With the NBA Draft less than two weeks away, many key NBA talent evaluators have descended upon Treviso, Italy, for the annual Adidas Eurocamp, a spotlight event featuring 40 international players (many of whom are draft-eligible) competing in games and drills.
Here were some of the standouts from the first two days.
Paul Zipser #32 – One of the most experienced players in the Treviso Camp, Zipser plays focused and locked in. He does a good job of making the simple play. He knows who he is as a player and plays within himself, rarely trying to do too much. He is a very effective and mobile pick-and-pop forward, which is a desired skill set with the way the NBA is increasingly utilizing small-ball lineups. He is a skinny screener, meaning he doesn’t do a great job of head hunting the playmaker’s defender, popping his feet (coming to a jump stop so he doesn’t set a moving screen) and cracking the defender on the screen. He sets narrow screens, often times never creating contact with the defender. When he is paired with a playmaker who can come off the ball screen and engage his defender, he can be a knockdown pick-and-pop man. He aggressively attacks his defender off a close out and initiates contact with his defender, which allows him to be a physical straight line driver. He has to work on his dribble counters to become more of an effective handler in “short roll” situations and when high-level defenders cut his straight line drives off. He looked comfortable on his one-dribble pull up when defenders took away his straight line drive.
Additionally, Zipser was vocal on defense, calling the ball-screen coverage and off-ball screens. He is quick, physical and tough enough to defend power forwards in a perimeter isolation situation. But when he switches onto guards, he needs to play with active hands above the ball and arms wide to take away passing angles and to create a defensive presence while building a wall to take away paint penetrations. Laterally, he can’t guard NBA small forwards. He has to play the four at the NBA level. He plays with an athletic mentality without being an elite athlete, which is not very common in European players. Because of his mismatch as a pick-and-pop four, he can create long closeouts, which allow him to pump fake and attack. He can really develop a knack for getting fouled with his shooting skill set and physical mindset.
Petr Cornelie #43 – Cornelie is mobile and plays with a high motor. He is an active, out of area rebounder. Additionally, he is an early-effort rebounder, meaning when a player has started his shooing motion, he is flying in for the rebound, instead of standing on the perimeter waiting for an invitation to the rebounding party. He hustles to the rim from wherever he is when the shot goes up. He looks for tip-dunk and tip-in opportunities. He uses his length to contest shots and disrupt the release point on shooters from the outside, and has the discipline to block shots within the paint without swinging violently at the ball, which decreases the likelihood of fouling on the block attempt. He has the mobility and anticipation to be a weak side shot blocker and plays with the motor and effort that is needed to be a trail shot blocker. He has a quick second jump, which allows him to effectively challenge multiple shots in the same defensive possession or miss his own shot and explode back up quicker than his defender for a put-back opportunity.
Furthermore, he is a great teammate – constantly clapping and pointing at teammates when he is on the bench and getting off the bench to embrace them when a timeout is called. He sets hard and physical screens, which often creates an offensive advantage for his team. He posts hard, but he goes to the dork fade against similarly sized players. While posting a guard on a switch, he tries to get to the midline for his hook shot. He has the touch and skill to shoot over both shoulders in these situations. Cornelie can also put it on the floor for two dribbles from the perimeter, but off of his sweeps and shot fakes, his first step is toward the short corner instead of attacking with his lead foot to the rim, which would allow him to take a scoring angle to the basket. He struggled to keep control of his dribble off of a quick attack on a closeout when the defender initiates contact with him. He does not absorb contact well when finishing around the rim either, as he often had to turn the angle of his body after taking contact from the defender to get his shot off instead of powering through the defender at the same angle for the finish.
His lack of upper body and core strength can be mistaken as a sign for softness, but he is not a soft player. He is an active communicator on defense, frequently calling coverages and actions. When he switches on to guards off of ball screens, he has to learn to be a defensive presence with his hands wide. His hands live by his side, instead of wide in the air taking away passing angles. He has the ability and motor to become a player who can consistently make two plays (for example, blocking a shot from the weakside or trail position and then racing the floor for a tip dunk). He can defend pivots and fakes from the post, but is antsy on his feet when defending a guard on the perimeter. He needs to learn to use his length to create a cushion where he is still close enough to disrupt the shot and contain off the dribble.
Kenan Sipahi #11 – Kenan is a point guard with great size. He is crafty playing off pick-and-rolls, using in and outs and change of direction to cut back off of the pick and engage the big defender. However, he is not a great shooter. He brings the ball over his head, causing him to shoot the ball with the motion of a catapult, which is why his shot is so flat. Opponents will often go under on in pick-and-roll coverages in order to expose his poor shooting. One major way he can improve his perimeter shooting is increasing his arch.
