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. Hes 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 Kings Cup is a major showcase for international basketball, probably standing only behind the Euroleague Final Four concerning club competition. Its 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. Lets check how the draft prospects fared in this Kings Cup:
Tau Vitoria, Center, 1985, 7-0
Going into more detail, we cant 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 didnt 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 teams inside game, as Kaya Peker is a downgrade over Kornel David and Mirza Teletovic not much more than a marginal contributor, meaning that hes a key piece in this team and the timing for his struggles are coming at the worst moment possible.
DKV Joventut, SG, 1985, 6-6
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 Joventuts 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 rivals 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 wasnt 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, hes likely firmly planted in the first round thanks to his impressive outings in the Euroleague.
Akasvayu Girona, C, 1985, 7-1
Marc doesnt impress with his potential; hes a below average athlete by NBA standards, lacking quickness and leaping ability. The guy is just a good player, plain and simple. Considering hes 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 shouldnt be an impossible task, even if his most likely outcome at this point seems to be somewhere in the early second round.
Real Madrid, SF, 1985, 6-8
Perhaps Tomas will never manage to fulfill his anticipated potential as a big-time scorer, but at least hes working well in order to not become a liability on the court, which even if it doesnt 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 hes contributing from the perimeter with his shooting stroke, defending at a good level and works hard on the court. Actually, hes becoming a nice complimentary player.
Tau Vitoria, PF, 1985, 6-9
Not a helpful performance for Teletovic draft-wise. Theres not any guarantee that Mirza will hear his name called come draft night, and the Cup hasnt improved his chances at all.
DKV Joventut, PG, 1990, 6-4
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, Rubios 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 couldnt finish the job.
Its truly amazing the kind of immediate impact he has once he hits the court. Its 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 wasnt 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). Its obvious that sooner or later, its 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 Kings Cup? The answer will come one year from now. Personally, I cant wait to see it.