By Aran Smith
Overall the group of prospects from this year’s junior competition was very good. There was a solid 5 or so NBA level prospects with another 5 guys with a shot to develop into NBA prospects in the future. After last year’s dissapointing group in Athens, it was good to see a high level of competition and talent from this years bunch. Here are the top ten NBA prospects from the 2008 European Final Four junior competition in Madrid Spain, plus a few others to keep an eye on for the future.
1. Donatas Motiejunas — 3 gms, 20.3 ppg, 45% fg, 81 ft%, 8.3 rpg,
Montejunas continues to prove that he’s one of the elite prospects in the world in his age group. He’s a terrific athlete at close to 7-feet with fluidity, length and explosiveness and his offensive game continues to expand. Although he struggled against FMP and still runs into trouble with consistency, he led Zalgiris back in their third game when they were down late showing maturity and composure. He still needs to add some bulk to his frame, but has the makings to become a very nice NBA player. He was the clear cut number one player in this event with only Ricky Rubio ahead of him among 1990 born European players. He’s draft eligible in 2009, and it will remain to be seen if he tries to put his name in the draft his first year. He’s not likely to see much playing time next year with the senior team, so there’s a good chance he will opt to wait for his "sophomore" year of eligibility (2010) before entering the draft.
2. Tomislav Zubcic — 3 gms, 21 ppg, 15.6 rpg, 40 fg%, 15.6 rpg, 33% 3p
Zubcic led the event in rebounding by a wide margin. His 24 and 19 and 22 and 18 were both extremely impressive performances displaying his ability to score and rebound. He had the highest scoring average for players who performed in all games. Zubcic has a great deal of versatility with the ability to handle and pass the ball at 6-11 and excellent quickness for his size. He’s a bit awkward looking as he’s pigeon toed, and certainly needs to add some strength to his frame. But he has great speed in the open floor. His shot looked good both off the dribble and spotting up, but he’ll need to add better consistency and raise his shooting averages. He shot 33% from 3, though not terrible, it could use improvement. Zubcic is especially impressive at creating offense for himself or others from the perimeter. He’s got a great feel and terrific vision to find teammates for open looks. Cibona lost two close games, and could easily have played in the final if a few breaks had gone their way. Zubcic has a Toni Kukoc type of game, and appears well on his way to being an NBA first rounder and a top prospect from Europe in the next generation of youngsters.
3. Andrija Milutinovic — 4 gms, 15 ppg, 51% fg, 42.9 3p%, 2 apg, 6.5 rpg
Milutinovic doesn’t look like much at first glance. He has the face of a kid and doesn’t have the body of a typical NBA prospect, although he does possess long arms and good size at 6’6. His legs could use some toning, and his foot speed isn’t going to set the world on fire. But Milutinovic is a big reason that FMP destroyed every team put in their way. His feel for the game and shooting ability are tremendous for an under-18 player. He’s also deceptively athletic as he will go up and hammer down a dunk on the break or in the half court set if the opposition isn’t careful. He played the point guard position for FMP, and did a solid job of bringing the ball up and not turning it l over. His forte is shooting the ball, where his release is pure and the results very good (just under 50%) Milutinovic showed NBA potential in the four games and is a name to watch for in the future.
4. Ryan Richards — 3 gms, 15.3 ppg, 50% fg, 57 3p%, 6.7 rpg
Richards appeared to get more and more comfortable as the event went on. He came in a little rusty after 2 weeks away from his Canaria team. His productivity jumped each game from 7 pts in the first game to 15 in the second and 24 in the third. His skill level is undeniably impressive for a 6-foot-10 kid. Especially considering he would be only be going into his junior year in the states, and he would likely be a top 10 recruit in his class. The lefty has the ability to shoot with either hand and excels using his left with the hook or drop steps in the post. He also has great touch on his shot and showed it knocking down a number of three pointers. He has a very impressive combination of strength, length and half court offensive polish. With a huge frame, he can add a good deal of weight. He’ll need to tone his legs as he is heavy legged and sort of plods up and down the court to an extent. But at just 16 years of age, his body has a lot of developing left and could change for the better. Richards was the one bigman to really take it to Dejan Musli, thoroughly dominating the Serbian 1991-born prospect. Richards had his best game with 24 pts 9-18 fg, 2-4 3p, and 8 reb. If he lands in a good situation, he can develop into a first rounder in a few years.
5. Nikola Mirotic — 3 gms, 18.3 ppg, 54% fg, 50% 3p, 9.3 reb
Mirotic’s combination of size and skills make him a very intriguing prospect. At 6-10, and born in 1991, the lefty forward shows a lot of potential. He’s displayed very good touch on his jump shot with range out to 3 (he knocked down 5-10 from behind the arc). He also has a good frame with huge hands, and should be able to get a lot stronger over the next few years. Has a big wingspan and shows solid rebounding and shot blocking ability. He still plays a bit tentative in the paint and will need to develop a tougher demeanor, but some of that can probably be attributed to physical maturation. His offensive capacity and lack of great leaping ability makes him sort of a Dirk Nowitzki type although he’s got a long ways to go to be in Dirk’s class. Mirotic has first round potential but he’ll need to continue to develop his body and aggressiveness to get there.
