WHO IS NOT?
ROBERTAS JAVTOKAS 6-11 C Panathinaikos 1980
7mpg 2.1ppg 1.1rpg 0.3bpg 5/17 FT
Robertas Javtokas was considered the best defensive big man in last years edition of the Euroleague. After impressive showings for Lietuvos Rytas, considered the Cinderella story of the competition, Robertas was very close to signing a contract with the team who owns his NBA draft rightsthe San Antonio Spurs--but in the end he ended up with Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos Athens.
Even if Javtokas was regarded as a major boost to PAOs title bid and one of the top free agent signings of the summer--given that he was the long and athletic big man they desperately lacked last season-- he has pretty much been in Coach Zeljko Obradovics doghouse all year despite being one of the most expensive players on the roster.
The probable reason for itignoring the whispers of not seeing eye to eye with the coaching staff-- is Javtokass inept offensive game. He has a very modest skill-set and is considered a liability on that end of the floor. Robertas has bad hands and struggles to convert anything outside of two feet from the basket. All of his points come from assisted dunks, offensive rebounds or in transition where his speed running the court helps him.
Maybe Obradovic will use him more later on in the season, when he will need more rebounding and shot-blocking the likes of the Luis Scolas, Matjaz Smodis and David Andersens of the League.
FRAN VAZQUEZ 6-10 PF/C Barcelona 1983
3.6ppg 3.1rpg 1.4bpg 36.4% FG 55.6% FT
Almost two years later, Fran is pretty much the same player. After signing a very rich contract with Akasvayu Girona and rejecting the Orlando Magic, Fran disappointed his new team and was shopped to a Barcelona team who was willing to take on the burden of his large contract. So far, he has not made Barcas GM Zoran Savic look smart. Just like at Girona, Fran is forced to play the PF spot, which isnt his natural position considering that he doesnt have the skill-set that usually goes with it.
Vazquezs offense still revolves around two weapons and has become quite predictable. He is a solid shooter from 12-14 feet and has an effective jump-hook shot. Regarding his statistics, the only thing that jumps at you are his blocks per game, which are quite high. He is using his length and excellent leaping ability to swat away shots, but his rebounding rate is not quite as good, since he gets outmuscled and does not always establish good position under the rim.
Given that Orlando has found their frontcourt of the future in Dwight Howard and probably Darko Milicic, Vazquez is not at the top of priority list for them. He has been shopped around as filler in many trade rumors so far, and no NBA team is yet to bite. Even if Fran disappointed with his progress, his length, athleticism and dependable mid-range shot will probably secure him a place in Orlandos rotation once he decides to try his luck in the U.S. But considering what theyve gotten out of him so far, their former #11 draft pick cant be considered anything less than a disappointment.
DAVID HAWKINS 6-4 SG Lottomatica Roma 1982
33.3mpg 10.0ppg 2.2rpg 1.8apg 3.0spg 25.6% FG 4/29 3FG 18/20 FT
Hawkins had a terrific year last season for Lottomatica Roma, being one of the most impressive 2-guards in all of Europe and a borderline candidate to make it to the NBA. He averaged 18.5ppg, 4.1rpg and 2.4apg in the ULEB Cup, and was mentioned as one of the most attractive shooting guards on the European market this past summer. It was expected that he would fully emerge in European stardom, as Roma managed to qualify for the Euroleague after a couple of years of absence. Unfortunately for Hawkins, it hasnt been the case, as he has battled several minor injuries and has been looking out of shape and overweight for most of the season.
There is no other way to describe Hawkins play so far other than to say he has been horrible, especially when it comes to shooting the basketball. So far he is a major reason why Lottomatica sits at the bottom of Group B with very small chances to advance to the Sweet 16. As mentioned, he looks to have some conditioning problems, not being able to run up and down the court with ease like a 6-4 guard should. As you can see from stats, his shooting has been off for the whole Euroleague season, even if he is not your typical shooter and this was never his main strength. It is quiet surprising considering that he converts 43.5% of his long range attempts in the Italian league.
Hawkins is a well rounded player, even if he is a bit undersized for the shooting guard position. He has a nice physical package - good quickness, great strength, an above average first step and solid leaping ability. David is a good ball-handler, regularly putting the ball on the floor and beating his matchups off the dribble. He also has decent court vision and is quite a solid passer. On the defensive side, he shows quick hands and excellent ability to get into the passing lanes and came up with steals. He gambles too much sometimes, though, and doesnt show great lateral quickness, not being overly effective at stopping penetrations.
Hawkins could very well end up in the NBA down the road, as he has the necessary physical tools, a killer instinct, as well as a nice skill-set. He is also still quite a young player, recently turning 24. When he gets in shape, expect Hawkins to return at the last seasons level although it will be probably too late for Lottomaticas Euroleague ambitions.
