Finland is not known for their basketball qualities, but the country has so far produced 2 NBA Draft picks with Hanno Möttölä and Petteri Koponen. So I took the opportunity together with my friend Hippo to check who are the players to take a look at for the future.
Sasu Salin (PG/SG – 1m90 – 1991 – Honka Playboys)
Sasu Salin is considered as the current top prospect from Finland. The guard is a member of the current Adidas Nations team and has already been scouted by some NBA teams during the different youth competitions. Salin has grown another 5cm over the last year and he has now a great height for playing the PG position. After a slow start into the season, Salin has taken over a starting job (as SG) at his team even if he struggled a bit recently.
Salin shows excellent shooting mechanics which he uses to set up a perfect jump shot. Due to his great shooting skills, he is currently by far more of a scoring than a passing first point guard. In fact, he mostly looks for his own scoring first as you can also recognize on his assists averages. For the moment, even if his shot looks great, his percentages need to go up in order to become highly effective. He can hit either the shot in catch-and-shoot fashion but also create his own scoring possibilities on the drive.
Out of the dribble, he goes up for the jump-shot where he still needs to find a better control in the air. He has an explosive penetration without being overly athletic. If he can control his own game a bit more, he has a very interesting potential for the future as he has turned 17 only this summer.
Here is what Hippo has to say on him:
Doing good job right now. Has bulked up notably from last season and is already valuable on both ends of the court. Good rebounder for his size and can finish well around the basket. His shooting is a bit streaky, he needs to find consistency; he can hit 4-4, but this season he has really struggled with his shot. One problem is also that Sasu is a bit of a tweener; he can’t read the game well enough to be a PG and his lack of shooting prevents him from being SG. Good things is that he’s still growing (he’s 190 cm at the moment) and if he can get up to at least 195cm, he maybe could fit in as a small forward.
Statistics after 10 games: 5.1ppg (33.3% 2FG, 30.8% 3FG), 1.8rpg 1.0apg
Bojan Sarcevic (PG – 1m90 – 1988 – Korihait)
Here we have a player that was a total unknown to me before but who can be considered a very interesting player already. Sarcevic is a Bosnian Serb who has arrived in Finland only 3 years ago and could eventually opt for a Finnish passport soon.
Sarcevic is a real point guard, who wants and has the ball in his hands. He does not only bring up the ball and set the play, but his impact to the game is going beyond this. He likes to drive and create opportunities for his team mates. Additionally, he is not afraid of taking his own opportunities and go to the rim to score on the lay-up. He has a very effective and quick cross over dribble which gives him great possibilities from the top of the key.
He likes to play the Pick-and-Roll situation from where he reads the defense very well. Even out of the pressure or the double-team, he can pass out quickly and often hits the right man on the right spot. He is also present in rebounding and his shot from the three point line falls with good accuracy.
He can come up with the jump shot out of the dribble which he nets in nicely. He looks already pretty mature for his age and has a nice arsenal of fakes. You can see him go for a jump stop on the drive, shot fake and score on the up-and-under move several times during a game.
Defensively, he is very present despite always looking unconcerned. His lateral speed is ok and his will to defend helps him to stay on front of his opponents.
Hippo is going in the same direction when it comes to the young PG
Probably the most improved player in the league so far. Korihait coach Jyri Lehtonen, former national team player, has given Sarcevic lots of minutes to prove himself and Sarcevic has answered. Does nothing fancy but he’s blessed with good basketball IQ, good build and ever improving shot; he doesn’t miss if he gets an open look. His cons are a) awkward shooting form b) lack of foot movement and c) lack of athleticism, but I believe he’s going to be a good player for Bosnian national team one day.
I also had the opportunity to speak with Bojan’s coach, Jyri Lehtonen. He gave me the following scouting on his Point Guard.
Bojan is a 189cm,88kg pass first pointguard. He missed almost the whole season last year due to an injury so it slowed his progress a little bit. He was supposed to be starting PG already last year.
Bojan is a smart player, very mature for his age. Learning to be a floor leader and becoming more of a vocal leader is the goal right now but knowing his past and age it’s understandable that it will take a year or so for him to learn it. His English is really getting better. Good character, hard worker, easy to coach, good teammate, etc. over all good person!
Bojan is a good passer, reads the floor well. He is a good shooter from the dribble (pick and roll) and catch and shoot.Very good on ball screen situations cause his vision and height. Can bring the ball up against any kind of pressure. Fast with the ball, can really push the ball…
Good on the ball defender and even better on the weak-side. Reads other teams offence well and makes good gambles (steals). Rebounds well for his position.
Statistics after 15 games: 12.9ppg (55.4% 2FG 28.9% 3FG), 4.0rpg, 3.4apg, 1.8spg
Antto Nikkarinen (PG – 1m84 – 1991 – Honka Playboys)
Another PG prospect on the Honka Playboys roster is Antto Nikkarinen. The 1991 born player took over the backup role in Coach Mihailo Pavicevic’s team and makes him together with Salin one of the youngest guard duos in the whole professional basketball. Nikkarinen currently lives from his will and court vision as he is not the biggest scorer right now. Having only seen limited minutes of him, it is difficult to give a good scouting on him. But he is currently used mainly for his defensive presence and three point shooting in the rotation.
Hippo has also big hopes on the youngster.
Nikkarinen has risen to be the 2nd PG of Honka Playboys rotation this year. Nikkarinen lacks size but he’s mentally very tough and he actually creates plays very well for his age. He can also hit the three pointer effectively. I honestly believe Nikkarinen has the opportunity to be a really good player in a top level European league in half a decade.
Statistics after 13 games: 3.4ppg (33.3% 2FG 52.4% 3FG), 1.5rpg
After taking a closer look at three promising guards, the second part will analyze who are the best young forwards in the Finnish Koris League. The report will be up in the upcoming days.