2007 Spanish King's Cup: NBA Draft Prospects

2007 Spanish King's Cup: NBA Draft Prospects
Feb 13, 2007, 01:24 am
Once again the Spanish ACB League came to a halt to celebrate one of the most spectacular and anticipated competitions of the season, the King’s Cup. With a massive following from the basketball community in Spain (this is a perennially sold-out event that brings people from all over the Spanish geography), the Final-Eight format guarantees thrills and strong emotions.


Rather unexpectedly, Winterthur F.C.Barcelona brilliantly won the tournament behind a very strong defense and multiple offensive solutions, provided by its talented, deep and expensive roster. Even more unexpectedly, Jordi Trías played his way into winning the tournament MVP. He’s a hard-working power forward who has very much benefited from the demanding style of coaching put in practice by Dusko Ivanovic in Barcelona. In a very cohesive effort, he was one of the steadiest players, and certainly the one who took best advantage of his team's creativity.

With 39 NBA scouts officially accredited from 23 different teams (even if most likely every single NBA team was represented in one way or another), the Spanish King’s Cup is a major showcase for international basketball, probably standing only behind the Euroleague Final Four concerning club competition. It’s a very good opportunity for young players to show their abilities and improve their draft stock. Unfortunately, in this edition not many guys succeeded in the process. Let’s check how the draft prospects fared in this King’s Cup:

Tiago Splitter
Tau Vitoria, Center, 1985, 7-0


In line with what Splitter had been showing throughout the season, his performance in the Cup could be considered average at best. The Brazilian was certainly more effective last year and even two years ago. Actually, there’s no trace left of that intensity spark he used to provide Tau whenever he entered the court, while he hasn’t been able to make up for it with a better skill repertoire. His level of activity has decreased, his confidence seems lower than ever and he even looks softer. Whether it’s his physical issues (he suffered a back injury early in the season) or just mental, the fact is his draft stock is dropping fast, and will keep dropping until he comes up with a solution to his struggles.

Going into more detail, we can’t really say there was anything new about his game seen in this Cup. Tiago played mostly off the ball, showing good positioning, but struggling to get the job done once he received the ball, looking slow going up for a layup or dunk and easy to intimidate. The very few times he tried to play one on one in the low post, he didn’t look bad, even scoring with a left-handed semi-hook. As expected, his mid-range shot was nowhere to be found. Regarding his slashing game, he looked hesitant a couple of times in the semifinal against Real Madrid, but finally delivered a nice move going left finishing with a short shot off the glass virtually over an opponent. Still only a drop in an ocean. On defense, he was solid as usual, but not spectacular.

Splitter had 8 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals in the quarterfinal against Caja San Fernando, improving to 9 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists against Real Madrid. Not enough for him, not enough for Tau. Indeed, this season he has less competition than ever in his team’s inside game, as Kaya Peker is a downgrade over Kornel David and Mirza Teletovic not much more than a marginal contributor, meaning that he’s a key piece in this team and the timing for his struggles are coming at the worst moment possible.

Rudy Fernandez
DKV Joventut, SG, 1985, 6-6


]This wasn't a good tournament for Rudy Fernandez. Perhaps suffering from the pressure of the high expectations everybody from him given the excellent season he has enjoyed, he looked a bit anxious and rushed things too much, trying to get in scoring rhythm early though his perimeter fire power, which is one of his main scoring assets, but eventually forcing too many shots. He did average 16.5 points in the two games he played, but it wasn’t a go-to scoring effort, and he often failed to provide points when his team needed them the most. As a result, and given that he’s the closest thing to a go-to player you will find in his team, DKV Joventut needed an overtime session to beat Akasvayu Girona in the quarterfinals and fell short against Winterthur FC Barcelona in the semifinal.

Very inconsistent behind the arc (he went a combined 3/15), his production came in transition play and off-the-ball moves. Delivering a very nice defensive effort as all his perimeter teammates, Rudy is a big part of Joventut’s full-court pressure given his quickness and nice hands to come up with steals, ultimately allowing him to score easy points. Besides, in the quarterfinal game against Girona, he successfully anticipated the rival’s defensive transition to score in fast-break. His trademark dunks off alley oops were there too (two, truly spectacular, in the first game, one, actually more of a very forced layup, in the second). However, he wasn’t able to dissipate the doubts about his one-on-one game (particularly his first step and the real quality of his handles against close opposition), as he barely attacked his match-ups in pure individual sets.

Fernández had 17 points and 4 rebounds against Girona and 16 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists against F.C.Barcelona. Despite the nice numbers, this Cup performance didn't help his draft stock, although barring buyout complications, he’s likely firmly planted in the first round thanks to his impressive outings in the Euroleague.

Marc Gasol
Akasvayu Girona, C, 1985, 7-1

His team lost in quarterfinals, meaning he only played one game, where he was shorthanded by foul trouble, limiting his minutes to barely 22 before fouling out. Despite that, Marc Gasol still had a nice showing. We saw the same reliable guy that has been shining all season long for the successful Akasvayu Girona, an intimidating presence on the defensive end and a solid post threat on the offensive side. Teaming up with the rest of Girona’s inside game, Gasol did a nice job slowing down Joventut’s big men, taking advantage of his big 7-1 body and nice positioning, while managing not to get exposed by his lack of athleticism. When it came to showing his offensive repertoire, we saw him overpowering a rival while banging in the low post to get two easy points, moving off the ball to get open looks in the paint (on pick and roll plays) or distributing the ball from the low post-- delivering two excellent assists to teammates placed close to the basket after reacting to a defensive rotation. He finished the game with 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

Marc doesn’t impress with his potential; he’s a below average athlete by NBA standards, lacking quickness and leaping ability. The guy is just a good player, plain and simple. Considering he’s 7-1 and a very strong guy, to think about the possibility of him going undrafted is out of the picture, while the first round shouldn’t be an impossible task, even if his most likely outcome at this point seems to be somewhere in the early second round.

