2007-08 Euroleague: 1986 Prospects
By Simon Dresden
With the end of the Euroleague regular season, it's time to look back at the top performers among draft eligible prospects. Beginning with the 1986 class (automatically eligible) I will go through each class with an in depth look at the top prospect's performances.
Had a great season for his Turkish club that opened up some eyes and when Fenerbahce offered him to play at Europe's highest level on a consistent basis he jumped at the opportunity. Thrown into the fire right away he played from gameday 8 on to the end of the regular season. Consistency was his calling card as he always gives his team some points and an equal share of rebounds while being a capable shotblocker on this level.
Asik has good size to play the five in Europe which seems to be his natural position as he loves playing with his back to the basket possessing a good assortment of moves to get his shot off, even though he is too right hand dependent. Everything that is outside the paint is beyond his skill level as you can deduce from his FT%. To be a great player anywhere you have to drop at a better rate than the sub-50% he produced this year. He is a tenacious rebounder going for the offensive boards as well as wiping the defensive glass. He is a late bloomer who has progressed considerably over the last 2 years. To play at the NBA, he has to work on his body big time as he is thin by NBA center standards. He does not possess the skill set to make up for his good but not excellent size and probably is a little unathletic to go down to the four slot. He possesses a good reach and good hands but his shooting touch, or lack thereof, may be hard to overcome. A poor mans Andris Biedrins is what comes to mind, but he does not posses the athletic potential Biedrins has. He will surely have a nice career in Europe and could make it to the NBA over time if his body fills out well. His progression over the past 2 years gives him a lot of hope, but he will need to continue to work hard and bulk up and improve his shooting and skill level.
Blessed with a optimum situation as Partizan lost their center Kosta Perovic to the NBA as well as former NBA veteran Drobnjak who left the club. So there was no one else to carry the load inside except for Pekovic, who showed some promise in the years before but didn't get the playing time to really contribute. He was aware from the beginning that this could be his year and he quickly took over and never looked back. He exploded in the first couple of games for unheard of stat lines for a youngster, leading the league in many categories. Playing at a pace that he had no chance of holding up for the entire season. This raised not only his exposure, but the expectation level which he naturally struggled to maintain. Regardless, he was the anchor for Partizan and teams eventually figured out the way to beat Belgrade is to stop or at least slow down Pekovic. In the end, he led his team into the Top 16 anyway and opened a lot of eyes along the way finishing at the top of a lot of categories for the Euroleague. Because of his great season, he got offered and apparently signed a huge multi-year contract with Panathinaikos and that almost surely will kill his first round draft chances goodbye as he will almost surely stay in Europe for a number of years.
Pekovic is a beast, he has a ripped body and really seems to enjoy physical play. He is best when he gets the ball down low and overpowers his defender. He has a nice array of semi-hooks that he uses effectively, while his footwork is on par. He has solid mobility on his spins and good hops to finish with dunks. He works hard on rebounds using his body perfectly to create space and has good hands holding on to the ball. Emotions sometimes get the best of him, especially when he is in foul trouble. Defensively he loves to bang with the best of them, holding his ground with ease as there are few players right now who possess his natural strength. He is solid in his foot-speed on this level but not outstanding as he has problems guarding skilled inside players that make good use of spin moves. He tries to block a lot of shots but he will never be a great shot blocker as his stand still explosiveness is average and his length as well. He can shoot the midrange jumper but it is not his main weapon. He has excellent percentages on FTs, while three point distance is clearly outside his range and he knows that. Could he play in the NBA? Strength shouldn't be a concern. His size is good for the power forward position so teams should know what to expect from him and what position he is destined to be. He does not possess dynamic skill or a repertoire of moves to make an instant impact so he should be willing to pay his dues coming off the bench. He has worked hard on his game in the past and there is no reason to think he wont be doing it later on. He plays with a lot of energy and emotion. He could become a role player in the mold of a Udonis Haslem, who can hit the mid-distance jumper, rebound and defend.
He also took advantage of Partizan's youth movement. It took him a couple of games to get accustomed to the speed offensively but after that he excelled. He produced great rebounding numbers all year, especially cleaning the defensive backboard. He is kind of a face up PF in Europe who took full advantage of the attention Pekovic drew netting shots from 18 feet on a constant level. He is not a perfect shooter though as he only netted 25% of his threes while taking 4 a game. His FT numbers are good so there is room to believe he can become a better shooter. He logged heavy minutes and there were games when he produced all over the stat sheet, not only rebounds and points. He was kind of the silent assassin in all of Partisan's wins.
Considering his NBA chances there is not much to hope for. He is a real tweener by the NBA standards, not having the size or bulk to play the four and not having the typical athleticism to compete with the SFs of the league. If he had an excellent stroke from outside he may have a chance of becoming a kind of Boki Nachbar kind of player, but he doesn't and will never become that kind of shooter. He will earn a good paycheck here and star on many good teams but likely without ever dreaming the NBA dream.
Had a good season for Olympia being a starting guard all season long. He was asked to carry his team on any given night. He was solid most of the time in his scoring while seldom taking a night off, and scored in double figures almost every time out. He rebounds a good deal for a guard and loves to take the ball up court himself. Having a good eye for his teammates, he dished out assists on a constant basis. His size is good for a guard but he seems to be more of a PG than a SG as his downtown touch was missing in action for the whole season, netting only 27% of his threes. He has skills to play the game and a will to win, no matter what it takes, as he plays with relentless energy that leads to an out of control game sometimes, which is forgivable since he is still young and will be more in control as he earns more experience.
For the NBA he brings with him good size, solid strength and the game needed to play in the league. His size will make up for some of the speed deficiencies he has on that level of play, but his skill set could be something that teams may covet down the road. As he will be eligible this year, it is possible that a team will gamble in the second round on him and waits for him. He could become a kind of poor mans Calderon kind of player down the line but to become one he has to really work on his long range shooting and ball protection.
Semih Erden had a pretty good season up until gameday 7 and then fell to injury the rest of the way, his size and the skill level he flashed in those first games will probably make some NBA team bite on him in the second round as he is an automatic entry this year. He has a great deal of potential with a great frame and terrific athletic ability, but his questionable motor and injury could knock him some.
Uros Tripkovic poor performance has pretty much killed any chance he had on making the NBA with the way he played this year.