(2006 draft scouting report, see player blog tab for more recent updates)
Belinelli's physical tools are very good, especially at the European level. At 6-5 he has decent size for an NBA shooting guard, especially considering his athleticism and long arms which allow him to play bigger than his height. His overall bulk has improved over the past few years, as now both his upper and lower body strength are more solid than they were a couple of years ago. He looks like hell be able to add some more pounds too. Belinelli's athleticism is excellent for Europe and would be considered good even in the NBA, as he runs the floor well, has good overall speed and quickness and is an explosive leaper.
Offensively, Belinelli already has many of the skills required to play shooting guard in the NBA. He's a solid ball-handler who can dribble with either hand, usually playing under control, and is able to go right or left equally well. His passing ability is decent, as he shows no selfishness and seems to have good court vision. A couple of years ago he was projected as a PG, and although he's developed quite a bit more towards the shooting guard position, he can handle spot minutes at the point when needed.
Belinelli's biggest asset on the offensive end, especially as far as the NBA is concerned is definitely his outside shot. Every facet of it has improved dramatically over the past two years. He specifically worked on this part of his game and has become more and more consistent. He's especially good as a set shooter thanks to his quick release, compensating for the fact that his feet barely leave the ground (a la Brent Barry). He has amazing accuracy and range, out to well beyond the NBA 3-point line. When trying a jumper off the dribble he uses his athleticism to elevate and shoot over the defender, often going for a fade-away jumpshot. He moves well without the ball, and his shot selection is decent; not being afraid to shoot when opportunity strikes or his team needs him to, but also not forcing up too many shots.
Defensively, Belinelli is much more solid than many of the other young European prospects. In fact, in the past two seasons he was primarily used as a defensive specialist by his coach, as he can effectively guard multiple positions in Europe. He has good footwork and lateral quickness, which along with his length and quick hands in the passing lanes make him a great asset in pressure defense situations. He usually guards the opponents' best backcourt player. Climamio plays both man to man and zone, and his effectiveness is quite the same.
Generally, for a guy who's not even 20 years old, he shows good maturity when he's on the court, being known as a coachable player with a good work ethic. Climamio's coach Jasmin Repesa is known for his ability to develop young players, and was not afraid to give him meaningful minutes ever since Belinelli was 17 years old.
He already showed that he's a clutch player, as he's not afraid of taking big shots in the crucial moments, being a factor in his team's triumph in the past Italian League playoff Finals. The experience he has garnered playing at the highest level of competition to be found outside of the NBA is something that must be considered a huge plus; as Belinelli more than holds his own in the very tough Euroleague and Italian league.
Even if Belinelli's body has vastly improved over the past few years, he will still need to add some bulk to play in the NBA. Particularly, he needs some more upper body strength.
Offensively, right now the main concern about him is his slashing ability. Although he theoretically has all the tools to be a great slasher (at the European level at least), being quick with a nice first step, possessing good ball-handling skills and improved body strength, he prefers to rely almost strictly on his perimeter shot instead of mixing up his game by taking his opponent off the dribble and going strong to the hoop. He seems to rely too much on his jumper, and does not get to the free throw nearly as much as he could considering his athletic gifts. He could use some improvements in his shot too, as he sometimes tends to unnecessarily go off balance when shooting off the dribble or off screens.
Even though his ball handling and passing skills look decent, right now they don't seem to be enough for him to consistently play the point as he was projected earlier in his career, especially in the NBA. He doesn't protect the ball well enough and still has difficulties against full court pressure. Plus, it seems that this project has been momentarily dropped, as his team is developing him primarily as a shooting guard.
Defensively, he's good but probably wont be able to guard NBA point guards, because he already suffers when a quicker opponent takes him off the dribble. His defense on pick & rolls could use some improvement as well.
Although he generally puts in a good effort, sometimes he seems to lose a bit of focus, either committing foolish fouls, trying a spectacular pass over a simple one, or being a little late rotating on defense. However, these things are not uncommon for a 20 year old player competing with grown men in one of the most competitive leagues in the world outside the NBA.
Belinelli is one of the most highly regarded Italian prospects in quite some time, ever since he was a kid playing in Virtus Bolognas junior teams. He made his first team debut with them in 2002 before signing a 5 year contract with city rivals Fortitudo after the bankruptcy of Virtus in the summer of 2003.
In the 2003-04 campaign, his role on the team that reached the Euroleague finals (losing against Maccabi) was marginal, but he still managed to play more than 10 mpg and had some nice games every now and then.
In 2004-05, he became one of the main rotation players off the bench on the team, being used by coach Repesa mostly a defensive specialist. Climamio did not qualify for the top 16 in the Euroleague, but eventually won the Italian League. Belinelli, after a mid-season slump, played great in the playoffs, taking advantage of Milos Vujanic's serious injury that gave him some extra minutes, and ended up being one of the crucial players in the Finals against Milano.
With that said, his breakout season has undoubtedly been the current one. This year, along with Kiwane Garris, Belinelli averages more minutes than anyone in Climamio, and has been consistent enough to become one of the team's best scorers and one of the best shooters in Europe. In the Italian League, he's averaging 11.3 ppg, shooting 44% from beyond the arc on almost 6 attempted 3-pointers in 26 minutes per game.
In the Euroleague, his stats are slightly better: in 27 mpg, he's averaging 13.9 points, shooting 46% for three, and has recorded some excellent outings even against top competition. He again suffered from a bit of mid-season slump, but he seems to be coming out of it lately.
Belinelli has played in many international youth championships with Italy, always being the leader on the team and one of the best scorers in the tournaments. It's very likely that Carlo Recalcati will call him up to make his debut in the senior national team in the 2006 World Championships in Japan.
Its not clear whether Belinelli is going to declare for the 2006 draft. His buyout situation is not the most transparent; in fact, his current contract probably doesn't even have a buyout clause.
Right now, all that is sure is that he's under contract until 2008 with Fortitudo, and he's more than once stated that he wants to come to the NBA as an established player who is ready to contribute. So even if he does declare in 2006 or 2007, it's possible that the team that drafts him might have to wait to bring him over until his contract with Climamio expires, unless an agreement between his team and Italian agent (who is also his brother) can be reached. If he does declare this year and decides to pull out, he will either have to wait until he's automatically eligible in 2008 or enter in 2007 and not have the option to withdraw because of the new rules in the NBA collective bargaining agreement. This makes his decision this May a little bit tougher.
Whenever he enters the draft, he has obvious first round or even top-20 potential, even though NBA teams aren't very high on European guards lately and the ambiguity around his buyout (or lack thereof) could hurt his chances.
He earned MVP honors at the Italian Super Cup, the first official trophy of the 2005-06 season.
His favorite players are Manu Ginobili (who was a teammate of his in the 2001-02 season), and Kobe Bryant.