We start our in-deep player analysis of the 2009 FIBA Europe European Championship of Division A with a scouting of the most interesting guards. While the tournament was heavily Center-loaded, there have been some guards that I wanted to take a closer look at.
Leo Westermann (1m98 – PG – France – 1992)
Westermann started the tournament very well, however his production went down when it came to the big games. However, I named him to my personal All-Tournament for his overall performance and amplitude he had to the French game. Being very tall for the PG spot with 1m98 and having quite a good shot from behind the arc, the comparisons to a former French PG names Antoine Rigaudeau would be easy to bring. But as I am not a fan of such comparisons, I won’t bring it here and additionally, the game of both players is not that close as you might think.
First of all, the main weapon offensively of Leo Westermann is his shot. He was the only player that gave the impression to be sure about his long distance attempts even he was not lucky with his percentages through out the tournament. His shot release looks very quick when it comes out of the dribble but he arms a bit slower when he is in catch and shoot fashion. He nailed some big shots in the preliminary round against Serbia but he could not connect them when they counted the most in the medal round. But you need to have in mind that he has turned 17 only in July so that he has still a year to go in this category.
His drive to the basket is very interesting as he mix the hard attack to the rim with mid range jump shots. His in-between game looks however a bit predictable right now, his decisions appear to be more like pre-thought-off than a decision made of a defensive reaction to his drive. His ball handling helps him to beat his defender of the dribble with either his first step or on cross over plays. He recognizes well when the hedge is coming out on the pick and roll situations and he can split the defense at these moments without too much of a problem.
His court vision helps him to excel when it comes to fast break plays where he finds easily the open team mates in the cuts or waiting outside for the shot. As a vocal leader on the court, he imposes himself with his natural leadership and has all the tools to become a good PG. With additional experience , he should learn to better understand the tempo of the game and improve his decision making when it comes to defend advantages in the crucial moments, something he has barely ever faced with the Centre Federal team in France.
Stats: 8.1ppg (41.9% 2FG – 28.9% 3FG – 87.5%FT), 3.3rpg, 3.9apg
Safak Edge (1m88 – PG – Turkey – 1992)
A player that was unknown to me but who is now among my favorites is the Turkish guard Safak Edge. And I was not alone to be a new fan of this player as coaching legend Svetislav Pesic was amazed by the talent level too. It has been a long time that I did not see a player like that! quotes the French press the current Red Star Belgrade head coach. So what makes this ordinary looking player that special.
First of all, Edge amazes with his great speed and handles. Several times, you could see him speeding the court up and down with the ball so that nobody could follow him. What is more surprising that he looks even more dangerous right now in the set play than in the fast break which could be the main force of a player like him. But Edge excelled when he needed to create out of a set offense where his creativity opened him several good positions for his shots.
One of his main forces is that he can knock the shot down from nearly everywhere on the court. He has a great shot out of the dribble, from the penetration or just behind the three point line. His balance in the air is sometimes looking like a work in progress but he netted those difficult jump shots from mid-range with impressive percentages, especially in the area around the free-throw line. Because of his height, he does not go that often until the rim and settles mostly for his jump shots not going for floaters either.
But where he is doing really great is when it comes to creating space for his three point shots. Several times, he went for very difficult moves to open the necessary room to arm his shot. Penetration followed by a hard step back or a nasty cross-over move or the simple three point shot out of the dribble are in his repertoire. Additionally, you could see a nice maturity for a player of his age setting up perfectly a last offense per quarter play that he concluded with a perfect assist for an open jump shot basket.
On the downside is of course his physical presence which does not allow him to finish close to the basket at the moment. So you could see several drives of him ending up with a turnover as he needed to jump to make a pass out of his drives in the paint. However, his passing skills in the pick and roll situations are good even if he needs to improve that part of his game as well as getting strong on his right handed dribble.
Stats: 12.7ppg (41.0% 2FG – 43.4% 3FG – 72.2% FT), 2.3apg, 1.9topg
Toni Prostran (1m83 – PG – Croatia – 1991)
Probably the most impressive guard when it comes to a pure statistical point of view. The short guard from Croatia had some very impressive games despite an injury during the match with Slovenia. He finished the tournament as top scorer, first in assist and first in minutes per game.
