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Roundup: Serbian Bomber Uros Tripkovic in a Massacring Performance
by: Luis Fernández - Director of International Scouting
March 19, 2007
In a relatively disappointing season for him, Uros Tripkovic finally erupted for a memorable performance against Joventut, recording a Euroleague career-high with 26 points to keep Partizan alive in the competition. That’s why he has earned Player of the Week honours. We also pay special attention to the Latvian skilled seven-footer Kaspars Berzins and to the next super-sized Turkish small forward, Baris Hersek.

Player of the Week: Uros Tripkovic

It was a matter of life and death for both teams. Odds were, and still are, against either Partizan or Joventut making the quarterfinal round in the Euroleague, but Uros Tripkovic gave his team a last thread of hope by leading Partizan with a Euroleague career-high 26 points in a superb performance. Tripkovic, more in a shooting specialist role than ever, was splendid from the floor netting 6 of his 8 three-point attempts, and gifting the viewer with his usual picture-perfect mechanics that are just a delight for the senses. He did most of the damage from the perimeter, but still had time to capture 4 rebounds.

It has been one of the few bright moments he has delivered this season. Actually, his development in the last three years can’t be considered anything but disappointing. His production has even regressed from what he had delivered in past years. He’s still a double-digit scorer in the Euroleague, but his point per game production has slightly and constantly decreased in the last three seasons (from 10.7 to 10.1 ppg), which is not what you expect from a 20 year old player. That regression is even more evident in the Adriatic League, going from 13.3 ppg in the 2004/05 season to the 10.5 ppg he’s currently averaging, while also involving shooting percentages (from 47% to 43%). On the contrary, his accuracy has slightly improved in the Euroleague during these years, although always trapped in mediocrity (from 36% to 38%). Meanwhile, his assists are again down after peaking in the 2005/06 season and his turnovers have steadily decreased in both competitions.



So what is this all about? Is there any reason to explain these statistical trends that Uros has delivered these years? Well, it probably has a lot to do with his role on the team, how he seems to have evolved from a creative guard to almost a shooting specialist.

Whenever you see Tripkovic, just as had happened to us for the first time at the 2004 U-18 European Championships, his shooting mechanics stand above the rest of his game. He’s so elegant, so balanced and orthodox in the release, elevating so high with his jumper, that you always get the impression that he’s on the verge of becoming a deadly shooter, even if his percentages tell another story for the moment (he combines for an average 36% this season). He can go for a simple spot-up jumper, come off a cut to receive and instantaneously elevate for the jump shot, put the ball on the floor and step back to gain space for the release, use a crossover to unbalance his rival and just shoot over him, etc. His body is always under control in the air, no matter how complicated the previous move was. Actually, he’s not a player that gains so much accuracy with a wide open shot.

But Tripkovic game can go well beyond that shooting role (and actually does, although to a limited degree). He’s a fairly smart player, a guy who usually makes good decisions, is a nice passer, and a team player. He has the ability to split defenses with a solid first step and nice ball- handling skills, although he perhaps lacks some aggressiveness attacking the hoop. We can consider him athletic, particularly by European standards; he’s quick, reactive, and a decent leaper, although he rarely plays above the rim. On defense, he’s a solid player, but doesn't always succeed against elite wings. Actually, in the last Euroleague game he had a hard time keeping up with Rudy Fernández, even if the Spanish player had a poor day from the field. He has also gained some strength that helps him to operate on the court, even if there’s still work to do in this department.



Something we miss about Uros’ game is more aggressiveness and activity taking decisions with the ball. He’s a guy who can virtually disappear from the court in certain stretches. He was supposed to take over the offensive load of Partizan sometime during the last two seasons, and it just hasn’t happened. His scoring outburst against Joventut was a matter of getting good shooting looks and finaly seeing his long-range bombs falling, but nothing he aggressively looked for. He seems comfortable deferring to others and keeping a secondary role, which is not a bad thing by itself, but still disappointing for the kind of player we thought he could become, an effective go-to guy, at least for Partizan.

