Adriatic League 2005/2006 Recap

Adriatic League 2005/2006 Recap
Apr 26, 2006, 03:58 am
Balkan Scout Kristian Hohnjec provides us with a thorough update on what has traditionally been the most intriguing International league in the world for European draft prospects--the Goodyear Adriatic League.

Hohnjec explains the struggles the league is going through at the moment and breaks down the top NBA draft prospects that are found here, including Ante Tomic, Goran Dragic, Uros Tripkovic, Yotam Halperin, Damir Markota and many others.

After seeing success early on, the Adriatic League is now facing more and more doubters as of late, in the form of fans and officials who claim that this league is ruining the traditional domestic competitions and is not gathering much interest from the media and local audiences. There are several reasons for the crisis, starting with the poor results the Croatian (for the past decade) and Serbian Montenegrin (as of late) national teams have achieved in international competitions, which has decreased the interest of basketball in these countries. The change of rules regarding foreigners in Spain certainly didn’t help matters either, as Spanish clubs have signed many of the young upcoming Balkan stars as well as proven veterans, with even the youngest ones such as Bojan Bogdanovic (born in 1988) being snatched up by fat contracts from teams like Real Madrid.

Serbian teams, who dominated the competition in the last two years, are considering leaving the League because they feel their local Yuba league is just as strong as the Adriatic League. There are fewer quality teams in Croatia, Slovenia and especially Bosnia, so for them it will not make much sense to step out of the Adriatic League, since their domestic competitions don’t gather as much interest locally anyway.

There are rumors lately that ULEB will give the winner of the Adriatic League a wildcard spot for the Euroleague, starting next season, which would certainly make the competition more entertaining and competitive. The existence of this league is not in question; it is just a matter of finding the right balance between the domestic competitions and this regional one.

NBA scouts are probably not as concerned with this matter, just as the fans worldwide likely aren’t either. They care about the young prospects who traditionally always fill this league, and despite the talent pool being depleted from last year, there are as always still plenty of gifted young prospects gathering interest from NBA teams.

Automatically eligible Yotam Halperin had a great season and is considered a strong 2nd round pick, while three other players - Kosta Perovic, Goran Dragic and Damir Markota will likely test the waters this year. Other potential future first rounders are littered around the league.

All photos provided by the Goodyear Adriatic League. Visit the Official Website of the Goodyear Adriatic League for more info on the competition and it's prospects, in English.

ANTE TOMIC, 7-2, Center, KK Zagreb, 1987

19.0 mpg, 5.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.6 bpg


Since Nemanja Aleksandrov didn’t recover in time to participate in any games this Adriatic season, Ante Tomic is easily the prospect with the most potential playing in the competition at the moment. It was the first season in which Tomic got significant playing time, and while he didn’t overly impress, he also didn’t disappoint either.

You often hear the statement "he is hurt by his lack of body strength" when speaking about European prospects, but there might not be anyone for whom this is as big an obstacle as it is for Tomic. Ante was unable to hold his position on the low block on either end of the floor and was overmatched physically by most of his opponents. Because of his physical weaknesses he was forced to use his hands excessively on defense, putting him in foul trouble too often and not letting his coach give him more playing time. He had some impressive games like a 15 point, 7 rebound performance against Zadar or a 13 point, 10 rebound outing at Hemofarm, but was inconsistent all season long, scoring in double figures 5 times, but never twice in a row. Most of Tomic’s immense talent was visible on the offensive end, where he showed many skills with the ball in his hands.

Except for great size and good athletic ability, Tomic offers an impressive, yet still unpolished skill-set. He can shoot the ball from mid-range at a decent clip, showing rather good mechanics for someone this tall, while also being capable of playing with his back to the basket thanks to a variety of post moves, which weren’t always that effective against stronger opposition. The strongest parts of his game right now are his ball-handling and passing skills, which isn’t strange since Tomic was a PG as a cadet before growing an incredible 8 inches in just a year. Tomic can beat his matchup off the dribble thanks to his impressive ball-handling ability and is a great passer either from the high or low post, occasionally acting like a PG in setting his teammates up and directing the flow of the offense.

We find most of his deficiencies on the defensive end. As already mentioned he is very frail and therefore not a very good man-to-man defender at this point. On a positive note he doesn’t avoid physical contact and is willing to bang down low, but doesn’t have the body to do so with any consistent success. Tomic is also not good enough at boxing out his man at this point, positioning himself under the rim and all the other dirty work that centers are supposed to do.

