Leo Westermann, who was featured in our players to watch list for the LNB season 2011-2012, started extremely well from an individual point of view into the season. Before the arrival of Tony Parker at ASVEL which means probably less responsibilities for the young guard, we had the chance to take a quick luck at the first game of the French guard this season in the ProA.
The 1992 born guard started the game on the bench and came into the game on the first timeout taken by his head coach when they were trailing 14-8. Westermann started though pretty badly with a traveling as he was trapped on a Pick and Roll situation in the corner. He stopped his dribbling which put him in a difficult situation losing his balance on a strong physical contact. His second offensive play was however very strong as he finished at the rim with the left hand after playing a Pick and Roll on his left hand by attacking the gap very well. Defensively, he had some problems in the beginning of the game as he got beat on a drive after a ball screen and had to go for a foul on a defensive rebound after not boxing his man out. On the shot clock running down, Westermann attacked again on his left hand while having the seconds left perfectly under control to finish his drive on a difficult right handed floater with defense on him.
In the second quarter, Westermann started with a good read on the Pick and Roll to open up the weak side shooter for a three-point shot. He came up though with an error on an inbound trying to find one of his team mates on the middle line which ended in a back-court violation. When attacking on the right hand, he saw his power layup attempt rejected from the weak side. He left the court with 6 minutes to play in the second quarter and the score went from –6 to –13 during his Playing time. The coaching staff showed confidence in Westermann by bringing him back with 2 minutes left in Q2 and still the 13 points deficit. On a open look from the corner, the guard had a big air ball but he did not give up and nailed the three-pointer in transition immediately afterwards in the next offense.
The team captain started the second half and got immediately beat on a ball screen on defense. But he showed on the offensive end again how well he can read ball screens by either finding the roller or popper with the perfect pass. He scored on another floater from 4 meters with the right hand but of the wrong foot.
Westermann is still learning to control the tempo on this level. Against a team like Roanne which wants to run, he took often the first open opportunities on the break even on a difficult option. The decision to take a three-pointer on transition made him join back the bench when ASVEL was still trailing by 13 for example. When coming back to the court, he started with another score from behind the three-point line. His shooting mechanics look improved; his arm movement is a lot more fluid and the overall quickness is also looking better. In catch-and-shoot situations, he looks like a serious threat now and can have an impact from behind the arc when playing the PG but also as a SG.
But his natural position is on the Point Guard spot despite his great size at 1m98. His ball handling skills are excellent and he can play with an all-around view when pushing the ball on the fast break. Even if he showed some problems in the offensive decision making, Westermann does so many good things on the court on both ends of the floor. He reads well on defense when to double in the low post and uses his personal fouls in good situations as well.
In the last quarter, he found again some options in the offense when playing the Pick and Roll with the left hand by attacking the basket very well. He protected his lay-up this time nicely with his body and the double-pump move to score the difficult one with the right hand coming from left. After some minutes on the bench, Westermann came on the floor to play the crunch time. Even if his team came back into the game without him, the head coach Pierre Vincent wanted the 1992 born player on the court in the decisive phase. He just had the time to create another open dunk for one of his big guys on a left handed Pick and Roll. After that, Westermann had to spent his 5th personal foul in order to stop the clock but it was not enough to turn the game around in the final seconds.
Westermann clearly showed some progress compared to last season. He seems to be in perfect shape again after his difficult injury. The youngest team captain of the ProA excels with great understanding of the game, superb size for playing the PG and a perfect execution of Pick and Roll situations. Athletically, he is good for European standards but will certainly suffer on NBA level. He can score from behind the arc, especially in catch-and-shoot situations but has also a good first step to beat his defender. He likes to attack on the left side and finish on floaters or going to the rim for the layup. Defensively, Westermann needs to become stronger in one-on-one situations against smaller and faster players. At the moment, he is not a good defender overall but compensates a lot of his physical deficits with basketball IQ and positioning.
Nevertheless, there are serious thoughts about bringing the 19 year old in the enlarged roster for the French Senior National Team competing in the Olympics in 2012. This would not be a surprise as he would be a perfect back-up for his current team owner and future team mate, Tony Parker.