The Eurobasket 2009 is history now and I take a look at the players that can be considered as the most interesting prospects of the tournament. The players featured in the article are those that are still potentially NBA Draft candidates, so all the players born in 1988 or earlier but not drafted yet.
Automatically eligible in 2010
Tim Ohlbrecht (2m10 – Center – 1988 – Germany – Telekom Baskets Bonn)
The German PF/C Tim Ohlbrecht is currently in a situation where he gets more playing time on Eurobasket level than with his former club team of Brose Baskets Bamberg. This situation should change next season as his new coach (former EL winner Mike Koch) and team (Telekom Baskets Bonn) foresees him as a Starter on the PF position for a EuroCup team.
Ohlbrecht needs absolutely to develop either a back to the basket game to play C or to improve his ball handling in order to be able to attack his defender from outside with the drive, something he should be able to go for with his speed. Basically, he scores right now out of dishes from his team mates, which he does pretty well and what he will improve next season with a pass-first PG (Jarred Jordan) and on offensive put backs. His athletic abilities help him a lot in this domain. Defensively, he needs to get better in terms of avoiding foul trouble. As he is an above average shot blocker, he tries sometime to go too much for the rejection and gets called a lot on cheap fouls in these situations. Right now, it was not a big problem as he did not play major minutes (or did he not play major minutes because of foul trouble) but for the next season, which will be determining for him as he is automatically eligible for the NBA Draft (NBAdraft.net foresees him right now at the end of the 2nd round), he needs to work on this point in order to go for more than being just a rotation guy.
Stats: 5.0ppg (9/17 2FG 9/13FT) 2.2rpg 0.4bpg
Nemanja Bjelica (2m09 – Forward – 1988 – Serbia – Crvena Zvezda Belgrade)
Nemanja Bjelica is one of the most interesting prospects who played at the Eurobasket 2009. Being 2m09 tall, Bjelica can play the SF position and even if he never found his shooting rhythm during the tournament, he showed that he has all the tools to become a great player in the next years. Athletically, Bjelica has quite nice leaping ability, has good speed with the ball and also laterally on defense and he displays a nice wingspan. Everything is there to become a high class defender on the wing, the role that he saw the most minutes in with Serbia during the Eurobasket.
Due to his athletic skills, he is an above average shot blocker for his SF position and he is not afraid to go reject the big guys from the help side. He is highly active in the defensive rebound (he was the best Serbian rebounder of the tournament despite playing only 17 minutes per game and grabbing only 2 in the last two games combined). Offensively, it was not the best days for Bjelica as his shot was not falling at all, but he never lost his confidence and took the open looks that he got. One play that I remember particularly well was an offensive situation where Bjelica missed a dunk on the drive, sprinted back on defense and on the next offensive situation immediately got the ball back in the corner to hit the big three pointer from there.
Bjelica is certainly a player that some NBA team will take a closer look at as he is one of these rare combinations of height, athleticism, shooting and overall basketball skills with a defensive presence. With Crvena Zvezda in Serbia, he will certainly get a lot of minutes this season in the Adriatic League as well as in the EuroCup and he should be able to get a look at in the 2nd round in 2010.
Stats: 2.6ppg (4/13 2FG 3/12 3FG) 5.1rpg 1.0spg 0.4bpg
Stefan Markovic (1m91 – Guard – 1988 – Serbia – Hemofarm Vrsac)
The Serbian PG had a tough role behind the scoring leader Milos Teodosic. But Markovic earned his minutes through big time defense and unlimited fighting spirit. He was very active on the court, finishing the tournament with a nice stat line except for his shooting percentages. I don’t know what happened to his long distance shot, even if he has never been a tremendous three point shooter, but in Poland, he was simply ice-cold. So with the time, he started to recognize that and you could see him follow his own misses pretty well to get offensive boards. With his club team, he will go back into a more offensively minded role as scoring PG and we will see how he develops over the upcoming season.
