Thabo Sefolosha NBA Draft Scouting Report

Thabo Sefolosha NBA Draft Scouting Report
Apr 12, 2006, 09:28 pm
Sefolosha has good size for an NBA shooting guard at 6-7 (200 centimeters) with a very nice wingspan. He’s a smooth athlete, not incredibly explosive, but clearly possessing necessary NBA physical attributes, similar to Brandon Roy in this area. He’s a fluid player, highly coordinated, fundamentally sound, with nice quickness, a good first step and excellent leaping ability.

Sefolosha is a physical player who likes to mix it up and get dirty, not being soft in the least bit like your stereotypical European draft prospect is perceived to be. At Biella he will often have to switch out and guard big men in the post at times on rotations and will absolutely refuse to let anyone back him down.

Playing in the very strong Italian first division, Sefolosha is always asked to defend the opposing team’s best player. He has shown throughout the season that he can face-guard players from positions 1-3 without any problems at all. He is extremely intense on this end of the floor, being very pesky and getting right up in his man’s face on the perimeter. On team defense he is just as good, having the athleticism and feel for the game to know how to guard space and get the job done on rotations and pick and rolls. Defensively he is aided greatly by his terrific footwork, but also by his quickness, wingspan and intelligent style of play. Sefolosha is a true stat-stuffer, blocking shots, getting in the passing lanes, and enjoying doing all the little things for his team.

His best attribute surprisingly enough might be his rebounding ability. Sefolosha has phenomenal hands and timing, so his aggressive demeanor, activity level and wingspan help him out greatly in this area. He’s got a great nose for the ball and takes plenty of pride in this area as he’s more of a small forward at the European level anyway. Often times he’ll crash the glass and ignite the fast break on his own.

Offensively, he is mostly a slasher at this point. He is a good ball-handler with either hand with experience as a point guard at the junior levels, with the understanding for breaking defenses down off the dribble that comes along with that. He already brings the ball up the floor for his team at times, and being a pretty mistake free player, does a good job at minimizing turnovers. He has a nice first step and the footwork to create his own shot or for others, being highly creative once he gets in the lane finishing or finding the open man on the drive and dish.

Also related to his experience at the point are his playmaking skills. Sefolosha is a creative passer who is highly unselfish (to a fault at times) with the ball in his hands, looking smooth and effortless moving the ball around the floor.

Sefolosha generally has an outstanding feel for the game. He is very intelligent moving off the ball, extremely poised for a player his age competing at such a high level of competition, and doesn’t rush or force anything out on the floor. He’s your consummate role player, not having a problem being just another cog in his team’s ball-movement. He is clearly the most talented player on his team, but because of his youth and the fact that the three Americans that start around him are shoot first one-on-one type players, he’s only the 4th or 5th option offensively. He’s a willing role player, and is happy to do everything for his team on the court.

In terms of shooting, Sefolosha has European 3-point range, but mostly with his feet set. This year he’s started to show more in terms of shooting off the dribble, but he’s still not consistent enough in this area. This is the part of the game that has shown the most improvement over the last year or two, going from a player with no range whatsoever to a 43.3% shooter (at the time of this report in mid-April) in the Italian league, albeit on only 2.6 attempts per game.

The first thing most people mention about Sefolosha is the type of person he is off the court. Coming from a unique background of musician/artist parents, he gets nothing but praise from everyone who’s been around him for his personality and attitude. His work ethic is excellent, and on the court he has a very calm and poised demeanor despite his energetic style of play. His coach appears to have full confidence in his abilities as a player and lately plays him more than any of his much more expensive and experienced Americans, which is very rare for a player his age at this level. Although he is in his last year of draft eligibility as a 1984 born international player, Sefolosha appears to be far from reaching his full potential as a player as he has been constantly improving for the past few years and even noticeably from week to week this season in the Italian league.

There are many things you can say about Sefolosha, but one thing he isn’t is a star. Everything about his game tells you he’s a role player, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but there will likely be players with more star potential on the board when teams start considering drafting him.

Most of that starts with his offense, which has always been considerably behind his defense and is only recently beginning to catch up. His 3-point shot is his biggest weakness at the moment, mainly due to his poor mechanics; particularly his slow release and the lack of lift he gets on his jumper. His range could also stand to improve. He is a decent shooter with his feet set, but loses accuracy when shooting off the dribble, which is an important skill for an NBA shooting guard to have. His in-between game in general needs a lot of polish to become NBA caliber.

