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.
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN