Rafael Hettsheimeir is a Brazilian big born in 1986 who has been on the scouting radar for several years now. Actually, he took part in the 2006 Nike Hoop Summit and made his debut on the senior National team very early in his career. However, he has always been the typical guy who misses a little something to become an intriguing prospect (this time, skill repertoire) but who you always keep an eye on just in case he blossoms and becomes a legit NBA prospect.
Playing this season in the competitive LEB league (Spanish second division) with a strong team such as Plus Pujol Lleida, Rafael is becoming an increasingly useful player in Europe. This weekend, he had 21 points and 6 rebounds in barely 26 minutes coming off the bench, to help his team clinch a valuable road victory over Fundacio BasquetInca.com. Hes averaging 10.8 points and 5.2 rebounds in less than 23 minutes per game so far in this campaign.
However, as he becomes more productive at this level, his ceiling as a player seems to be growing thicker, and not precisely at a very high point. Standing 6-9, looking really strong, Rafael has evolved into a very inside-oriented player, virtually a center in a power-forwards body. He has gained a lot of weight lately, which is hurting his quickness, leaping ability and explosiveness. While he used to be considered a good athlete, he falls into the category of just decent at this moment.
This physical evolution is driving Rafael even closer to the basket, making him a pure center. His first offensive option is usually the low post. He uses his big body pretty well, and his first objective is usually to bang with his match-up without the ball, pushing him as close as possible to the hoop, so he can receive and just turn around to leave the ball on the glass. If hes not close enough to the basket by the time he gets the ball, hes not nearly as effective, usually opting for turnaround jumpers or just to pass the ball, which he does nicely. Rafael doesnt enjoy great footwork, just some basic stuff, and neither is he skilled releasing jump-hooks.
Rafael is basically an off-the-ball player. You wont see him putting the ball on the floor to attack his opponent. Instead, he looks for open shots near the basket, often finding space from the baseline when a teammate slashes, while being able to finish with powerful dunks whenever he receives under the rim. Hes actually quite aggressive attacking the rim, and he wont hesitate to try a dunk, even against opposition if he thinks its reasonably possible. Hes also pretty active in pick-and-roll plays as the screener, although hes not the most effective guy in these situations. Being an inconsistent spot-up shooter, he enjoys range out to the three-point line, but so far has failed to turn his stroke into any serious scoring weapon.
An OK defender, you wont see Rafael being outmuscled around the basket. However, he can eventually get beat by skilled post players who go strong inside and execute moves that Rafael, focused on not being banged, doesnt expect, and doesnt contest. Hes a solid defender on pick and rolls, nicely flashing out to stop the dribbler, but hes not always equally effective on defensive rotations, sometimes a bit shy when it comes to stepping into the way of an opposing slasher. Besides, hes not particularly intimidating, given his limited size and leaping ability. A decent rebounder, he takes advantage of his body to gain position, although he sometimes doesnt properly box-out.
Being automatically eligible this season, there isnt really much justification to rationalize spending a draft pick on Hettsheimeir. Unless he can make an impression in the NBA pre-draft camp or the EuroCamp in Treviso (showing up in better shape would help), his options are close to none.