Marko Tomas
Real Madrid, SF, 1985, 6-8


Tomas didn’t enjoy his best outing in the King’s Cup, but considering the circumstances he faced, he might have even helped his cause draft-wise. Coming off a thigh injury, he couldn’t play in the quarterfinal, but started for Real Madrid in the semifinal against Tau Vitoria. Soon it was obvious that Tomas was trying a bit too hard, overdoing things and rushing a bit, he wanted to prove something. We could see him being more active than usual playing off the dribble, but not necessarily more successfully. He was equally active on the defensive end, where this season he’s looking very improved. Staying aggressive for the whole game, helping in the rebounding department with 4 captures and showing more activity off the ball, the final quarter brought the best moments for Marko. Two plays stood out among the rest: in the first one, Tomas took his defender Igor Rakocevic to the low post and used his size advantage to feed Sonseca under the rim for an easy dunk. On the second one, in the midst of a slight offensive jam for Real Madrid, Tomas came to rescue with a superb three-point bomb from NBA range. His performance in the final was forgettable, in line with what most Real Madrid players showed there.

Perhaps Tomas will never manage to fulfill his anticipated potential as a big-time scorer, but at least he’s working well in order to not become a liability on the court, which even if it doesn’t sound too intriguing, might convince someone to take a chance on him in the second round. The Croatian wing is struggling when it comes to creating his own shot, as he suffers beating his match-ups in one-on-one situations, rarely shoots off the dribble and exposes the ball too much while slashing for layups. But he’s contributing from the perimeter with his shooting stroke, defending at a good level and works hard on the court. Actually, he’s becoming a nice complimentary player.

Mirza Teletovic
Tau Vitoria, PF, 1985, 6-9

This was an awful tournament for Teletovic. He wasn’t able to record even a single point nor rebound in the 23 minutes he spent on the court. He barely played in the quarterfinal against Caja San Fernando, but didn’t take advantage of the minutes he enjoyed in the semifinal against Real Madrid when his teammates got in foul trouble. His offensive game is currently limited to his nice perimeter shooting, and he missed all his four three-point attempts. His rebounding efficiency got once again exposed by his inability to lock down his team's paint. He’s not a particularly active guy boxing out his rivals and his lack of size doesn’t help. He’s a nice tough defender who shows good mobility and likes to play physical, although again his lack of size gets exposed near the basket against bigger rivals. Certainly not enough baggage to provide real help to his team in order to overcome Real Madrid. Teletovic left the court fouled-out, which also comes to reflect his lack of concentration in the game, as he seemed to arrive a little late to many situations.

Not a helpful performance for Teletovic draft-wise. There’s not any guarantee that Mirza will hear his name called come draft night, and the Cup hasn’t improved his chances at all.

Ricky Rubio
DKV Joventut, PG, 1990, 6-4


We finish with the youngest player of the Cup. He’s still not eligible, and won’t be for some time, but he was arguably the draft prospect who fared the best. Ricky is back to the tournament that made him famous. Yes, it was three years ago when he took part in the Minicopa, an U-14 tourney held during the King’s Cup that his team Joventut won, with Ricky stealing the show every minute he was on court. Being only 13 years old, he became a well-known name among basketball fans and even was penciled in by some people as the next great European guard after Drazen Petrovic.

Fast forward to the present, and Rubio is meeting all the expectations of his young career, not disappointing in his first big event at the senior stage. The fact that a Euroleague team such as DKV Joventut needs a 16-year old kid so desperately should be reason enough to give him all the props in the world. His ability to change the momentum of the game is just flat-out impressive and his team certainly took advantage of it. In the quarterfinals against Girona, Rubio’s provoked two comeback runs for Joventut right off the bench, one in each period of the first half, helping his team stay close in the score and ultimately get an overtime victory. In the semifinal against F.C.Barcelona, he also led a comeback in the last quarter, but this time Joventut couldn’t finish the job.

It’s truly amazing the kind of immediate impact he has once he hits the court. It’s not only a matter of his own defensive skills, that incredible ability and voraciousness stealing the ball, denying passes or forcing offensive fouls, but also the psychological effect on the opposing team that never feels comfortable with the ball in its hands and starts committing mistakes. Coach Reneses takes advantage of these situations using full-court pressure when Rubio is on the floor, and actually Joventut is one of the very few teams (if not the only one) that regularly forces five-second (for in-bounding situations) and eight-second (to cross the half-court) violations. However, Rubio did eventually suffer in this Cup staying in front of some matchups, particularly Jaka Lakovic and Roko-Leni Ukic.

On the offensive end we saw a more aggressive Rubio than usual. He wasn’t afraid of attacking his rivals off the dribble to look for layups or assists, usually with excellent results (even if his teammates Andrew Betts and Robert Archibald spoiled some of his terrific passes right under the basket). It’s obvious that sooner or later, it’s going to be extremely difficult to keep Rubio out of the paint. His handles, quickness and footwork are too much to deal with. Ricky also tried some shots with discrete results, as he knocked down a three pointer, but looked extremely inconsistent in easy mid-range jumpers off the dribble.

Rubio had 9 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals against Girona, and 4 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists against Barcelona. What kind of player will we see in the next edition of the King’s Cup? The answer will come one year from now. Personally, I can’t wait to see it.

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