Yotam Halperin NBA Draft Scouting Report

Yotam Halperin NBA Draft Scouting Report
Apr 15, 2006, 02:49 am
Listed at 6-5 (196 centimeters), Halperin has terrific size for an NBA point guard. He compliments that with a nice frame featuring solid lower body strength, and a good wingspan as well.

Halperin’s biggest strengths revolve around his offensive versatility, intelligence, and the experience he brings to the table. Halperin has the potential to play either backcourt position in the NBA depending on what role his team is looking for from him. He started playing the point guard position at a very young age and has done it fairly extensively at the European level.

Offensively, Halperin is intriguing since he’s the type of player that can score from anywhere on the floor, being both a terrific shooter and slasher as well as possessing a solid mid-range game.

He has terrific form on his jump-shot, getting nice elevation off the floor and releasing the ball quickly with range that extends to the NBA 3-point line. He shot 50% from behind the 3-point line on a sizeable amount of attempts (4 per game) in the Adriatic league. In the Euroleague his percentages dropped a bit to 37.2%, but much of this has to do with the poor way his team was built and the lack of support he got from his teammates on the offensive end. Halperin is equally comfortable shooting in rhythm off the dribble as he is in catch and shoot situations, and has been forced to take a large amount of attempts of these sort this past season.

As a slasher is where Halperin really made a name for himself at the European level, though. He’s first and foremost an outstanding ball-handler, particularly with his crossover, and he has the ability to change speeds quickly and show an extra gear on his 2nd and 3rd step that most would not anticipate. Halperin reads the angles presented to him instantaneously and makes quick decisions with the ball in his hands, changing directions, contorting himself with superb body control, changing hands and finishing beautifully off the glass, often with contact. He gets to the line at a pretty nice rate and converts 90% of his attempts at the Euroleague level.

Halperin is not an explosive athlete by any means, but he does a great job getting by defenders using his head more than he uses his feet. He has an assortment of crossovers, hesitation moves, and head or body fakes he can throw at opponents, being extremely shifty in his movements and constantly keeping his man off balance and on his heels with his herky-jerky style of play. He has a really nice crossover he can go to in particular. He creates his own shot very well at the European level, and is more than capable of going to a pretty polished mid-range game if the lane is not available for him. Halperin likes to stop on a dime and pull-up off the dribble, and shows very nice elevation on his jump-shot when doing so. His release is silky smooth, and his shot falls for him at a very good rate thanks to his excellent touch. In the Adriatic League Halperin shot 58% from inside the arc on a sizeable number of attempts, while at the Euroleague level he shot 52.2%.

As a point guard, Halperin’s ball-handling skills, court vision and basketball instincts all lead to believe that he has what it takes to continue to play the position in the NBA as well. He is a fine passer in both static situations as well as on the move, driving the lane with his head up and picking up plenty of assists on the drive and dish.

On the pick and roll is where Halperin particularly excels, as getting a screen set for him by a teammate is all he usually needs to create offense by getting into the lane and either finishing himself or finding the open man, or pulling up off the dribble for the jump-shot if the passing or slashing angle isn’t there. Halperin is the type of point guard who will regularly create something out of absolutely nothing, threading the needle unexpectedly with a bounce pass from the baseline to a cutting man for a wide-open layup, throwing a sudden lob from the perimeter for an alley-oop, or just finding the open man simply and unselfishly coming off a curl for a jump-shot. His peripheral vision allows him to make difficult passes in all directions, and he shows no hesitation to go and make the play once he starts seeing it develop. His basketball IQ is generally considered terrific and the word “heady” always comes up numerous times when discussing him with scouts and basketball people.

In terms of intangibles, Halperin’s are very strong. Beyond his excellent feel for the game, Halperin has played and performed extremely well at every single level of play Europe has to offer. Starting with the junior categories with the Israeli national team, Halperin was always the top scorer in Europe at every competition he attended, whether with the cadets, the U-18’s, the U-20’s or the U-21’s as recently as last summer in Argentina by scoring 23.5 points a game. Halperin played for four seasons with Maccabi Tel Aviv and won four Israeli championships, four Israeli national cups and most impressively, two Euroleague championships. Halperin only played marginal roles on these teams, but still garnered valuable experience everyday in practice by going up against the likes of Sarunas Jasikevicius, Anthony Parker, Arriel McDonald and others. This year Halperin was arguably the best young player in the first stage of the Euroleague, scoring nearly 14 points a game, with 3.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 36 minutes a game.

On the court, Halperin has a cool and calm demeanor to his game, which can often be taken as apathy or passiveness. He’s highly coachable and an outstanding teammate who first looks to get everyone around him involved in the game, and only then will start to look for his own points. The fact that his extremely well respected coach never takes him out of the game should tell you plenty about how much he is appreciated by him. Off the court, Halperin is considered a pretty impressive kid as well, well-spoken and not known to cause any problems.

