Player of the Week: Milos Teodosic
If you think about it, its pretty remarkable. FMP, the top-seeded team in the Adriatic League, played its first game in the semifinals against fourth-seeded Hemofarm on Wednesday. It was in theory a rather balanced match-up, with only three regular season victories separating the two teams. FMP got a four-point victory at home. The following game was played on Friday. In the meantime, Aleksandar Rasic transferred to Efes Pilsen. He was the starting point guard, an emerging player who established himself as one of the most important pieces in the team (leading FMP in efficiency points), and actually a guy to keep an eye on for the future, as born in 1984, he has NBA-caliber physical tools, while hes still developing intriguing skills. Still, despite losing Rasic, despite playing on the road, and despite the importance of the game, FMP repeated another victory to clinch a spot in the Adriatic Leagues Finals.
Early into the season it was Dusko Savanovic leaving the team; Zoran Erceg and Dragan Labovic teamed up to perfectly make up for his absence. Who stepped up this time? Our Player of the Week, Milos Teodosic.
Milos is not a very athletic player, certainly lacking some explosiveness, while you can eventually think that he doesnt put much energy on court. He often drives the ball looking very care free, like someone taking a walk in the park. But he cares, and he executes. He might not enjoy an advantage on quickness, so he uses plenty of picks to create mismatches, to unbalance the opponents defense, to feed the rolling man, to slash towards the basket or to shoot the ball if they leave him open. He excels in pick-and-roll situations, perfectly reading the different options this play offers him. Hes a fundamentally sound player with an excellent skill set that includes extremely solid ball-handling skills, a nice shot out to three-point range that he can hit off the dribble, nice footwork on slashing situations and great passing skills to cash in on his remarkable court vision. Hes very tall for a point guard at 6-5, which really helps him get the job done. His basketball IQ is excellent, and he always seems to control whats happening on the floor.
In FMPs last winning streak (8 games in the Adriatic League counting this last weeks), Teodosic has played over 20 minutes per game in all but one. Actually, it was becoming pretty obvious that the team often performed better with him handling the point. Thats probably a reason why FMP pulled the trigger on the Rasic deal.
If Milos stayed relatively discrete from a statistical point of view in the first game, with 8 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals in 26 minutes, he erupted for 21 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 31 minutes in the second, completely taking over Rasics role as the leading point guard.
NBA-wise, its a difficult equation. His average athleticism doesnt look like the best recipe for the American league, particularly since youre expected to be able to beat your match-up off the dribble on a regular basis. And particularly, Teodosic often exposes a certain lack of lateral quickness on defense, suffering against quicker guards, although hes pretty active on team defense. He will probably need to master his playmaking abilities at the top European level before having any shot at the NBA, which might leave him out of the draft picture. Still, he's a very talented guy that really deserves to be considered, and a name you will likely hear often related to international competition.
Taking a Long Look at
Anyway, once the semifinals of the Balkan competition arrived, Pekovic significantly improved his production. With Partizan overcoming Cibonas home-court advantage, he scored in double digits in all three games of the series, blossoming in the definitive third played on the road in Zagreb, where he had 20 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals while replacing the injured Kosta Perovic in the starting five.
This is more in tune with what we expected out of him. Pekovic is an able player when it comes to taking advantage of his teammates creativity, and Partizan not only has showed this season to be capable of eventually playing fine team basketball, but features a bunch of players (Cummings, Tepic, or Drobnjak come to mind) that should be able to help Pekovic produce on a regular basis.
After all, Pekovic is a dependent scorer. He needs to receive the ball in good position within 10-12 feet from the basket in order to become a dangerous player. Once there, hes pretty effective, using his strong 6-10 frame and nice explosiveness very well. He will go up for the two-handed dunk if hes given space, or he can use a nice jump-hook with either hand over his defender. Dont ask him for anything more than a simple and direct move to release the ball in the low post against opposition. Stuff like banging while dribbling, fakes or any elaborate moves might result in a turnover. He can also shoot the ball from the mid-range area with decent accuracy, but its not a very usual option for him. Its particularly a rare luxury to see a good pass coming out of his hands, as hes a pure finisher and doesnt particularly stand out in terms of basketball IQ.
On defense, hes a very physical player in the low post, always looking for contact with the opponent using his very strong body. However, he might lack a bit of lateral quickness and anticipating instinct to contest his match-ups moves. When it comes to cleaning the boards, he doesnt seem to have a particular nose for the ball, and his hands are not the best around. Certainly his 2.6 average in rebounds in the Adriatic League is disappointing any way you look at it.
The good part about Pekovic NBA-wise is that his superb strength would definitely help him translate some of his game to the next level. However, he would still be a relatively undersized center at 6-10, with limited skills and poor rebounding ability. A second-round call, perhaps in the bottom half, seems the most realistic scenario for him right now.
State of the Prospect: Whos Hot
Nikita Shabalkin has culminated his terrific performance in the FIBA EuroCup Challenge with a superb showing in the final leading Samara to conquer the title over Keravnos. Shabalkin averaged 24.5 points and 10 rebounds in the Finals, showing a remarkable steadiness that upped him to third place in the scoring rankings (22.5 points per game) while never going below the 16-point mark in any game.
Marco Belinelli went for his tenth 20 point+ performance of the season in the Italian League. He had 20 points (still only 6/15 FG) and 5 steals, but Climamio Bologna continues with their losing streak after falling two-points short of the victory against Legea Scafati. Actually, its becoming every week more likely that this former Italian powerhouse (with 2 domestic titles and 4 Euroleague Final Four appearances) will miss the playoffs, something that never happened since the team returned to the first Italian division in 1993.
Romain Duport had a career-high 15 points in Le Havres victory over Gravelines, also adding 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. He managed to stay on the court for 29 minutes, which is very good news for a guy who had previously combined for only 44 minutes of playing time in the entire season.
State of the Prospect: Whos Not
Chen certainly picked the worst possible time to struggle. Still, to his credit, we have to question how his coach has handled him. Chen didnt play at all in the first game; he was on the bench dressed and, as far as we know, available to play. In the second game, the only victory by Guangdong, he excelled coming off the bench in the second half, imposing a very high pace that lead the Tigers to outrun Bayi for a blowout victory. Actually it was pretty obvious that a fast tempo usually played in Guangdongs favor, while a slow tempo helped Bayi.
For the last three games Chen played sparingly, without any continuity on the court. His coach was helplessly rotating point guards whenever they enchained too many mistakes, which obviously was not the solution, while certainly Chen wasnt the playmaker receiving the most credit. Therefore he played without any confidence; he would sometimes rush things, take bad decisions and force shots, trying to have an immediate impact, to make a quick impression; other times he would not be aggressive enough while using his quickness to create offense, trying to stay coollikely in order to please his coach-- but severely hurting his effectiveness in the half-court offense (where he still struggles distributing the ball). He also always suffered greatly on defense against the aforementioned Wang Zhongguang, also due to a deficient team defense on the pick and roll.
Anyway, its not a big deal for a very young player like him being in such a difficult situation. If anything, it should serve him as a learning lesson.
Yi has received now the call for the Chinese National Team. This year the CBA has finished sooner than usual in order to allow the National Team to have an extended period of time to practice and play games against quality opponents, all pointing towards next years Olympic Games to be held in Beijing, which is a top priority for the Chinese Federation.
At this point, Yis draft agenda is still unknown. Anyway, its always important to remember that hes yet to mature as a player and needs to improve on several areas of his game. Nobody should expect an immediate impact in the NBA coming from him, and hes certainly a risky pick.