Roundup: Nicolas Batum, Finally

Roundup: Nicolas Batum, Finally
Nov 20, 2006, 06:55 pm
We were eager to at some point start our report with this fantastic NBA prospect, and finally this week Nicolas Batum has earned the stripes to do it with a 15-point showing in the Euroleague. Indeed he inaugurates our “Player of the Week” feature in our revamped roundup. Other remarkable performers include Danilo Gallinari or Vitor Faverani, while we pay special attention to the likes of Manuchar Markoishvili or Peja Samardziski.

Player of the Week: Nicolas Batum

It hasn’t been easy for him. After a promising preseason, Batum was relegated in his team's rotation once the season started, mostly as collateral damage of the very poor results for Le Mans early on. However, after two months of very limited playing time, he has finally seen some light, getting season highs in minutes and points in both the Euroleague and French League this week.

Le Mans showed nice competitiveness against the undefeated Olympiacos, staying close in the score during most of the game. Batum had 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals in 25 minutes of playing time. On the domestic front, Nicolas settled for 7 points in 25 minutes, as Le Mans beat Strasbourg.

In our opinion, it made little sense to keep Batum on the bench for that long. He’s not only a terrific project, but already a nice player. He sometimes struggled defensively, fighting through screens against Olympiacos, as he needs to gain strength, but everything else was pretty much there. Beyond that issue, he looked like a very able defender, making good use of his long body, not forgetting to help his teammates, and even managing to intimidate with his excellent wingspan and athleticism. On the offensive end, he committed few mistakes, took good (and quick) decisions with the ball in his hands, showed good passing criteria, displayed some of his (still a bit inconsistent) perimeter stroke and drew fouls attacking the basket. He’s definitely a useful player for Le Mans.

Taking a Long Look at…

…Ricky Rubio, who shined brightly this week in a very difficult setting. It was in Tel Aviv, where DKV Joventut faced Maccabi. Coming off the bench, Rubio had 5 points, 4 assists and 4 steals in a terrific performance leading Joventut back in the score after a horrible first quarter. The Spanish team lost the game (among other things, because foul trouble kept Rubio off the court for much of the last quarter), but Rubio again proved his excellent defensive potential, particularly useful in full-court pressure (as coach Reneses likes to sometimes display), and also his coolness and leadership on the offensive end, successfully distributing the ball and setting the rhythm of the game.

…Manuchar Markoishvili, quite a representative guy in the Balkans when talking about consistency. He’s become a very serious player for Union Olimpija, working well on defense and hitting his shots in the offensive end. Lately, he seems to have found the confidence to take his game to the next level. He was already one of the very few good pieces of news in the Euroleague game versus Unicaja, having 9 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists, but he really erupted in the Adriatic League against Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) with 27 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals, although the victory stayed in Belgrade.

Markoishvili displays good physical maturity, with a strong body and very good legs, as well as mental strength, being a surprisingly experienced player at his young age, to eventually become something more than a role player. He’s a guy who can produce off the dribble (either for himself or creating for his teammates), and he only needs to find the proper rhythm in his game to do it with effectiveness. He probably lacks the potential to be considered a legit NBA prospect at this point of his career (he was, a few years ago), but he has the tools to become a very solid player in Europe.

…Peja Samardziski, who had been all about potential for the past years, particularly since Partizan’s deep inside rotation didn’t leave him room to prove himself on court. Moving to FMP mid-way last season, it’s in this campaign (after Mile Ilic’s departure to the New Jersey Nets) when he’s finally able to showcase his abilities. Against Besiktas he had 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals, while looking noticeable improved. He’s a big man, a legit seven footer in shoes, who enjoys nice mobility. He delivered intimidation, interesting low post defense and some rebounding against the Turkish team, while playing mostly off the ball and leaving a few drops of his intriguing low-post offensive potential on the other end of the floor. Samardziski is, for the moment, your typical Euro center that usually hears his name called in the second round. The following months will tell us more about his real chances of landing in a higher position.

