The NBBL Top 4 level was a bit lower this season in my opinion. The winners from Breitengüssbach deserved the victory because of their endless will and deeper rotation as they had 11 players capable of contributing on this level. Urspring had their trauma in the semi-final where they were up 17 points in the last quarter and finally lost to the future champion. The absence of a good point guard (Thomas Grün injured, Zaire Thompson still limited on this level) and the quick ankle injury of Sid-Marlon Theis shortened their rotation and might be an explication for the disaster in the final minutes. Bremerhaven played a nice rotation as well but the overall talent level was not good enough while Phoenix Hagen had a really bad day in their semi-final.
Fabian Bleck – 2m01 – SF/PF – 1993 – Phoenix Hagen
The leader of the NBBL of Phoenix Hagen had not really a good day during the semi-finals. Bleck played mostly on the PF position which is most likely not his future on the professional level. He likes to face the basket and put the ball on the floor or shoot from outside. The 2m01 tall former German Youth National Team player showed good versatility with nice passing skills and a good but not great presence in rebounding. Physically strong but not very fast, Bleck can beat his man in one-on-one situations with his technique and footwork. He can create his shot out of the dribble, also after a spin move, but will probably have some problems to play SF as his lateral quickness is only average.
His main offensive force right now is his three-point shot. Capable of shooting from deep because of his strength and technique, his overall shooting mechanics are slow but very regular. He will most likely become a very good shooter in weak side catch-and-shoot situations but he can also go up against the defender as his release point is quite high. Bleck has finished his NBBL years now and will try to earn a spot on the professional team of Phoenix Hagen next season. Most likely, he will have a role as 11th or 12th man in the beginning but if he is able to develop his athletic abilities and adapt to the professional level in terms of defensive presence, he can become a Bundesliga rotation player in the next years.
Niklas Geske – 1m84 – PG – 1994 – Phoenix Hagen
Niklas Geske was a pleasant surprise for the team from Hagen as the quick but short PG was running the point with poise and energy and looked like one of the only players in his team being ready for their semi-final. Putting first of all a lot of pressure on the defensive end on the opposing guards, Geske was doing a great job on offense as well where he showed a variety of ways to score the basketball. More oriented to scoring in this game, Geske was not afraid to drive hard into the paint despite his limited size and physical presence. He finished several shots with a running floater but he could also stop at 3 meters to have the short jump shot. Close to the hoop, he is able to make the basket with either hand.
The Hagen PG was particularly effective in this game from behind the arc where he was successful either out of the dribble or in catch-and-shoot situations. With his very quick steps, Geske can change directions very well and open up for his shot which is needed because it is more a set than a jump shot. Not a major creator, the guard is more a scorer and needs to develop his PG skills like controlling the game tempo and setting up his team mates. But he has another year on the NBBL level which should help him in these domains.
Bazou Kante – 1m90 – SG/PG – 1993 – Eisbären Bremerhaven
The Ivorian guard was already a member of the semi-final team Braunschweig from last season but he topped this in 2012 as he reached the Final of the NBBL. If there would have been a MVP trophy of these semis, Kante would have largely won it as he carried his team to a massive victory over Hagen. The combo-guard has really improved since last year as he is now a more secure shooter even if he remains very streaky from behind the arc. With his great first step, he can flash past nearly every defender on this level in 1-on-1 situations and draws a lot of fouls with his athletic play. He is able to create his own shot from mid-range where he showed some nice progress but prefers to finish close to the hoop.
With good footwork and correct handles, Kante can drive around defenders to get open layups out of difficult situations. He likes to be the leader for his team, taking the big shots and important decisions in the money time. The 1993 born showed great regularity from the free-throw line in the important game and also found his team mates for the occasional open shots. Not really a PG right now, Kante will most likely play the role of scoring combo guard on the professional level. He is ready to contribute as he can also defend because of good lateral speed and a physical presence above average for his age. With a German passport coming in, the ultra quick Kante should not have a problem to find a roster spot on a Bundesliga team for next season. Born in December, he is still 18 and has a great progress margin for the future and he is definitely a player to follow.
Helge Baues – 2m05 – PF – 1994 – Eisbären Bremerhaven
Baues showed some interesting stuff during the days in Hagen. Quite athletic and a good runner, the inside option did not only showcase some nice dunks but also a good jump shot out to the three-point line. In fact, his shooting mechanics look very promising and he can net the three-point on a regular basis. Next to that, he has though no real post moves but lives from his energy level and jumping ability. Unfortunately, Baues forced a bit too much certain decisions and looked to have some way to go in terms of basketball understanding. Pretty aggressive on the court, the long Power Forward plays with a lot of fouls which reduces his game time in a certain way. Very thin right now, Baues needs to become stronger and have a better decision making if he wants to develop into a player for the professional level. Being a year younger than the competition can only be in his favor in this domain and we will see how he will look next season.
