DraftExpress NBA Rights Held Rankings
Tiago Splitter, 7-0, PF/C, Tau Vitoria, 1985
#2 on NBA Rights Held Rankings
Offensively, Splitter continues to evolve his game, emerging as a real force for Tau Vitoria, to the tune of 16 points per game, on phenomenal percentages. He shoulders a big offensive load for them, and its clear that thats something that is important for him in the way you see him calling for the ball on the left block. Splitter is primarily a low post player, showing an excellent assortment of footwork and spin-moves with his back to the basket, and a very effective jump-hook he can shoot with either hand. He is a little bit old school in that aspect, really putting pressure on his defender to hold his ground as he backs him down aggressively, which draws him quite a few fouls.
Splitter is extremely aggressive putting the ball on the floor and creating, showing excellent coordination and fluidity, and emerging as a terrific finisher thanks to his great hands and touch. Hes not incredibly explosive around the basket, which may emerge as more of an issue in the NBA (if and when), but with his excellent skill-level and high basketball IQ, hes about as effective a low-post scorer as youll find at the European level. On top of that, he manages to find plenty of scoring opportunities with his ability to run the floor, play pick and roll with the likes of Pablo Prigioni and Igor Rakocevic, and just find open spots around the basket to catch and finish.
Splitter is finally becoming a more consistent free throw shooter, now making about 66% of his attemptsnearly 10 per-40 minutes pace adjusted. Hes not really showing any kind of mid-range jumper, but probably doesnt really have to for Tau considering that hes shooting over 64% from the field.
Still not a great rebounder, Splitter has become even less prolific in this department on the offensive end this year, which is a relative concern and probably his biggest weakness. He is showing much better awareness in his ability to pass the ball, though, sporting an impressive 1/1 assist to turnover ratio for the first time in his career.
Defensively, Splitter is obviously a huge asset as weve discussed many times, as he has the size, strength and length to be very effective in the low post, but is coordinated and mobile enough to step out and hedge screens with great accuracy. The intensity he displays on this end of the floor tends to get him in foul trouble at times, but this is something that his coach will obviously live with. Splitter is seeing better productivity in the shot-blocking department than in years past, particularly in the Euroleague, where he currently ranks second in blocks per game.
Obviously a high-level rotation player and likely starter whenever he decides to step foot in the NBA, Splitter has a very difficult decision coming up when his current contract expires in the summer of 2010. The paltry $836,000 hes slotted to earn from the Spurs on the very cumbersome first round rookie scale cant compete with the 2.3 million dollars net he currently earns, meaning hed have to take something in the neighborhood of a 75% paycut for the honor of playing in the NBA.
Talking to Splitter after the final, he seemed non-committal at best when the topic was broached, although its pretty clear that he would love to play in the NBA. Right now its the middle of the season and Im only thinking about Tau. The Spurs have some good players and well have to see what happens. In response to my question about whether his slot on the Rookie scale might impact his decision, Splitter obviously didnt seem too happy with his predicament, jokingly asking me if I could talk to David Stern about that. He reiterated that its a dream to play in the NBA, stating Im still young, and for sure I want to play there, but said that well see what happens when my contract is up in two years.
Fran Vazquez, 6-11, Center, Barcelona, 1983
#5 on NBA Rights Held Rankings
Coach Pascual has done an excellent job simplifying the game for the physically gifted, but not terribly skilled or smart big man. His role is essentially to run from rim to rim and back, maximizing his strengths while minimizing his weaknesses. Almost all of Vazquezs shots come in the immediate area of the paint, where he is an awesome finisher thanks to his freakish length and athleticism. He makes an incredible 82% of his attempts around the basket according to Synergy Sports Technology, and is a constant target for lobs and simple drop-offs from his very generous teammates.
Vazquez gets to the line at a decent rate, and shoots a solid 75% once there (69/92 this season). He has a very nice looking stroke from mid-range, but hardly if ever gets a chance to show it, as he usually plays alongside the perimeter oriented David Andersen on a team that has quite a few players with quick triggers. Inside the post, Vazquez is pretty limited with his back to the basket, showing insufficient strength, poor footwork and a pretty average feel for the game, not being particularly fluid or graceful when forced to create his own offense. Not much of a passer, Vazquez regardless knows how to stick to his strengths and doesnt seem to be very turnover prone these days.
