More coverage from Belgrade:
European Junior Championships Recap One
European Junior Championships Recap Two
European Junior Championships: The Centers
European Junior Championships: The Power Forwards
European Junior Championships: The Small Forwards
European Junior Championships: The Shooting Guards
All photos provided by FIBA Europes excellent official website
Croatia; 1988; 6-4; PG; 29.5 mpg, 11.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 4.9 apg
Once we stop worrying about his physical gifts, what separates Ugrinoski from your everyday playmaker is his awesome ability to pass the ball, unmatched if we talk about kids seen in Belgrade (he was second only to Ohayon in this department statistically, although first in assists per minute). Perhaps where he stands out more is driving and dishing. He has good handles and the quickness to beat his matchup, forcing a defensive rotation and feeding a teammate to perfection. Besides, he can also see the pass from the perimeter without having to necessarily dribble past his defender first, finding the open man or rewarding a cutting movement from a teammate. Its a bit of the same story in transition, showing a natural ability to find a good pass.
There are shortcomings too, of course. Aleksandar is a streaky shooter. He fails to nail his jumpers on a regular basis, although he shows good mechanics, range and the ability to deliver his shots off the dribble. Indeed, theres nothing significantly wrong with his jumper, so theres no reason why he shouldnt be able to improve in this department with the proper work.
However, the biggest issue Ugrinoski has to face is his general consistency. He doesnt always make the best decisions available to him, sometimes falling to establish the right offensive pace or forcing plays to the point that a few times his team fared better with him on the bench. Considering that hes very young, a 1988 player, you shouldnt expect a kid like him to play like a veteran, and he certainly has time to learn. Also, he doesnt look particularly skilled finishing around the basket against opposition, also not looking too comfortable using his left hand in those situations.
It doesnt matter that much. If Ugrinoski is serious about the game and works hard enough, he should develop into an excellent playmaker who is ready to step onto any basketball court, no matter the level.
Serbia and Montenegro; 1987; 6-5; PG; 28.3 mpg, 8.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.6 apg, 1.1 spg
Milos is a tall point guard with excellent distributing skills and a dangerous perimeter stroke. He shows a special poise in his game, as if he has everything under control. He proved to be a very good passer, creative, rewarding cutters and finding the open man anywhere, even with awesome vertical dishes in the set offense. He indeed finished the tournament third in assists. Still, in a few situations he was a bit too creative, risking the possession in the hunt for an extremely complicated passing angle. Anyway, his court vision is remarkable, being able to see the pass very quickly, which allows him to enjoy an excellent tempo in his dishes.
Unlike many point guards, hes more of a perimeter distributor than a drive-and-dish guy. Milos is not particularly athletic, not showing great quickness, and despite featuring nice ball-handling skills, he doesnt beat his defenders off the dribble as easy as some of his playmaking colleagues do. He usually tries to take advantage of screens or situations when his defender is unbalanced, which he can get with the mere threat of his outside shot. This is one of his biggest flaws when talking about his NBA potential.
Thats a big reason why the three-point shot is his main scoring threat. In Belgrade, Milos shot beyond the arc almost twice as much as he did from inside. Its not only a matter of showing a great stroke from downtown; he has the ability to fire off the dribble without losing too much accuracy and in a fairly quick movement as well. He enjoys good mechanics and it looks like the jumper is going to be an extremely important weapon in his future career.
The quickness issue is translated to the defensive end. He suffers keeping up with quicker guards, sometimes being assigned on defense in this tournament to guard wing players instead.
However, as concerning as his weaknesses might look, we have in Teodosic a real basketball player, a guy who knows the game and features skills which are becoming rarer every day (as strange as it might sound) such as shooting or passing, while displaying a great mind playing like a vet on the floor, taking care of the games rhythm or assuming responsibilities down the stretch. Besides, being 6-5, perhaps near 6-6, he can be used as a combo guard.
Next season, with last years starting point guard Bojan Popovic out of Reflex, he should enjoy many chances to prove himself in senior competition, sharing the floor with fellow young teammates Nemanja Aleksandrov and Dragan Labovic.
Serbia and Montenegro; 1987; 6-4; PG; 26.4 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.6 spg
With Mijatovic you have an excellent physical and athletic profile. At 6-4, hes a tall and very quick point guard who shouldnt have troubles in this department at any level of play. But when it comes to his playmaking skills, its another story. Nenad is a scoring type of guard rather than a distributor. Indeed he played shooting guard in many stretches of the game, whenever he shared the court with Milos Teodosic.
His offensive virtues rely on improvements in his shooting ability and especially in his one-on-one game. This allows him to be a nice slashing threat, although where Mijatovic really excels is in transition, being almost unstoppable in this area, as he knows how to effectively finish himself using his quickness and athleticism, and is also capable of passing the ball if necessary.
