European Prospects

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Is Robin Benzing still an NBA prospect?

April 7th, 2011 · No Comments

Robin Benzing was an NBA Draft Early Entry Candidate last year and was projected throughout the process in the second round. After he opted out before the deadline, he has played with the German National Team a relatively poor World Championship finishing at a 17th place and averaging less than 5 points per game. Since then, he has not appeared anymore in the Draftexpress Mock Draft and featured him some times in the late second round.

However, Benzing has shown some improvement this season in several parts of his game that have been heavily criticized before. From a pure statistical point of view, Benzing has doubled his rebound numbers going from 2.5 boards per game in 2009/2010 to 4.5 per game this season. He also improved his scoring as he averages now 15.3ppg after being at 12.5ppg last season. On the other hand, his shooting percentages dropped a bit in every category which might be the result of him being the first offensive option of his team this season and the bigger responsibilities he has to shoulder.

His 2010/2011 season can be divided into three parts. In the first games after the World Championship, the 2m09 tall Small Forward looked tired after a long summer which included barely any rest. While Benzing could still score and had 12ppg over the first 9 games of the season, his percentages were really low as he hit only 39.5% of his 2s and 30% from behind the arc. His rebounding remained limited with 2.6 boards per game and the rest of the stat sheet was close to blank. But from the game at home against Phoenix Hagen on, Benzing improved and seemed to get out of his shooting slump. He scored in double figures over 15 games in a row and had really good numbers over this period.

He played lots of minutes and scored 19.0ppg coming up with several career games like a 30pts, 5rebs, 4asts effort against Bremerhaven or a 33pts game against Tübingen. His shot selection was better as he nailed 47.2% of his two point shots while 37.9% of his close to 7 three-point shot attempts per game found the way through the net. His rebounding was a lot better too as he grabbed 5.7 rebounds per game over this 15 games stretch. However, his career scoring record against Tübingen marked also the break to the third part of his season.

As he got a small injury on his right thumb; his shooting hand; Benzing had to sit out the game against ALBA Berlin (where several NBA Teams had apparently made the trip to scout him) and he has not found his rhythm back since then. The last 5 games were even worse in terms of numbers than the beginning of the season as he could only score 10.4ppg but especially struggled a lot on his shooting. Only 27.8% of his two pointers and 26.1% of his three pointers went in. The positive side is though that he continued to be present on the defensive glass as Benzing averaged 4.0rpg since his injury.

We had the opportunity to watch several games of Benzing on Video this season but unfortunately, I could never travel to watch him play live. So I will limit my Scouting Report voluntarily as I prefer to see somebody play in real than through video. At least, the games I could see were some of the better games he had and gave me the possibility to see if and how Benzing has progressed. The question if he remains an NBA prospect is therefore also easy to answer for me: it’s a yes. Benzing should be a second round pick this year, even if he might only move to the NBA in 2-3 years. This is at least how his agent is planning the future: find a team that drafts him with a real project over 2-3 seasons where he remains in Europe and climbs step-by-step to the next level. This means, find a team for next season playing internationally and eventually become a Euroleague contributor in 2 years. That’s the plan.

But what does Benzing look like at the moment? Benzing is doing a great job for a player of his size to put the ball on the floor. He can attack the basket with both hands and also finish with both hands when he is close. He shies away a bit to go hard against the big guys and prefers sometimes the mid-range jump shot or the floater instead of finishing close to the rim with a dunk. On the drive, he can change his speed in order to create an open look and reads the gaps very well in order to get closer to the basket. He seems to have a little preference for attacking over his left hand out of which he can though also finish on a right-handed finger roll for example.

His jump shot after he put the ball on the floor is not always totally straight up and he sometimes is a bit out of balance on these attempts.With his overall shooting touch, he is able to score on these attempts though. When he attacks the basket, he can also come up with the nice kick-out pass but he is mainly looking for his own score. You can not really say that he has improved in this type of situations to find his team mates. But he is the main offensive option of his team and has a lot of freedom in the system of Coach Mike Taylor.

