Cibona Zagreb is certainly the team to watch this season in the Euroleague in terms of young potential. It is not uncommon that the Croatian team plays with four 1989 or earlier born players at the same time. And all of them have a very important role in their specific strengths. We took a closer look at their beginning of the season.Bojan Bogdanovic – 2m00 – SG – 1989 – Cibona Zagreb
Bojan Bogdanovic has become the first scoring option for the Croatian team since the departure of Marko Tomas. After having signed a long term deal with Real Madrid in 2005, the Mostar native played several years in the Spanish minor leagues before coming back to Croatia last season. After having displayed great scoring potential back in 2006 during the Albert-Schweitzer Tournament in Mannheim and the Douai Tournament, 4 years later he has reached the level to become one of the best individual scorers of the Euroleague. After his big opening night against Barcelona, Fenerbahce Ülker gave him a special treatment on defense by putting the athletic Tarence Kinsey on him nearly the whole game and closing his right side.
Bogdanovic struggled a bit in the beginning as he forced some plays going over his left hand. He took some out of balance mid-range shots which he did not make. But his confidence level is huge at the moment so that he continued to push Kinsey in defense. Bogdanovic tried to beat the US forward going right anyhow but air-balled a difficult fade away from top. It looked like the Croat will have trouble that night to score the basketball. Additionally, he showed some problems in his decision making and court-vision by going for some sloppy passes or not really reading what the defense gave him which ended up in turnovers. However, the Croatian coaching staff let him on the court because they know about his scoring potential.
With the game going on, he started to find his rhythm against the athletic defense and nailed a difficult mid-range jumper after having attacked Kinsey again on the left hand. He was in the game then and scored another long 2 out of a pivot move and a picture-perfect jump shot out of the dribble from the free-throw line. His shot looks very good especially when coming of the screen and getting the pass from the side for the catch and shoot. He has a quick release in those situation and his good athletic abilities give him the possibility to fire over taller defenders. After Fenerbahce Ülker took him nearly out of the game in the beginning with closing his right hand, they did not go for the same defense for the rest of the game and Bogdanovic could attack more and more over his stronger right hand.
With his excellent size for playing the SG position, Bogdanovic can also go down in the low-post to play with his back to the basket. He did not do it against Kinsey but when defended for example by Omer Onan, he immediately recognized this situation and moved down low. With his team being in the game, he also fought hard and dived to save some lose balls and showing immediately good basketball IQ by making a good high throw to pass the ball to a team mate instead of sliding out of bounds.
When attacking the basket, Bogdanovic often struggles to finish against taller guys. He tries to finish by jumping of 2 feet a lot and sliding to the basket for the nice layup instead of finishing hard. You can also see him attack the basket with extra long steps and score with the underhand layup. He has though good leaping abilities to finish the drive with dunks but does it only rarely against defense. So far with Cibona, his main role is offensively which makes that he has only a limited impact on defense. He needs to improve that part of his game together with becoming a bit more regular from behind the arc.
Bogdanovic is automatically eligible for the NBA Draft 2011. With his current season and the probable large presence of NBA Scouts in Zagreb, he may get a look at in the 2nd round. The problem in terms of NBA potential may however be his limits to defend smaller and quicker guards. His size advantage on the SG is interesting but when he has to play SF because of his lateral speed, he will probably struggle to attack against taller defenders. He is currently listed as 49th pick by Draftexpress while NBADraft.net has him going undrafted. When his scoring continues on a regular basis throughout the season, he may move up in the boards until spring 2011.
Stats: (Adriatic Leaghe after 5 games) 25.4ppg (63.4% 2FG – 42.9% 3FGs), 3.4rpg, 2.2apg, 2.4topg; (Euroleague after 2 games) 21.5ppg (50.0% 2FGs – 36.4% 3FGs), 3.0rpg, 1.5apg, 4.5topg
Leon Radosevic – 2m08 – PF – 1990 – Cibona Zagreb
Leon Radosevic is certainly the player that has made the biggest progress over the last years of those featured in this report. When playing for the different Croatian Youth National teams, he was not a major factor and always was a bit in the shadow of the more talented big guys Mario Delas and Tomislav Zubcic. But it was Radosevic that had some impact on Euroleague level as first of these three. This season however, he started extremely well and has become the second scoring option of Cibona Zagreb on the highest European level.
Radosevic has developed first of all a very effective jump shot around the key. He has made a lot of progress to become very regular from 4-5 meters and is particularly effective on catch and shoot situations. He is not going for the out of the dribble jumper but mainly takes the normal jump shot when open. As his shooting release is a bit slow though, he struggles to connect it when he has hard defense on him and his mechanics are still unstable in these situations. Additionally, he still feels not 100% comfortable with his shot as you can see him look for passes and only shot after hesitating on what he should do. In the game versus Fenerbahce Ülker, you could also see that his shots become shorter with the time going on which may be the result of the large minutes he has played so far this season (38.0 minutes per game over the last 5 matches).
Next to his jump shot, Radosevic does an excellent job facing the basket. As he mainly plays the PF/C position, he likes to put the ball on the floor to beat his defender on the dribble with an excellent first step and great speed in his execution. The 2m08 tall player does this really well as long as he can use his right hand. His left hand needs a lot of development as you can see him use the right hand even when attacking to the left side. Out of his drives, he can finish with some kind of running hook shot or go for the finish close the basket but rarely stops the drive for the pass or the jump shot.
