Roundup: Scoring Machine Dragicevic

Roundup: Scoring Machine Dragicevic
Mar 19, 2008, 10:54 pm
One of this season’s best performers, Tadija Dragicevic, is taking his game to even a higher level, as he’s producing with a ridiculous consistency. This past week he reached the 20-point mark twice again, peaking in the Adriatic League with a 39-point performance, which has granted him our Player of the Week award. Meanwhile, somehow hidden in the Spanish second division, Henk Norel is emerging as an important player as well as an intriguing long-term prospect, which is a good enough reason to dig deeper into his game.

Player of the Week: Tadija Dragicevic

Dragicevic’s productivity has become dazzling lately. To his superb season performance already, he is piling on an even more impressive run as of late. He’s clinched the 20-point mark in the last seven games he has played, and has surpassed the 30-point barrier in his last couple of Adriatic League showings. This past week he opened fire by pouring 22 points on Besiktas in the ULEB Cup, adding 5 rebounds and 2 rebounds to help his team tie the first game of the two-legged top-16 round. Back to the Balkan competition, he erupted for 39 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists as Red Star beat Helios.

3034[c]Photo: ABA League[/c]

To round up what we’ve already reported about Dragicevic this season, it’s interesting to note how he looks everyday more of a complete offensive player. He evolves all over the court: from the perimeter to the lane, feeling completely comfortable also in the mid-range distances. He’s starting to showcase some off-the-dribble skills with his long-range shot, although he still needs to gain significant consistency here; anyway, shooting open from standstill positions he’s almost money in the bank. He also seems more under control while attacking the basket, always trying to take advantage of unbalanced defenses (he seems to be controlling a little bit his turnovers, although he committed five this past weekend), while showing some soft touch to finish against opposition, an ability that he’s also using from the low post. Besides, he moves pretty well off the ball, trying to take advantage of the pick-and-roll play (which often ends up being a pick and pop). Generally speaking, he’s showing increasing poise on the court.

As always, he leaves us skeptical about his NBA potential. The guy is becoming so productive, that it would be really surprising if a wealthy European team doesn’t take him right this upcoming summer. Then he will have a nice chance to prove if he’s able to deliver some dirty work to compliment his offensive skills, such as more defensive aggressiveness, better defensive rotations, or more rebounding. It would probably be the most effective way for him to convince someone that he’s worth a chance in the NBA, given that his offensive repertoire would struggle in a translation to the American league due his physical and athletic shortcomings. So, even if we shouldn’t completely rule out a call in the second round, it doesn't look all that likely at this point.

A Look at…Henk Norel

Henk Norel’s continuous development process is showing increasingly better results lately. The Dutch big man, whose rights are owned by DKV Joventut and plays on loan at Alicante Costa Blanca in LEB Oro (the Spanish second division), delivered an excellent performance this past weekend. Only able to stay on the floor for 21 minutes due foul trouble, he managed to amass 22 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals, staying almost perfect from the floor, while leading Alicante past Tenerife Rural. He has scored in double digits in five out of the past six games, and averages 16.5 points in the last four.

Norel enjoys an excellent combination of length and skills, while also delivering nice athleticism. His biggest knock has always been his physical build, as he’s an extremely skinny player with only a decent frame, and that’s why it’s taken him so long to blossom. In LEB Oro he’s facing pretty strong competition (it’s likely a top-10 league all across Europe), and indeed he’s often being outmuscled, but still, Norel is finding ways to contribute by relying on his abilities and size.

A rather promising post player, this is an area where his physical fragility is still slowing him down. Norel enjoys nice footwork and can finish with both hands near the basket, but he’s not comfortable operating down low against physical defenders. I don’t think he’s soft, indeed he’s willing to take contact, but it’s really difficult to properly execute while being seriously outmuscled. So whenever he could use his low post game as a go-to ability in his repertoire, right now it’s only another weapon he tests from time to time. Indeed, if he receives near the basket, he often prefers to pass the ball taking good use of his nice court vision and decision making, which he also is able to find teammates from the high post.