He will must work hard on his body this summer, because that is the only thing keeping him from being a top Center in this League and go-to-guy for his Zagreb team. Given his combination of athleticism, size and skills, Tomic is a very intriguing prospect for NBA teams, despite being a project at this point. KK Zagreb will be very demanding regarding his buyout (which does not exist at the moment according to his agent), but if Tomic enjoys a good season next year that will not be a big problem since Ante has a good shot at being selected in the lottery if he continues to improve. As for his NBA comparison, a young Zydrunas Ilgauskas is probably most similar to Tomic.

GORAN DRAGIC, 6-4, Point Guard, KK Geoplin Slovan, 1986

30.2 mpg, 15.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 2.1 spg, 3.2 topg


While watching Dragic get his first serious senior action last June in the Slovenian Championship, few would have imagined that he’d end up exploding like he has this year, developing into one of best PGs of the competition seemingly overnight.

After playing the way he has, Dragic now has plenty of options for next season, and while he has a contract with his team Slovan, it isn’t likely that he will stay there, since there are numerous top European clubs such as Real Madrid that are interested in him. There is a rumor that he already signed a 5 year deal with the Spanish powerhouse, but nothing has been officialy confirmed yet.

The NBA is certainly an option for Dragic too, and according to what his BDA Sports Management agency told us earlier on in the year, there is a strong possibility he will be putting his name in the draft. He is looking for a guarantee in the first round to stay in, and many feel he has a pretty good shot at getting one if he can find a way to come over to the States and impress in workouts.

His team was in contention for the Final 8, but fell one win short, and if not for Dragic they would have been close to the bottom on the table. Two things jump out at you when watching Dragic. First is his aggressive approach on defense, not at all common for young players, especially Europeans. The second are his leadership skills in crunch time, where he always wants to have the ball in his hands and actually won a few games for Geoplin during the season.

Dragic was a huge factor in Geoplin’s offense with his ability to play off the dribble, drive and dish, and put great pressure on the opposing team’s PG. The sophomore season is always harder for youngsters so it will be pretty interesting to see what he can do next year if he stays in Europe. And he should, because he doesn’t have enough experience to run an NBA team as soon as next season. His body is also clearly not prepared for NBA action, which would likely mean some seasoning in the NBDL, something that a rising star in European basketball might not be all that attracted to.

Dragic didn’t play as a full-time PG this year, and there are quite a few aspects of his game in need of improvement. First is his long-distance shooting, which has been inconsistent throughout the season. The limited success of European guards in the NBA, an unknown or nonexistent buyout and being on a rather poor squad are other factors that could force Dragic to wait another year.

Still, considering that this PG class is pretty average as far as NCAA players go, many teams could be tempted by his quickness, size, defense, attitude and his already excellent production at a very young age. With the way he has been performing this year and the way he has improved as of late, Dragic has an outside shot at making the Slovenian National team for this summer’s World Championships in Japan, where his team will face Team USA, amongst others.

UROS TRIPKOVIC, 6-6, Shooting Guard, KK Partizan Belgrade

27.7 mpg, 12.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 41% FG


This was an up and down season for talented Uros Tripkovic. Averaging over 12 points per game on a Euroleague team and eventual Adriatic League Finalists isn’t bad for a 19 year old player, but after a terrific rookie season, Uros didn’t make the step forward that everyone seemed to expect of him. This was why it was surprising to see Tripkovic selected for the Adriatic league’s 1st team this year. He is scoring less than last season (13.3), but the biggest hit he took was in his FG%; after shooting 47.4% from the field last year, Uros is now converting just 41.2% of his shots this time around.

The fact that, on average, 3 of his 5 shot attempts come from behind the arc should tell you that he relies on his outside shot too much. Adding weight to his frame, Uros lost some of his speed, and it’s now a little harder for him to get into the lane, which puts more pressure on him to score from the perimeter. At his current stage, Tripkovic is sub-par at attacking the rim, as he doesn’t have the strength to finish in traffic and his first step isn’t off the charts. We might say that offensively he is pretty one-dimensional as around 70% of his points come from jumpers.

Tripkovic has good ball-handling skills and sees the court very well, which should help him establish more offensive versatility in the future. On defense Uros improved some, mostly regarding his attitude, but still gets beaten off the dribble quite a bit. This was especially evident during the Final 8, when he quickly picked up cheap fouls where he was unable to stay in front of his man.

After concentrating mostly on his weaknesses so far, we might say something about his strengths. When he’s not forcing the issue, Uros is an excellent shooter from anywhere on the floor. He has one of the sweetest strokes in Europe and looks great executing it, being highly effective in catch and shoot situations since he has good coordination and a very fast release. Uros moves off the ball very well, using the screens his teammates give him to get his shot off. As already mentioned, he is a nice passer in half-court sets and in transition, but his inability to play off the dribble greatly limits his assist numbers.