Kenan is not an explosive athlete and doesn’t have blazing speed, but he plays with an effective change of pace in the half court. Even though he doesn’t have elite level open court speed, he has good vision in the open court and is willing to pitch the ball head. He is also one of those point guards who acts as a coach on the floor. He also does a good job of making an effort to defend, but he doesn’t have the lateral quickness to defend many of the explosive guards at the NBA level.
Leon Kratzer #33 – Kratzer has a role as a screener, roller and rebounder. He sets hard and physical screens. Since he does not have great touch outside of seven feet, he has to learn race on the role off of the pick, and role to seal (meaning when the play maker comes off the pick, he has to be able to create a passing angle for the play maker by racing on the roll to the rim). Then, when the play maker skips the ball to the weak side 45 (free throw line extended on the wing), he has to find his defender, create contact and seal him to create a passing angle from the 45.
He is not a top athlete, and he doesn’t have a high level of skill with post footwork, so he has to learn to use angles, leverage and physicality by finding the defense and sealing them to create high percentage shots that don’t require great footwork or touch in the post. He has a good hook attacking the midline and an ability to counter baseline with a spin move. He communicates on defense. He is a very active rebounder and this is without question his best skill. However, he is a liability on the floor at the end of games since he is a poor free throw shooter.
Boris Dallo #48 – Dallo has great size for the point guard position, with very good court vision. He sees passing angles and plays before they develop. However, he can be a high turnover point guard since his teammates don’t read and process plays as quickly as he does and he throws passes based on where his teammates should go, not necessarily where they do go. He over dribbles at times, which allows the defense to recover, taking away the offensive advantage that was created off of the ball screen action. He has to learn to pitch the ball ahead and move the ball as quickly as possible to allow his team to take advantage of closeout defense.
Furthermore, he uses his physical size to finish well around the rim. He doesn’t have great mechanics on his shot as he brings the ball from the left side of his face. Specifically, he is moving the ball from the right side of his body at the beginning of his shot, to the left side of his body in the middle of his shot, back to the right side before the release and then up towards the basket at the point of release. He is a player teams are going to go under or switch on in ball-screen coverage and shrink the floor to force him to make outside shots.
Dallo doesn’t give great effort as an on-ball defender and is often times out of stance, resting on defense when he is in the help side position. Lacking high effort on defense combined with average lateral quickness makes him a defensive liability against guards with a great first step. He cannot defend his position at the elite level.
Michael Fusek #67 – For a 7’3 prospect who recently added muscle mass, I was impressed with Fusek’s upside. He is a player I can see drastically improving over the next two years if he joins a club that will create a development plan for him. He blocks shots without fouling, using his length to block and then secure the shot instead of trying to swat the ball out of bounds. However, he needs to work on improving his quickness in 10-20 foot races in the half court – racing to a help-side defensive position, racing to create separation from his defender when setting a ball screen, or racing for an out of area rebound.
Fusek has good mobility for his size, but he can really evolve as a prospect when he has great mobility for his size. He is often times behind the ball in transition, taking him away from his greatest scoring strength, which is being around the rim for lobs, dump downs and put backs. Because of this, he is often times caught on back to back possessions in between the three-point lines. He will get rebounds, make an outlet pass and then wait one to two seconds before really trying to race the floor. He has to be able to make an outlet pass and then immediately take off down the floor. He is a willing passer from the post. When he adjusts to his new body and embraces racing the floor, he will be very intriguing as a prospect.
Arnoldas Kulboka #37 – Kulboka has a good basketball IQ for his age. He is one of three players born in 1998 in the camp and one of the better wings at reading the defense on cuts and off ball screens. If he makes a backdoor cut, and you jump to the paint, he will read the defender and pop back to the three-point line for a wide open shot. If you shoot the gap on a pin down, he will read the defender and fade to the corner.
He has great shooting mechanics with a high arch that can develop to a consistent three-point threat from NBA range or further. He is a good athlete, but he has not embraced playing an athletic brand of basketball. He has a slight build and doesn’t play with a physical mind set. Very rarely is he making an out of area rebound or making an early effort to fly in from the wing for a tip dunk or tip in. He has the ability to become a great shot fake player with his ability to space the floor. He struggles to stay on his driving angle with contact from defender as he allows the contact to knock him off course of his scoring angle.
