The Adriatic League's Final Eight

The Adriatic League's Final Eight
May 03, 2005, 03:29 pm
This weekend the Final 8 round of the Adriatic league took place in Belgrade, where the experienced, but draft prospect-less team Hemofarm won its first trophy in their history. They beat Partizan in their own hall in front of many NBA scouts.


This was probably the most interesting tournament outside the U.S. this year in terms of NBA prospects, and it would be very surprising if every NBA team wasn't represented in one way or another. All the NBA prospects in attendance got at least some playing time, and DraftExpress is here to tell you how they looked. One of the top European prospects, Nemanja Aleksandrov from Reflex, didn't participate as he is still sidelined because of an injury.

MARKO BANIC, 6-9 PF, Zadar (Croatia), 1984
(1 game, 36 minutes, 14 pts, 6 rebs, 6/9 FG)


He is not really an NBA prospect at this point, but this guy deserves some mention. He is undersized and is a below average athlete overall, but he has many of the skills that some more talented big men like Perovic and Samardziski are lacking. His team suffered a heavy loss, but Banic managed to put on a nice performance in the first half when his team had the lead. He was great down low, finishing with great touch around basket and grabbing some rebounds on both sides of the floor, thanks to his good anticipation skills. Just like in their previous meeting, he out-rebounded Partizan`s Kosta Perovic. Banic showed nice footwork in the post and played very solid defense. He is a great guy to run the pick & roll with and his positioning and ability to finish around the basket is remarkable. It seems like he is not thinking about the NBA at all since his chances are slim due to his physical attributes. Maybe he can get a look in the 2nd round if he develops a better jumper and adds some strength, but his potential really seems limited. Banic will surely do a lot of great things in Europe, but the NBA is really a long shot.

LUKA BOGDANOVIC, 6-9 SF, Partizan (Serbia & Montenegro), 1984
(3games, 22 mpg, 11.7 ppg, 0.6rpg, 1.3apg, 60% FG 4/9 3FG)


Bogdanovic seems more comfortable playing at the SF position than at the start of the season, but he has still way to go to be considered a potential SF for the NBA level. Offensively, he has become strictly a spot up shooter. And while he does this very well, he should add some versatility to his game offensively. He is not comfortable driving to the basket, mostly because his handles are not good enough and his first step is also not off the charts. He showed good passing skills on occasions, but his perimeter shooting is how he did most of his damage. He has great elevation on his jumper and was accurate from downtown. Luka was exposed on defense and suffered against the perimeter players he went up against. There is some doubt whether he will ever be able to defend his position and guard perimeter players in the NBA, which limits his NBA potential. His defensive movement and footwork are just average for a player of his size. He did not show any interest in rebounding at all, as his one rebound in 66 minutes would indicate. Bogdanovic really lacks upper body strength at the moment, while his lower body looks strong enough. In my opinion he is a 2nd round prospect and could have a future in the NBA as one-dimensional player off the bench.

ZORAN ERCEG, 6-10 PF, Reflex (Serbia & Montenegro), 1985
(2 games, 15 min, 5 pts, 3 rebs, 1 ast total)


Erceg surprisingly got some action, after in the regular season he only played in garbage time. He looked like a decent athlete in the minutes he received, very mobile and quite fast. He was able to take his man off the dribble and made it clear that he is a perimeter oriented PF. He was taking shots close to the 3 point line, so obviously he has some range on his jumper. He looked very confident when stepping out on to the floor and was not afraid of taking responsibility. As expected he is very skinny and is not a force inside the paint at all at this point. Erceg has plenty of time to develop his game and be ready to contribute first at this level, so talking about his NBA future right now is definitely premature.

MILE ILIC, 7-1 C, Reflex (Serbia & Montenegro), 1984
(2 games, 26 mpg, 13 ppg, 7 rpg, 1 apg, 65% FG)


Ilic has been playing really well in the second part of the season and the Final 8 was no exception. Ilic knows how to use his size and long arms to grab rebounds, showing good positioning around the basket as well. He is a good finisher around the hoop and showed good range on his jumper while taking and hitting some shots close to the 3 point line. His man-to-man defense needs work still since he isn't quite there physically at this point and opponents definitely take advantage of that. Ilic can't get off the floor very quickly so his shotblocking skills suffer. He showed some good post moves, but needs to continue to become more polished in this department. He showed very good court vision and was able to put the ball on the floor. He is probably somewhere between the early 2nd round and late 1st as of right now, but as long as he continues to develop next season the way he did in the 2nd part of this year he will have all chances to establish himself as a legit 1st rounder. His agent Marc Cornstein says that there is still a small possibility that Ilic's name will be entered into the draft, but it is very doubtful.