Stats: 1.8ppg (4/10 2FG 0/16 3FG) 3.0rpg 1.8apg 0.7spg
Miroslav Raduljica (2m13 – Center – 1988 – Serbia – FMP Zeleznik)
Miroslav Raduljica had only a limited role with the Serbian team despite being a Starter at times. With Nenad Krstic as clear inside leader and the improvements of Kosta Perovic during the tournament, the minutes for the young big remained limited and he could not show that much. With the two aforementioned and the unlimited number of new quality bigs coming out, Raduljica will be in a constant battle in order to secure his spot in the National Team for the upcoming years.
Stats: 3.3ppg (8/14 2FG) 0.9rpg
Baris Hersek (2m07 – Forward – 1988 – Turkey – Banvit)
The Turkish Power Forward got some minutes during this tournament when there was either no danger of losing the game (against Bulgaria) or after the injury of Ersan Ilyasova during the 5-8th place games. Hersek is a very active guy on the court with a lot of energy. When he gets the ball, he goes mostly in a head-down style of play where he tries to score with his physical presence. After a full season in the Turkish first league, he needs to confirm with Banvit in order to show if he is ready for the next step. Right now, he does not look like being a candidate, even for the 2nd round of the upcoming NBA Draft.
Stats: 2.7ppg 2.7rpg 0.8spg
Future potential NBA Draft picks
Robin Benzing (2m08 – Forward – 1989 – Germany – ratiopharm Ulm)
Coming out of the second division in Germany (ProA with TV Langen) to play the Eurobasket is not the easiest thing. But Robin Benzing showed that he is already now a serious rotation player on the European level and probably one of the most interesting SF prospects. Playing against Euroleague and NBA level players have certainly helped the young kid to develop and he should be able to play a major role in the Bundesliga next season.
Benzing is a 2m08 tall forward with a nice out side shot and an interesting drive. His three point shot is falling at a correct 35% right now (he scored 2 out 6 in Poland with a game winning three against Russia and went for 52/166 over the full last season) and he shots most of it in catch-and-shot fashion. The release is not the quickest one but this may be the result of his height. His drives look very energetic, especially of the left hand where he manages despite being not that physical to reach the rim most of the times and where he can finish it with both hands under pressure. His footwork on the drives gives him the possibility to go for very nice spin moves to pass his defenders as he did for example very nicely against Antonis Fotsis of Greece. Additionally, his drives give him a lot of foul calls and he connects it very well from the free throw line.
Because of his size, he can offer his team lots of mismatch situations as he is able to post up smaller guys and to finish with some basic back to the basket moves. Defensively, Benzing struggles of course against smaller and faster wings, but he did for example a nice job to guard Zoran Planinic against Croatia during the few moments he defended against the long guard. Benzing, who has signed a deal until 2011 with the German Bundesliga Team ratiopharm Ulm, needs now to confirm his status on a regular basis (he went for ups and downs in Poland: 0pts against France, game winner against Russia, 2pts against Latvia, 16pts against Greece). His first season on the highest German level will show where he might go in the next years.
Stats: 5.5ppg (8/15 2FG 2/6 3FG 11/12FT) 1.6rpg
Lucca Staiger (1m94 – Guard – 1988 – Germany – Iowa State)
The Iowa State player came up here in this Eurobasket with his first games on the European senior level and he showed quite some interesting moments on the court. After a more or less slow start, Staiger improved his game in the 2nd round of the tournament and having a great shooting night against FYROM where he made 14pts at 4/6 3 point shots, the two misses coming in the final minutes where he took difficult shots to come back in the game.
