also with 2 rebounds and 4 assists to add to his stat-sheet, but he connected an incredible buzzer-beating three pointer that brought the victory to his team.
Nicolas Batum redeemed himself in the domestic league after his disappointing Euroleague showdown against Gallinari. He played the full game against Nancy to end up with 25 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists and lead Le Mans to the victory. Again, check Jonathan Givonys blog for more details on the game.
State of the Prospect: Whos Not
Nikita Shabalkin has combined for only 10 points and 4 rebounds in the last four games he has played in the Russian Superleague and ULEB Cup. He currently averages 4 points and 1.4 rebounds in 10 minutes of playing time in the ULEB Cup, going for 4.8 points and 2.1 rebounds again in 10 minutes in the domestic competition. Thats certainly very far from his excellent production last season with Samara, nothing to do for example with the 22.5 points and 7.3 rebounds he averaged in the FIBA EuroCup Challenge. But of course, Samara is far below the level of Khimki (which also reflects the disparity you can find in the Russian Superleague), and the EuroCup Challenge has nothing to do with the ULEB Cup. Still, its disappointing coming from a guy who made the Russian National Team (although it also tells you how shallow the current pool of Russian players is.)
Prostran, a tiny and very active point guard standing around six-feet tall, blossomed this past summer in the U-16 European Championship, clinching a spot on the all-tournament team along with the likes of Dejan Musli, Nicolo Melli and Alberto Jodar, and becoming the best scorer of the competition, especially thanks to his perimeter stroke. Hes a pretty good shooter with nice range and off-the-dribble skills. It was his long-range shooting that provided Prostran with his points for Zadar, as he connected on 4 out of 5 attempts from the arc.