MILAN MAJSTOROVIC, 6-10 PF, Reflex (Serbia & Montenegro), 1983
(2 games, 20 mpg, 4 ppg, 2 rpg, 30% FG)


Majstorovic probably hurt his chances of being drafted in 2nd round with the way he played here in front of so many NBA teams. He does everything solid, but it's still unclear whether he has what it takes to do that at the next level and play in the NBA. He showed very good mobility, but that was perhaps the only good thing he displayed at this tournament. He knows how to get offensive rebounds, but on the defensive glass he is really lacking. He is a solid defender, but he suffers against stronger players. Offensively, his game is built around jumpers and put-backs after offensive rebounds. His jump-shot is accurate, but he takes too long to get it off and he can only shoot it from a stationary position. He is a 1983 prospect and is automatically eligible for draft, but the fact that he probably won't be able to make it for workouts leaves the impression that he will have to end the season in a huge way to get drafted.

MANUCHAR MARKOISHVILI, 6-5 SG, Olimpija (Republic of Georgia), 1986
(1 game, 20 minutes, 11 points, 1 reb, 3 steals, 4/5 FG)


Olimpija has two good and established players at the shooting guard position, so that is the only reason why Manu Markoishvili didn't see more playing time this year. He is a really aggressive defender and some might say that he is a ball hawk, but that might be going too far. He has solid athleticism and a nicely built body. He looks a couple of years older than his 1986 birth date, and some people have already begun to openly speculate about that. In this game, he came in when Olimpija was down by 8-10 points and started taking and hitting shots towards the end of the game, when his team was trying to make a comeback. They failed, but Markoishivili put up a nice performance just like last time against this same opponent. At this point, he is neither a good shooter nor a good slasher, but has still time to develop these skills. He is a bit undersized and doesn't posses the outstanding athletic abilities that are usually expected out of NBA caliber shooting guards, but there still might be a place for him in the League. Not a star or anything like that, but more like a solid 8th or 9th player off the bench in a couple of years if he continues to work on his flaws. This performance certainly helped his stock.

DAMIR MARKOTA, 6-10 SF, Cibona (Croatia), 1985
(1 game, 11 minutes, 3 rebs)


Markota (previously known as Omerhodzic) played some good minutes. He grabbed some offensive rebounds and showed off his very good athletic ability. He was running up and down the court very well for a 6-10 player and was not liability on the defensive end. That is pretty much it from what he was able to show in this tournament in such limited minutes, but we've seen enough of him this year to know that there is more. There are no plays set up for him at Cibona and generally his role on offense is limited to setting screens, rebounding and occasionally attempting a 3 pointer. He should get more playing time and a bigger role next season, but I have my doubts since his club Cibona doesn't have a good reputation for developing young and raw players like Markota. He is not expected to even test waters this year, but if he improves next season and is given a chance to produce he could be a surefire first round pick due to his physical attributes.

KOSTA PEROVIC, 7-2 C, Partizan (Serbia & Montenegro), 1985
(3 games, 16 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.7 bpg 61% FG)


Perovic helped himself quiet a bit with this performance. He was playing very well on the offensive end, showing good touch around the basket and being more energetic and aggressive when taking to ball to the hoop than in previous games. He hit almost every mid-range jumper he attempted. Perovic really stepped up in final game and was keeping Partizan in the game on his own for some time by giving his team a basket whenever they needed it. While he was very solid on offense, his defense was as usual poor, showing again his lackluster footwork and really struggling in man-to-man defense against most of his opponents. He blocked a couple of shots, but only because of his height and wingspan. According to some sources, Perovic will certainly declare for this year's draft, but it is not clear under which conditions he would stay in. Just like Mile Ilic, he is probably somewhere between the late 1st and early 2nd round currently.

BOJAN POPOVIC, 6-4 PG, Reflex (Serbia & Montenegro), 1983
(2 games, 14.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg, 30% FG, 20% 3FG)


Popovic was according to many (but not me) the best PG entering this competition and was having some huge games in the national Yuba league lately, but at this tournament he couldn't manage to string together a good performance. He hit just two jumpers and disappeared in the last period of the semi-final, which is uncharacteristic of him. He is one of the smartest players you will find in this draft and really knows how to run team, but with two big flaws-- athleticism and 3 point shooting, he should be very happy if he gets drafted in the late 2nd round. He is automatically eligible and I think he has a fairly good chance as already mentioned at getting some looks in the 2nd round, although his game is probably better suited for Europe. He is receiving a lot of media hype at the moment in Serbia & Montenergo, with some journalists even writing that he should be on the Serbian National team this summer ahead of Phenonix draftee Milos Vujanic.

