The first thing you notice about Mickael Gelabale is his great athleticism and his smooth movements. The guy can jump out of the gym and he's quite fast. Combine this with a 6-8 body and a very good wingspan, and we can start talking about some very nice physical potential for him in the wing.
But Gelabale is more than his athleticism and his long body, he's a player with skills that are already good enough to be very valuable to any team, particularly his shooting and his defense, and with the potential to develop other abilities nicely as well.
The consistency he shows with his jumpshot is quite remarkable. He's usually money in the bank when he's open up to 18-19 feet. He can also nail the three-pointer with fairly good accuracy, but he still hasn't fully mastered it. He shows nice mechanics and he's fairly quick on the release, which is also pretty high thanks to his vertical. Therefore, he doesn't even need to be fully open to make it. His shot is mainly static, although he can make it off the dribble too. It's not the usual pattern, though. He's a player who tries to minimize risks and make as few mistakes as possible. So he never forces shots unless it's necessary.
He's a decent slasher too, and he can become quite a good one. His first step is nothing out of this world, but he has handles, athleticism and the footwork to fill the bill. Like it happens with his shooting, he doesn't take too many chances, so it's not the most usual thing to see him try and penetrate. He waits for a good option, finds the opening, and takes advantage of it. He likes to run the floor a lot, and he has already finished this season some spectacular alley-oops in transition.
On defense, he's hard to beat, really hard if a screen isn't used. He has very good lateral defensive speed and his long arms are a nightmare for the opponents. His defense is not really very aggressive, but his intensity is constant and he's usually focused. He has the tools to become a very good rebounder, and he can make some nasty blocks if needed, but he rarely risks his defensive position for a rejection.
Gelabale shows decent basketball IQ. He seems comfortable on the court, he knows the game. Concerning his character, he shows a good attitude, being very serious on the floor, always focused, always willing to work, always thinking first about the team. Because that's what the Frenchman is, a team player.
Gelabale's main need right now is to bulk up and gain strength. He's too skinny, and it's hurting him both on defense and rebounding, as he has problems to get by screens and it's also difficult for him to get good positioning for the rebound and not to be outmuscled when fighting for one. It won't be that easy. Gelabale has quite a thin frame, and although he will surely get stronger, it remains to be seen to what degree.
He doesn't show anything more than average court vision. No surprising assists in traffic, no flashy passes. But he doesn't look for troubles and tries to find the open man, looking for the logical pass, using good criteria. On the other hand when he finds himself in the middle of the traffic and needs to pass the ball, he doesn't always get the job properly done.
We have talked so far about how he likes to play under control, not to take too many risks, and all that stuff. But I think some degree of fearlessness might be missed in his game, especially regarding driving to the basket. Sometimes he doesn't look confident enough when slashing. He doesn't bet the house when I think it would benefit his game in some occasions. In general, many times you feel he could be more important in the offensive end. Although we also have to realize that he's a youngster playing in a very demanding team like Real Madrid, where he's not supposed to be anything close to an offensive reference.
Gelabale's path so far has been a little bit different compared with his other countrymen prospects: he's not a product of the INSEP institution, like many talented French youngsters are, and he's yet to play an official competition with any French National Team, whether youth or senior.
Mickael was developed as a basketball player in Cholet's youth categories, making his debut with the Cholet first team at the age of 18 in the 2001/02 season. His last season in the French team (2003/04) he averaged 10.4 points with 52% on FG, 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
For the 2004/05 season, Gelabale moved to Real Madrid despite having re-signed with Cholet for two more seasons earlier in the summer. The exposure he is getting playing in the Euroleague and the Spanish ACB League in such a big club surely had something to do with it. And it seems like a right move now, as he has gained coach Maljkovic's confidence. He's averaging almost 21 minutes for 6.5 points (57% FG) and 3.9 rebounds through 13 games in the ACB League, while having 9 points (63% FG) and 3.4 rebounds in almost 24 minutes after 7 games into the Euroleague.
Gelabale's solid play throughout the season has secured him a spot in the 2005 draft (he's automatically eligible). Although he may have the chance to sneak into the first round, even with no significant improvement as the season advances, the early second round looks a more realistic scenario right now.
There's no reason not to think that Gelabale can make it all the way to the NBA. Even his strength issues aren't that serious considering that he would likely play small forward. He has some skills, attitude, and the thing that is so important to play in the League: athleticism. It doesn't seem like he will ever be a star, but he might excel in the role of a team player.
He won the ACB's Showtime Dunk Contest in September of 2004, amazing the crowd with his athleticism.