This week, the Euroleague season 2012/13 will start but the excitement for talent scouts remains a bit limited as the number of interesting prospects has gone down. The most talented players are not yet ready for being a major factor in the Euroleague so that the number of NBA Draft picks coming from the Euroleague this season might remain small. We have chosen nevertheless five players that are worth to follow, hence not really for NBA Draft aficionados. However, our wildcard does not go to a specific player this time, so enjoy.
Sasu Salin – 1m92 – SG – 1991 – Union Olimpija
The Finnish Shooting Guard goes into his third season with the Slovenian club and he will have an important role for the team from Ljubljana. Mainly used as a spot-up shooter, Salin showed already that he has the level to compete in the Euroleague and his intensity and fighting spirit are some of the assets he can use in order to get regular minutes. However his lack of athletic abilities is a major problem for him in order to make the next step and become a full-time scoring threat over longer stretches. The limits of the Slovenian roster though will guarantee him enough time to show his talent, especially as he will be part of a very young backcourt.
Stats: 4.4ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.3apg
Klemen Prepelic – 1m91 – PG/SG – 1992 – Union Olimpija
In fact, next to Salin, the young Slovenian guard Klemen Prepelic will get some minutes in the Euroleague. After a slow start into the Adriatic League season, Prepelic averaged 17.5 points over the last two games against Split and Crvena Zvezda and underlined his scoring talent that he showed with the U20 National team during the summer. He lead Slovenia to a 7th place scoring 16.2 points per game and handing out 5.3 assists per game. However, he is inexperienced on the Euroleague level as Prepelic has only played 2 games in EuroChallenge during his career. For him, the weakness of the Slovenian back-court speaks in his favor and the 1992 born prospect will certainly see a good amount of minutes as back-up on the Point Guard position.
Stats: 1st EL season
Mateusz Ponitka – 1m96 – SG/SF – 1993 – Asseco Prokom
In a Polish roster that does not shine with overly talented players, Mateusz Ponitka should be able to earn his first Euroleague minutes this season, even if it might be one year too early for him to fully shine on this level. Having chosen to stay in his country for the basketball education, Ponitka moved to Asseco Prokom during last season but struggled to get regular minutes. The swingman has though all the qualities to become a high-level Euroleague player in the next years. His shooting touch, combined with good athletic abilities and a nice feel for the game make him one of the few bright spots in the Polish roster. It is not difficult to predict that Ponitka will most likely see more minutes in the end of the Euroleague season than in the beginning.
Stats: 1st EL season
Augusto Cesar Lima – 2m06 – PF/C – 1991 – Unicaja Malaga
Years go on and Augusto Cesar Lima is still among the prospects. His development might have been slower than expected but this season might be the one where the Brazilian big guy definitely emerges. There is no particular fact that makes me think of his break-out but it seems like the new head coach of Unicaja wants to give him minutes. He scored 10 points this weekend against Joventut and his length and athleticism will be a major asset in the Euroleague. The front-court though is loaded so it will be even more difficult to find a role within the rotation but the 2012-2013 season might be the one where Lima will become a full rotation guy on a regular basis on the Euroleague level.
Stats: 2.9ppg, 2.4rpg
Alessandro Gentile – 2m00 – SG/SF – 1992 – EA7 Armani Milano
After having made his debut in the Euroleague last season, this season will be a bit different for the Italian prospect as Milano has added even more quality in the back-court. His minutes will most likely go down as Milano needs to win right now and will not have the time to develop young talent. Nevertheless, Gentile will represent immediate firepower coming from the bench as he is not afraid to take shots, also in difficult situations. The addition of Gianluca Basile might be a big plus for the 1992 born guard as he can learn a lot from a player that had a similar career to what Gentile might be destined in the future.
Stats: 4.6ppg, 1.9rpg, 1.1apg
As a wildcard, I have selected not a specific player but a whole team. Partizan Belgrade starts the season with one of the most interesting assembly of prospects in Euroleague history. There are at least 6-7 players born in 1991 or earlier that might see some regular minutes with the Serbian team. In the backcourt, Leo Westermann should have a major role as Point Guard and will have to drive the offense coordinated by Dule Vujosevic. Together with Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Andjusic and Davis Bertans will have to be scoring threats on the wing as the overall scoring potential on Euroleague level of the roster is limited. Branislav Djekic will try to find his way back into the rotation under the coach that gave him his first Euroleague minutes while the big name to follow might be Dejan Musli. The Serbian Center is automatically eligible for the NBA Draft and after some years of moving around in Europe, Musli seems to have found a good situation as he averages 12.0ppg and 8.3rpg over the first three games of the Adriatic League. Partizan is certainly the team to follow this season for enjoying lots of prospects minutes in Euroleague. However, their level seems to be limited this season and a qualification to the Top16 looks like a miracle at the moment. But the magic of Pionir has already made some wonders during previous season and the return of the Master on the bench might bring back the glorious days of the recent past.