Despite being not that big, Prostran excels when he takes the ball to the basket. His three point shot is pretty streaky right now, even if he can go for some long-distance bombing but mostly he recognizes when his shot is not falling and then concentrating on his drives and creation for team mates. On the other hand, that goes sometimes that far that he forces the drive a bit too much. But his penetration is always that dangerous that he attracts the help defense that gives him the possibility to play the pass to the center or the opposing wing.
During those drives, he likes also to create open positions for himself, mostly through spin moves in the direction of the paint. He recognizes the help pretty well in those situations and reacts accordingly. The problem is though that he has no real mid-range jump shot to speak of out of these drives and prefers to finish of difficult floaters or tear-drops. Those tear drops look very good though and he can score them with good percentages.
Despite being a great offensive player and real factor in the team, I have some doubts about his long-term potential to become a really great player. Defensively, he struggles of course because of his size which makes him an easy target for opposing guards posting him up. For the moment, he struggles in that area and with modern PGs in Europe being often taller tham1m90, this can hurt him down the road. Additionally, I don’t know how much his impact is on the team as he could not avoid four losses in a row after coming back from slight injury.
Stats: 20.9ppg (52.2% 2FG – 23.3% 3FG – 74.6% FT), 4.6rpg, 7.9apg, 4.0topg
Who else do we have?
Next to these three outstanding players, a multitude of other guards could have been described here in longer reports. I limit myself though on short scouting on them.
Maxim Mutaf was in the spotlight for Turkey as you could imagine as he got stolen a bit of his show by the emergence of Safak Edge. However, Mutaf is still an interesting prospect when it comes to shooting. He develops more and more into a SG and could see him play even on the SF during stretches. Very aggressive offensively, his jump shot has a high release point and he is not afraid to attack the basket hard. He tried a two-handed dunk over Jonas Valanciunas but got rejected on it.
Augustas Peciukevicius is one of the multitude of Lithuanian back court players that stands out more and more as the most talented one of the crop. Highly aggressive on defense, he looks to be the most gifted on offense as he can both created open positions for him self and give the necessary spaces from his drives to his team mates. He can score the layups against the big guys through his long extension of the arm and reads the defense pretty well to play the Pick and Roll or Drive and dish.
Vytenis Cizauskas is one year younger than the rest of the Lithuanian back court but he plays the most under control of all of them. Not that aggressive on defense but more a real PG on the offensive end, Cizauskas excels with great fundamentals and foot work that give him a multitude of options in the offense where you see him always in perfect triple-threat position before attacking or when stopping his drives. Good court vision, correct athletic abilities and a leadership mentality are other characteristics of his game.
Dimitry Kulagin is another player of that very talented 1992 generation. The Russian guard showed nice versatility in his game and looked like a very good rebounder for his position. Displaying perfect height for the PG spot, a tough and physical game as well as good speed and certain cleverness, he looks like a promising player for the next years as his shooting abilities make him a good scorer already right now. His drives are working well as he protects the ball and he can take the jumper out of the dribble but he needs to work his decision making on passes in order to become a strong PG.
Andrea de Nicolao had a very good tournament with Italy in a role as scoring PG where he excelled with his speed and shooting abilities. He change his rhytm on the drive which gives him several open looks for close baskets but most of drives, he needs to finish of difficult floaters or layups. His three point shot is falling pretty well, coming of the dribble or in catch and shoot situations where he continues his stroke without any hesitation even if the defender flies out on him.
Ole Wendt played a nice tournament for Germany after a slow start. But when he has found his role, he did some nice things for a young German team. His creativity of the dribble and good handles helped him to play a lot on his drive where he could score some nice baskets in the paint. His shot is however not that great right now so that the defense gives him the spaces around the three point area. Defensively, he was sometime lost on this level too but he should come back stronger next year.
Jan Span got a lot of playing time with Slovenia after Mirza Sarajlija ruled out of the team before the tournament and the 1992 born player used it very well. His penetration skills are very good and he can score with very nice under control fade away layup against the taller inside players. He reads the defense very well and reacts accordingly, you can see him go for some great plays in pick and roll situations where also can knock down the three point shout out of the dribble. He is also a very aggressive defender and he can chase the opposing guard full court with out any problem.