…Milos Teodosic, another product of the terrific FMP factory. He only had 7 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists against Besiktas, but was one of the best players for FMP, and actually his team suffered whenever he stepped off the court. Teodosic is a cold guy who shows little emotion. Sometimes you might think that he doesn’t care that much about what’s happening on court, but he’s an excellent player. He did a terrific job setting the game rhythm, distributing the ball and creating off the pick and roll whenever the shot clock menaced the possession. He’s a guy with very good court vision and a solid perimeter stroke, the kind of stuff you expect from a point guard.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Hot

Vitor Faverani is lately tearing up the Adecco LEB (second Spanish division) with impressive performances. Leading Cai Zaragoza to the victory against Leche Rio Breogan, Faverani delivered a spectacular double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds, adding also 2 assists and 2 blocks. In the last four games, he’s averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Danilo Gallinari continues impressing everyone in the Italian League. He led Armani Jeans Milano to the victory against Teramo with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists. Milano is third in the strong Italian Lega, and Gallinari one of the team leaders. What else could we ask from an eighteen-year old kid? He has scored in double digits in all but two games, and currently averages 11.5 points, 4 assists and 2.6 steals.

Omri Casspi had another solid week individual-wise, although quite unproductive for his team Galil Elyon, losing two home games. Against BK Prostejov in the FIBA EuroCup Challenge, Casspi netted 21 points, adding 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals. He settled for 14 points in the Israeli league facing Ironi Nahariya. Combining both competitions, he’s averaged 16.7 points (60% from the field) and 14.2 rebounds in the last four games.

Damjan Rudez is averaging 17 points (almost 68% from the field) and 3.3 rebounds in the last three games for Split. He seems to be finding the momentum now that he’s back at home in Croatia. Still, his team is delivering a very weak season, just as expected though. With a 2-8 record, they have lost 6 games in a row. The last one, against Cibona, with Rudez delivering 17 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.

The State of the Prospect: Who’s Not

Marco Belinelli netted 19 points this weekend, but keeps struggling with his shooting, and so is his team trying to win games. In a completely woeful season for Climamio Bologna (the only winless team in the Euroleague and 3-5 in the Italian League) the last game was just another chapter of the nightmare, being beaten at home by the newcomer Premiata Montegranaro. Belinelli’s accuracy from the floor is below any reasonable mark. Combining both competitions, he achieves 36.7% from the field, with a terrible 25.4% behind the arc. It wouldn’t be so worrying if Belinelli stayed active in other departments of the game, but shooting seems to be his main concern. Climamio's coach paid the price for his team's horrendous start and was replaced following their latest loss in the Euroleague this week.

Marko Tomas isn’t taking advantage of Real Madrid’s spectacular run even one bit. The Spanish team is undefeated in the ACB League, and everybody is having their fair share of prominence on the offensive end, except Tomas. The Croatian averages 4.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in 16 minutes of playing time. For a 1985 guy supposed to become a kind of scoring machine, this is not good news. The truth is that Tomas has struggled trying to adapt his game to the ACB League, where he can’t reproduce the lead role he enjoyed in Zagreb. Besides, he barely looks improved at all, and his weaknesses (physical strength, quickness with the ball, ability to create his own shot, among others) are still there. At least he’s delivering a good defensive effort, but his draft stock is plummeting. Even though he could very well eventually end up being picked in the late 2nd round by an NBA team looking to stash someone in Europe, for now he's fallen off our 2007 mock draft completely.

Rounding Up…

It’s taking a few games for Tiago Splitter to get in shape after the small injury he suffered several weeks ago, but this weekend he already delivered 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals in a comfortable victory for Tau Vitoria against Akasvayu Girona in the ACB League. Expect him to gain consistency for the upcoming games.

It was harvest time for Luksa Andric this week after a discrete season start. He finally delivered some production this season in the Euroleague with 10 points and 3 rebounds against Partizan. In the Adriatic League, he scored 17 points (a career high in this competition) and 2 rebounds, leading Cibona to get rid of Split on the road and conquer the (shared) leadership.

After a good season start in the Adriatic League, Zagreb hasn’t been able to keep it up, enchaining four consecutive losses. While in the past Ante Tomic’s production and the team’s results were directly related, now Tomic has been grossly producing in the last couple of games with no good results for Zagreb. In the home loss against Zadar he scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, although suffered a whopping 8 turnovers.

Pay attention to Vyatcheslav Kratsov in Ukraine. He’s a guy we talked about in the last Treviso EuroCamp as a big man with nice potential. He started the season slow, but had 16 points and 6 rebounds in BC Kyiv’s comfortable victory over Kryvbasbasket-Lux. We’ll be following him closely.

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