So even after flirting with the point guard position, Tripkovic is now a full-time shooting guard. The arrival of the very solid Vonteego Cummings mid-way last season not only has stuck him on the wings, but has taken a lot of creative pressure off his shoulders. So that would explain why he dishes out less assists, and why his turnovers have decreased, as he handles the ball less than he did in previous seasons. Not enjoying as much of the ball, it also would explain why his scoring has gone down, as he’s not a player who aggressively looks for his shots. Regarding percentages, the obvious level differential between the Euroleague and the Adriatic League might explain the different trends. In the Euroleague, his accuracy is likely benefited lately from the better shots he takes with a more secondary role in the team, while it wouldn’t be so far-fetched to think that the superior confidence he enjoyed in past seasons would make up for the worse shot selection he used to show as a combo-guard in the Adriatic League. Perhaps we’re reading too much into stats, but it makes some sense.

Anyway, Tripkovic is still a solid prospect for the second round, a talented guy with some very useful skills. Besides, we shouldn’t rule out the possibility that he blossoms sometime in the future. Again, he’s only 20 years old.

Taking a Long Look at…

Baris Hersek, who enjoyed his first real taste of Euroleague competition against Winterthur F.C.Barcelona after going scoreless in two previous games, playing a combined 6 minutes. This time he could stay on the court for 21 minutes, having 8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and 1 block.

He was a solid piece for Efes Pilsen, despite the difficult task that coach Oktay Mahmuti gave him: Hersek, a forward, had to guard Juan Carlos Navarro whenever both shared the floor; a 6-9 guy like the Turkish going against the best scoring guard in Europe, a very quick player, a master of fakes, hesitation moves, jab steps and basically any trick you can think of. The idea was probably to use Hersek’s nice wingspan on the Spanish player. Still, Navarro pretty much burned Baris whenever he wanted in the first half. However, the Turkish forward showed a very good defensive attitude, and some nice capabilities, materialized later matching up against bigger guys, like Rodrigo de la Fuente. He has good enough lateral quickness to face other small forwards, shows a good level of activity, and his length becomes pretty annoying for the rival. He had a terrific block on de la Fuente behind the three-point line after a quick recovery off a defensive rotation.

On the offensive end, he stayed pretty quiet in the first half, just hanging around the three-point line in case the ball came to him. In the second half, he scored consecutive field goals, the first one with a turnaround jumper in the low post taking advantage of a defensive mismatch (as he was guarded by point guard Jaka Lakovic); in the following possession he netted a spot-up three-pointer with solid mechanics. He tried from the arc a bit later, but wasn’t lucky despite looking good on the release. Towards the end of the game he gained activity, cutting and looking for positions near the basket, and ultimately converting some clutch free-throws.

After his performance in the U-18 European Championships last summer, we doubted Hersek’s ability to play on the wings, but he seems to be proving us wrong. Chances are we’re dealing with yet another super-sized small forward (he could very well stand 6-10 in shoes) coming from Turkey after the likes of Hedo Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasova. He’s a big player, yes, and perhaps not a freakish athlete, but he shows good enough mobility on both ends of the court, as well as some intriguing skills. Physically, he can become a very powerful small forward, as he enjoys a terrific frame with broad shoulders and already excellent strength for his age. Besides what he showed against F.C.Barcelona, he can also put the ball on the floor with decent ball-handling skills, particularly with his right hand, and shoot in off-the-dribble fashion from the mid-range area, while he should be able to take more advantage of his length and strength in the low post, even if his footwork is nothing to drool over. He shows a solid basketball IQ and passing ability.

Not an elite prospect, as he probably lacks that extra degree of athleticism that would do wonders helping him to translate his abilities to the next level, he’s still a guy to carefully follow, and certainly an intriguing player for the international scene.

Kaspars Berzins, who had his Baltic League season-high scoring with 23 points in the loss against the Lithuanian powerhouse Zalgiris, while rounding out his performance with 5 rebounds and 3 blocks. Coincidentally, he had achieved his season-high in rebounds in the previous game, with 14 captures against ASK Riga. He’s averaging this season 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in this competition.

Berzins is a skilled seven-foot center we had the chance to watch last June in the Reebok EuroCamp in Treviso. If he stood out there, it was only because of his softness; the aggressive and competitive nature of the EuroCamp exposed Kaspars’ biggest flaw. It’s pretty obvious that the Latvian big doesn’t feel comfortable going against physical defenses or dealing with contact. In the Baltic League he gets along better with this problem, but still he tends to avoid physical contact in overly relying on his perimeter skills. Actually, Berzins is a nice spot-up shooter from the three-point line; indeed he went 3/6 in the aforementioned game against Zalgiris. He has a fluid release and achieves a pretty decent 38.5% this season.



