Euroleague Stock Watch Part 1 (Stock Down, Neutral)

Euroleague Stock Watch Part 1 (Stock Down, Neutral)
Dec 21, 2005, 03:44 am
Halfway through the group stage of the Euroleague we take a look at how some of the most talented young prospects in Europe have been faring in this tough and extremely demanding competition so far. Some prospects have received numerous opportunities to prove their worth to their teams, coaches and the omnipresent NBA scouts in attendance at each game, and have stepped up to the plate in a huge way with some magnificent performances. Others have either not received enough opportunities, not taken the ones they’ve been handed or have completely regressed compared with what was expected out of them.

Part of our Euroleague Stock watch starts with the prospects who have seen their stock drop or remain stable in the first seven games of the season so far. Tiago Splitter of Tau Vitoria highlights this bunch, with Uros Tripkovic not very far behind.

For an introduction to the NBA draft prospects participating in this competition, including their strengths, weaknesses and the preseason expectations, please read our comprehensive introduction to the Euroleague.

Stock Down

Tiago Splitter, 7-0, Center, 1985, Tau Vitoria


Luis Fernandez

It’s been a mix of déjà vu and disappointment in Tiago Splitter’s season so far. Déjà vu because, as we cautioned in our Euroleague preview 6 weeks ago, Splitter is back to his limited offensive role and defensive-oriented game. Disappointment, because he hasn’t showed any meaningful improvement in these few months compared to what he had displayed last season. If anything, he’s failing to produce as consistently as he did then, although mainly because of his team’s circumstances.

With Predrag Drobnjak replacing Andrew Betts on Tau’s roster, there’s more competition than ever in a big men rotation that also features Euroleague star Luis Scola and a smart, veteran, skilled and reliable player such as Kornel David. Furthermore, despite the results obtained (Tau is tied for first in Group A at 5-2), the team has struggled to show a good enough face, both in terms of intensity and game style, to the point that coach Pedro Martínez was fired a few weeks ago, being replaced by Velimir Perasovic. This instability obviously isn’t the best environment for a young prospect to get opportunities on the court. However, this shouldn’t be the case with Tiago, whose intensity and defensive level is usually very much appreciated by coaches, with his team really needing it.

Anyway, it’s the offensive side of his game that draws the biggest question marks right now. Back to the European game, Splitter isn’t supposed to take perimeter shots or take his man off the dribble as he did with the Brazilian National Team. In typical fashion, he has perfectly followed the script; not attempting any long-range jumpers and not trying even a single slashing play--which also shows how disciplined he is. So Tiago has basically stuck to his off-the-ball movement near the paint, especially on pick and roll plays, taking advantage of the virtuosity of playmaker Pablo Prigioni who is truly a master in this department.

Beyond that, his low post game doesn’t look improved at all, still needing to work on his footwork and finishing skills. His mid-range hook shots are not effective against tall defenders, because he releases them too low, and he rarely goes for the dunk. He also hasn’t managed to keep up the nice passing game he showed in the last months of the past season. His decision making hasn’t been the best so far either, probably due to some anxiousness and lack of confidence caused by his situation in the team this season, as he has in some games only spent a few minutes on the floor.

All this has certainly damaged his draft stock, virtually erasing any chance of hitting the top spot if the situation continues through the next stage. However, if buyout issues don't hold him back, he should be able to easily get a call in the lottery.

Uros Tripkovic, 6-5, PG/SG, 1986, Partizan Belgrade

Kristian Hohnjec

Tripkovic has easily been the biggest disappointment of the season so far when talking about the Euroleague prospects. Averaging under 5 points per game while playing for the worst team in the Euroleague doesn’t cut it to make it in the first round anymore, but that’s exactly how Tripkovic has been performing so far.

Unlike last season when he was an unknown to most defenders, Tripkovic is now better scouted and more carefully guarded. The fact that he has been shooting under 30% on the season isn’t all about just being ice-cold, it has a lot to do with the fact that he is being forced to take many bad shots. Since Tripkovic isn’t a consistent enough slashing threat at this point, opponents guard him closely and instead of driving to the basket he instead forces up bad shot after bad shot. It remains a mystery why he doesn’t penetrate better when he has good quickness and his ball-handling skills don’t appear to be too bad.

On defense he hasn’t shown any progress from last season, often being beat off the dribble and suffering trying to fight through screens due to his still very thin body.

