After several weeks performing at superb level in the Euroleague, it was about time for Jonas Maciulis to receive Player of the Week honours in our roundup. Aris suffered his last playing effort, as the Lithuanian had 16 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals to lead Zalgiris to the victory over the Greek team. He has become the most indispensable player for coach Grigas, and stays on court for very long stretches. In the last seven games at the top European competition he averages 15.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2 assists and 3.4 steals in about 35 minutes per game.
Zalgiris has already run out of chances to advance to the Top-16 in the Euroleague, so (basically) the sole purpose of the remainder season rests in recovering the Baltic and Lithuanian throne from the hands of Lietuvos Rytas, their biggest rival in the area. Precisely Zalgiris played the last game of the Baltic League in Vilnius against Rytas. Maciulis recorded a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals, paving the way to another victory for his team with a physical exhibition in the paint.
However, its not that far-fetched to think that Maciulis could eventually develop more than a decent perimeter stroke. Given this case, even the NBA might emerge as an option for him. His wingspan, athleticism, explosiveness, strength and aggressiveness should be able to make up for his lack of size up to a certain degree. Furthermore, hes an able defender, a nice ball-handler, a reliable passer and a guy who understands the game. Just to provide an approximate idea about what were talking about, he could turn into some kind of shorter version of Andres Nocioni.
Taking a Long Look at
Nihad Djedovic, who enjoyed one of his best outings of the season against Cibona. The 17 year-old wing matched his career-high 14 points and had a career-high 6 rebounds for Bosna on the road against a Euroleague team such as Cibona Zagreb. The team from Sarajevo was edged by the Croatian powerhouse by 5 points, but its still a meritorious result considering the different strength of both squads.
Djedovic is a 6-6 shooting guard, nicely athletic (particularly when talking about his quickness), well-built, actually pretty mature in the physical department, and well-rounded in terms of skills and basketball IQ. He displays a rather complete package that starts with a nice shooting stroke with off-the-dribble ability and nice range (although he needs to gain consistency from the perimeter). His mechanics are pretty good, knowing how to balance himself perfectly placing his feet to ignite the release. He can attack his matchup showing nice handles and aggressiveness going both sides, finishing himself with either hand or easily finding his teammates, whether an open player in the perimeter or feeding some roll after a pick or an screen. He doesnt abuse of the dribble and takes quick decisions.
From the moment you start watching him, you cant ignore the level of activity he displays. Hes restless, never stops. Partially, thats why hes already a nice defender. He enjoys a good lateral mobility and always keeps an eye on the passing lines, staying very active with his arms and hands although not risking his defensive position. He pays attention to the team defense and also contributes in the rebounding department. Actually, hes quite a team-oriented guy. After the Spanish wonder boy Rubio, hes likely the best 1990 player in the Old Continent. However his potential doesnt look as impressive as his current playing level when you consider the maturity physical, mental and technical- he already enjoys. Already signed by the European powerhouse Winterthur FC Barcelona (he plays loaned in Bosna), hes a kid who should evolve into an elite wing for international basketball in the future (and, why not, eventually have the chance to pursue a hypothetical NBA dream).
Mirza Teletovic, who is partially making up for Tiago Splitters late struggles. While hes not being able to provide the same impact as the Brazilian delivers for Tau when hes healthy and on shape, Mirza fuels a more productive perimeter this season in the Spanish team. Indeed, he scored this weekend 18 points against Polaris World Murcia in the ACB League, and all came from the three-point line. Also this past week, he recorded a career high 13 points in the Euroleague, with 6 rebounds to round-up his performance. Still Tau is going through the worst phase of the season, and actually they were upset by the weaker Murcia.
One of Taus biggest flaws matches with one of Teletovics main weaknesses, the defensive rebounding. The Bosnian power forward is struggling while trying to clean the defensive board for his team. He only averages 1.8 defensive captures in the Euroleague and 2.3 in the ACB League. Hes not being able to impose his physical strength, wingspan and athleticism, more useful for him in the offensive glass. Besides, he lacks some intimidation in the paint. Mirza displays intensity, enjoys nice mobility and the strength to battle any rival, but he often cant keep up with biggest match-ups near the rim, where his limited size gets a bit exposed.
For the moment, and even if Teletovic is a secondary player in Tau, the fact that hes earning consistent minutes in a top European team can only be considered a positive sign. With more lights than shadows, hes a serious player who contributes whenever hes on court and doesnt commit too many mistakes. Perhaps hes not a very intriguing guy NBA-wise, but his combination of strength and athleticism makes him a credible option in the second round.
State of the Prospect: Whos Hot
Yi Jianlian erupted for 40 points and 13 rebounds against Bejing this past week. His massive scoring effort was rewarded with a victory for Guangdong, currently the CBA leader with a 23-4 record.
Tadija Dragicevic is on fire lately for Crvena Zvezda, averaging 21.3 points and 6 rebounds in the last three games, all victories, combining the Adriatic League and ULEB Cup. European Champion this summer with Serbia and Montenegro at the U-20 stage, hes a 6-9 power forward with good mobility, nice physical built and skill set. He can shoot with nice range, he can put the ball on the floor, he plays pretty well off the ball and he can eventually post up his defender. Showing a good combination of outside-inside game, a late spark in his perimeter accuracy is lifting his scoring production. However, NBA-wise hes a bit of a tweener with limited size for a four and not that great athleticism.
Marco Belinelli dropped 21 points on the Italian leader Montepaschi Siena. It was a close game, but Climamio Bologna couldnt finally cash in off the homecourt advantage. Anyway, its another good sign of recovering coming from Marco, who added 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals. He already ranks sixth in scoring in the domestic competition with 17.7 points per game.
State of the Prospect: Whos Not
Nemanja Aleksandrov still hasnt been able to completely shake off the dust accumulated during his injury days. He looked pretty bad in the ULEB Cup playing against Real Madrid, and only has been conceded another appearance in that competition. He seems to have lost some explosiveness and athleticism, looking more of a clear power forward now. He needs to get stronger, as he gets regularly outmuscled, and actually looks rather soft. However, his perimeter stroke seems more solid, which isnt a big surprise since he has probably practiced a lot in this department during the recovering. Besides, in the Adriatic League hes faring statistically better, averaging 7.2 points and 3.5 rebounds in the last four games he has played. After a year and a half sidelined, its early to conclude anything; just consider these few lines an update on his status.
You dont see everyday a player in Europe recording 15 assists. With stricter accounting rules, that kind of amount becomes a rare achievement. Mantas Kalnietis did it for Zalgiris in the blowout victory against Sakalai. Actually, it was double-double performance, as he also netted 10 points.
The most curious part is that Kalnietis himself has been struggling during the season when it comes to create game for his teammates. Indeed, he was deferring most of the game creation to his point guard mates Marko Popovic, Vidas Ginevicius or DeJuan Collins (whenever they shared the floor with him), or shooting guard Marcelinho Machado. It wasnt a coincidence that Popovic and Collins didnt play, while Machado and Ginevicius combined for only 23 minutes.
Still this is a flash of light in quite an average season for the athletic Lithuanian guard. He still needs to settle down as a playmaker and distributor, but particularly his perimeter shooting remains a big concern about his game.