VUK RADIVOJEVIC, 6-5 SG, Red Star (Serbia & Montenegro), 1983
(2 games, 11.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.0 apg, 44% FG, 6/11 3FG)


Radivojevic helped himself with this performance, but he is still a long shot at being drafted, simply because he doesn't have that much potential. In the first game he shared the PG duties with Gerrod Henderson and did quite well. While in the semi-final he made some bad decisions and wasn't able to create shots for his teammates, so his coach quickly moved him to the SG position. In the game against Partizan he hit five 3 pointers, which is usually not his main weapon. His defense was good and intense as always, he was successful especially while guarding Uros Tripkovic. He is also automatically eligible for the draft, but his chances appear to be pretty slim. He will need to do something big from now until draft night to secure a spot in the 2nd round.

PREDRAG SAMARDZISKI, 7-1 C, Partizan (Macedonia), 1985
(3 games, 30 minutes, 9 points, 7rebs, 2/3 FG, 5/8FT total)


Samardziski saw some action in this tournament behind Kosta Perovic. He looked a bit stronger than Perovic and showed more toughness defensively. He is a very solid defender and a good rebouder, while not being a liability on the defensive end. The main reason why he doesn't get more playing time (besides Partizan's depth at the center position) is that his offensive game is rather limited right now. He has a mid-range jumper, but is not as polished as Perovic's, as well as the fact that he is lacking post moves. As we learned over the past week Peja is going to declare for the draft, but it's unclear whether or not he will stay in. Samardziski is a 1st rounder potential-wise, but he is pretty raw and 2-3 years away from contributing in the NBA.

MILOS TEODOSIC, 6-5 PG, Reflex (Serbia & Montenegro), 1987
(2 games, 15 minutes, 17 pts, 4 ast, 3/5 3FG total)

No one was really expecting to see this guy on the floor, but he somehow became the most positive thing to come out of this tournament. Coach Djokic put this kid on the floor and Teodosic backed him up in a marvelous way. He almost created a comeback for his team completely on his own, by hitting 3 pointers, taking care of the ball, beating his defender off the dribble and creating shots for his teammates. He showed nice footwork for such a big PG (he looks closer to 6-6) and played fairly good defense. This 18-year old PG was playing like a veteran and with extremely high self-confidence. As you may have already noticed, I was delighted with his performance, as its rare to see such a young player step up on such a big stage. He shouldn't be in the draft prior to 2007, especially if the age limit comes in, but you better remember his name. Expect Teodosic to become a steady contributor for Reflex's team next season, especially if Bojan Popovic leaves.

UROS TRIPKOVIC, 6-5 SG, Partizan (Serbian & Montenegro), 1986
(3 games, 23 mpg, 13 ppg, 1 apg, 7/15 3FG)


Tripkovic played so well in his first senior season that this performance was somewhat of a disappointment. In the absence of Nemanja Aleksandrov, he was the top draft prospect at this tournament. He showed his remarkable shooting ability and was moving well without the ball. In the first two games Tripkovic was unusually passive offensively, but in the finals he took responsibility late in the 4th period when Partizan was trying to make a comeback. During that game he hit two huge three-pointes plus a foul. Defensively, he suffered a few times fighting through screens, because of his very thin body. He has nice footwork, so when he becomes stronger, he shouldn't be a defensive liability here nor in the NBA. His game looked pretty one-dimensional now that Partizan's more experienced players are back from injuries, he was rarely trying to take his man off the dribble and when doing so he was having trouble scoring or making a good pass in traffic. It seems like Tripkovic is not going to declare for this year's draft, which is the right decision since he is still a few years away from being ready for the NBA. However, he is one of the most talented European guards at the moment and should be a surefire 1st round pick whenever he declares. If he shows development over the next few years, he could be the next big thing from Europe, but this time in a rather small package.

Next year

It seems like Cibona's Damir Markota is the only draft prospect who is a lock to play in the Euroleague next season, as his club has a guaranteed contract with ULEB. Olimpija is also in the same situation, but it's questionable if Markoishvili will stay in Ljubljana since he is on loan from Benneton Treviso. The winner of the Serbian national championship will also qualify for the Euroleague, and scouts will be rooting for Partizan or Reflex (if Nemanja stays) obviously.

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