Unlike the majority of international big man coming to the NBA, Axel Hervelle is much more of a physical-oriented athlete rather than an incredibly skilled player. He displays good athleticism, enjoying a good vertical and quickness that make him a very mobile paint player, always running up and down the court. His body looks decently strong, showing broad shoulders and a good frame to keep adding weight, and a nice wingspan.
Hervelle is a high-energy guy. He’s very intense on the court, and never saves any effort playing the game. You can see him all over the court, running the break, going after any loose ball, flying to get a block, actively looking for the rebound, multiplying himself on defense, etc. Indeed, being a nice defender with an accurate lateral quickness, he excels on team defense. His sense of positioning is great, rarely committing any mistakes in defensive rotations. He’s particularly aggressive looking for the offensive rebound.
On the offensive end, Hervelle moves reasonably well without the ball which allows him to get open looks near the basket. He also is working on his shot, being able to make the international three pointer with some accuracy. His mechanics aren’t bad, and his release is rather fast.
The Belgian is a team player, a hard worker who always shows the right attitude.
Hervelle barely shows any reliable offensive weapons. His shot is very inconsistent at this point, and his low post game looks rather unpolished the few times he uses it, due to his poor footwork. He’s not a slasher either. So we’re talking basically about a guy who scores most of his points off garbage, getting points out of offensive rebounds, after getting feed by a teammate in the paint, perhaps finishing a fast-break or hitting the occasional jumper.
That’s really a big knock on his game. When you picture a 6-9 power forward prospect, you usually guess he will compensate his average size with some decent offensive skills. Well, it’s clear this is not the case here.
Regarding his defense, while he’s a very good defender, when a bigger opponent gets position near the basket, it’s rather difficult for Axel to stop him, which is logical for a 6-9 paint player.
Hervelle played in Belgium all his life up until this season, mostly for Pepinster. There, in a league not considered particularly strong in Europe, his best season was the last one, in 2003/04, when he averaged 10.2 points and 9.6 rebounds in the Belgian League, and had 9.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in the ULEB Cup.
He moved to Spain early in the current season looking for better competition and more exposure, and he’s averaging 7 points and 4.7 rebounds in the Euroleague so far with Real Madrid, and 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in the ACB league.
He’s also played for the Belgium National Teams since the cadet level. In September of 2004, he participated in the qualifying round for the 2005 European Championships with the senior National Team, finishing as the second best rebounder with 10.7, behind only Dirk Nowitzki.
Although it’s far from being a sure thing, Hervelle will likely have a chance to get drafted this year (he’s automatically elegible). If that happens, anything higher than a mid-low second round should be considered a notable reach. Any team betting on him will probably look to leave him in Europe with the hope of a future development of his skills.
Hervelle is not the most exciting prospect around. His strengths barely make up for his weaknesses. His current abilities make him at best a marginal contributor from deep off the bench in the NBA. But we can’t rule out a certain development of his offensive game in the near future. I guess that will be the thought of any team picking him in the next draft.