Prior to a light injury which kept Tripkovic out of the last few games, coach Vujosevic lost his patience with him and finally removed him from the starting five while reducing his playing time significantly. Once he recovers, Tripkovic will need to get his head back in the game and try to bounce back as quickly as he can, as Partizan has virtually no chance of making the next round with a 1-6 record in the competition so far.

Tripkovic certainly has talent and surely still has a bright future ahead of him, but he seems to be losing ground on other European shooting guard talents like Rudy Fernandez and Marco Belinelli. His play this season has hurt his stock to the point that declaring this year might not be a realistic option for him, although he still has enough time to improve his stock if he can bounce back. Six months ago it looked like Tripkovic was a lock for the first round whenever he declared, but now that’s not a sure thing anymore.

Luka Bogdanovic, 6-9, small forward, 1985, Partizan Belgrade

Kristian Hohnjec

Going unmentioned in our preseason Euroleague article, Bogdanovic never had that much draft hype around him, even when he put up a great stat-line in the Nike Hoops summit game a year and a half ago. He doesn’t seem to have an NBA position or NBA type athletic ability, and his performance in the Euroleague so far hasn’t changed much in our eyes.

Bogdanovic has struggled both trying to create his own shot on offense or effectively guard his perimeter opponent on defense. The reason for that is the poor foot-speed he suffers from matching up against quicker players on both ends of the floor. On offense he is a one dimensional shooter who takes more than half of his field goal attempts from behind the arc. Besides his jumpshot, he can score at times by posting up smaller players, but even that is inconsistent. He is at his best in the open floor, where he shows good ball-handling ability and leaping ability.

Speaking of the good sides of his game, he is also a fairly good rebounder thanks to his size and is effective moving off the ball in half-court sets. Luka has a high basketball IQ and will not force any shots. His passing skills are limited due to his inability to play off the dribble, but he does have good court vision from static positions.

Shooting almost 50% from behind the arc in the Adriatic League, Bogdanovic’s main calling as an NBA prospect is his ability to knock down shots as a 6-9 small forward. Unfortunately even that has escaped him at the Euroleague level, going only 5/20 on the year so far.

Stock Neutral

Marko Tomas, 6-8, SG/SF, 1985, Real Madrid


Luis Fernandez

Whenever a youngster leaves a comfortable leading role in a small club to join a European powerhouse and fight for a place in a deep rotation, he risks seeing his game diluted in this new environment and exposed playing at a superior level. At the same time, he enjoys an excellent opportunity to prove himself and showcase his game with much better competition, which also should push him to continue to improve. These are the circumstances that lead us to Croatian swingman Marko Tomas.

It was crystal-clear since it was known that Tomas was joining Real Madrid that he wouldn’t be able to repeat as the league-wide top scorer as he did in the Adriatic League last year. Both the Euroleague and the ACB are a much tougher bite. Nevertheless, he has achieved his main goal in Spain so far: finding a stable position in the team’s rotation. Being a player used to assuming a huge offensive role, he has been able to adapt himself to playing off the ball and becoming a contributor in different facets of the game beyond scoring. Tomas has gained his coach’s confidence with good effort on the court and his well-known offensive skills.

So far in Madrid, Marko has reproduced most of his well known virtues and flaws. For starters, he hasn’t lost any of his shooting touch, netting half of his three-pointers in the Euroleague. He’s taking significantly less off-the-dribble jumpers than he used to, a logic progression in his shot selection now that he shares the court with much more talented teammates than he had in Zagreb. Particularly Louis Bullock and Igor Rakocevic are the guys with the green light from the coach to shoot as much as they want.

Tomas now enjoys less freedom and possessions than last year, but still takes an active part in Real Madrid’s offensive game. Indeed he doesn’t hesitate if he sees a good chance to put in practice his slashing skills. He still has problems beating his matchups off the dribble, needing to improve his ball-handling to gain quickness while dribbling, particularly with his left hand, as his first step isn’t that good. He tends to look for more drawn out movements, creating separation between himself and his defender before attacking him. In these situations he used to shoot over his defender whenever he couldn’t find the way to the basket, but now he usually looks for his teammates. All in all, he’s yet to get consistent scoring production.

On defense he’s showing good effort. He’s managing to stay with his opponents using his lateral quickness, although he sometimes suffers being outmuscled. We could say the same talking about his rebounding, where he displays nice activity using his good vertical leap.

As you can guess, Tomas isn’t amazing or blowing anyone away with his performance level in Real Madrid so far, but he has fit in nicely rather soon, which should be taken into account.