Halperin doesn’t have nearly as many weaknesses as he does strengths, but the ones he does posses have proven to be fatal in the past for similar players to him.

The first thing you notice is that Halperin is not as athletic as your average NBA guard, being highly fluid and coordinated, but not all that explosive. His first step in particular is not all that impressive, often needing a screen, some nifty ball-handling skills or other crafty tricks to be able to get by his man already at the European level. Not being the most explosive player getting off the floor to finish at the rim, Halperin will have to add some upper body strength to continue to get his shot off effectively in the paint once he does get in the lane. Much of his game revolves around his ability to slash to the hoop, so if this is taken away, will he become a one dimensional player like what seems to have happened with Beno Udrih?

While he has plenty of experience running the point, he does not always play the position full-time, and therefore will sometimes get fazed by intense pressure defense and have to pick up his dribble since he doesn’t quite have the explosiveness to get by his man. He’s not your prototype pure playmaker who controls tempo of the game and shows great leadership skills out on the floor, but with the skills he does posses he is more than adept at playing the position in a backup role at the NBA level.

Halperin’s biggest concern as far as the NBA goes will probably be considered his defense. While he is a heady defender who anticipates well, has solid fundamentals and knows how to get in the passing lanes, there are concerns regarding whether his lateral quickness is good enough to help him stay in front of the much more explosive NBA guards.

At times Halperin can be unselfish to a fault, even when his team needs him to step up to the plate and take over a game. This was much more of a problem playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv than it was with Olimpija Ljubljana, but we still saw signs of that come out this year. He’ll get quiet for long periods and not really look to make his impact felt on the game, being a bit passive and not really the leader by example you would expect from a player who is easily the best and most talented on his team.

His team actually had a very poor year by their standards, narrowly missing out on advancing to the Euroleague top 16, and only finishing a very disappointing 10th in the Adriatic league with a 10-16 record, failing to advance to the playoffs for the first time in quite a while. There is even some concern in Ljubljana that their perennial Slovenian powerhouse might do the unexpected and lose out on the championship in the domestic league, which they traditionally own. Much of this has to do with how poorly his team was built (it was largely assembled by an agent as a means to get his younger clients Euroleague experience), but part of the blame has to fall on the shoulders of their best player as well.

Halperin joined Maccabi Tel Aviv’s youth system when he was just 8 years old. He was considered a star in the making very early on in his career and was groomed as Israel’s first ever NBA player from a very young age. 7 years ago, at age 15 he received his first opportunity to play for the Israeli National Team, at the Cadet (U-16) level, and did not disappoint averaging nearly 16 points a game in the Challenge Round. One year later at age 16 he began playing at the Junior (U-18 level), against players much more physically mature than him. He averaged 7.6 points per game in under 19 minutes here. 2 years later, still at the Junior level because of his age, he led all players at the European Championships in Germany in 2002 by averaging 23.4 points per game, along with 3.2 assists and 2.6 steals. Halperin was on his way to being named MVP of the U-18 European Championship for Juniors until he injured his ankle in group play. He continued to play in extreme pain and scored 18 points in 26 minutes as Israel lost to Lithuania in the quarterfinals. Halperin also participated in the qualifiers for the U-20 European Championships that summer despite again being two years younger than almost all the players there, averaging 12 points and 2.3 assists in 27 minutes per game on 68% shooting from the field.

In 2003 at age 19 Halperin was invited for the first time to play for the Israeli senior national team in the Eurobasket championships in Sweden. He came off the bench to average 5 points in 12 minutes per game, helping Israel finish a surprising 7th in the competition. He went back to the U-20’s in 2004 for his swan song with that team, averaging 25.3 points and 4.3 assists in the qualifiers for the European Championships on 62% shooting from the field and 53.3% from behind the arc. After helping them make the actual European Championships, he took his team to the Finals while averaging 20.3 points per game (good for 2nd in the tournament) before losing and finishing with the Silver medal, a huge accomplishment for tiny Israel. He capped off a marvelous career with the Israeli junior teams at the U-21 World Championships in Argentina in 2005, again leading the tournament in scoring with 23.5 points per game. Later that summer he again played with the senior national team in the men’s European Championships, averaging just under 5 points in 8 minutes per game.

As mentioned already, Halperin moved to Olimpija Ljubljana over the summer of 2005 and was arguably the best young player in the first stage of the Euroleague, scoring nearly 14 points a game, with 3.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 36 minutes a game on excellent shooting percentages.

Halperin is planning on coming to the States in mid-May to train and prepare for private workouts with NBA teams. He is considered a very strong 2nd round prospect with a chance of moving into the late 1st round with good workouts. He has stated on numerous occasions that he is very much intent on making a team this summer and becoming the first Israeli player to play in the NBA.

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