WILL SOLOMON 6-2 PG Fenerbahce Ulker 1978
12.4ppg 4.0apg 3.4rpg 4.0tpg 37% FG 30% 3FG
Will Solomon has been a true journeyman in Europe, changing teams in each of the last four seasons. After he disappointed slightly in powerhouse Maccabi Tel Avivdespite being one of the best scorers in the Euroleague-- Solomon found himself back in Turkey playing for Fenerbahce Ulker. Yet again, he is showing more of the same attitude that drew the ire of Maccabi Tel Aviv fans longing for the phenomenal playmaking skills of Sarunas Jasikevicius. Will is a terrific individual talent whose main problem is that basketball in Europe is a team sport.
As a Point Guard, Will kills the rhythm of the team on offense, making very poor decisions with the ball in his hands. Solomon over-penetrates constantly and over-handles the ball. 60% of his field goal attempts come from behind the three-point line (despite his paltry 30% averages here) and he leads the Euroleague in turnovers per game.
Still, Solomon is a terrific scorer with excellent quickness and ball-handling ability. He can create his own shot like few others in Europe. He is also actually quite a good shooter when taking shots within the flow of the offense; his percentages are down because of his suspect shot-selection. Hes also a capable defender who moves well laterally and is hard to beat off the dribble. While he certainly fails at running the team, Solomon is a kind of player who could help an NBA club instant offense off the benchgranted they would be willing to put up with his antics on and off the court. Coaches weve spoken to who have worked with him on a daily basis have numerous stories to tell about his quirky and unpredictable personality. Given that hes lost a lot of credibility in Europe with his wild style of play, maybe Solomon will once again try to make his way back in the NBA via summer league. He did so half-heartedly last year, playing just a few games with the Washington Wizards in the very minor Summer Pro League in Long Beach.
SOFOKLIS SCHORTSIANITIS 6-9 PF Olympiacos Pireus 1985
10mpg 6.7ppg 2.5rpg 0.7apg 65.2% FG 47.6% FT
Many expected "Baby Shaq" to be the main offensive post option for Olympiacos this season, especially after he put on an extremely impressive performance during the World Championship in Japan, including a 14-point game against team USA in limited minutes. He hasnt lived up to expectations so far, and is still having the same problems as last season.
Sofoklis cant stay on the court for any kind of extended periods, as there are serious concerns regarding his stamina and durability. While his immense strength helps him greatly to score in the post, it is also the reason for many of his deficiencies. It would certainly help his game to slim down considerably from his mammoth 370 pound proportions, which would further increase his mobility, speed and lateral quickness. Sofoklis is an average defender at best, not having great height nor length. Schortisianitis is also below average on the defensive glass, not showing the needed aggressiveness and toughness when it comes to blocking shots and collecting rebounds.
With all of his weaknesses, Sofoklis is still a special player and a beast in the offensive paint. He is called "Baby Shaq" because of the unique explosiveness and strength he owns, making him nearly impossible to contain when he puts his mind to it and receives the ball in favorable positions. He has good post moves, a soft touch around the basket and is a very dangerous scorer, being 5th in the Euroleague in points per minute. He also shows decent understanding of the game and is an capable passer out of double teams. Unlike on the defensive end, Sofoklis is dangerous on the offensive boards, where he shows a good "nose" for the ball and gets position easily. Once outside the key, Sofoklis is not quite as big of a threat since he doesnt have the tools to drive to the basket nor is able to hit a spot up jumper with consistency.
A very attractive player to watch, for his unique proportions and skill set aloneand still oozing with upside if he can ever get into reasonable shape, Sofoklis could one day be on his way to the Los Angeles Clippers, who drafted him in the 2nd round of the 2003 NBA draft. While he is not a finished and polished product yet, Schortsianitis could probably be good enough to give them a solid option to bring off the bench, if he makes somewhat of a commitment to shedding significant weight. That is a serious question mark, though.
SERGEY MONYA 6-8 SG/SF Dynamo Moscow 1983
10.5mpg 3ppg 2.6rpg 0.6spg 25% FG 37.5% 3FG 4/4 FT
Monya has added some new tricks to his offensive repertoire while in the NBA. Occasionally he will wow you with a beautiful fade-away jumper or a good drive to the basket, but the main problem is consistency. He converted only 1 of 12 attempts inside the 3 point line throughout the season, while he shows a solid, but streaky stroke from long distance. The fact that the 3-point shot is his most consistent weapon says a lot. Sergey doesnt move particularly well off the ball, and despite having good athleticism, he isnt nearly as dangerous a slashing threat as he should be. The reason for it is his shaky ball-handling skills. Monya isnt able to get fancy with the ball in his hands, as he is not good at changing speeds or direction while making his way to the hoop.
Sergey is better on the defensive end, where his physical tools play a big part. He has very nice length and lateral quickness and is a very solid defender. Monya is also effective on the glass for an outside player, getting his fair share of rebounds. Looking at his improvement over the past 3-4 years, Monya has certainly been a disappointment. Right now, he is hardly anything more than a role player at the European level. Unless he dramatically improves his ball-handling and shooting ability from inside the arc and beyond, is hard to see him ever returning to the NBA.