After having run through the major prospects of the JBBL Top4, it is about time to check who are the players that shined in the NBBL semis and Final game. This season was the last one for the highly talented 1992 generation from Germany and several of the real big prospects managed to qualify with their team for this event. But the 1993 generation showed that there are as well some interesting players for the future.
Dennis Schröder – 1m81 – PG – 1993 – Braunschweig
Certainly the most spectacular and entertaining player of the whole weekend, Dennis Schröder gained a lot of new fans during the only game that he competed in, the semi-finals of the NBBL. Rarely, Germany has seen a similar player type on a PG position that is also able to get a role on the professional level. Schröder is incredibly fast and excels in attacking the basket using a great first step and changing directions in order to go around defenders at will. He has definitely high level athletic abilities but might be a bit short as he is only 1m81 tall. However, he has great jumping abilities and is able to play above the rim when attacking the basket.
Schröder is playing fantastic when he can run the fast break or if he is guarded individually by a less athletic defender. Out of Pick and Roll situations, he can beat the defense easily and go until the rim for the score, but having a large preference for the right handed finish even if coming from the left. Out of these situations he can also score with the floater or make the nice dish to the roller. He has some good views after the screen and found several times Daniel Theis perfectly, also on the highly spectacular back-door alley-oop. Schröder tries maybe a bit too much at moments but he has a great self-confidence and has already regular numbers on the professional level in the third German league which might be a reason for this. His shot selection can certainly improve but you have to remind you that he is only 17.
Currently, his shot is not yet as perfect as you could hope. He can nail the three-pointer but the overall execution of his jump shot is quite mechanical and not very fluid. The release is not very quick either and he is also a bit out of balance when taking the jump shot out of the dribble. He likes to take the big shots in the money time and is not afraid to go for the three-pointer in these moments. However, he struggled a lot to find good solutions once he had to face a zone defense as his drives were less effective and he did not get open for shots as he is not great in creating opportunities for himself from behind the arc. He missed some important free-throws in the semi-finals but he is overall a good shooter from the line.
Defensively, Schröder did an excellent job when his team played press defense. He put a lot of pressure on the opposite ball handlers and came up with a couple of steals on the man. However, once the press was broken, he seemed to calm down a bit on defense and got beaten several times in one-on-one situations as he showed relatively slow lateral speed. His hands are very quick and he gambles a lot for steals in the passing lanes. This is certainly something where Schröder can improve in the next years and he might get some first minutes on the highest professional level as a defensive guard. He played already nearly 20 minutes this season in the third League where he should become a real team leader next season. He might also see his first minutes with the Bundesliga team of Braunschweig soon if his development continues steadily. But first comes the U18 European Championship this summer where he will certainly be one of the fastest guys around.
Daniel Theis – 2m05 – C/PF – 1992 – Braunschweig
The second Braunschweig played that got the crowd on its feet was of course Daniel Theis. The long and vertical inside player looked like the individual winner of the duel with Neumann but he could not lead his team to a win in the semi-finals. Theis is one of the most athletic big men that German had for quite some time and with his excellent timing for block shots and rebounds, he is a regular player above the rim on the defensive end. He came up with several spectacular rejections from the weak-side and even had a two hand block shot that was in fact a rebound as he controlled the ball easily after the shot attempt of the offense.
On the offensive end, Theis mainly scored on stick backs and after dishes of the guards. He finishes above the rim with ease and is not afraid to go for the hard two-handed dunks over the big guys. Out of the low post, where he was doing a good job to post up strong against the taller and more physical Neumann, he has no real back-to-the-basket game and nearly faced his defender every time in order to try beating him with his good speed. He also scored on the jump shot after a catch-and-shoot or out of the turn around fade away move on the base line. His shooting mechanics look good but for whatever reason, his attempts were not falling regularly in the semi-final. It would not surprise me if Theis will score the occasional three-pointer in the next years once he has developed a full PF game.
He has the potential to step out to the three-point line as he has good speed and correct ball handling skills He has to do this step in the next years as he is a bit limited in terms of size to play C on the highest professional level. With his athletic abilities and speed, he should also be able to defend PF on the perimeter as he is laterally quite mobile. After practicing the whole season with the professional team, Theis is now ready to make the next step and get regular minutes on Bundesliga level next season. It depends on the orientation of his team, which has Playoff ambitions, if they want to give one of their biggest prospects the necessary minutes for his optimal development. In terms of potential, athleticism and skills, Theis should be able to respond.