Robin Benzing during Eurobasket 2009

The main offensive force of Benzing is his shot. He is close to a 40% three-pointer being nearly seven feet tall and taking more than 5 three-pointers per game. This underlines his good shooting touch even if his shooting mechanics are a bit perfectible because his shot is always a bit of a chest shot in the beginning of the move. He is the most effective from behind the arc when he receives the ball in kick-out situations. You barely see Benzing create his own three-point shot after putting the ball on the floor to go for example for a step-back shot. Additionally, he does not really jump high when taking the jump shot which makes him a bit vulnerable against more athletic wings.

Even if Benzing improved his rebounding numbers, he still looks little concerned by this domain of the game. Playing on the Small Forward position, he has other guys on the court that are responsible for rebounding but with his size, he should be able to be more present. He does not really go hard to the rim to grab the ball but takes more or less the rebounds that come to him or that he can get with a quick move. He does box out his man but he is not going there intentionally to get the ball in order to increase his numbers. Sometimes, he looks to shy away from these situations as well but in general, his overall rebounding presence is improving.

On the defensive end in general, he has still a lot of progress to make. His lateral speed remains average and he is physically enough to defend against stronger power forwards in the low post. When he can create mismatches on the offensive end, he  is also a defensive mismatch for his own team on the other side. With his constant work in the weight lifting room, he might get stronger in the future but he will probably never develop into a real stopper on the defensive end.

Coach Mike Taylor also gave us his opinion about Benzing’s season.

Robin Benzing has made quality progress throughout the season here with ratiopharm Ulm.  As a young player with much responsibility, Robin has matured as a player and demonstrated an excellent attitude to handle good performances or bounce back from a tough night. After a slow start to the season, Robin bounced back to play an extremely strong three months for us including a 30 point effort in a road win over Bremerhaven and a 33 point night against rival Tubingen.

He found a great rhythm as a ‘stretch four’ and provided a difficult matchup for opposing defenses.  Playing both the small forward and power forward position, Robin learned how to use his advantages from each position more efficiently.

Unfortunately, Robin suffered a minor thumb injury in the game against Tubingen and his excellent rhythm was disrupted.  Since his return, he has been working hard to find his consistency once again.  Without the injury, it is possible to imagine a tremendous strong finish to the season for Robin, but Robin has gained self-confidence in his ability to bounce back from adversity throughout the process.

Robin has worked hard to improve his shot selection on the perimeter, in the post and within the game according to time-score situations.  Robin has worked hard to improve his defensive play on the perimeter and on the block as well.  As with many young players, Robin’s defense is at its best when his offensive game is working well.  His continued hard work in the weight room has also helped him get stronger and play more physical which has helped his all around game.

Robin still has much work to do on his body but the positive steps forward physically have reinforced his efforts to this point.  As he physically gets stronger and more mature, I believe Robin will make big steps in his all around game on both ends of the floor.  Playing a major role for ratiopharm Ulm and taking major responsibility throughout the season, Robin has gained tremendous experience which will also help him in the future.

Throughout the positives and adversity, Robin has kept a very good attitude and maintained an excellent work ethic.   Currently, the top German scorer in the Bundesliga, Robin has played a very good season as a 22 year old.  Expectations are high for Robin, but the most important part of this season for Robin is developing the fundamental parts of his game and helping him learn to use his skills more efficiently.  The learning experience from this season for Robin will be something he can rely on for success in the future.

NBA Franchises keep a lot of interest in the German forward and the number of scouts having followed him this season has significantly increased. Being automatically eligible this year and the limited number of quality underclassmen from the United States will open some doors for European players that might not have been there in a normal situation. Here is an incomplete list of teams that have scouted Benzing over the last two seasons: Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte Bobcats, Portland Trailblazers, Toronto Raptors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Detroit Pistons, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Indiana Pacers.

This summer will be very important for Robin Benzing. He has first of all to find his way back from his slight injury to be in his best shape for the NBA Draft process. He will certainly be present in the Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso. Besides that, there will be the Eurobasket 2011 in Lithuania and he will need to find a stronger team to play on European level next season. Lots of decisions ahead.

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