European Roundup: Breakout Bogdanovic|
November 17, 2010
One of the most pleasant surprises early on amongst NBA prospects in the EuroLeague has been Rafa Freire of Unicaja Malaga. After playing sparingly for Unicaja's senior team last season, the Brazil-native has earned a much more prominent role in Head Coach Aito Garcia Reneses's offense. Coming from a family of basketball players, Freire has made a successful transition from the LEB to the Euroleague in a very short period of time after settling a controversial citizenship dispute that held him in the EBA for some time.
Now seeing consistent minutes in the absence of the injured guard Terrell McIntyre, Freire has functioned as Unicaja's backup point guard, logging virtually all of is minutes as a primary ball-handler. Despite being more comfortable at the shooting guard spot in junior play and playing that position during much of his stint with the senior team last season, Freire has handled his duties as a floor general admirably. Though he still makes some mental mistakes, as any 18-year old playing in the top division in Europe would, he shows some very promising attributes that could earn him quite a bit of attention down the road.
Freire is, in a word, aggressive. Constantly pushing the tempo with his dribble, the young guard has excellent athleticism, a strong frame, and nice footspeed for the European game, and seems to be learning how to play at different speeds –a major development for a player who has an extra gear compared to most of the guards he matches up with. Able to distort defenses with his quick first step, showing a knack for driving in either direction, and exploiting the space Reneses's offense creates for him to get into the lane; Freire clearly has accepted his role as a facilitator. He doesn't force many jump shots, focusing his attention on setting up his teammates first, getting to the rim to create his own offense when possible, and playing exceptionally pesky defense.
Considering that Freire is just 18 years old until February of next year, it is hard not to be impressed with the progress he's made over the past year and a half. He certainly will need to cut down on his mistakes and become a more reliable perimeter shooter and all-around scorer against high level defenders to reach his potential, but he has plenty of time to work on his game. It will be interesting to see how Freire fits into Unicaja's rotation when all of their players are healthy, as his ability to change the pace of the game could factor heavily into his minutes later on this season.
Recently, Freire has refused to report to the Brazilian National Team despite his family's history with the national selection. How Freire spends his summers will play a key role in his ability to solidify his draft stock, as we've seen numerous players use the World Championships and Olympics as a springboard into the NBA draft. Freire openly states that he believes his style is better suited to the European game, but if he continues to improve at the same rate, he will receive his fair share of NBA attention as he gets closer to becoming automatically eligible for the draft.
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Nike International Junior Tournament in Paris: Top Prospects
May 17, 2010
Clearly the most experienced player at this tournament, having already spent a significant amount of time playing at the senior level with Spanish powerhouse Unicaja Malaga in both the Euroleague and ACB, expectations were fairly high for Brazilian guard Rafa Freire going into the NIJT.
From a physical standpoint, Freire was the most impressive guard seen in Paris. Standing around 6-2, with an excellent body and terrific athleticism, Freire passes the look test and then some. He's quick in the open floor, has outstanding lateral quickness and is exceptionally explosive around the basket, already having made a name for himself with some of the dunks he's thrown down in Spain.
Offensively, Freire is not a prolific scorer, even at this level. He's somewhat mechanical and doesn't show the best feel for the game. His ball-handling skills are improvable and, while he's capable of making shots with his feet set, he is not a great off-the-dribble shooter. There's no reason to believe he can't improve this part of his game, though, as his mechanics appear to be sound. He's very good in transition and is a capable finisher around the basket. He's aggressive when attacking the open floor and has all the physical tools needed to develop into a prolific slasher.
As a playmaker, Freire is somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand, he's a fairly unselfish player who can find the open man off pick-and-rolls or in drive-and-dish situations. On the other hand, he lacks natural point guard instincts in terms of his court vision and ability to improvise on the fly. He was extremely turnover prone here in Paris, forcing the issue at times with his penetration and making quite a few unforced errors.
Defensively, Freire has all the tools necessary to develop into a real stopper on the perimeter. He has an excellent frame, an aggressive mentality and strong lateral quickness. He can get into passing lanes and come up with some truly impressive defensive possessions, putting intense pressure on the ball and absolutely smothering his opponent on the perimeter. He is also an outstanding rebounder.
Watching Synergy footage of defensively at the senior level, he appears to lack experience and doesn't have great awareness at this stage. He gets taken advantage of off screens and loses his focus from time to time. Considering his age, he has plenty of time to develop this part of his game though.
Freire is clearly a prospect to watch over the next few years. He has the physical tools necessary to develop into an excellent player, and he is already far ahead of most players his age in terms of the amount of experience he has under his belt. He looks a bit similar to Goran Dragic, but he is already well ahead of where the Slovenian combo guard was at the same age.
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L'Hospitalet 2009: Mirotic Makes History
January 8, 2009
An explosive point guard, Freire is often a spectacular player and loves to provide highlights to the audience. Gifted with excellent athleticism and a very solid physical profile, he surprises with his exuberance considering his youth. He enjoys remarkable explosiveness and a very well built body.
In the skill department, he's pretty talented too. Perhaps not the most finesse player around, he's still a nice ball-handler who can attack his opponent going both ways and shows nice ability releasing his shot off the dribble with very solid range and excellent elevation. And even if he looked pretty inconsistent in L'Hospitalet, his mechanics are pretty fluid. He didn't impress with his passing game, but seems to have solid court vision to work with, while more experience will help him to improve his still questionable decision making.
Actually, Freire's own love for highlight reel plays sometimes betrayed him. For example, he went scoreless in the opener while missing two dunk attempts that he could have easily scored with layups. Also, with the game on the line during the final –that ultimately his team lost- he couldn't contain himself and threw an alley-oop pass off the glass in Jason Kidd-esque fashion that his teammate Lima couldn't grab.
On defense, he can be really effective when he puts the effort in, taking advantage of his legs and his strength.
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