Roko-Leni Ukic NBA Draft Scouting Report

Roko-Leni Ukic NBA Draft Scouting Report
May 01, 2005, 12:22 am
Kristian Hohnjec (May 2005):

Ukic is a talented player with all tools needed to become one of the best European point guards for years to come. He's one of the most attractive players in Europe in terms of his style of play and is always a pleasure to watch.

Roko possesses good athleticism for the PG position. At 6-5 he has great size for the PG spot and he combines that with good quickness. Ukic has a very quick first step, which makes him one of the best slashers at this level. His wingspan (reportedly 6-9) is also above average and helps him a lot on the defensive end to get in the passing lanes and come up steals.

Ukic is a very complete offensive player who can score in many different ways. As already mentioned, there are very few players in Europe who better than him when it comes to slashing to the hoop. He beats defenders off the dribble on a regular basis, because of his quick first step and excellent ball-handling. He handles the ball equally well with either hand and can go either left or right when driving to the basket. He has a very nice crossover in his arsenal, to go with all sorts of other flashy ball-handing moves which he developed while playing streetball in Croatia. Ukic is very unpredictable while driving to the basket. He can go all the way to the basket for a lay-up, pull up and hit the jumper, or pass the ball very well to the open man. He is skinny, but has no problem finishing with contact and is a master when is comes to drawing fouls. This season he has become more aggressive in taking his defender of the dribble then in previous seasons.

Ukic has great range on his jumper and shouldn't have any problems adjusting to the NBA 3 point line. He has a high and quick release and has shown a good ability to catch and shoot on some occasions, but that is not his main role. He doesn't need much space to release his jumper and is capable of shooting with a defender's hand in his face; becoming a specialist this year at making extremely tough off-balance shots. Shooting off the dribble is where he particularly shines, and he is indeed an accurate shooter from mid-range. He gets to the foul line often and is an excellent shooter once he gets there; converting 86% of his FT's this season.

While at 6-5 he has many characteristics that you would like to see from a good shooting guard, there is no doubt that he is a pure PG. Roko has good natural playmaking instincts and exceptional court vision, knowing how to create high-percentage shots for his teammates. Based on the flashy no-look and behind the back type passes he has in his repertoire you could say that he is pretty creative with the ball in his hands. He is also a good decision maker who excels in transition. In the half court set he has improved and now has become better at getting all of his teammates involved. Because of his size he can see over the top of most defenders and occasionally shows some post up skills against smaller guards.

Defensively, he reads passing lanes very well and thanks to that skill and his wingspan he gets a few steals every game. He is capable of playing good defense like he showed last year, by giving Sebastian Telfair a hard time during the Nike Hoop Summit game. He also reportedly guarded Devin Harris very well during private workouts. Recently he is being used more often at home to guard SG's and is doing quite well, for example he guarded fellow highly-rated Croatian prospect Marko Tomas recently, holding him scoreless in the first 20 minutes of their battle. Even right now he shouldn't be a defensive liability in the NBA and could eventually become good a defender if and when he adds some bulk. Ukic is an above average rebounder for a point guard, especially on the offensive end, where he shows good anticipation skills.

Ukic is a player who takes responsibility when the game is on the line and usually performs very well under pressure. He is a leader and has a good demeanor on the court. He is considered a mentally strong player and has plenty of confidence in his abilities even when he is having an off-night.

Ukic is a very exciting player to watch and you don't have to be an expert to realize his special talent while watching him play. He possesses a high basketball IQ, a terrific work ethic and a great knowledge of the game. He works very hard on the small details, usually spending some hours in the gym even when practice is over. He lives for basketball, and is the biggest expert on everything related to the NBA amongst players in this area. He surely knows what it takes to succeed in the NBA.


