Its been a troubled season both for Maccabi Tel Aviv (coach Kattash fired and way too many losses in the domestic front, the last one right this past weekend at home to Bnei HaSharon) and also for Omri Casspi
. The brightest Israeli promise has struggled to get playing time in Tel Aviv, which seems pretty logical if we consider that Maccabi is a true European powerhouse. However, hes just coming off his longest court-tenure in the Euroleague this season, precisely in a crucial victory against Real Madrid in the Top-16 stage that allowed Maccabi to clinch the first position in its group. Casspi stayed in the game for 24 minutes, and finished with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.
A legit 6-9 combo forward, coach Sherf used him mostly as a small forward, but Omri often officiates as a power forward as well, as he proved in his previous outing against Hapoel Gilboa/Afula (scoring 20 points off the bench, by the way). Hes long, hes well built and hes also quick for his size. Actually, the biggest concerns about his ability to play small forward come from the defensive end, but hes showing a bit better lateral quickness and aggressiveness, staying closer to the ball (he used to rely more on his length to defend perimeter guys, conceding them too much space in order to prevent them from slashing past him). This is one of the main areas that coach Sherf has been helping him out the most actually, and he wouldnt be able to get minutes for the old-school conservative coach if he wasnt producing for him on this end.
Offensively were seeing mostly a face-up player, very incisive with the ball in his hands, but also active playing off the ball. Casspi enjoys nice ball-handling skills, a solid first step, and excellent footwork. He can attack both ways, and uses his body really well to work his way towards the basket. Hes an aggressive player with great body control, who doesnt fear contact at all. Against Real Madrid, he beat one of the best perimeter defenders in the Old Continent, Charles Smith
, off the dribble, attacking him in a pure one-on-one situation with his left hand. Without the ball, Casspi actively cuts, often in back-door fashion, delivering mostly moves towards the basket. Following this trend (of activity without the ball and getting near the rim), he also emerges willing to clean the offensive boards looking for second-chance points, always trying to cash in off his superior size.
His shot isnt emerging as his best weapon at this point. Hes not looking very prolific or particularly effective. Casspi basically settles for spot-up three-pointers that hes not connecting on consistently. Confidence is an issue, but his the necessity to remain as efficient as possible in his overall game in order to receive playing time probably gets the upper hand here. For the moment, Casspi is sticking to his strengths, which means no wild off-the-dribble shots that we used to see him delivering in youth categories. Anyway, he is better off starting the build the house from the foundations up first, and work hard on his jumper to gain accuracy in those open treys that will allow him to keep defenses honest in the future.
As for the rest of his game, we should mention his devotion for the transition game (he loves to run the court, and eventually even while dribbling the ball) and the nice passing game hes showing, feeding the low post or recognizing cutters to pass to; nothing really outstanding, but nice stuff to round out his game.
In case anybody is still wondering, Casspi is still a very legit NBA prospect: the guy very talented, really competitive, and enjoys an intriguing physical profile. He needs to keep working on his game, on his defense and shooting stroke, continue being serious on the floor, and stay patient with both his playing time in Maccabi and a hypothetical desire of rushing an American adventure.