Adidas Eurocamp Day 3: Gobertgasm

In the Day 1 recap I noted that the camp defied European stereotypes with the physicality and defensive intensity the campers exhibited.  However, this year's participants also defied stereotypes in a less desirable way: None of them could shoot.  In the 15 team games played by the campers (18 games total were played but 3 games were against AIS and the French and Russian U-20 teams), they managed to make a third of their 3s precisely once.  While the camp used the NBA 3 point line* this was still a remarkably poor shooting performance for the group.

* But not the NBA defensive 3 seconds rule.

The lack of good shooters among the top prospects was confirmed in the standstill shooting drills, in which players were asked to take 25 17-footers and 25 NBA 3s from 5 spots around the horn.  I watched the relatively loaded Team 4 shoot and counted shots for a few of the prospects.

Tornike Shengelia:  11/25 17 footers, 8/25 3s
Artem Klimenko:  11/25; 4/25.  Klimenko was offered the chance to just shoot 17 footers for his second round, but inexplicably wanted to try the 3s.
Olek Czyz:  10/25 3s.
Paul Lacombe: 12/25 3 (led team).

From what I heard, the results were little better for the other teams.  In an unguarded, stationary drill like this, guys who should actually be shooting 3s for an NBA team need to be making 60-65%.  Awesome shooters like Ben Gordon or Ray Allen make at least 80%.

As promised, here is my analysis of the best NBA prospects I'd yet to mention.

Rudy Gobert:  Gobert's (pronounced "Go-Bear") outstanding performance has been more than adequately covered elsewhere, and he impressed enough to be elevated to the Top 5 of DraftExpress' 2013 Mock Draft.

I posed the question yesterday of whether Gobert's dominating performance was the result of playing against the undersized Russian U-20 team.  So, I and the gaggle of NBA scouts watched with great interest as he matched up with 7'1" Artem Klimenko and camp beast Darko Planinic in the last game of Day 3.  Gobert more than held his own against those two players.  His best defensive play of the day was against a Planinic postup from the left block.  Planinic lowered his left shoulder and knocked Gobert back, but not as far as you'd expect given his slight frame.  Gobert had the strength to absorb the bump and recover to block Planinic's previously unstoppable lefty hook in the air, a play few others in the world could have made.  Other highlights included blocking Klimenko's elbow jumper and a tip dunk in which he mistimed his leap and still managed to bang it home with aplomb.

Gobert also impressed offensively, even eliciting a collective gasp from the scouts when he swished a lefty hook from the baseline.  A few minutes later, Gobert nearly tested the scouts' refractory period with a jumper from the elbow that sadly rimmed out.  If Gobert can refine his hook shots, they should be unblockable.  Despite the elbow jumper he uncorked, it's hard to imagine this becoming a significant part of his game.  He shoots with his left elbow far out to the side and it takes him an hour to get his shot off.  Fortunately for Gobert, it's hard to imagine why a team would want him spotting up anyway.  He would, however, be well-served to develop a Yao Ming/Rasheed Wallace high release turnaround jumper in the post in addition to his hook shots.  With his ridiculously long arms, this shot would be nigh unblockable as well.

I concur with those rating Gobert so highly; while I haven't seen a lot of the 2013 players yet he certainly looked the part of a Top 5 pick. Here is a solid highlight package of his work at the Eurocamp.

Artem Kliemenko:  Outside of Gobert, I thought the 7'1" Kliemenko was the best long-term prospect at the camp.  The 1994-born Russian's best attributes are his lateral quickness for his size and his soft touch with hooks and floaters out to about 10 feet, even when being bumped or catching on the move.  However, the soft touch is also his greatest weakness at this point, as he did not display a great ability to finish strong in the paint and often settled for little flip shots in the lane.  While a lot went in, he got a few of these shots blocked.  Kliemnko also exhibited a nice turn and face jumper at the elbow at one point.  His jumper looks smooth enough that it's easy to imagine it becoming an efficient weapon in time.

On defense, Kliemenko showed good shot-blocking instincts and lateral quickness guarding pick and rolls.  He was the camp's best help defender (Gobert excepted), although he was vulnerable to post-ups and offensive rebounds in strength matchups.  Still, he was a reasonable choice as the camp's outstanding defensive player (an award for which Gobert was ineligible).  The centerless Russian U-20 team certainly could have used him.

Kliemenko was very active on the offensive glass, and was the camper who best took advantage of the international rule allowing him to tip in balls within the cylinder.  His defensive rebounding needs work though, as he exhibited some of the worst box out technique I've ever seen.  This consisted of turning his body 90 degrees from the rim and reaching out toward the offensive player with one forearm and trying to ward him off.  It resulted in his being unable to either block out his man or go after the ball.  Kliemenko is currently playing in the 3rd division in Russia, and while the playing time he's gotten has shown in the relative comfort of his offensive game, his lack of technique finishing and rebounding are cause for concern.

Kliemenko has a good frame with very low body fat, which bodes well for the 18 year old's potential to develop an NBA body in time.  However, his current club situation may not bode well for his receiving the proper strength training and nutrition to make that happen.  Nevertheless, it was an impressive showing for a player who had been a relative unknown coming into the camp.

Nikola Ivanovic:  The 1994-born Ivanovic was almost exactly as advertised.  He was one of the steadiest point guards in the camp, especially on the manic Day 1.  He also exhibits solid strength for his age and excellent feel for running the pick and roll.  He did well to wait for the screener and almost always made the right decision, including pulling up for a 16 foot jumper rather than blindly rushing into traffic.  At this stage, that jumper was more acceptable than good.  Ivanovic hit a few NBA spot up 3s, but like the rest of the campers did not prove it was a shot you wanted him taking consistently.  (Again, an NBA 3 is a tall order for a 17 year old.)  His release looked solid, though he brings the ball up too far in front of his body.