Staiger excels when coming of the screen for the catch and shoot three point shot. He does not look particularly quick when running but his shooting mechanics allow him to fire the ball up immediately after catching it, even out of a direction change or spin. But he can also hit the ball out of the dribble as he showed once or twice, especially with a nice fake, dribble step back three against Croatia. He nailed some clutch free throws in the final seconds against Russia in order to secure the only German win in the tournament. With his massive physical presence and good athletic abilities, Staiger is also able to become a high level defender in the next years. After yet another season with Iowa State, Staiger should be ready to take over the Starting SG job in the German National Team.
Stats: 5.0ppg (2/2 2FG 8/14 3FG) 1.2rpg
Elias Harris (2m01 – Forward – 1989 – Germany – Gonzaga)
Elias Harris was a major factor in the preparation games for the Eurobasket as well as during the 1st round. But since the game against Greece, his playing time was reduced (his PT went up steadily through the first 4 games from 11 to 23 minutes but then fall to 6 and then 4 minutes in the last two games). This was probably the result of the emergence of Lucca Staiger late in the Eurobasket as Coach Bauermann used Harris mainly as back-up on the SG position, the same spot that occupied Staiger.
The usage as SG backup was one of the big surprises that Bauermann created with this young German team as Harris was so far considered as a PF who may play SF one day if he improves his shot. The problem was that with his size (2m01), he is a bit short to guard European PF so that the German coaches decided to play him as defensive stopper against the opposing guards, something he did very well through his excellent physical and athletic abilities. Offensively though, he was not a real option with the team this year, maybe because he had to play a position that was unusual for him. When joining Gonzaga this fall, it will be interesting to see how the College coaches will use him and what will be the future position of Harris.
Stats: 2.2ppg 2.3rpg
Tibor Pleiss (2m15 – Center – 1989 – Germany – Brose Baskets Bamberg)
This Eurobasket was more of a learning process than a playing time outburst for the tall German C prospect. With limited minutes, Pleiss could not show his nice shooting touch and suffered from his physical deficits. With Brose Baskets, he will need to get stronger physically as he will arrive there as a successor of Tim Ohlbrecht in a role as back-up Center and will also face the more physical but younger Philipp Neumann to grab the minutes behind the Starter Elton Brown.
Stats: 1.3ppg 1.0rpg
Milan Macvan (2m03 – Forward – 1989 – Serbia – Hemofarm Vrsac)
After a strong start into the tournament, the impact of the youngest Serbian player of the tournament decreased in order to be a minor role player at the end. Macvan still displays a limited athletic ability combined with nice basketball IQ, good positioning and an improving shooting. His three point percentages are improving over the years but his limited speed hurt him when attacking the basket. He can however overcome this weakness with his understanding of the game.
Stats: 2.8ppg (3/12 2FG 4/10 3FG) 1.9rpg 0.9apg
Antoine Diot (1m90 – Guard – 1989 – France – Le Mans)
The French Guard finished a dream-like summer on a very strong note. After a Silver Medal with the French U20 team, Diot got a call-up to play with the French senior team this summer, earned his rotation spot during the Additional Qualification Round and became a member of the 12-men roster for the Eurobasket 2009 where he finished strong on two great games with either 13 and 18pts. Antoine Diot is now a full member of the French Senior National Team.
Diot is currently playing a role as combo-guard with a tendency for being the backup of Tony Parker as the PG of the French National Team. His great improvements in terms of long-distance shooting helped him to be an asset that the French team is looking for, a reliable exterior threat. It was him who initiated the turn-around in the game for the fifth place by netting 4 FTs in a row after having opened the comeback run with a three point shot. His long-distance shots are especially effective when he can take them from the corner in catch-and-shoot fashion after receiving the pass out of drives from his team mates.
When positioned to play the PG, he likes the Pick-and-Roll situations where he has improved over the last season. He can drive to the basket and can also finish close to the rim as he is a correct athlete and pretty strong physically. On the defensive end, he can hold his own against big European guards and be very aggressive to harass the opposing PG bringing up the ball.
Stats: 5.1ppg (5/13 2FG 9/21 3FG) 1.9rpg 1.0apg