Kulboka can make plays for others off of two dribbles or less and is a willing passer, but he has to continue developing his ability to read help side defenders. Defensively, he can contain wings off of a close out and chest them up, keeping them out of the paint. But when he switches on to a guard in a pick-and-roll situation, he gets beat on late turns (i.e. when a playmaker turns the corner on a defender by the second dribble, giving them a direct driving angle to the rim). He is young, inexperienced and doesn’t have the extra gear yet where he can take over a game offensively. He has to develop his motor and physicality to continue to grow into a real high-level prospect, but the potential is there.
Basketball Insiders will have more updates as Eurocamp in Italy rolls on.
NBA Daily: Is It Time To Cash Out On Kemba Walker?
Should the Hornets get serious about trading Kemba Walker or risk losing him in 2019 for next to nothing?
Is It Time To Sell?
Every professional sports team at some point has to decide when its time to cash out, especially if they have a star player heading towards free agency. The Charlotte Hornets are a team teetering on this decision with star guard Kemba Walker.
Now, let’s be honest for a moment. The Hornets are getting nothing of meaningful value in a trade for Walker if they decided to put him on the trade market—that’s something that will drive part of the decision.
The other part of the decision is evaluating the marketplace. This is where Charlotte may have an advantage that’s easy to overlook, which is the ability to massively overpay.
Looking ahead to the cap situations for the NBA in the summer of 2019, there doesn’t appear to be a lot worth getting excited over. While it’s possible someone unexpected goes into cap clearing mode to get space, the teams that project to have space in 2019 also project to have space in 2018, meaning some of that 2019 money could get spent in July and change the landscape even more.
But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume most of the 2019 cap space teams swing and miss on anything meaningful this summer and have flexibility the following summer. Not only will Walker be a name to watch, but guys like Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, Dallas’ Harrison Barnes, Detroit’s Tobias Harris, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Cleveland’s Kevin Love can all hit unrestricted free agency.
That’s a pretty respectable free agent class.
While most of those names will likely stay where they are, especially if their teams shower them with full max contracts as most would expect, there are a few names that might make the market interesting.
The wrinkle in all of it is the teams projected to have space. Based on what’s guaranteed today, the top of the 2019 cap space board starts with the LA Clippers.
The Clippers currently have just Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari under contract going into 2019. They will have qualifying offers on Milos Teodosic and Sam Dekker, but that’s about it. If the Clippers play their cards right, they could be looking at what could be close to $48 million in usable cap space, making them the biggest threat to poach a player because of the LA marketplace. It should be noted, though, that DeAndre Jordan’s situation will have an impact here.
The Chicago Bulls come in second on the 2019 cap space list with just $35.77 million in cap commitments. The problem for the Bulls is they are going to have to start paying their young guys, most notably Zach LaVine. That’s won’t stop the Bulls from getting to cap space, it’s simply a variable the Bulls have to address this summer that could get expensive.
The Philadelphia 76ers could come in third on the 2019 cap space list, although it seems the 76ers may go all in this summer on re-signing guard J.J. Redick and a swing at a big fish or two. If the 76ers miss, they still have an extension for Ben Simmons to consider, but that shouldn’t impact the ability to get to meaningful space.
For the Hornets, those three situations have to be a little scary, as all of themff something Charlotte can’t offer – big markets and rosters (save maybe the Clippers) with potentially higher upside.
The next group of cap space markets might get to real salary cap room, but its more likely they spend this summer like say the Houston Rockets or are equal to less desirable situations like Sacramento (similar), Dallas (has Dennis Smith Jr), Atlanta (similar) or Phoenix (likely drafts a point guard).
That brings us back to the Hornets decision making process.
If the Hornets put Walker on the market, historically, teams get pennies on the dollar for high-level players headed to free agency. If traded, its more likely than not that Walker hits free agency and goes shopping. That’s the scary part of trading for an expiring contract unless you get the player early enough for him to grow attached to the situation, most players explore options. That tends to drive down the potential return.
The Hornets can also start extension discussions with Walker and his camp this summer and it seems more likely than not the Hornets will pay Walker the full max allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, which could be a deal north of $150 million and he could ink that in July.
It’s possible that someone offers the Hornets the moon for Walker. That has happened in the past. The Celtics gave the Cavaliers a pretty solid return for Irving, a player the Cavaliers had to trade. So it’s not out of the question real offers come in, especially with the NBA trade deadline approaching, but what’s far more likely is the Hornets wait out this season and try to extend Walker this summer.
League sources at the G-League Showcase last week, doubted that any traction could be had on Walker while admitting he’s a name to watch, despite however unlikely a trade seemed today.
The challenge for the Hornets isn’t as simple as cashing out of Walker, not just because the return will be low, but also because where would the franchise go from here?
It’s easy to say re-build through the draft, but glance around the NBA today – how many of those rebuild through the draft situations are yielding competitive teams? How many of them have been rebuilding for five years or more?
