|Team: Thunder College Team: Hawks|
H: 6' 7"|
W: 205 lbs
(31 Years Old)
|Agent: Guy Zucker |
Hometown: Biel, Switzerland
Drafted: Pick 13 in 2006 by 76ers
Best Case: Josh Howard
Worst Case: Trenton Hassell
Overview:Swiss wing with excellent versatility and a very smooth game. Has nice size for a wing and a long frame. Not powerfully built, but proves to be a very fluid player with solid overall athleticism. Does a lot of things well, but isn’t a standout in any one area. A nice complementary player who can fill a number of roles. Supplements his all around offensive skills with excellent defensive ability. Emerged as a prospect while playing in France for Chalon before making the jump to Serie A where he was one of Biella’s top players. Stood out overseas due to his versatility and athleticism and landed in the lottery. Came over to the NBA immediately and saw considerable playing time. Played well as a rookie with the Bulls, but is still working to improve his offensive efficiency. Traded to Oklahoma City, where his lack of ideal scoring ability isn’t as problematic. A smart player with a good work ethic who is an improved jump shot away from been an excellent puzzle piece. Won’t ever be a star, but is a solid roleplayer who could become even better. Well respected for the things he brings to the table, one of the few players in his draft class to receive an extension.
Offense: A versatile offensive player who lacks the jump shot to be ideally efficient. Very savvy player who gets more than a third of his touches in spot up situations, while using his athleticism in transition and his high basketball IQ to get open off of screens or cuts, scenarios that account for another third of his total touches. Able to score in a variety of situations, even getting touches in the post and running the pick and roll on occasion. Capable ball handler with nice quickness. Not flashy, but dribbles with a purpose and won’t force the issue. Smart passer who displays good vision and decision-making. Does a good job running the floor in transition, and shows a good understanding of spacing. Capable of doing a lot of good things offensively, but isn’t always aggressive enough to take advantage of that. Doesn’t have much success shooting the ball in catch and shoot situations or off the dribble. Has some issues with the rhythm on his shot, will fadeaway from time to time, and doesn’t always fully extend his follow through. Displays a quick release and uses his speed and a crafty spin move to create space for his shot in the midrange. Not a major threat from beyond the arc, struggling notably with a hand in his face when taking set shots. Proves extremely capable around the basket, primarily because he picks and chooses his spots extremely well when attacking the rim. Does the little things to make himself more productive, crashing the offensive glass well for a small forward, cutting backdoor, and giving his teammates an outlet when the dribble into traffic. Could be an outstanding offensive roleplayer if he improved his consistency from beyond the arc or became a bigger threat from the midrange.
Defense: A sound defender with excellent tools. Long arms, quick feet, and good discipline make him adept at getting in the passing lanes. Doesn’t take too many risks, but still forces quite a few turnovers. Displays good awareness when defending off the ball. Shows good recovery speed and the ability to contest shots with his wingspan. Good option in one-on-one situations though more powerful players can cause problems for him. Rebounds the ball extremely well on the defensive end. Very smart defender who knows when to give space and when to take it away. Plays with intensity and fits the perimeter stopper role that every team likes to have.
Thabo Sefolosha is a player who was considered quite an obscure prospect when he first started appearing in our weekly European roundups and 2006 mock draft well over a year ago. Many NBA scouts we spoke to in April at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament did not even know who he was when we asked about him back then. Now, after finally being able to show himself in private workouts, Sefolosha’s buzz is right around where it should be, with there even being some talk of him crashing the lottery on draft night.
He’s a unique prospect in this draft, combining your typical European fundamentals and outstanding feel for the game with the type of explosiveness that you’ll usually only find in American prospects. He is a very smooth athlete, capable of getting by his man with a nice 1st step, being highly fluid and coordinated and able to get off the ground with a solid vertical leap to finish plays around the hoop or block shots. His frame looks decent even though he might be lacking a bit of strength at the moment, particularly in the lower body where he could stand to add some more bulk.
His best attribute and what has gotten him noticed and on the floor for the past 4 years is his defensive ability, showing excellent aggressiveness and toughness, super long arms, great understanding of how to defend spaces, and the footwork, timing and hands to place himself in the right spot at the right time. He excels both in man to man and team defense, showing very good awareness and being quick to rotate and cover for his teammates. He’s an active player who plays with purpose and will come up with plenty of steals and even your occasional blocked shot. Rebounding is another big strength of his thanks to all the characteristics outlined above, even pulling down am impressive 15 boards just this past week in the Italian league.
Offensively, he is mostly a slasher, capable of using his excellent ball-handling skills, footwork and high basketball IQ to create shots for himself and his teammates. He takes the ball strong to the hoop and uses the angles presented to him well to finish or get to the line. Sefolosha was a point guard early in his career, and indeed played a bit of a point-forward role for Biella at times, bringing the ball up the floor and showing excellent court vision and passing ability finding the open man off the dribble. He likes to crash the glass and start the fast break on his own, picking his spots very well on the floor, being highly unselfish—almost to a fault at times, but usually making the right decision.