But Berzins enjoys good conditions to play inside and be an effective player there. He’s a long guy, with a nice wingspan; he’s also fairly athletic considering his size, showing good mobility and some leaping ability; and he shows some strength, with a well-built body that should be able to assume more weight. Actually, when he shows good enough will, he consistently gains position in the low post to receive the ball. Depending on how physical his match-up plays him, he feels more or less comfortable operating in the paint, but he doesn’t look bad, being able to put the ball on the floor, showing some moves and a nice ability to finish near the basket. He regularly enjoys clear size superiority, and he’s skilled enough to cash in off that advantage. But again, it’s not that usual to see him asking for the ball in the paint. As a very mobile and nicely coordinated big player, Berzins has the tools to become an effective pick-and-roll player. However, you also need the aggressiveness to attack the basket, and that’s not a given with him. Indeed, he often opts to roll outside for pick-and-pop opportunities. In terms of his basketball IQ, he looks just decent.

On defense, Kaspars still doesn’t manage to provide a consistent display. Again his conditions are terrific for this department of the game. He has a nice body, the length to intimidate, and the mobility to provide help on different fronts. However, his struggles here are not as related with aggressiveness (even if it’s part of the equation) as they are with his poor decision making on the defensive end. Berzins doesn’t fully control his efforts and impulses, so he gets fooled by fakes from time to time, commits unnecessary fouls (getting in foul trouble too often) or shows poor timing. Considering his length, neither his rebounding (4.8 per game) nor shot-blocking numbers (1.1 per game) look great. Besides, his defensive rotations are also rather mediocre. Still he shows decent activity and might be able to become a solid defender once he figures out how to make the most out of his physical gifts.

Born in 1985, Berzins will be automatically eligible in next June’s draft. We don’t expect to hear his name called, but since he’s a seven footer with some intriguing characteristics, you can’t rule out anything.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Hot

Mirza Teletovic had a terrific opportunity this week to showcase himself as coach Boza Maljkovic decided to leave Luis Scola in Vitoria for the Euroleague game against Lottomatica Roma. In 28 minutes of playing time, he scored 17 points, most of them from the paint, which highly contrasts with his usual production, from behind the arc. Teletovic showed some low post game, with an effective right-handed jump hook with a release point thanks to his leaping ability. He’s a strong guy who easily operates in the lane when it comes to gaining position and playing off contact. He was also active without the ball and had some looks under the basket that he easily transformed into dunks. Still, some of his flaws were there too, such as his poor rebounding production (only 3 captures) and some eventual problems to contest bigger rivals in the post. He’s still a bubble guy, but he could very well get some love in the late second round.

Tiago Splitter hasn’t slowed down with the arrival of the new coach Boza Maljkovic. If Teletovic had a chance to showcase himself in the Euroleague due to Scola’s absence, for Splitter it was an opportunity to take over the leading role in the paint. He did pretty well, with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals. He particularly produced from the free-throw line (10/17), as his opponents seemed to have the order to foul him whenever he had a clear scoring option. He was active as usual playing without the ball, in pick and roll situations or cutting from the baseline, but he also played some one-on-one low post situations, with fair success. With Scola back for the ACB League game, Splitter even improved to 22 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks.

Ante Tomic had one of the best games of his career, putting up 23 points and 12 rebounds in 29 foul-plagued minutes against Cibona. His team Zagreb lost by 5 points against the Croatian powerhouse, but Ante kept them in the game on his own during the third quarter before earning his fourth foul, that left him on the bench until 4 minutes to go while Cibona managed to grab a double-digit lead. With Tomic back on the floor, Zagreb cut the deficit, but fell 5 points short of the victory.

State of the Prospect: Who’s Not

Luigi Datome is yet to make an impact on his new team Legea Scafati. The Italian small forward was sent there on loan three weeks ago by Montepaschi Siena until the end of the season, as he wasn’t getting any playing time in the current leaders of the Italian League. Datome started for Legea in his first two games with his new squad, but this weekend he came off the bench to play only 9 minutes, although he managed to score 5 points. We’ll see how he finally fares, but it’s a disappointing situation for a player who enjoyed some meaningful playing time last season in the Euroleague.

Rounding Up…

The troubled relationship between Vitor Faverani and Cai Zaragoza reached its end last Saturday when the team announced his departure, taking advantage of a clause in the loan agreement with Unicaja Málaga (the team that owns his rights) that allowed Cai to cut the player free of expenses before March the 23rd.