Rebuilding through the draft is a painfully slow and frustrating process that usually costs you a coach or two and typically a new front office. Rebuilding through the draft is time consuming and usually very expensive.
It’s easier to rebuild around a star already in place and the fact that Walker himself laughs off the notion of him being anywhere but Charlotte is at least a good sign and the Hornets have some time before they have to really make a decision.
At some point, Charlotte has to decide when to cash out. For the Hornets, the time to make that decision on Walker might be the February 8 trade deadline. It might also be July 1, when they’ll know whether Walker would sign a max contract extension.
If he won’t commit then, the Hornets have their answer and can use the summer to try an extract a package similar to what the Cavaliers got for Irving.
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Cavs Woes Reason For Concern, But Not Dismissal
Spencer Davies takes a look at the Cavs’ issues and why we shouldn’t count them out just yet.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are the classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
When they’re on, they look like the defending three-time Eastern Conference Champions. When they’re off, they look like an old team that’s worn down and, at times, disinterested—and it gets ugly.
Take this past three weeks for example. After going on a tear of 18 wins in 19 games, the Cavs have dropped eight of 11 and are falling fast. Two of those three victories in that stretch were decided by four points or less against bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the East.
So what happened? For one, the schedule got significantly tougher. Beyond just the level of competition, Cleveland has been on the road for a long while. Nine of the games in this recent down period have been away games. The only time they’ve been home was for a quick second in mid-December and a short stay for New Years.
You’ve got to think about how that affects a psyche, not only from an on-court standpoint but also in regard to spending time with loved ones and family. LeBron James brought attention to his own homesickness on Christmas Day while he was in the Bay Area instead of in Northeast Ohio to celebrate the holidays. If it gets to him, you know it’s got to get to the other players as well. These guys are human beings with lives, and the rigors of travel can wear differently on people. Luckily for them, seven of their next nine games will be at Quicken Loans Arena.
With that being said, everybody in the NBA goes through it, so it’s no excuse for how flat the Cavs have been. Anybody on the team will tell you that, too. However, when you’re figuring out rotations and re-implementing players who had injuries, it’s not easy. This is exactly why nobody should envy Tyronn Lue.
He’s being asked to make room in his rotations and adjust on the fly as Cleveland gets guys back. When they went on that month-long run, the reason they had success was that the second unit really clicked. Dwyane Wade found his niche as the maestro of the bench bunch along with any mixture of Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Channing Frye, and Jae Crowder. Lue had found the perfect group to spell LeBron James and company.
But then, Tristan Thompson came back and, with all due respect, it messed with their flow. The spacing is no longer there for Wade or Green to penetrate because the paint is clogged. It makes it easier on opposing defenses to just stick to Korver because there aren’t any other threatening shooters on the floor (besides Osman, maybe). Worst of all, the change basically kicked Frye—who has a plus-14 net rating, according to Cleaning The Glass—out of the rotation completely.
Deciding who plays and when is a tough job. Derrick Rose is set to come back soon. Iman Shumpert is coming along as well. Lue likes a 10-man rotation, but there are at least 12 players who deserve to be on that court. We already know Rose is expected to commandeer the second unit in Wade’s absence on back-to-backs. As for if Shumpert remains in Cleveland, who knows? It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how this situation is managed moving forward.
Isaiah Thomas, on the other hand, is somebody the Cavs have been waiting on to return since the season started. Despite LeBron being LeBron and Kevin Love having as great of an offensive year as he’s ever had on the team, the starting unit lacks an extra punch. Thomas can be that shot in the arm, and he proved that in his debut at home against Portland and on the road in Orlando. There are two snags that both he and the team are going to hit before the 29-year-old returns to his All-Star form: 1) He’s got to get his legs under him to regain the consistency in his game and 2) His teammates are going to have to adjust to playing with him.
These are not easy things to do. Remember, aside from Jae Crowder, there is nobody on Cleveland’s roster that has played with Thomas before. Add in that he’s trying to re-discover his own game and that makes for a pretty bumpy road, at least out of the gate.
Start here—put Thompson in the starting lineup. As poor of a fit he’s been on the bench, he has shown promising signs of a developing chemistry with Thomas. It’s only been four games, but he loves having a partner in the pick-and-roll game. That’s clearly where you’ll get the most production out of him and how he can thrive. He’ll provide hustle, second chance opportunities, and a semi-decent big that can at least bother some of the competition’s drives to the basket. Sliding Love over to the four might change his game a little bit, but you can still get him going in the post before giving him chances as a shooter to work him outside-in.