Going back to his set-offense strengths, his jumper is gaining consistency, which seems logical considering his good mechanics, and he can make it off the dribble. This skill is rather important for him considering his ability to beat his matchup, using his quickness, solid ball-handling skills and good first step, and generating in the process many shooting opportunities in the mid-range area which he can use with a fair chance of success.
If we talk about passing the ball, its using his slashing game where he finds the best options. Otherwise, hes rather a discrete passer. Not a true distributor, neither is he a floor general for his team at the moment, although hes playing more under control than he used to, making better decisions when they come to him.
Defensively, he was perhaps the best point guard of the tournament. His quickness is perfectly translated to his lateral movement, keeping his body really low and close to his matchup, annoying him. Hes a hard defender to beat.
Mijatovic still looks like an intriguing prospect, but needs to start addressing his distributing flaws. However, his skills might look more NBA-friendly than other better playmakers; for example, his teammate Teodosic himself. Milos probably looks like a much better bet for Europe at the moment, but Mijatovic likely features more potential for the American league. Hopefully, hell enjoy an important role next season in Buducnost, now that Koljevic is out of the picture, which will give Mijatovic the chance to learn from experience playing at a high level.
Israel; 1987; 6-2; PG; 35.4 mpg, 11.9 ppg, 5 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.1 spg
Being a left-handed player that shows a special flair and poise evolving on the court, sometimes reminding style-wise a bit of other lefties such as Pepe Sánchez, Yogev Ohayon is an excellent ball distributor, a consummated passer with great court vision and good decision making skills. The kind of player you want running your teams offense. He topped the assist rank in Belgrade.
Perhaps Yogev isnt the quickest or most explosive player seen here, but the decent athleticism he features is maximized with his excellent footwork and ball-handling skills. Hes able to beat his matchup off the dribble and easily reach the proximities of the rim, using direction changes, even reverse movements in traffic, and a low dribble which he always keeps balanced. Once the opposing teams defensive structure is broken, he easily feeds the open man, or delivers a mid-range jumper. Even if this is his specialty, hes not only an off-the-dribble creator, as he can find a good option from the perimeter as well. Hes equally reliable on the break, always looking to secure the two points with simple, but effective passes.
Hes more limited as a scorer. Not enjoying great size, he has trouble finishing near the basket against opposition. Perhaps he lacks a bit of a soft touch to try more elaborate layups. Besides, hes still not reliable shooting off the dribble, increasing his accuracy significantly in static situations. Anyway, his mechanics are pretty nice, even if his release is a bit slow.
On defense, he features rather good lateral mobility, although perhaps he lacks a bit of explosiveness in the first reaction, which makes him suffer at times against the quickest guards.
All in all, hes not the prototypical player that a league like the NBA looks for, as the first cut is usually made based on certain physical and athletic requirements that Yogev may be missing at the moment. For the European competition, he seems to have a bright future, and his talent could carry him even further with the proper work and development.
Russia; 1987; 6-1; PG; 29.3 mpg, 9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 3.9 apg, 2.3 spg
Its pretty obvious that Urazmanov is not the best distributor around. On the contrary, his athleticism is what makes him special among the international playmaking crop. Urazmanov has explosive legs that he translates into very good quickness and an excellent vertical leap. Otherwise, we would be talking about a rather limited player, as his size isnt particularly remarkable.
Featuring nice handles, better with his right, a big chunk of his skills are delivered off the dribble, as its quite difficult to contain him given his quickness. Its in these situations when he feels more comfortable handing out a good pass, or delivering a mid-ranger with some accuracy. Further, from the perimeter, his jumper is still very inconsistent.
On defense, he shouldnt have problems given his athleticism, but he didnt always deliver his best effort in Belgrade, and was eventually beaten by some rivals.
Something you could miss in Arturs game is more leadership on the court, more ability to take his teams offensive game on his shoulders when its needed. Russia was a volatile team at times, and not being able to make the semifinals for a squad as talented as this one cant be considered anything but a failure. In these circumstances, when things got ugly, Urazmanov wasnt able to step up and assume more responsibilities to lead his team back to the games. Although inconsistently, his teammate Korolev was more successful here.
Being 6-1, Artur will clearly need more than athleticism to become a top player at his position.
Zydrunas Kelys, a 6-2 point guard with good wingspan, deserves mention. The first thing that catches your attention in this Lithuanian is his impressive quickness, which was unmatched in this championship. To go along with this intriguing characteristic, he delivers quite a wild style in his game, rarely playing under control. He has nice ball-handling skills, so hes obviously very hard to contain for his defenders. Not featuring remarkable court vision, hes not a bad passer either, being able to dish off the dribble but also aware of his options from the perimeter. However, his poor decision making skills limited his production here. He can also shoot the ball with good range, but hes not consistent at this point.
Despite being several steps behind the best point guards seen in Belgrade, Kelys could make huge strides if his game matures to minimize his flaws. Physically, hes still rather underdeveloped, showing quite a skinny body even for his age. All in all, Kelys is clearly a name to keep under the radar for the moment.