When it comes to scoring points, Norel’s most effective weapon right now is probably his jumper. He’s a very nice spot-up shooter, showing very solid mechanics and nice quickness in the release. His range extends out to the international three-point line, but he’s your classic mid-range gunner. He also puts the ball on the floor with both hands, showcasing his very nice ball-handling skills for a player his size, in order to look for the basket or kick the ball out to the perimeter.

One of the most encouraging characteristics of Norel is his willingness and ability to play above the rim. He’s a nicely reactive player who easily dunks the ball (in one-handed fashion if needed), which helps him to cash in his off-the-ball movement whenever he receives near the basket.

Defensively, Norel suffers again in the low post on a physical level, being sometimes banged by stronger post players. However, he shows nice positioning, good lateral quickness and interesting activity. Still, he’s not much of an intimidator, and almost never goes for the block.

Norel looks like a rather smart player with high basketball IQ. He shows a nice feel for the game, his decision making is pretty solid, and he knows how to fill spaces or where to pass the ball. He’s a pretty talented player.

Draft wise, Norel looks like a second-round pick in the making. His NBA potential will clearly rest in his ability to gain strength –he’s pretty far from there- which would probably turn him into a first-round-caliber guy, but his thin frame leaves a dark shadow of uncertainty in that regard. He’s proving to be fairly effective in the top LEB level, so we should see him next season earning his pay in the ACB league, which happens to be the campaign when he becomes automatically eligible. We shouldn’t expect a sudden impact there, while it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be able to take a huge leap forward in his physical development, but his length, skills and potential in general will likely draw a lot of interest in the second round.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Hot

Ricky Rubio impressed with his outing in the first game of the two-legged eight-finals in the ULEB Cup. His team DKV Joventut travelled to Russia to face Khimki, one of the very best squads in the competition, in what could’ve been considered as an anticipated final. However, the Spanish team demolished its rival following the impressive performance of Rubio, who collected 18 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals. He particularly shined in the scoring department, enjoying some awesome stretches when he connected on perimeter shots and layups with ease, while his defense provided easy points for Joventut as usual.

Nando de Colo seems to be perennially living above the 20-point mark these days. This past weekend he went for 23, adding also 4 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals. However this time his team Cholet couldn’t prevail on the road against Orleans.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Not

We had the chance to watch Slava Kravtsov last week in the ULEB Cup and he looked unable to significantly contribute for his team BC Kyiv. He’s a relatively inexperienced kid, but had shown flashes of promise earlier this season. However, he seems to be going through difficult times lately. He’s suffered some back problems recently that have significantly slowed him down, and did not play yesterday while Kyiv finally was booted out of the ULEB Cup at the hands of Turow. Even before that, though, he seemed unable to continue the excellent momentum he had accumulated earlier on in the year, as he’s not the most active and energetic player you’ll find and thus doesn’t always emerge as a great contributor considering that his skill level or feel for the game are not particularly high. Big, very well built, athletic, he doesn’t always take advantage enough of his gifts on the court. Positioning and timing in the offensive end emerge as matters of concern, as he could barely get anything done on the floor, but anyway he’s still a very raw guy who is just beginning to have a taste at high-level basketball. From what we’re told by his American agent, Herb Rudoy of Interperformances, Kravtsov will likely be entering his name in this year’s draft to test the waters and get some better exposure in front of NBA scouts. He could be an ideal player to invite to a place like the RBK EuroCamp in Treviso, and could even make a nice splash there, as he has all the tools to make an impact in a setting like that. Expect the interest level to raise significantly next season, as very few NBA teams have made the trek to the Ukraine like we did this past winter to take a look at Kravtsov in person.

News and Notes

-While we wait for the International rosters of the Nike Hoop Summit to be released, we’ve already learned that two very intriguing likely first round picks in Serge Ibaka and Alexis Ajinca will be participating. Nicolas Batum unfortunately did not get clearance from his club to join them in Portland.

-Herb Rudoy of Interperformances also informed us via email that Israeli small forward Omri Casspi, who is playing some of the best basketball of his career lately with European powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv, will “definitely be putting his name into this draft.” Last week against Hapoel Holon (a very strong team in Israel), Casspi had an outstanding outing with 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocks in just 22 minutes. The San Antonio Spurs just sent two representatives (George Felton and Rob Hennigan) to scout him this past weekend.

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