Mario Blessing – 1m84 – PG – 1992 – Urspring
What a season this was for the Urspring PG as he got crowned player of the year for the ProB team by the local press and now lead his NBBL team to the second title in a row. The USC-Upstate recruit played an excellent weekend leading his team in any moment with important shots, game tempo control and decision making on the playmaker position. The impact of Blessing on the game has really increased since last season. This might be the result of a stronger physical presence but also of a growing experience.
Blessing is not the superbly creative point guard that will drive to the hoop and come up with the spectacular views and passes. However, he is a constant threat from outside where he can hit the three point shots in catch and shoot fashion but also score out of the dribble with the jumper from behind the screen. Out of the drives, he can go until the basket but his limited athletic possibilities push him more often to finish with the short floater from midrange than adventuring himself among the trees. His decision making is excellent and with his control of the game speed, Blessing is a real leader on the court that is not afraid to call his team mates together in order to put them back into the right track. On the defensive end, Blessing has improved in order to be not the target of post-ups anymore.
Julius Wolf – 2m01 – PF/SF – 1993 – Urspring
The years go on and Julius Wolf is still there and still not in his last NBBL season. The Urspring forward played once again an excellent weekend in his typical all-around style. Doing nothing particularly great but also being able to do anything on the court, Wolf is a superb player on this level despite his athletic limits. He can come up with the long distance shot, post up his defender and score on the back-to-the-basket move or the hook shot but also create the opportunity for his team mates with the nice pass. Overall, Wolf excels with his understanding of the game and excellent presence in the defensive rebound.
He can put the ball on the floor as well and score out of tough positions or after the spin move. Together with Blessing, he was the mental leader for Urspring over the weekend. The question on Wolf is though what his future will look like. He can dominate on this level but is he athletic and good enough to have a similar impact on the professional level in the future? So far, Wolf barely got any minutes with the Ehingen Senior team on ProB level . Next season, the team will play a division higher and it will be tough for Wolf to earn serious minutes with the team which might limit his progress. He will most likely follow his brother Enosch Wolf and play College Basketball in the future but he lacks the athletic potential to be a factor on a High-major team. So it will be highly interesting how Wolf will develop over the next years and what his ceiling will be.
Johannes Richter – 2m05 – PF – 1993 – Breitengüssbach
The 1993 born Power Forward Johannes Richter played a nice season for his team and underlined this during the days in Ludwigsburg. Not overly athletic, Richter shows though good technical skills and foot work on the offensive end. He can attack the basket from outside by putting the ball on the floor, spinning or creating the necessary space for the finish on speed changes. Richter has some basic back-to-the-basket moves but he is clearly developing more of a face-up game to play fully from outside in the future.
His jump shot looks accurate despite being a bit mechanical in the execution and he will become a good threat from behind the three-point line in the future. Currently, Richter mainly plays on the PF position. He has good speed when he puts the ball on the floor but the question is if it is good enough to play the SF in the future which should be his position in the next years. He told us before the Top4 that he is working on his defensive footwork which he needs to improve to defend smaller forwards on the next level. Richter should be able to become a regular contributor for the Breitengüssbach ProB team next season but he might lack the necessary athletic package to be a future Brose Baskets rotation guy.
Philipp Neumann – 2m09 – C/PF – 1992 – Breitengüssbach
Everybody was waiting for the big duel between Neumann and Theis. However, Philipp Neumann struggled individually during the two days in Ludwigsburg which might be explained by his total lack of team play experience which the NBBL team. When you saw Neumann play in the past, especially on the National Team level, you remember a totally ego-centric no-passing player. But with Breitengüssbach, he shares the ball nicely and even looked like a good passer out of the low post. He played only on the Center position for his team on this level despite having the possibilities to attack the basket from outside which he only did a few times.
During the two games, he never found his shooting touch (3/15 FGs) from outside or mid-range and he could only score from very close. He had an impressive dunk over Theis out of a low-post situation but he strangely struggled to find his position against the smaller Urspring players. As said above, Neumann had no real connection with his team mates on the floor as they could not find him out of Pick-and-Roll situations or on the drive and dishes. So he had to work very hard to get any kind of offensive possibilities. If you could consider the performances of Neumann as a regress in terms of sportive evolution, it looks like the Bamberg Center is making progress in his mental presence on the court. Rarely flipping out and even encouraging his team mates, he looks to improve his overall game approach. It is now time for him to make again an additional step on the basketball court and earn regular minutes on the highest German level next season.
Ole Wendt – 1m90 – PG – 1992 – Paderborn
Over the last three seasons, the Wendt-twins have always been in the semi-finals of the NBBL. But of the three times, they could only qualify once for the Final in 2009. This year, they were in the game for a long part of the semi-final but then got destroyed in the last quarter. While Ole Wendt did a lot of stuff on the court, his twin-brother Lars seems to be in a deep hole at the moment as his shots are not falling at all. Ole Wendt, who plays the PG role for nearly the whole game has really made a step forward again since last season as his important role on ProA level gave him an experience boost.