Speaking of strengths, Vazquez has really embraced his role as defensive stopper this year, showing terrific activity level on this end of the floor. As mentioned, per-minute he ranks as the #1 shot-blocker in both the Euroleague and ACB, and his impact extends beyond the paint, as hes able to accurately hedge pick and rolls and even stay in front of opposing guards. As a post-defender, Vazquez is not quite as effective, as he lacks the strength to hold his ground against the bigger and burlier big men hell go up against at times, and also some awareness not biting on fakes on such, as hes not the smartest guy youll find around. Still, his combination of size, length and athleticism makes him quite a presence on this side of the floor, and would also make him a valuable asset in the NBA. Not particularly known for his mental toughness, and never considered much of a self-starter, hes done a better job staying focused and motivated this season, even when things arent going his way.
Even though his development was stunted somewhat as he struggled to live up to expectations since being drafted back in 2005, Vazquez seems to be back on the right track and is clearly having the best season of his professional career. Still only 25 years old, Vazquez is very clearly an NBA caliber rotation player, and relative to his price would be an excellent addition for the Orlando Magic if they were somehow able to bring him over.
Vazquez has just one more year on his contract after this, and considering his salary slot on the NBAs rookie scale as the #11 draft picknearly two million dollarscould still be a realistic target if Orlando (or any team that trades for his draft rights) were able to bring him over. Talking to his NBA agent Marc Cornstein about that, he thinks that from the Magic's perspective "the door has always been open for him if he wants to play in the NBA," although he pointed out that he has not discussed that matter recently with them. "With Fran it's always been more a matter of desire rather than money."
Joel Freeland, 6-11, Center, Kalise Gran Canaria, 1987
#8 on NBA Rights Held Rankings
In the one game we saw in Madrid he did a good job putting his athleticism on display, going after rebounds on both ends, chasing blocks and generally being very active. Offensively, he looked somewhat tentative, not being much of a presence for Gran Canaria, which is not a huge surprise considering his limitations on this end of the floor. Hes mostly a finisher at this point (albeit a very good one at that) and seems to struggle when asked to do much more than that, as he lacks great footwork or much range on his jumper. Hes also somewhat foul prone and clearly not very experienced, averaging a high amount of turnovers relative to his role.
Although its pretty clear that that Freeland is not ready to contribute in the NBA, it seems like this summer will be the time for Portland to bring him over if they indeed intend on getting him in a Blazers uniform. He has an NBA escape clause and is drawing major interest around Europe from some of the top teams around, for example Real Madrid, Barcelona and Fortitudo Bologna, who all appear to have interest. It wouldnt be shocking to see Gran Canaria decide to cash in and sell his rights at some point, which would likely make Freelands spot on the NBA rookie scale (around $800k gross) look paltry relative to the new contract hed receive.
Ersan Ilyasova, 6-9, Power Forward, FC Barcelona, 1987
#8 on NBA Rights Held Rankings
Ilyasova is playing the power forward position almost exclusively for Barcelona, where he stands out primarily for his ability to space the floor and his terrific rebounding skills. Super long, athletic and very quick off his feet, Ilyasova has emerged as one of the best rebounders in European basketball these days, ranking #1 in both the ACB and the Euroleague.
Offensively, hes a clear-cut role-player, being asked to function mostly as a spot-up shooter, offensive rebounder, transition player, and off-ball finisher on cuts and pick and roll plays. His limitations are pretty clear, as his ball-handling skills are average, he does not possess any type of post-up game, he rarely gets to the line, is not much of a passer, and is somewhat turnover prone. Ilyasova does not really stand out with his feel for the game, but he can be a very useful player when put in the right role. Barcelona likes his ability to open up the paint for their big men and slashers, and hes really developed into a terrific 3-point shooter, to the tune of 46/104 or 44% on the season. He can make shots spotting up or off the dribble, showing unusual shooting mechanics (kicking his right leg out violently on every attempt) but seeing terrific results from all over the floor.
Defensively, Ilyasova can be useful thanks to his nice combination of size, length and athleticism. He does a good job contesting shots on the perimeter, but is not very quick laterally and is prone to getting pushed around in the post by stronger power forwards. He looks much better suited to play as a modern PF than as a true SF (in the NBA or not) and players in his mold seem to be en vogue.
Its funny that we compared him to a European version of Rashard Lewis at best, or Bostjan Nachbar at worst back when we wrote up his initial profile four years ago. Thats a very accurate way of describing his strengths and weaknesses, although hes probably a better rebounder than those two.
Ilyasova might not be in a huge rush to return to the NBA anytime soon, but he would likely fare far better now that his game has developed. He probably still has more room to improve down the road, so its possible that the Bucks may end up seeing some value out of holding his draft rights. Hes a restricted free agent this summer, so other teams can bid for his services as well. If he's really only 21 years old, he likely still has quite a bit of upside left to continue to improve.