Luis Fernández (February 2004):

Roko-Leni Ukic is a true talent. From the first time you see him you notice a special elegance in his game, in his movements, and the kind of excitement that only a 6-5 (perhaps still growing) highly skilled and fundamentally sound playmaker is able to produce.
He combines a high level of offensive savvy with excellent distributing abilities. Being quite a fast player, knowing where to place his feet, and having great handles with both hands, he's able to penetrate easily even in traffic to finish himself, dish off to a teammate or get to the line.
Ukic is a good shooter anywhere on the court. He can shoot it stationary, off the dribble, in motion from the mid-range area and even off-balance as well. He can create his own shot by faking a move and dribbling, and then using his quick release to get off his shot. He is really difficult to stop when hot, and never avoids responsabilities when the game is on the line.
Ukic displays the court vision and passing abilities that a good point guard is supposed to possess. He fills the bill whether in a transition game or in the set offense, and he usually makes the right decisions. Besides, he doesn't abuse his ball-handling, and he understands the importance of moving the ball around and even enjoys doing so. He knows how to improvise and find a good option when he hits a dead end. He has a high basketball IQ and shows a lot of confidence.
Defensively, he reads the passing lanes pretty well. He also has really quick hands which he often uses to steal the ball from his match-up, on help defense or just by anticipating a pass before his matchup makes it.

Kristian Hohnjec (May 2005):

His most noticeable weakness on first glance and probably his biggest overall is currently his body. He is skinny and has a slight build. It looks like he might never be able to put on a huge amount of muscle to his frame. Because of this lack of strength he gets pushed around and has trouble fighting through screens defensively, although his quickness helps him here to some degree. Although he is an athletic player, he has yet to fully learn how to use this attribute to finish strong at the basket. This should also hopefully improve when he increases his strength.

While he can score from anywhere on the floor, he is not yet a great shooter from behind the arc. He is streaky from downtown and although he has improved a bit in this department during the season, he still has a ways to go. That would not be such a problem if he did not fall in love with his 3 point shot in many games. He hits close to 2 three-pointers per game and his shooting average is around 30 percent. This percentage would be a little higher if he did not take so many shots from mid-court at the end of the quarters, but he still needs to become more consistent here. He has an somewhat odd rotation on his 3 point jumper, especially when shooting it stationary. Somehow he is more accurate shooting a jumper on the run than shooting it from a static position.

Ukic is certainly capable of playing good defense, but it seems like he is often not motivated enough on the defensive end of the floor. His defensive intensity is often not as high as you would like it to be, although the huge offensive load he is expected to carry for his team might have something to do with that. Roko's lateral defensive movement is barely above average and he may suffer against quicker players in the NBA over the long run.

Sometimes he has the tendency to over-handle the basketball and force the issue a bit. His movement without the ball could also stand to improve. Ukic has been the star of every team he has played for in his career so far and it is questionable how he will react in a different environment. He will have a perfect chance at the European Championships this summer to prove that he can be effective when he is not the only offensive reference on his team.

He is a good decision maker, but often chooses the flashy pass over the efficient one. He is averaging nearly 3 turnovers a game, which tells you that he still has to learn how to take care of the ball. One of things that he improved most this season is his shot selection, but he still forces some bad shots at times, which isn't surprising since his is clearly the best offensive option on his team.


Luis Fernández (February 2004):

Ukic is still a raw player from a physical point of view. He's really skinny and even his face denotes that he's still yet to mature. He has grown a few inches in the last couple of years and he's still in the process of adjusting to that. He doesn't always play under control, basically shooting too much sometimes and out of position, so you could say that his shot selection could be improved, but it's nothing serious enough to worry about at this point. He's a bit of a streaky shooter as well. He needs to improve his defense. He's not always as focused as would be desirable. He looks very often for the steal and sometimes excessively risks his defensive positioning. Not only that, he may suffer against quick guards, as his lateral defensive movement is just average, although his wingspan makes up for it. I think he could eventually be a little more agressive and intense in his game, especially in the defensive department.