It seems that Tripkovic grew an inch this past year, and now standing at 6-6 he has very good size for an NBA shooting guard.

After connecting on 5 treys during the Adriatic League Finals against FMP, Uros was a tragic figure in the last 2 minutes of the game, as he missed 2 crucial free-throws that sealed the win for FMP. Tripkovic seems to be content with his current situation as the cornerstone of Partizan’s future and doesn’t seem too intent on testing his stock in this year’s draft, although he could probably get a spot in the late first round with solid showings at private workouts. The fact that all of his personal and private matters are conducted strictly by his team Partizan, without the help or influence of any European or American agent, is likely a deciding factor in this.

Currently he appears to have enough athleticism and size to complement his shooting ability and will likely get drafted somewhere in the 20-40 range when he does decide to enter the draft. If he wants to solidify his status as a first round pick, Uros will need to show more visible improvement in his all-around game next year.

YOTAM HALPERIN, 6-5, PG/SG, Olimpija Ljubljana, 1984

33.8 mpg, 14.2 ppg, 3.6 apg, 2.8 rpg, 54.2 FG%, 49/98 3 FG


After not getting a chance to play significant minutes for Euroleague champions Maccabi Tel Aviv, this year Halperin decided to go on loan to Ljubljana instead. This has obviously turned out to be a great move for him, since he has emerged as one of most promising scorers on the European scene, and is now highly sought after by powerhouse teams such as Climamio Bologna. The poor season Olimpija has suffered through has little to do with Yotam’s efforts, since he was their best and most consistent player all year long. He was one of the toughest assignments in the league for opposing defenders on a nightly basis, as he was prolific both as a slasher and as a shooter. Given his ability to score, and Olimpija’s lack of quality offensive threats, Halperin should probably be taking more than just 8.5 FG attempts per contest.

Despite playing at the SG spot for most of the season, Halperin still showed solid ability to create for teammates and recorded a nice number of assists, finishing third in the league. After slowly seeing his stock plummet as his minutes with Maccabi evaporated, Halperin is back on the NBA radar with his impressive outings in the Euroleague, Adriatic league, and let’s not forget by leading the World Junior Championships in Argentina in scoring by averaging 23.5 points per contest.

While his athleticism and defense are certainly concerns for NBA scouts, Halperin’s size, excellent skill-set and production on the highest European level make him a strong 2nd round candidate for this upcoming draft. Recent buzz in the States says that he will have an opportunity to even work his way into the late first round once he arrives for private workouts with NBA teams in a few weeks. Check out his recently updated profile linked above for a more detailed report on his strengths and weaknesses.

DAMIR MARKOTA, 6-11, Power Forward, Cibona Zagreb, 1985

21.8 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.1 apg, 47.8 % FG, 37.3 % 3FG


This was a breakout season for Damir Markota, after spending the last two years on the end of Cibona Zagreb’s bench. While this season certainly helped his career, now that Europeans are less en vogue and it’s become obvious that he is a full-time PF, his potential might not seem as sexy anymore.

This season Markota proved things that we already knew already for years--he is highly athletic and a very good shooter, but he also showed many flaws that came to play because he didn’t see much action earlier in his career. In the second part of the season Markota was having trouble with a pesky groin injury, and his play suffered considerably. In the meantime he had surgery and returned to the floor this past weekend for the Adriatic League Final 8.

Markota shoots the ball very well, but considering how much he relies on his jumper, you would think that he is a dead-eye shooter, which he isn’t at this point with his unorthodox mechanics. Occasionally Damir showed some slashing skills, but he isn’t a very confident ball-handler and often looks out of control driving to the hoop. Damir also doesn’t have many post skills to speak of, scoring some points this year with jump-hook shots, but being much more comfortable playing on the perimeter. The skill that hasn’t been exposed as much as before is his passing, which is well above average for a big man. And while he might not be anywhere near as good a defender as his coach wants him to be, Markota has made some serious improvement in this area from two years ago when he seemingly couldn’t guard a chair.

The best part of his athleticism – his explosive vertical leap, helps him to come up with many rebounds since he is able to get off the floor quickly and jump high to snatch rebounds out of his area. He will need to improve his rebounding fundamentals, though, since he doesn’t always box out and has trouble holding his position on the block against stronger opponents.