The resulting effect helps the second unit as well. They’ll get one of either J.R. Smith or Crowder, depending on who would be relegated there. Both of those guys can use a spark to get them going. Because of Crowder’s familiarity with Thomas, let’s say Smith gets kicked out. Maybe that gets him out of the funk he’s in? It also allows for Frye, who hasn’t seen more than 20 minutes in a game since December 4, to get re-acclimated to a group he truly helped on both ends of the floor earlier in the year.
Outside of the need to make a move at the deadline, the Cavs can figure this out. It’s understood that they’re the fourth-worst defensive team in the NBA, but they’ve gone through these kinds of ruts at this time of year, specifically since LeBron came back. There might not be statistical evidence backing up the claim of any improvement, but the track record speaks for itself.
The panic button is being hit, but pump the brakes a bit. This isn’t anything new. The pieces are a little different and things look as bad as they ever have, but in the end, the result will likely be the same.
NBA Daily: Zach LaVine Has Solid Debut With Bulls
Zach LaVine put together a solid performance for the Bulls in his first game back from injury.
The Chicago Bulls are turning a corner this season. Zach LaVine is healthy after completing a year of rehabilitation from an ACL injury. LaVine’s return comes at a critical moment. The team is 13-7 over the last twenty games. Many of the wins in this stretch are over current competitors for a potential spot in the playoffs. This includes wins against the Charlotte Hornets (in overtime), the Philadelphia 76ers and three wins (one in overtime) against the New York Knicks. The stretch of winning ties into the return of forwards Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic. Having these key players back and winning this many games recently has changed the dynamics of what had been shaping up to be a losing season.
LaVine played in his first game of the season on Saturday and hit three of four three-point baskets while scoring 14 points in 19 minutes played. LaVine described how he felt physically and about the team’s recent run.
“I thought I did pretty good. I was tired as hell at first. But, we got the win,” LaVine said. “We’re going to keep this thing going.”
The team went into this season having parted ways with their franchise player, Jimmy Butler, in a trade that was derided by many for being lopsided. The trade netted the Bulls LaVine, point guard Kris Dunn and the sixth pick in the 2017 draft in exchange for Butler and the number 16 pick. The trade also allowed Butler to be reunited with coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. For the Bulls, Dunn has greatly improved from the poor play of his rookie season in Minnesota. In addition, the Bulls selected Lauri Markkanen, whom has already displayed some serious talent and potential. Now with LaVine in the lineup, the Bulls can see the total value of the trade on the court.
So, where do the Bulls now stand? According to FiveThirtyEight, as of January 14, the Bulls are projected as having a three percent chance of making the playoffs with a projected record of 32-50. This is a jump from less than one percent (essentially zero percent) back on December 11, 2017. Still, three percent is not the most reassuring projection.
In addition, the recent shift to winning basketball also puts Chicago’s 2018 draft pick in a more precarious position. On December 6, 2017, the Bulls were 3-20 and were on pace to have one of the worst records in the league, if not the worst. Now every win moves the pick further away from a likely top three or even a potential number one pick and moves it closer to a top-10 selection or even middle of the first-round pick.
At the moment, the team is 16-27, good enough for 12th place in the Eastern Conference behind the Hornets, Knicks, 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and final spot in the playoffs. Being 6.5 games back and having seven more losses than the Bucks means the Bulls will need to continue winning at a high rate to make up the difference in the time left in the season.
LaVine didn’t hold back when it came to expressing his optimism regarding the team’s potential.
“I think we can make a push for this thing,” LaVine said. “That’s our job to do. That’s our job to do that,”
LaVine isn’t paying much attention to skeptics who still don’t believe the Bulls have much change to win anything meaningful this season.
“You know, we can’t control outside thoughts or anything,” LaVine said. “We’re ball players, we go out there and try to win every competition. You know, I think we’re good. I think we’re going to be good.”
In LaVine’s absence, Mirotic and Portis (despite their offseason scuffle) have emerged as two of the team’s best players. In addition, center Robin Lopez has done an admirable job keeping up his effort all season long while fulfilling his role as a veteran leader for the team. Lopez described the atmosphere on the team as positive recently in an interview with Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders.
Despite the reason for optimism, it must be noted that the franchise might make another big trade that would diminish the team’s ability to be competitive this season. Despite his recent on-court success, reports are that Mirotic would like to be traded and that the Bulls asking price is a first-round pick.
Until such a move occurs, the Bulls appear poised to maintain their recent rate of success. Every win could cost the Bulls what could be a top overall pick in 2018. Regardless, the Bulls are surely feeling better about the results of the Butler trade, especially after LaVine’s impressive Chicago debut.