Being a player who could get to the hoop almost whenever he pleased early in his career thanks to his ball-handling skills and athletic ability, Sefolosha’s perimeter shooting is not as advanced as the rest of his game. His shot mechanics need work as his release is a bit on the slow side and he lacks range and consistency on his jump shot. His effectiveness drops off considerably when he’s asked to shoot the ball off the dribble, even from mid-range. He’s getting better in this area all the time, improving his percentages from 32% from 3-point range last year on a little over two attempts per game to a more respectable 41% this year on 2.6 attempts per game. He’s become a lot more confident in his outside shot and his offense in general this year, but still, it will take time for him to expand his range to the NBA 3-point line as well as become more than just a catch and shoot threat with his feet set.
The worst thing you could say about Sefolosha is that he is more of a role-player than he is a potential star. Teams looking to swing for the fences and find the next coming will probably want to look elsewhere. Being automatically eligible as a 1984 prospect, he won’t be projected to have the same upside that some of the underclassmen in this draft do. He has been noticeably improving in almost every facet from year to year, though, so it might be too early to say that his development process is done. Even if NBA teams aren’t sold on him being ready to play in the NBA, he is pretty versatile in the fact that a team that is short on roster spots could decide to draft him and keep him in Europe for another season—and if they do want to bring him over, he has a clear buyout clause in his contract for only $385,000, well under what NBA teams are allowed to pay. A playoff team that is looking for an extremely solid and mature all-around player to step in and do the little things for them is the type of situation where he could really thrive—Chicago for example.
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Sefolosha arrived in the United States just a few days ago, but has been impressing everyone that has been out to see him so far. From the start of the workout, he showed off his mid-range shooting, where he elevates very nicely off the ground, and with consistent shooting mechanics throughout.
Compared with all the other players we’ve seen over the past few weeks, it was immediately evident that we are for the first time dealing with a professional player who approaches the game from a different perspective than most college players do. His new trainer Joe Abunassar explained to us just how impressed he was with the way Sefolosha has been “mentally locked in” since he arrived here, taking every drill and workout thrown at him with the professionalism you’d expect from a player who has been practicing twice a day and playing for a salary for the past 5 years.
In the mid-range shooting drills, Thabo’s footwork was very polished, and his release was nice and high. From the baseline, he was able to knock down all nine of his shots without missing once. Overall, Thabo shot 61% total in all of the shooting drills. It was a different story from the NBA 3-point line, however, where he’s only been shooting from for a few days now. Sefolosha’s release point changed a bit on his three point shot, and he struggled to get his body around square off of cuts, which lead to a lot of misses on the left side of the rim. Though his release point was different, Thabo’s form was still the same every time, and his elevation was more than acceptable. With his consistent form, it is easy to pinpoint the problem with his shot, which should make it a lot easy to fix. Thabo ended up making 50% of his shots from the NBA 3 point line, which is not terrible by any stretch for a player who is considered excellent in almost every facet of the game except for his perimeter shooting.
Sefolosha has more than enough athleticism to play at the NBA level. During the pick and roll drills and the cuts he made to the hoop, Thabo displayed his explosive ability to rise above the rim and throw the ball down with authority, not only quickly, but also from nice distances away from the hoop. His high level of athleticism and superb length will likely allow him to translate his already terrific defense from the European level to the NBA. He also looked very agile in making cuts to the hoop, and made quick movements with and without the ball. In terms of ball-handling, Thabo blew everybody in the gym away with his control over the ball. In one particular drill, the players were asked to dribble the ball like they were being pressured up the court. Here, Thabo used his superb length and feel to cross the ball over swiftly from side to side with one hand from just a few inches off the ground, often tapping it twice quickly in the same spot for good measure to further confuse his imaginary defender. Not only was it fancy dribbling, this is the type of useful move that will be very hard for defenders to stop, since it’s just not something you are used to seeing a 6-7 player execute, especially when talking about a player with his quickness and footwork. He dropped some glimpses of his passing skills as well in simple drills where he was asked to whip a 15 foot bounce pass to the left side of the low post while drifting right from behind the 3-point line, doing so crisply and accurately with the greatest of ease.
Overall, it was a very impressive workout for Thabo Sefolosha. Some of the other players in the workout seemed to be going through the motions at times, but Thabo was intense and consistent throughout. He looks a legitimate 6’7”, and has a monster wingspan along with a frame that should be able to carry enough weight. Watching him on tape is impressive enough from what you might have read on DraftExpress over the past two years, but he’s even more unique to see in person when you look at the unique way in which he approaches and plays the game. If he can improve his 3-point shooting, Sefolosha will be a very complete player in the NBA. He already has a number of workouts scheduled, with teams like Phoenix, Chicago, Cleveland, and Utah, amongst others. The only question for him will be how closely have GMs and Coaches been following the tremendous progress he’s made over the past few years, and whether they’ll be able to sneak a peak at him in the next few weeks.
