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NIJT Belgrade 2013: the Big Guys

March 16th, 2013 · 2 Comments

In the last part of our review of the Nike International Junior Tournament 2013 in Belgrade, we will analyze the game of the tournament MVP Dusan Ristic and the rest of the big guys present in Serbia. The level on the Center positions was not great in general with the exception of the Crvena Zvezda players.

Dusan Ristic – 2m07 – C – 1995 – Crvena Zvezda

Dusan Ristic won the MVP trophy of the Nike International Junior Tournament 2013 in Belgrade as he was the most dominant player on the most dominant team. This award was certainly deserved but you have to add that on his position, the strongest other players were certainly on his own team. So Ristic did not really face any super-hard competition in the paint so that he could score easily most of the time. But let’s start at the beginning.

Ristic was dominating in the low post. He could establish position quite well and was very good on the jump hook turning to the baseline. The 2m07 tall big guy executed this move with either hand and good precision up to 2.5 meters away from the basket. Occasionally, he went for other low-post moves where he showed improved footwork. Even under high defensive pressure, he was able to execute his moves well and stay alert for avoiding the helpers. He looks to be already quite experienced as you could see him check the 24 seconds clock before starting a move for example. He posts up really deep which helps him to finish moves quickly without using a dribble and take away the chances to smaller players to get the steal.

On the defensive end, Ristic shows some good lateral speed for a big guy. His quick feet help him on that side as well. However, his defensive impact needs to be bigger if he wants to play on the professional level. His rebounding is good but not great and he is more relying on the feel than seriously boxing out his man. Shot blocking is not one of his strength but he is not a defensive go-to match-up either. With his understanding of the game, he does a good job overall in the team defense.

The main question for Ristic though is what is his potential for the next level. With 2m07, he might lack the top-level size to play at Center. Additionally, he did not show much of an outside game which does not mean that he does not have it, he simply did not need it against this competition. With the skills that he showed in Belgrade, he should be able to become a player who is able to put the ball on the floor from outside. He showed for example some high-low passing when he got the ball at the top of the key. But only on very rare occasion, the initiated plays for himself from outside the three-point line.

Stats: 18.6ppg, 9.4rpg, 1.0bpg, 23.0PIR

Marko Tejic – 2m08 – PF – 1995 – Crvena Zvezda

Marko Tejic played an excellent tournament as Power Forward and second big guy for the winners of Crvena Zvezda. More versatile but less dominating than Ristic, Tejic was a bit in the shadow of the MVP. 2m08 tall and left handed, Tejic can play from outside and also hit the long-range shots. He has grown stronger than we remember him from the previous years which is a massive help for him when fighting in the paint. He likes the hustle plays and is present in multiple disputed possessions. The Serbian forward showed some good understanding of the game and underlined his multi-usage on the nice passes or his usage of spacing on the court. However, Tejic does not really have a right hand, either in the dribble or to score from close.

On the defensive end, Tejic showed some poise and was quite present in shot blocking. He needs though to become a better rebounder and be able to defend in the low post. His outside defense is ok for a player of his size but there is still some room for improvement. Tejic’s future looks interesting as he can develop into a a good role player in the future. He should be able to use his shot to stretch the floor and be an instant offensive threat coming from the bench. He needs though to improve his technical skills and especially his right hand in the next years.

Stats: 9.6ppg, 4.8rpg, 1.6bpg, 11.8PIR

Djordje Kaplanovic – 2m09 – PF – 1995 – Crvena Zvezda

Not the most known prospect of the Crvena Zvezda team, Djordje Kaplanovic used the NIJT in Belgrade to boost his stock among the scouts. The physically strong forward showed excellent rebounding skills and a nice inside game on offense. He grabs the rebounds effectively with 2 hands and immediately puts the ball back strong on offense. Looking a bit stiff when moving on the floor, Kaplanovic is though quite mobile. He showed some nice moves when putting the ball on the floor going for a spin move or the jump shot out of the dribble. His playing time remained limited compared to Ristic and Tejic so his numbers can be considered as excellent. He might be the sleeper of the three Zvezda big guys so we will follow him well in the next years to analyze his development.