Kristian Hohnjec (May 2005):

Ukic started playing basketball in his hometown and he still plays there. His club KK Split were European champions three times in the early 90's, but in the last couple of years they are facing financial problems and the core of the team is now from their well-known school of basketball, which produced NBA stars like Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja. Ukic is the best player on this very young team that finished in 15th place in this year's Adriatic League. Ukic was one of the best players in the same competition with averages of around 19 points (3rd best scorer in the league), 3 rebounds and 4.5 assists (1st). He is now playing in the Croatian league with averages of around 24 points and 7 assists per game.

Ukic had a very successful junior career with the Croatian National team. Thanks to his 25 point, 9 rebound, 6 assist performance, Croatia beat Slovenia in the finals of the 2002 Under-18 European Championship. He was later named to the 1st team of the Championship. Next year he played at the Under-20 World championship in Greece, where Croatia was 4th. Roko Leni was again elected to the 1st team of the Championship here and was 2nd in the MVP ranking behind Andrew Bogut.

Two seasons ago he won the Croatian League championship with Split's team that included legendary players like Dino Radja and Jure Zdovc. Roko was in the starting 5 and was averaging around 10 ppg. Last year he added his latest trophy, the Croatian Cup. In a sensational win against Zadar in their hall, Ukic scored 14 points, including the game-winning lay-up in the last second.

Roko participated in last year's Nike Hoop Summit game, where he left a solid impression with 9 points and 4 assists, along with helping to hold Sebastian Telfair to 0-10 shooting from the field. This year he was elected the MVP of the Croatian All-star game.

Ukic is expected to play at the European Championship (Eurobasket) this summer in Belgrade. It seems like National coach Neven Spahija will put Ukic in the starting lineup in front of Nets guard Zoran Planinic and one of the best young guards in the Euroleague, Marko Popovic.


Luis Fernández (February 2004):

Ukic has been playing with Split's first team since the age of 16. Right now he's one of the key players on his team, although they are very young and definitely not an elite team anymore. Very distant is the glorious age of Kukoc, Radja and co. winning European titles with Split. In the international competition, Ukic has shined brightly with the Croatian National Junior Team. He led his country to win the European Junior Championships of 2002, getting 25 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists in the final.

Kristian Hohnjec (May 2005):

Ukic already declared himself eligible for this year's draft. It is not clear if he will stay in, since he has a 1 million dollar buyout clause and needs to be guaranteed of being drafted in the top 20 to pay off this amount and still make it worthwhile for him. As of right now it looks like there is a very good chance of that happening, but the deadline for other underclassmen to enter still hasn't passed. He declared last year for the draft as well, but later withdrew because he couldn't get that guarantee for the spot in the first round that he needed.

Ukic is certainly the most interesting non-U.S. Point Guard prospect available in this year's draft and has a good shot of becoming the highest drafted European PG ever. With good workouts like he had last year in Chicago (see links) he could go as high as the late lottery.

Roko Leni is one of most ready European prospects, but he could probably benefit from playing in the Euroleague for season or two. According to some sources Climamio Bologna and Real Madrid are very interested in him.


Luis Fernández (February 2004):

It's not likely that Ukic will declare this year. There's still a lot of room for him to improve his game, and with that his stock will rise accordingly. Another season of experience in Europe will help him. When declaring, his talent and height alone should place him in the first round.

Kristian Hohnjec (May 2005):

As you may have noticed, I have great confidence in Ukic's ability and work ethic. Of all the European prospects in this year's draft, I see him having the best career. His style of play would fit perfectly in the NBA and he should be capable of contributing right away next season. As of right now, NCAA standouts like Chris Paul, Ray Felton, Deron Williams and Jarret Jack are ranked higher than him, but I expect him to move his stock up with good performances in workouts.


Luis Fernández (February 2004):

I think Ukic can become really a special player. He has all the tools that a point guard needs, physically and especially skill-wise. He will make it to the NBA, but it's up to him and his devotion to the game the amount of success he will achieve.

Voted as one of the top five players in the tournament after his performances at both the World Junior Championships of 2003 and in the European Junior Championships of 2002.

Ukic broke the backboard 3 times during the past two seasons, cutting himself badly the last time and missing a few games (links).

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