Part of the reason Ivanovic was loathe to penetrate to the rim was that he really lacks the ability to finish there at 6'2" with a 28" max vert that appeared little better off one foot.  His number one project should be developing a floater and Steve Nash type running hooks that can provide a credible threat to the help defense and open up passing lanes.

On a more general level, without knowing his age there was nothing about Ivanovic that made him particularly stand out.  While the ability to hold his own was impressive in this setting, the lack of any "wow" plays would seem to limit the Montenegran's ceiling.

Metacan Birsen:  I immediately gravitated towards Birsen after seeing his 1995 birthdate, which made the 6'8.75" forward the youngest player in the camp.  He continued the theme of young players exhibiting basketball IQs beyond their years, especially with the calm he displayed on the frenetic first day.  He looked solid taking the ball to the lane (if not the basket) off the dribble on kickouts, made good decisions, and drained an NBA 3.  On Days 2 and 3 he took more of a backseat to his older teammates, though he did deliver the best pass of the camp--a sweet no look off a Eurostep to a cutting big man that he created out of thin air.

Unsurprisingly for a 17 year old, Birsen's weakness is his physical profile.  While he can add strength, his very below-average lateral quickness and leaping ability will need to improve immensely before he can think about playing the 3 (his natural position) in the NBA.  He was dominated in his matchup with Daniel Diez on Day 3.  Even with some improvement, he will likely always have below average NBA athleticism and will need to become an excellent shooter to set up his drives and passing.  Since he is in the system of perennial Euroleague team Fenerbache, he should continue to develop nicely.

Daniel Diez was listed as a power forward on the camp roster, but at 6'8" in shoes and only 204 lbs he's fairly clearly a small forward at even the European level.  However, he showed that he has a small forward's game.  While he didn't show off any advanced dribble moves, he was able to fly in from the wing or in transition for dunks or explosive lay-ins off one foot.  He also showed off one of the more effective and better-looking shooting strokes in the camp, hitting 3s and quick release 17 footers on the move off out of bounds plays.  Diez also displayed solid rebounding and energy.  His style evokes a slightly skinnier Omri Casspi with better shooting form.  As a 1993-born player in the Real Madrid system, Diez offers some hope of becoming an NBA prospect at the 3 if he can continue to refine his shooting stroke and add muscle

Ilkan Karaman was perhaps the only player at the camp with a true NBA body at this stage.  He has more than adequate size at 6'9.5" in shoes, 7'0.5" wingspan, and a sculpted 236 lbs frame.  He showed off his excellent leaping ability with 3 emphatic blocks in the first half of his game on Day 3, and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes with a running clock on Day 2.  But while he had previously shown off a reasonable touch out to the NBA 3 point line he badly missed all the jumpers he took on Day 3.  Still, it appears that the 1992-born Turk has the ability to develop a consistent shooting stroke in time.  Karaman's biggest weakness right now is his complete lack of a right hand.  He's the type of lefty who drives left but has to pull up on the rare occasions he goes right because he can't finish going that way.  He always plays with his left side forward at this stage.  As a draft-eligible player this year, he might be worth a late-second round flier based on his physical ability, shot-blocking at the 4, and the potential for developing his jump shot.

Oleksandr Lpovvy was named tournament MVP, but frankly not a ton about his play jumped out at me.  The 6'7" combo guard played point much of the time for the loaded Team 4, which went undefeated.  He had a couple of nice drives to the basket and ran the team well, but he was another player who did not display much shooting ability in the drills or games.  I thought he was the third-best player on his own team behind Shengelia and Czyz, and is not particularly young either (1991).  He does not appear to be an NBA prospect to these eyes.

I wrote at length about Tornike Shengelia on Day 2, and he continued to dominate on Day 3.  Given his skill set, Shengelia played as well as he possibly could have in the competitive portion of the event.  He even inspired Kelvin Sampson to run a couple of hero ball isolations for him at the top of the key toward the end of the All-Star game against Team France, though these met with predictable results.

However, Shengelia's 11/25 shooting on 17 footers in the drills and 8/25 shooting on 3s proved that his competent 3 point shooting in the competitive games was likely a mirage.  He shoots a very flat shot and tilts slightly to the left as he releases, which calls into question his ability to improve the aspect of his game that will be absolutely vital to his NBA success.  Still, Shengelia showed enough heart, toughness, and moves attacking the basket to merit a mid to late second round wager on whether his skills will develop.

It must also be mentioned that the Georgian carries the stigma of potentially being older than his listed December 1991 birthdate.  Although there's nothing other than his nationality and physical maturity to suggest this, the farce of his countryman Zaza Pachulia entering the league at "19" a few years ago has focused skepticism on the age of Georgian prospects going forward.

Olek Czyz was not considered an NBA prospect coming in, and he likely still is not due to the fact he is not really an NBA 4 at 6'8" in shoes.  Still, like Tornike he played as well as he possibly could at this camp, even making a couple of NBA 3s.  His greatest attribute is his ability to penetrate in short bursts after receiving the ball in the midrange area.  He regularly used his strength to widen a slight initial advantage on his defender off the bounce, and excelled at powering up off a 2 foot jump stop  to draw the foul or finish over the less athletic big men in the camp.  I would compare his style (if not his quality) to an early career Andres Nocioni.  If Czyz proves he has the lateral quickness to guard 3s and improves his 3 point shot, he could conceivably evolve into an NBA player in a few years. But in his current iteration as a small 4, Europe is where he belongs.

Overall, the Eurocamp was great fun and a great opportunity for the European players to showcase themselves rather than being buried on the bench for their club teams.  I will definitely be back next year.


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