6. Papa Abdoulaye — 4, gms, 10.3 ppg, 48.6 fg%, 11.2 rpg,
Abdoulaye has a tremendous basketball body. With broad shoulders and a huge frame, he should be able to put on a lot of weight and his wingspan has to be in the 7-2 neighborhood. Unlike a lot of African players, Abdoulaye actually has a good midrange jumpshot and showed the ability to get it off during games. What’s unusual about Abdoulaye is his lack of explosiveness. He can get off the floor and dunk without problem, but he looks like such a physical specimen when you first see him, it’s surprising that he doesn’t jump out of the gym. He’s a good athlete but nothing extraordinary. Showed a solid understanding of the game (not great) and gives solid effort running the floor and fighting for rebounds. His free throw stroke has a solid motion, although he struggled from the line in the event. He’s a guy with some NBA potential if he continues to develop his body and game, but he lacks the raw athleticism to be a star.
7. Nihad Dedovic — 2 gms, 26.2, 36.7 fg%, 33 3p%, 8 rpg, 4 to
Dedovic led the event in scoring average, although he played in just two of Barcelona’s four games after missing the first two games apparently due to injury. In the final two games, he appeared to be making up for lost time as he fired up 49 shots in two games. He scored a total of 53 points but his field goal percentage was just 37% (18-49). He’s got huge hands and an athletic frame. He used his quickness and athleticism well in the final to crash the boards and beat the FMP players to loose balls around the basket. He passes the look test with a great basketball body and shows good skills, but must limit his turnovers and become more selective shooting the ball.
8. Dejan Musli — 4 gms, 15.5 ppg, 49 fg%, 12 rpg, 25 3p%
Another talented 1991 player. He has shown some improvement in his body and game from last year’s junior competition in Athens. He’s got a big wingspan and a high skill level offensively. Does most of his damage inside with his offensive touch and polished post moves. Does not show a great deal of potential due to his soft and unathletic body. He likely won’t add much in the way of quickness and leaping ability. He does have a very soft touch with the ability to knock down shots out to three and also shows good court awareness and passing ability. He’s sort of a poor mans Vlade Divac, although not nearly the athlete or player of Divac. He has a similar style of game with good post skills and basketball smarts. Won MVP of the final with 25 points on 12-17 shooting and 14 boards thoroughly dominating Papa Abdoulaye. Has some NBA potential, but might be better suited for the European game. A lot will depend on how his body develops in the next few years.
9. Bojan Subotic — 4 gms, 18 ppg, 58.3 fg%, 18 3p%, 7.25 rpg
An argument could be made that Subotic was the top player overall in this event. He doesn’t have nearly the NBA potential of a lot of other players, hence his position on this list. However for what he brings to a team right now, he’s at or near the very top. Very physically advanced, strong and aggressive. He’s a load around the basket with the ability to handle the ball in the open floor and make plays from others. Sort of a tweener as he lacks the foot speed of most NBA small forwards, and plays with a rugged power forward type mentality. High basketball IQ and good decision making. Did not shoot well from downtown after starting off 2-2 in the first game, he missed his next 9 over the following 3 games. Very good at finishing around the basket showing good body control when on the move. While he appears to be a guy who will level off and is best suited for Europe, he’s a guy that can’t be written off for the NBA.
10. Leon Radosevic — 3 gms, 15.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 5.3 to
Radosevic has good size and athleticism and shows solid potential. While he isn’t the traditional back to the basket post guy, he’s got the strength and willingness to battle inside. He likes to face the basket from mid-range . He’ll need to work on cutting down on turnovers and improving his decision making. Does a good job of scoring around the basket and using his excellent leaping ability to grab boards.
Daniel Rom — 3 gms, 12.6 ppg, 41 fg%, 4.6 rpg,
Rom is without question Maccabi’s top prospect. He’s got an athletic frame and gives solid effort. He struggled shooting the ball in his first two games, shooting 4-19 in the first game but began to get on track in the final (8-12 from the floor). Maccabi’s team was outclassed athletically and Rom struggled to find open looks. He’s got the frame and size to be a nice small forward in the future, but has a lot of work to bring his perimeter skills up to speed.
Konstantine Tomardze — 4 gms, 14.8 ppg, 47.9 fg%, 36 3p%,
Tomardze has good size at 6-6 and shows a scorers mentality. He can shoot it and runs the floor well. Right now his body is extremely underdeveloped and there’s reason to believe he may struggle to put enough weight on to play at the highest level. He plays with good energy and has a flare to his game, but his body appears to be his biggest hurdle. Also must develop better consistency. He had two 23 point games and two games where he struggled shooting the ball. The big question, can he add the strength to his body?
Michel Dioff — DNP
Dioff is a 6-10 wing player with a lot of promise and potential. He did not compete in this event so there’s not much to report on him, but he’s certainly just as tall as his teammate Abdoulaye and is said to have a very nice jumpshot to compliment his size and agility. One to watch for in the future.
Aleksandar Ponjavic — 4 gms, 7.5 ppg, 77 fg%
Ponjavic is a 1991 kid, so he a year younger, and has good size and aggressiveness. Played very efficiently shooting close to 80% from the floor but after the first game in which he had 15 points in 27 minutes, he averaged just 10 minutes over the following 3 games. Doesn’t appear to be the prospect of his backcourt mate Milutinovic, although he’s a year younger and has time. A hard nosed kid with good skill level who shows solid potential. Should have a much bigger role for next year’s junior team in Berlin.
Daniel Perez — 4 gms, 15.5 ppg, 38 fg%, 30 3p%, 6.25 apg
One thing you can certainly say about Perez is that he’s not bashful about shooting the ball. His first two games he shot 6-16 and 4-16 but rallied in the final two games to raise his overall shooting to 38% and land in the tournament all first team. He has blinding speed in the open floor and extremely quick hands to make steals. Sets up teammates well for baskets. His 6.25 apg was best in the tournament. Has a lot of movie and though he’s on the small side, his speed makes him interesting.