The biggest drawbacks of his long-term potential are his very short arms and unimpressive frame, which leads us to believe that he will never become anything more than just an average defender. Markota is going to declare for this year’s draft according to his agent in the States, and as long as he doesn’t tank in workouts should be picked somewhere in the 2nd round…if he stays in. Given his fair share of weaknesses and the situation at Cibona, where he could get a more prominent role next year due to their financial troubles, Markota might be able to improve his stock by playing another Euroleague season before becoming automatically eligible. He already declared once and withdrew since he couldn’t get a first round guarantee, but has no problem withdrawing again according to what the NBA has clarified to us.

KOSTA PEROVIC, 7-2, Center, 1985, Partizan Belgrade

23.2 mpg, 12.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 0.9 bpg


Perovic is playing less minutes than last season, and scoring less points, but is grabbing 1.5 more rebounds per contest. His numbers alone tell you the story, which always comes up when talking about Kosta. He is pretty much the same player he was a year or even two years ago, but now with more experience and additional weight. 7-2 players with soft hands like Perovic will always draw interest from NBA scouts, but as his career progressed, this interest appears to have regressed. As it currently stands, Kosta is barely on the verge of getting drafted. His feet are still very slow and he is still a soft defender and poor rebounder, not exactly the type of player NBA teams are falling over themselves for.

Perovic improved some on the already strong parts of his game, such as knocking down mid-range jumpers, positioning on the offensive end and finishing around the basket, but his weaknesses are still there. European players which are similar to Kosta in spite of being soft and unimpressive defenders such as Bruno Sundov, Antonis Fotsis, Hanno Mottola, Slavko Vranes and the like didn’t have much success in the NBA. He will need to be very lucky and land on a team that is willing to give him a chance and utilize his strengths, like for example what the Bobacts did with Primoz Brezec. Partizan is willing to let him go to the NBA, because he will be paid 500.000$ next year if he stays, which is a huge amount for a team whose superstar Dejan Milojevic gets around 350.000$ per year. NBA teams sometimes like to spend their late 2nd round picks on European bigs (Fehse, Gortat, Glyniadakis, Karaulov, Sinanovic, Van den Haare in recent years) so someone might give him a shot, since you cannot teach size and Kosta has plenty of it.

NIKOLA PEKOVIC, 6-11, Center, Partizan Belgrade, 1986

16.5 mpg, 7.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 61.5FG%


Partizan added another intriguing prospect this summer to an already full roster of young talented players when they bought Nikola Pekovic from Atlas, after his solid performance at the European Junior Championships where he averaged 11.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. In his first season with Partizan, Nikola saw prominent minutes, and because of him Partizan let Macendonian 7-footer Predrag Samardziski move to FMP. Pekovic is a hard-working, tough Center with a very promising physique, featuring nice lower body strength and wide shoulders which appear to be capable of adding plenty of weight.

He has good size at 6-11, moves his feet well under the boards and is rather strong for a youngster. Unlike his teammate Perovic, Pekovic is very active, playing very hard under the rim and being a capable rebounder, despite not being much of a leaper, mostly thanks to his strength, tenacity and positioning. On the offensive end he mainly depends on his teammates to create offense for him, often by setting solid screens and rolling to the basket, which helps considering that he isn’t a very polished player at the moment. However, he shows good footwork in the post and is able to score when he gets good position on the block.

It will be interesting what Pekovic can do next year, especially if Perovic or maybe even Milojevic leave the team, which would open up a whole lot of playing time for him. He has 2 more years of draft eligibility and it will be interesting to follow his development. One of our International NBA scout sources claim that he’s considered by some to be the 2nd best prospect in the region after Ante Tomic. His excellent size and fundamentals, extremely long arms, terrific frame and very good motor likely have a lot to do with that.

LUKA BOGDANOVIC, 6-8, Small Forward, 1985, Partizan Belgrade

24.0 mpg 10.9 ppg 3.7 rpg 0.9 apg 51.9 FG% 43.9 3FG%


Another prospect from Partizan, Bogdanovic was getting the most hype of them all early on, but his success in junior categories didn’t translate completely to senior competition.

In the last two seasons Bogdanovic had made the full-time transition from PF to SF, and is looking more confident playing on the perimeter lately, but still hasn’t proved that he can defend outside players well and play off the dribble on offense, two things that hurt his chances of getting drafted mightily.

Bogdanovic’s biggest weapons remain his great size and beautiful shooting stroke. He added some bulk to his frame this year and improved his vertical leap, helping him show off some nice dunks in the process, but his footspeed is still his biggest opponent on both sides off the floor. After seeing how fellow shooting specialists such as Steve Novak and Kevin Pittsnogle fare in this draft and possibly in the NBA next year, we’ll probably be a lot smarter regarding Luka’s chances of being drafted and playing in the NBA. He is still an inconsistent player who can be very dangerous when he gets hot, but he also has a tendency to disappear from game after he misses his first couple of attempts.