Very much related to this is the fact that while he is a good slasher at the European level, his ball-handling will have to improve a bit to maintain this in the NBA, as his first step is not quite as explosive as most NBA shooting guards. He’s a fine all-around athlete, but is nowhere near the caliber of most elite NBA SG’s, being more similar to a Rip Hamilton or Brandon Roy in this area. He looks a bit out of control at times driving to the basket in traffic, and could clearly stand to add a consistent pull-up jumper to help him avoid these types of situations.

Sometimes you get the feeling with Sefolosha that he’s being too unselfish at times, being too quiet for long stretches, deferring too much to teammates and not showing quite everything he has on the offensive end.

Sefolosha has a nice frame at 205 pounds (93 kilos), but could still stand to add some weight, particularly in his upper body. He has very solid lower body strength, but the lack of mass in his chest and arms makes it difficult at times for him to fight through screens or finish strong at the rim after contact.

Something that he can do nothing about, but could still affect his draft stock, is the fact that his name just hasn’t been on the radar for all that long. Most European players are followed for years and years starting at the Under-16 Cadet category, leading through the U-18 and U-20 categories and then into when they become men playing in their domestic leagues. Being from Switzerland, Sefolosha never got that type of hype early on in his career as he just did not compete at these events. Not all NBA teams appear to have a great handle on him since he’s a late bloomer who wasn’t considered much of a draft prospect until last season, so there are questions about whether he came into his own a little bit too late and whether teams had enough time to properly scout him. With the recent backlash we’ve seen against European players, this is something that could affect his stock, although it clearly shouldn’t. If his team makes the playoffs, which is a distinct possibility at the time of this report, it could take him a while to get over to the States for training and private workouts, something that could be very important for him.

Sefolosha grew up with Vevey Riviera Basket in Switzerland. In 2002, at age 17, he quietly began to put up fine numbers in this fairly anonymous league as the starting point guard, leading the league in steals that year. From there he moved to French team Chalon at age 18, only playing in 4 games in his rookie year in France, spending more time with the Espoirs (junior) team than the seniors but still seeing spot minutes with the senior team as well in both the ULEB Cup and Pro A France. He also received his first call to the Swiss senior national team this year. At age 19 he cracked Chalon’s rotation in his 2nd year in France, playing in 30 games and averaging 4 points, 3.5 rebounds and one assist per game.

The 2004-2005 season was when we really started to take notice of him as you can see in the links section of his profile by the amount of mentions he got in our weekly European roundups, especially early on in the season. The 20 year old Sefolosha became a full-time starter in both Pro A and the ULEB Cup, helping his team to a 3rd place finish in the French league and a trip to the semi-finals of the playoffs. He was invited to the French Allstar game (which this scout attended, along with the practices) and had a terrific performance there scoring 17 points on perfect shooting helping the foreign team beat the local French players. Sefolosha put his name on the early-entry list of the draft last year, mostly for recognition purposes, and wisely pulled out at the deadline in June.

A long and odd dispute with his team Chalon, eventually settled in court, saw him land in Italy for the 2005-2006 season with a mid-sized team from just outside of Milan in Angelico Biella. After missing the first four games of the season because of the dispute with his team, and then coming off the bench mostly in the beginning of the year, the now 21 year old has since become a full-time starter and extremely important cog in Biella’s system. His team is now 16-11 on the year, their best start in team history, and on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time ever.

On the season, Sefolosha averaged 12 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 2.4 assists and 0.6 blocks in 29.5 minutes per game. He shot 51.7% from the field and 43.3% from behind the arc.

As a 1984-born International prospect, Sefolosha is automatically eligible for this year’s draft. He has a multiyear contract with Biella, but has a clear NBA buyout set at the end of each year for less than the maximum amount ($500,000) NBA teams can pay.

Sefolosha has a very good chance to land somewhere in the bottom half of the 1st round, particularly if he can make it over to the States and have some strong workouts or maybe even play in the Orlando pre-draft camp. Anywhere in the 2nd round he would be a steal. NBA teams have the unique option of keeping him overseas for another season to let him continue to develop against strong competition with heavy playing time, or bring him over immediately.

Thabo is the son of a South African musician, Patrick--part of a band called the Malpoets--and a French painter, Christine, whose watercolors are collected in various places around the world, including New York. His brother, Kgomotso, who is a year older, played junior college basketball in the States and now in the 2nd divison of France (ProB).

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