Kenneth Ogbe – 1m97 – SG/PG – 1994 – ALBA Urspring
Kenneth Ogbe showed during the semi-final that he is back from his back injury that he suffered from in the beginning of the season. Still a very elegant and smooth guard, with polished moves but a frail body, Ogbe can change speed on the drive very well and create through this nice openings for his own scoring. The younger brother of Tennessee Tech’s Dennis Ogbe is playing a sort of combo-guard role where he had more minutes on the PG spot because of the absence of Thomas Grün. He can score close to the basket because of his good athletic abilities but struggled in his shooting, especially from the free-throw line (5/11 FTs). Ogbe can play another season in the NBBL and it will be interesting to see in which direction he develops but also decides to continue his basketball career as he might get a lot of interesting offers from Colleges after graduation.
Malik Müller – 1m90 – SG – 1994 – ALBA Urspring
Müller lead the Urspring by scoring but his shot selection was a bit questionable as he finished during the semi-final with 6/16 field goals. Müller remains a physically extremely strong but undersized SG/SF who likes to attack the basket extremely hard and using his strong body. He is a real scorer, who is able to dominate on this level. His three-point shot is his main strength and helped him to earn the Jordan Brand Classic MVP trophy two years ago. However, we did not see any real development in his game over the last years unfortunately. He is still a very strong defender who can shut down players on different positions but Müller needs to improve his overall technical skill set and decision making in order to develop into a high-level prospect.
Johannes Richter – 2m06 – PF – 1993 – Breitengüssbach
Most likely the MVP of the two days in Hagen, Johannes Richter made a huge step forward this season. After having seen him already last year in the Top 4, the Power Forward is now a real leader of his team and a threat from everywhere on the court. Developing a regular three-point shot makes him a good Pick and Pop option but his capability to put the ball on the floor from outside with better technique opens more possibility in his offensive game. He improved his footwork and athleticism which he underlined on his multiple drives where he beat his man in one-on-one situations from outside. Richter finished these plays with difficult layups, after a spin move or with a scoop shot. Still not the most explosive player, he will not go and dunk hard over the defense in these cases but it was a nice improvement to what we have seen one year ago.
With his improved mobility, Richter has more options also in his shooting as he is present on every offense. He can score from behind the arc but also around the key but remains first of all an option close to the basket on this level. With his back to the basket, the 2m06 tall player can finish with the jump hook of either hand but his arsenal of post moves remains limited. On defense, his lateral speed has progressed as well and all these factors gave him first roster spots on the Brose Baskets team this season. With his NBBL career being over, Richter has to establish himself now on the professional level. He played ProB for the Brose farm team already this season and would surprise me if he moves to a different spot for next season. Brose plans to have him as fifth big man in their roster which means that he will most likely have a similar role than Philip Neumann this season.
Alex Engel – 1m90 – PG – 1993 – Breitengüssbach
The Point Guard of the new champion played an excellent Top 4 after having missed several games during the season because of small injuries. Engel is a quite athletic and good organizing Point Guard, who controls the game speed pretty well. He is able to score the basketball from behind the arc even if his shot might be a bit slow. Engel does an excellent job in decision making and Pick and Roll situations and knows how to use his jumping abilities to find also the open shooters on the weak side. He is not afraid to attack the basket and with his good first step, he creates multiple help situations where he can find his open team mates.
Defensively, Engel can put a lot of pressure because he is excellent in his lateral movements and has a good wingspan helping him to disturb passes. He looks to have a very defensive minded approach to the game and he looks overall a lot better than we remember from two years ago when he was already in the NBBL Top 4 with his previous team Franken Hexer. The 1m90 tall guard will play next season for the ProB team where he was not a big factor yet this season. With his basketball and physical skills, Engel should be able to earn rotation minutes in the Bundesliga though within the next 2 seasons.
Johannes Thiemann – 2m03 – PF/C – 1994 – Breitengüssbach
For the 1994 born players in the winning team, Johannes Thiemann had an important role with his defense and rebounding. Very physical and athletic, but not overly explosive, Thiemann mainly had an impact on defense where he closed the paint with his imposing body. Offensively, he did not show much and got called several times for travelling as his footwork is not very polished. He scored mainly on offensive rebounds and does not try to do stuff he does not know. Thiemann is a perfect role player and he should be able to do this also on the next level. But he will be only with the ProB team next season next to NBBL which gives him one more year to work on his offensive skills in order to be a factor on both ends of the court.
Philip Daubner – 2m00 – SG/SF – 1994 – Breitengüssbach
The left handed Daubner was a key factor for his team with his scoring abilities. He can shoot the three-pointer with great percentages but also attack the basket with good speed and nice control. Using mainly his left hand, he can finish on the running floater or go to the hoop but also showed some basic passing skills by finding the open man after the help. Philip Daubner looks like an interesting player for the future who might not develop into a basketball superstar but who should be able to contribute on the Bundesliga level within the next years. He needs to get a bit stronger physically and work on his right hand in order to become more versatile but he looks to have quite a good understanding of the game and has a nice first step.