Stats: 7.6ppg, 7.0rpg, 13.2PIR

Nikola Jokic – 2m07 – C – 1995 – Mega Vizura

Having started to play basketball only recently, Nikola Jokic looked like a very interesting prospect for the next years. The 2m07 tall Jokic played most of his minutes at the Center position but his future looks to be clearly on the PF spot. First of all, he showed some very good back to the basket scoring potential even if he has not real go-to move. He likes to bang down low which is already a great start. However, Jokic was also able to play with his face to the basket and even capable of going out to the three-point line. He only made 1/12 shots from behind the arc but you could see that it is only a question of time before he can become more consistent from behind the 6m75 line.

Jokic also has the feel to draw fouls on offense, especially when he puts the ball on the floor. He needs to become more stable on his jump shot which he looks to be able to do. With his relatively young basketball experience, Jokic has some very interesting upside potential for the next years. When he can improve his ball handling, the 2m07 tall can really develop into a high-level Power Forward in the future.

Stats: 12.4ppg, 8.4rpg, 1.0bpg, 14.8PIR

Milenko Veljkovic – 2m12 – C – 1995 – Mega Vizura

The tallest player in the tournament, Milenko Veljkovic did not show outstanding basketball skills but he was an important factor on the Mega Vizura team. The right handed player has some basic back-to-the-basket moves but overall does not look very polished in his game (yet). He has great length with huge hands and pins his man well because of a strong physical built. On the other hand, he is not very mobile or a good runner but when he finds his position close to the basket, he is quite effective. On the defensive end, he showed a good presence and rebounder and especially as shot blocker. There is still a long way to go for Veljkovic but he has some good basics to work with in the next years. If he can improve his footwork and overall mobility, he can develop into a very interesting long-term project on the Center spot.

Stats: 10.0ppg, 7.0rpg, 2.2bpg, 14.8PIR

Nemanja Djordjevic – 2m02 – PF/C – 1995 – Partizan Belgrade

Certainly not the biggest talent or the biggest upside in the tournament, I wanted to mention Nemanja Djordjevic though because he is one of these kind of players that you have to like. Totally undersized and rather big/overweight, Djordjevic used his skills to the maximum playing very hard and putting some defenses in trouble. A typical floor player who does his work with positioning, timing and strength, Djordjevic showed a good feel for the game and rebounding. When he gets the ball close to the basket, he was able to score, even against taller opponents. Additionally, he showed some interesting passing skills. However, his overall potential looks rather limited as he lacks the necessary size to play in the paint on the professional level and has not really the athletic potential to develop an outside game.

Stats: 9.4ppg, 5.6rpg, 10.2PIR

Niklas Ney – 2m08 – C – 1995 – ALBA Berlin

The German big guy showed his usual strengths and weaknesses during the days in Belgrade. Quite big and not afraid to bang in the low post, Ney has still a bit slow feet and is not very mobile. He can take the jump shot out to the three-point line but his mechanics are a bit strange and the ball has a very high flying curve. Good in his decision making, the 2m08 tall inside player has some basic moves to play in the low post but he also showed some face-up game and even beat his man on the dribble here and there. If he continues to work on his athletic abilities and becomes more regular from outside, he can develop into a role player for the professional level as he seems to understand the game and has the necessary will.

Stats: 7.8ppg, 6.8rpg, 1.3bpg, 9.3PIR

Dominik Heinzl – 2m02 – PF/C – 1995 – USK Future Stars

In a similar style to Ney, Dominik Heinzl played the inside position for USK despite his short size. Quite physical, the 2m02 tall player did not show any fear and tried to score against the taller inside players of the opposing teams. He works very hard in the paint to get good positioning and his hands seem good to score from within 2-3 meters from the basket. Not very athletic, Heinzl is the typical floor player who can use his strength on this level but will probably struggle when coming to the professionals.

Stats: 8.5pg, 7.5rpg, 13.8PIR

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