Sefolosha has good size for an NBA shooting guard at 6-7 (200 centimeters) with a very nice wingspan. He’s a smooth athlete, not incredibly explosive, but clearly possessing necessary NBA physical attributes, similar to Brandon Roy in this area. He’s a fluid player, highly coordinated, fundamentally sound, with nice quickness, a good first step and excellent leaping ability.
Sefolosha is a physical player who likes to mix it up and get dirty, not being soft in the least bit like your stereotypical European draft prospect is perceived to be. At Biella he will often have to switch out and guard big men in the post at times on rotations and will absolutely refuse to let anyone back him down.
Playing in the very strong Italian first division, Sefolosha is always asked to defend the opposing team’s best player. He has shown throughout the season that he can face-guard players from positions 1-3 without any problems at all. He is extremely intense on this end of the floor, being very pesky and getting right up in his man’s face on the perimeter. On team defense he is just as good, having the athleticism and feel for the game to know how to guard space and get the job done on rotations and pick and rolls. Defensively he is aided greatly by his terrific footwork, but also by his quickness, wingspan and intelligent style of play. Sefolosha is a true stat-stuffer, blocking shots, getting in the passing lanes, and enjoying doing all the little things for his team.
His best attribute surprisingly enough might be his rebounding ability. Sefolosha has phenomenal hands and timing, so his aggressive demeanor, activity level and wingspan help him out greatly in this area. He’s got a great nose for the ball and takes plenty of pride in this area as he’s more of a small forward at the European level anyway. Often times he’ll crash the glass and ignite the fast break on his own.
Offensively, he is mostly a slasher at this point. He is a good ball-handler with either hand with experience as a point guard at the junior levels, with the understanding for breaking defenses down off the dribble that comes along with that. He already brings the ball up the floor for his team at times, and being a pretty mistake free player, does a good job at minimizing turnovers. He has a nice first step and the footwork to create his own shot or for others, being highly creative once he gets in the lane finishing or finding the open man on the drive and dish.
Also related to his experience at the point are his playmaking skills. Sefolosha is a creative passer who is highly unselfish (to a fault at times) with the ball in his hands, looking smooth and effortless moving the ball around the floor.
Sefolosha generally has an outstanding feel for the game. He is very intelligent moving off the ball, extremely poised for a player his age competing at such a high level of competition, and doesn’t rush or force anything out on the floor. He’s your consummate role player, not having a problem being just another cog in his team’s ball-movement. He is clearly the most talented player on his team, but because of his youth and the fact that the three Americans that start around him are shoot first one-on-one type players, he’s only the 4th or 5th option offensively. He’s a willing role player, and is happy to do everything for his team on the court.
In terms of shooting, Sefolosha has European 3-point range, but mostly with his feet set. This year he’s started to show more in terms of shooting off the dribble, but he’s still not consistent enough in this area. This is the part of the game that has shown the most improvement over the last year or two, going from a player with no range whatsoever to a 43.3% shooter (at the time of this report in mid-April) in the Italian league, albeit on only 2.6 attempts per game.
The first thing most people mention about Sefolosha is the type of person he is off the court. Coming from a unique background of musician/artist parents, he gets nothing but praise from everyone who’s been around him for his personality and attitude. His work ethic is excellent, and on the court he has a very calm and poised demeanor despite his energetic style of play. His coach appears to have full confidence in his abilities as a player and lately plays him more than any of his much more expensive and experienced Americans, which is very rare for a player his age at this level. Although he is in his last year of draft eligibility as a 1984 born international player, Sefolosha appears to be far from reaching his full potential as a player as he has been constantly improving for the past few years and even noticeably from week to week this season in the Italian league.
There are many things you can say about Sefolosha, but one thing he isn’t is a star. Everything about his game tells you he’s a role player, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but there will likely be players with more star potential on the board when teams start considering drafting him.
Most of that starts with his offense, which has always been considerably behind his defense and is only recently beginning to catch up. His 3-point shot is his biggest weakness at the moment, mainly due to his poor mechanics; particularly his slow release and the lack of lift he gets on his jumper. His range could also stand to improve. He is a decent shooter with his feet set, but loses accuracy when shooting off the dribble, which is an important skill for an NBA shooting guard to have. His in-between game in general needs a lot of polish to become NBA caliber.