Radosevic is also doing a good job on Pick and Roll situations where he always rolls hard to the basket and can finish with two handed dunks without any problem. Cibona even played two times in a row a set-play to give him the alley-oop out of the Pick and Roll. His athletic abilities give him a great presence on the offensive rebound as well where he uses his quick jumps in order to get some second chance points. On the defensive end, he is already acting experienced for such a young inside player by mainly trying to defend by using his size and less his jumping abilities. This keeps him out of foul trouble despite playing long minutes. Additionally, he has an excellent feel to play the steal in the passing lanes and he often gambles to do so on the swings when the big man he defends is stepping out to the three point line.
Because of his nice jump shot and athletic play, he remembers me a bit of the Spanish Fran Vazquez who has a similar profile. However, Radosevic looks to be faster when attacking the basket and little less vertical than than the FC Barcelona player. Being automatically eligible in 2012, I would not be surprised if the Croatian big guy will put his name this year in the NBA Draft pool in order to test the waters. So far, no Mock Draft is featuring him in 2011 or 2012 but this will probably change in the next weeks if Radosevic continues as he currently plays.
Stats: (Adriatic League after 5 games) 13.4ppg (50.0% 2FGs – 78.9% FTs), 7.0rpg, 2.4spg, 1.0bpg; (Euroleague after 2 games) 15.5ppg (56.5% 2FGs – 71.4% FTs), 6.5rpg, 3.0spg
Tomislav Zubcic – 2m08 – SF/PF – 1990 – Cibona Zagreb
After having amazed the different scouts with his big potential over the last years, this season seems to be the one where the talent of Tomislav Zubcic will finally shine on the highest European level for the first time. Zubcic showed already his incredible versatility for a player of his size during the AST 2008 but also when he played the Nike Hoop Summit last year. However, his impact on the Euroleague level remained limited until this fall. Even if his playing time is still going for a lot of ups and downs, his impact on the team has grown a lot so that Zubcic gets a lot of minutes as SF behind the offensively limited Euro-Rookie Marcus Johnson.
Zubcic still impresses with his great versatility on the court. He can shoot the ball, is incredibly fast for a nearly seven-footer with the ball, runs the floor and can handle it nearly like a guard. He helped Cibona to win a recent Adriatic League game by hitting some crucial three-pointers versus KK Zagreb after having gone for 1 out of 9 in the season. Zubcic likes to take the big shots and has the ability to knock them down from everywhere around the three-point arc. But next to his shot, he can put the ball on the floor and attack the basket with excellent speed and finish the tough ones close the rim.
The problem at the moment though is that Zubcic is not really regular and can put himself out of the game easily. He is a very emotional player and gets easily upset by referee decisions. What can go in his favor as he is able to score some hard attempts on his pure talent and will, he can also come up with several bad decisions or quick foul calls on the other end. In a particular moment of the game versus Fenerbahce Ülker, you could see that Zubcic was totally lost on defense as Cibona always played a zone-defense on inbounds. He was still guarding his man and a loud intervention of one of his team mates was needed in order to remember him the game situation.
In general, he has a very interesting defensive potential though, similar to the Czech SF prospect Jan Vesely. With his excellent lateral speed and athletic abilities, Zubcic can become an interesting stopper on the small forward position as he has great size to play on the wing. However, he needs to work on his concentration in order to become operational over the full time of the game. After these first games with major minutes, we will see how he develops in this part of his game in the future. It is probably the main point that will decide if Zubcic can live up to his full potential.
Stats: (Adriatic League after 5 games) 9.8ppg (53.1% 2FGs – 28.6% 3FGs – 42.9% FTs), 5.4rpg; (Euroleague after 2 games) 5.5ppg (60.0% “FGs – 50.0% FTs), 4.0rpg
Mario Delas – 2m07 – PF/C – 1990 – Cibona Zagreb
Mario Delas impressed a lot of observers during his youth category games with his fluidity and his scoring potential. After a short stint with Zalgiris Kaunas, the Croatian forward is now back home and plays for Cibona Zagreb on loan, but being used mainly as a Center. However, he has not really found his game so far this season and on the offensive end, his shot especially from long distance is nowhere to be found (he is currently at 1/13 in EL and Adriatic League combined from behind the arc).
As his offense is not really working well, Delas is concentrating his game on the defensive end where he is present with a lot of little things and the dirty work. Despite being not overly physical, he is defending hard in the low post and gets however beaten by stronger post players. He is though using his body and not afraid to take the charge in the lane. Delas is not a very athletic player and uses his positioning and boxing out as main options for getting the defensive rebounds. On the other side, with his offensive fundamentals and talent, it is probably a question of time until he will be more present again in scoring. He looks to have a lot of trouble to adjust to the new three-point line as most of his long-distance attempts were short.
Stats: (Adriatic League after 5 games) 4.0ppg (38.5% 2FGs – 12.5% 3FGs – 100% FTs), 2.8rpg; (Euroleague after 2 games) 2.0ppg (20.0% 2FGs – 0% 3FGs)