Kosta Perovic, 7-2, Center, 1985, Partizan Belgrade

Kristian Hohnjec

What we’ve learned so far in the Euroleague is that there have hardly been many improvements in Perovic’s game. And when a 20 year old is looking exactly the same way he did a year ago that can’t be a great sign, making you wonder just how much potential he has left.

He looks quite good offensively, showing soft hands and good positioning under the rim. The problem is that a large part of his scoring depends on his partner Dejan Milojevic, one of the best power forwards in Europe who commands a double team on a regular basis. Perovic can hit the mid-range jumper at a solid clip and lately has shown some ability to put the ball on the floor and beat his matchup, but not really that impressively due to his poor foot-speed. In the post he still has same issues as always-- being pushed around and hardly scoring any points he created on his own.

His defense is still below average as he is often either too thin or too slow to keep up with his opponent. His soft attitude and poor athleticism get exposed to the fullest extent on the glass, coming up with just over 3 rebounds a game. He isn’t much of a shotblocker either as his vertical leap is limited. His man to man defense has improved some, but still leaves a lot to be desired.

Once an exciting prospect, Perovic is not really living up to the expectations so far, looking less and less like a legit NBA center everyday. Since he does have more size and offensive skills than your average NBA center he is likely to get drafted somewhere, it just looks like the first round might be out of his reach if he doesn’t dramatically improve in his last few games this season in the Euroleague.

Panagiotis Vasilopoulos, 6-8, SF, 1984, Olympiakos

Dimitris Ritsonis

The talented all-around Greek wing has been exactly what most people expected so far, showing glimpses of his skills, but also the typical instability which was caused partially by his team's continual rotation difficulties, as well as from the minimum experience that he had in a competition level like the Euroleague.

Playing for Olympiakos, a young and newly built team, without many big men in its frontline, Vasilopoulos spends most of his minutes at power forward. This is not an ideal situation in this type of league considering his size, as he’s had to face some of the most talented and experienced opponents to be found. He has indeed been outplayed every time he couldn’t keep them outside of the post. It is clear that this terrific perimeter defender is far from becoming a great inside player, standing barely at 6-8 and with so many small forward skills and finesse that are going completely to waste.

Moreover, Vasilopoulos has been unstable offensively too. Being inexperienced, he leads Olympiakos in turnovers, proving his coach wrong at times for giving him extended playing time. His decision making, which is so obviously superior both in making plays and scoring in the youth competitions, was often poor and questionable, typical of a player his age, even if it is obvious that there are not many players around with Vasilopoulos' mental potential.

However, a nice set of athletic skills, a fine shooting touch, an ability to play as somewhat of a point forward and some moments when he seemed to be Olympiakos' MVP on both sides of the court have also been an important part of the story for Vasilopoulos. Some excellent games over the past two weeks over strong opponents both in the Euroleague and the Greek A1 show that the 21-year Vasilopoulos can very soon overcome any typical rookie challeneges and boost his game from being a role-player to a leader in Olympiakos' attempt to reach the top-16 round.

Renaldas Seibutis, 6-5, shooting guard, 1985, Olympiakos

Dimitris Ritsonis

In his rookie Euroleague season and despite playing for a team with plenty of experienced and skilled guards, Seibutis has been an excellent choice off the bench for Olympiakos, clearly showing that he is one of the most promising guards in Europe.

A fantastic scorer and shooter, Seibutis has all the offensive moves he needs to display for the future. But even today, he is skilled and more than willing at his age to take over a game. Being a fine long-distance shooter, he can also slash aggressively, while his passing skills are not bad at all. He is smart and alert, being a team player that can emerge as the team leader in key moments if the opportunity arises. He was of course a rookie in this first round, but when his coach trusted him he was ready most of the time to get in the game and compete with the best Europe has to offer.

Defensively, he struggles at times. His frame is small, though improved over the past couple of months. His legs are not so quick and he showed in many games that he cannot guard more athletic guards. However, he also shows plenty of smarts, coming up with steals at times and helping the run and gun style that Olympiakos tries to impose.

Overall, he seemed to reach the expectations and is already among the best players of his team. If he manages to play at this level until the end of the season, then he will definitely be starting next year at the shooting guard spot. What does that mean about his NBA potential? It helps because what’s clear is that Seibutis not the type of guard that is blessed with unlimited upside or NBA caliber athleticism, and will therefore have to endear himself as a heavy producer for his team.

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