Very much related to this is the fact that while he is a good slasher at the European level, his ball-handling will have to improve a bit to maintain this in the NBA, as his first step is not quite as explosive as most NBA shooting guards. He’s a fine all-around athlete, but is nowhere near the caliber of most elite NBA SG’s, being more similar to a Rip Hamilton or Brandon Roy in this area. He looks a bit out of control at times driving to the basket in traffic, and could clearly stand to add a consistent pull-up jumper to help him avoid these types of situations.
Sometimes you get the feeling with Sefolosha that he’s being too unselfish at times, being too quiet for long stretches, deferring too much to teammates and not showing quite everything he has on the offensive end.
Sefolosha has a nice frame at 205 pounds (93 kilos), but could still stand to add some weight, particularly in his upper body. He has very solid lower body strength, but the lack of mass in his chest and arms makes it difficult at times for him to fight through screens or finish strong at the rim after contact.
Something that he can do nothing about, but could still affect his draft stock, is the fact that his name just hasn’t been on the radar for all that long. Most European players are followed for years and years starting at the Under-16 Cadet category, leading through the U-18 and U-20 categories and then into when they become men playing in their domestic leagues. Being from Switzerland, Sefolosha never got that type of hype early on in his career as he just did not compete at these events. Not all NBA teams appear to have a great handle on him since he’s a late bloomer who wasn’t considered much of a draft prospect until last season, so there are questions about whether he came into his own a little bit too late and whether teams had enough time to properly scout him. With the recent backlash we’ve seen against European players, this is something that could affect his stock, although it clearly shouldn’t. If his team makes the playoffs, which is a distinct possibility at the time of this report, it could take him a while to get over to the States for training and private workouts, something that could be very important for him.
Sefolosha grew up with Vevey Riviera Basket in Switzerland. In 2002, at age 17, he quietly began to put up fine numbers in this fairly anonymous league as the starting point guard, leading the league in steals that year. From there he moved to French team Chalon at age 18, only playing in 4 games in his rookie year in France, spending more time with the Espoirs (junior) team than the seniors but still seeing spot minutes with the senior team as well in both the ULEB Cup and Pro A France. He also received his first call to the Swiss senior national team this year. At age 19 he cracked Chalon’s rotation in his 2nd year in France, playing in 30 games and averaging 4 points, 3.5 rebounds and one assist per game.
The 2004-2005 season was when we really started to take notice of him as you can see in the links section of his profile by the amount of mentions he got in our weekly European roundups, especially early on in the season. The 20 year old Sefolosha became a full-time starter in both Pro A and the ULEB Cup, helping his team to a 3rd place finish in the French league and a trip to the semi-finals of the playoffs. He was invited to the French Allstar game (which this scout attended, along with the practices) and had a terrific performance there scoring 17 points on perfect shooting helping the foreign team beat the local French players. Sefolosha put his name on the early-entry list of the draft last year, mostly for recognition purposes, and wisely pulled out at the deadline in June.
A long and odd dispute with his team Chalon, eventually settled in court, saw him land in Italy for the 2005-2006 season with a mid-sized team from just outside of Milan in Angelico Biella. After missing the first four games of the season because of the dispute with his team, and then coming off the bench mostly in the beginning of the year, the now 21 year old has since become a full-time starter and extremely important cog in Biella’s system. His team is now 16-11 on the year, their best start in team history, and on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time ever.
On the season, Sefolosha averaged 12 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 2.4 assists and 0.6 blocks in 29.5 minutes per game. He shot 51.7% from the field and 43.3% from behind the arc.
As a 1984-born International prospect, Sefolosha is automatically eligible for this year’s draft. He has a multiyear contract with Biella, but has a clear NBA buyout set at the end of each year for less than the maximum amount ($500,000) NBA teams can pay.
Sefolosha has a very good chance to land somewhere in the bottom half of the 1st round, particularly if he can make it over to the States and have some strong workouts or maybe even play in the Orlando pre-draft camp. Anywhere in the 2nd round he would be a steal. NBA teams have the unique option of keeping him overseas for another season to let him continue to develop against strong competition with heavy playing time, or bring him over immediately.
Thabo is the son of a South African musician, Patrick--part of a band called the Malpoets--and a French painter, Christine, whose watercolors are collected in various places around the world, including New York. His brother, Kgomotso, who is a year older, played junior college basketball in the States and now in the 2nd divison of France (ProB).
Thabo Sefolosha is a player who was considered quite an obscure prospect when he first started appearing in our weekly European roundups and 2006 mock draft well over a year ago. These days Sefolosha is flying under the radar no longer after having established himself as one of the most unique players for NBA scouts to watch outside of the NCAA. But the question remains, where in the world did Sefolosha come from? And how did he surpass so many European prospects who have been hyped through FIBA tournaments for years? We had a chance to ask Sefolosha (who speaks fluent English) some of these questions ourselves, as well as give you a detailed scouting report on where he stands as a player at the moment.