One of the better things he showed this year is that he is capable of taking advantage of his size by taking smaller opponents into the post and scoring over them with turnaround jumpers and jump-hooks. This is important for his offensive versatility, since he is unable to slash to the basket if the lane isn’t completely open and his defender is off balance. At the end of the day, Bogdanovic is a 6-8 player with a great stroke and high basketball IQ. There are at least a dozen players with similar characteristics contributing to their respective NBA teams, so Luka also can hope to see him name called in the 2nd round of the 2007 NBA draft and come in as a hired gun.

MILENKO TEPIC, 6-7, SG/SF, Vojvodina, 1987

24.5 mpg 7.4 ppg 2.2 rpg 1.7 apg 1.8 spg 47.1% FG 38.3 % 3FG


Coming off a good performance with Serbia & Montenegro at the European Junior Championships, Tepic enjoyed big minutes with a solid Vojvodina squad in his rookie Adriatic season, showing potential to possibly develop into a first round pick down the road. As you can expect from a 19-year-old, Tepic was inconsistent from time to time, playing some brilliant games, like against Cibona when he lead Vojvodina to victory in Zagreb with 17 points, 6 assists, 5 steals and 4 rebounds, while being silent in others, for example scoring just 2 points in 33 minutes against Siroki. Milenko always impressed by playing with maturity, poise and tenacity beyond his years in his first full season with the senior team, though.

He has a nice combination of size and athleticism, standing at 6-7 (200cm) and moving rather quickly both horizontally and vertically. From a physical point of view, Tepic has the necessary gifts to be a successful NBA player in the future. He is looking more for his teammates than himself to score, partially because he is team-oriented and unselfish and partially because scoring isn’t one of his biggest strengths at the moment. Tepic can create scoring opportunities with his above average ball-handling skills and good first step, while also passing the ball very well either from static positions or on the move, but the main reason why he got so much playing time was his defense. Tepic was the best perimeter defender on his team, presenting tenacity and attitude to go along with his length and athleticism, indeed making him one of best defensive players in the league.

Currently his biggest weakness is his shooting, as he doesn’t show great touch outside 15 feet, making him quite a predictable offensive player. His percentage from downtown is not bad, but most of his 47 attempts (1.95 per game) were wide-open looks, since defenders often leave him more space to shoot from long distance knowing that he usually cannot convert at a good clip. Confirmation of his poor shooting mechanics comes at the free throw line, where he converts just 58% of his attempts.

A good game (16 pts, 4 assists) at the recent Nike Hoop Summit certainly helped scouts to take notice of him. While he might not have what we call "star upside", Tepic has all the tools to become a nice role player for an NBA team down the road. Working on his shot is a priority for Tepic, who has three more years of draft eligibility. If he develops as expected, Milenko could get some serious looks in bottom half of the first round when he decides to declare.

LUKSA ANDRIC, 6-11, Power Forward, Cibona Zagreb, 1985

11.5 mpg 4.1 ppg 2.5 rpg 0.5 bpg 53.8 % FG

After being on loan at Dubrava last season, Andric returned to Cibona and got some serious playing time on a team that doesn’t give many chances to young players usually.

What makes Andric intriguing is not what he is now, as you can see from stats, but what he might become in the future, since he is nowhere near reaching his ceiling despite already being 21 years old.

Luksa has good conditions to play the game, standing 6-11 with long arms and quick feet. He also shows a great attitude, effort and aggressiveness on the court. His main problem and the reason why he is not getting more playing time is his inability to stay on the floor due to consistent foul-trouble. Andric plays very aggressively on defense, often using his hands excessively and picking up silly fouls in the process. Luksa is also a good rebounder thanks to his physique, especially on the offensive side where he shows good anticipation skills and crashes the glass regularly.

Since his coach used him mostly to wear down opponents’ biggest frontcourt threats with his energy, Andric wasn’t much of a factor on the offensive side. When he got the chance Andric exhibited a nice jumper with range out to international three point line (3 of 5 on the season) and solid mechanics for a big man. He also had some success playing with his back to the basket and putting the ball on the floor, but these two skills look unpolished at the moment, as does his entire game. Since he will be automatically eligible for next year’s draft, Andric will need to play very well next season to get consideration in the 2nd round. Even if he doesn’t get drafted, Andric is a guy to keep an eye on, since he could gather interest from the NBA later in his career if he reaches his full potential.

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