It was a crazy season for Faverani in Zaragoza, full of ups and downs, with impressive performances to dream about a NBA future, and forgettable showings that were unacceptable from a foreign player in a LEB team. That was part of the problem, as LEB teams can only have two players from outside the European Union, and Vitor was filling one of those two spots. For some games, he looked completely worthy of taking that foreign spot; in others, you would only want to scream at him to wake up and play with some aggressiveness. At least he was honest enough to recognize his eventual lack of effort, but this is pro basketball and a team like Zaragoza, looking for promotion to the ACB League, can only demand full effort every single game. The other part of the problem was his behavior off court.

His last week on the team was pretty representative of his tenure in Zaragoza. After weeks, even months, of gossip concerning a possible departure for Faverani, even being left at home for a few games, the Brazilian player rebounded well for an excellent performance against Alerta Cantabria, with 17 points and 10 boards. His coach Curro Segura stated then that the player had showed a good reaction and therefore they weren’t considering the possibility of cutting him, so he was staying with the team. A few days later, Faverani missed a practice (which apparently wasn’t the first one he didn’t attend this season) and the coach and the team just thought they had enough dealing with the Brazilian, so they decided to cut the player.

In the official press release published by Cai Zaragoza, they thanked Unicaja Málaga, but saved any words about the player.

Faverani is a magnificent basketball talent, a big guy with the body, athleticism and skills to become a great player in the future. Actually only Batum and Gallinari are clear-cut better prospects than him from the 1988 pool. But unless he grows up, matures and starts acting like a professional player, he will have a hard time realizing that excellent potential.

On a more positive note, Stefan Markovic is back to action after a wrist injury that had him sidelined for three months. In his comeback game he went scoreless, but delivered 5 assists in only 15 minutes of playing time in Hemofarm’s victory over Geoplin Slovan.
 


Feedback for this article may be sent to luisfernandez@draftexpress.com .

 

Uros Tripkovic
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 160 lbs.
Birthday: 09/17/1986
27 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Partizan , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: SG,
Possible: PG/SG
Quick Stats:
6.7 Pts, 2.2 Rebs, 0.8 Asts


Kaspars Berzins
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 0"
Weight: 231 lbs.
Birthday: 08/25/1985
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Barons Riga , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
9.3 Pts, 4.0 Rebs, 0.3 Asts


Baris Hersek
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 229 lbs.
Birthday: 03/26/1988
26 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Darussafaka , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF/PF
Quick Stats:
7.3 Pts, 3.3 Rebs, 0.8 Asts


Rudy Fernandez
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 6"
Weight: 172 lbs.
Birthday: 04/05/1985
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Real Madrid , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #24 in 2007 Draft
by the Suns
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: SG,
Possible: SG
Quick Stats:
13.2 Pts, 4.3 Rebs, 3.3 Asts


Vonteego Cummings
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 185 lbs.
Birthday: 02/29/1976
38 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Thomson
Previous Team: Pittsburgh , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #26 in 1999 Draft
by the Pacers
Positions:
Current: G,
NBA: G,
Possible: G
Quick Stats:
2.9 Pts, 1.2 Rebs, 1.0 Asts


Juan Carlos Navarro
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 175 lbs.
Birthday: 06/13/1980
34 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Barcelona , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #11 in 2002 Draft
by the Wizards
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: SG,
Possible: SG
Quick Stats:
10.8 Pts, 2.2 Rebs, 3.1 Asts


Hedo Turkoglu
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 220 lbs.
Birthday: 03/19/1979
35 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Anadolu Efes , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #16 in 2000 Draft
by the Kings
Positions:
Current: SF/PF,
NBA: SF/PF,
Possible: SF/PF
Quick Stats:
3.0 Pts, 2.3 Rebs, 0.9 Asts


Ersan Ilyasova
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 209 lbs.
Birthday: 05/16/1987
27 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Fenerbahce , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #6 in 2005 Draft
by the Bucks
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
6.0 Pts, 1.0 Rebs, 0.0 Asts


Luis Scola
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 245 lbs.
Birthday: 04/30/1980
34 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Vitoria , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #27 in 2002 Draft
by the Spurs
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
7.6 Pts, 4.8 Rebs, 1.0 Asts


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