Offensively, he can attack the basket and also score close to the rim with either hand. He has a good first step to beat his defender of the dribble and nearly all of his drives look to be under perfect control with his head up to see what the defense gives him or to find his open team mates. You had the impression that Ole could score at will on the drive as he is very technical and has good size for the PG spot. His shooting is still a major asset as he can stop on the break for the perfect three-point shot but also nail it in catch-and-shoot fashion. He is perfectly able to create his own shot both from mid-range and from behind the arc as well and he is not afraid to do so very often.
Next season will probably be his last on ProA level with Paderborn. He has the potential to become a serious Bundesliga player after that as he is not only a factor on the offensive end but he can reduce his own offensive production to shut down the opposing guards; something that he did pretty well already this season on the professional level and that he should be able to do on a level higher as well. Together with his brother, he will not play the U20 European Championship this summer which takes away from Germany their probably best PG of the generation but helping himself to become a better player individually. We will see how far he can go.
Bazoumana Junior Kante was the second speedster in the Braunschweig backcourt next to Dennis Schröder. The Franco-Ivorian from Hamburg only joined the team recently but played an overall interesting semi-final. Displaying great speed and penetration skills, Kante had several spectacular plays attacking the basket with great direction changes and foot work. He has some limits when it comes to shooting as he is not very secure from behind the arc and can also go for some bad decisions on his attempts inside the arc. He looks a bit inexperienced on this level and came up with some stupid fouls on the defensive end as well. Nevertheless, he has some interesting athletic skills to be added to his package so that Kante might develop into an interesting prospect over the next years. We will keep track of that.
Kevin Bright did not really stick out of the Urspring team chemistry as the 1992 born forward did his job perfectly as team player and defensive power. He shut down Lars Wendt in the semi-finals and helped his team during the Final to win the second title in a row. He never forced anything on offense and just scored on the few opportunities that he got, even in a tough way. After his excellent season on ProB level, Bright seems to be ready to be the team leader for Ehingen on ProA level next season as he has the full package of skills and athletic abilities once he is not injured over a full season. After next season, he will most likely play College Basketball and any team looking for a skilled and team-oriented wing should take a closer look at him.
Malik Müller may become the first player to win 4 NBBL titles as he is this season only in his first official NBBL season and won already his second national title after having participated in last season’s title quest with a special authorization. The former MVP of the Jordan Brand International game played a good tournament never doubting in his shooting skills and being the main thread for Urspring from behind the arc. Müller improved nicely in his jump shot where he is now in perfect balance even if he runs through different screens to get open for the pull-up. His drives are still a bit too much physical force over technique as he goes a often with head down hoping to run over the defense than going around it. The question on Müller though is despite being strongly built if he can have a role on the professional level in the future as an undersized shooting guard.
Jörg Dippold was the main scoring option for Breitengüssbach with his perfectly looking shot. Dippold is not the guy that you look at right from the start when you see the team coming to the court as he does not display great athletic skills or handles. However, the 1m95 tall guard is a good scorer and he is not afraid to attack the basket and go close for the score. His main option though is the three-point shot even if this one is pretty streaky. He can hit it with the defense on him or out of the dribble. Dippold has already seen regular minutes with the ProB team this season and he should be able to develop into a bigger role on that level next season after he has finished his NBBL career.
Johannes Thiemann stepped up during this Top4 for Breitengüssbach and showed some interesting skills to work with in the future. The 1994 born and 2m03 tall inside player has a natural feel for the rebound, especially on the offensive end and adds this to good athletic and jumping abilities. His hands might not be the very best but he rarely goes out of the key for a jump shot and limits himself to pure inside play. If he might gain a few centimeters in the next years, Thiemann can develop into a very interesting big guy with higher ambitions. But first of all, he will form a very complementary inside duo with Richter next season in the NBBL.
Kenneth Ogbe is another 1994 born player that had quite an interesting impact over the weekend. The younger brother of Tennessee Tech player Dennis Ogbe plays in the backcourt and has a very impressive wingspan together with good size. Still being only 16, Ogbe might grow a few additional centimeters to have the perfect size for a modern guard. Right now, Ogbe is first of all a nice shot creator for himself as he has the dribble skills to beat his defender and stop in mid-range to come up with the jump shot. He also has good athletic abilities and can help therefore in the defensive rebound. With Mario Blessing gone, Ogbe might take over the main PG role for Urspring from next season and develop his team leader and game tempo control skills. He should have the potential to do so in the future.