Bebe and Giannis--Adidas Eurocamp Day 1

The 2013 Eurocamp began with a whimper, as hopes for a prospect-laden camp were quickly dashed upon arrival at La Ghirada. Within minutes, we learned that Rudy Gobert was laid up with food poisoning, Australian 1995-born Dante Exum would be sitting out with a foot injury, and Livio Jean-Charles was not on the roster despite earlier reports the he would play.*

*I have heard nothing to suggest that Gobert's illness was not legitimate, as he tweeted that he was in the hospital in Atlanta. However, were I the agent for Gobert or Jean-Charles I would not have played them at the Eurocamp. Gobert made about as good an impression as he possibly could have last year, while the same could be said of Jean-Charles at the Nike Hoop Summit in April. Neither really had much to gain by playing here in my view. Exum was in attendance all day and clearly would have played if healthy, especially considering he is not yet eligible for the draft.


Those cancellations left us with only one elite prospect, 1992 Brazilian Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira. But even he was difficult to evaluate due to the relative absence of quality 2nd-round and Euroleague level prospects compared to last year. That said, Bebe played quite well in the short practice sessions and one game he played. His length and leaping ability are quite stunning in person, particularly on shot blocks. He not only has a pterodactyl wingspan,* but quick leaping ability to reach a shot in the air before it reaches its apex. On a number of his shot blocks, he appeared to be off balance as his mark drove to the basket but was nevertheless able to quickly jump and swat the ball away.

*With Kelly Olynyk winning the “T-Rex” award at the combine, all wingspans must now be compared to dinosaurs.

Bebe also showed off his potential as a pick and roll finisher, slamming down two straight side pick and roll alleyoops from countryman Raul Neto before the other team caught on. He also had two solid finishes inside without dunking, reputedly a weakness of his. These weren't pretty, but they went in. His hands were also said to be poor, but he only bobbled one pass that I saw.

As for weaknesses, Bebe is still painfully thin despite having added a modicum of upper body muscle. He certainly lacks the requisite leg strength to bang effectively in the post, and he may struggle to develop it due to his extremely thin legs. On offense, this will not be an issue, as he pretty much will never be dribbling or shooting outside of 5 feet in the NBA.

Slightly more concerning for his future as an energy big man was that fact that he only appeared to be in average shape. When he was able to get into position he was able to have a great effect, but he did not get out in transition or hit the offensive glass quite as much as one would like for a player of his skillset. This was so despite the fact he only played half of the 40 minute game. To truly maximize his talents he will need to get into phenomenal cardiovascular shape, and he did not appear to be there quite yet.

Another slight disappointment was his lateral quickness. While he still has above-average lateral quickness for 6'11 big man, it did not appear absolutely exceptional. He plays very upright and did not show a great ability to get into a stance and move his feet on pick and roll defense a la Joakim Noah. Finally, his technique on defensive rebounds was pretty bad, like a lot of thinner players.

In discussions with others at the camp, the question came up of whether Bebe or the similarly-aged Rudy Gobert is the better prospect, with mixed results. I maintain Gobert is the superior prospect due to his massive size and superior potential for post play and interior finishing and what I deemed superior shot-blocking, but many preferred Bebe's greater athleticism. Certainly Gobert was far more dominant here last year than Bebe was this year.

Predictably, Bebe's agent shut him down for the rest of the camp following his performance.

Giannis Adetokunbo

Few other prospects stood out on day 1. But as fate would have it, 18 year-old Greek man of mystery Giannis Adetokunbo was playing his first game* as an international in an Under-20 game against Croatia a mere 40 kilometers away in Jesolo. I got to see him for the first time along with numerous NBA scouts who forwent the evening game at the Eurocamp. The competition against Croatia was a slight step up from his station in the Greek 2nd Division, but not a huge one.

*He only recently acquired a Greek passport due to the fact that his parents are immigrants to Greece.

The most impressive thing about Adetokunbo is his length. He is a very thin 6'9” with a reported 7'2” wingspan. Europeans have a habit of raising their arms above their head to take “credit” for a foul, and I joked that each time he did so in this game he moved up a spot in the draft. Giannis effectively played point guard for his team, but this was solely for the purpose of bringing the ball up and initiating the offense. He almost never ran pick and rolls or was featured in a true decision-making role. His leaping ability is average by NBA standards, and his quickness and explosion did not jump out even in this setting.  Despite his long arms he is not a shot-blocker.  And the one time he was able to beat anyone to the basket he used what I refer to as a “length move,” where he created separation by extending out off a very nice Eurostep between defenders.*  I do not anticipate he we will be able to regularly get past an NBA defender one on one unless he significantly improves his quickness.

*Incidentally, the referees in this game called no fewer than 12 travels, 10 of which were the FIBA “failing to put the ball down quickly enough” variety. Not a single one of these travels was obvious to your American writer as it occurred.

That said, his body language was very good on the court and he played hard while playing well over 30 minutes. He also showed nice form on his set shot 3 pointer. He went 1 for 3 from the 22 foot international line, but looked pretty comfortable shooting on spotups. However, his set shot will prevent him from shooting well or quickly off the dribble from midrange, and he also has a low release. This foiled him on his one postup attempt against a shorter, even thinner defender who should have been overmatched, as his right shoulder turnaround jumper was easily contested and fell short.

Adetokunbo was certainly the best player on the floor in this game, but he didn't jump off the court the way you would hope for an NBA prospect at this level of competition. I would posit that there would be no way he could be ready for NBA minutes next year, although the fact that he is basically as young as one could possibly be and still enter this year's draft mitigates that slightly.

I would say that Giannis' perceived upside primarily stems from three factors: his length, his ability to dribble the ball upcourt at 6'9”, and his obscure background having only recently burst onto the scene from the Greek 2nd Division. But with a lack of elite quickness, explosion, scoring ability, or incisive passing, it is hard to see what truly outstanding skills he might develop in the league. For a player deemed to be a pure upside pick, I just don't think he has all that much of it. To these eyes, his ceiling is more acceptable starter than star, with a risky floor much below that. Ultimately, I would liken that uncertain upside to a worse-shooting, better dribbling Tayshaun Prince. I will be back to see him again at least once more, but right now I think he is worth a shot in the late first-round, but not before.


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