Player of the Month
Kristaps Porzignis (’95, 7-1, PF, Latvia, Cajasol Seville)
Porzignis has definitely become the frontrunner of the international platoon headed to the next NBA draft, maintaning consistent performances, and showing improvement. His ability to exploit his size to create offense from the midrange area is a valuable asset that should transfer well to the NBA level. Furthermore, he’s attacking the basket with more confidence and effectiveness, as seen during his last ACB game, with a dazzling dunk over the 7-2 center Walter Tavares. On the contrary, his thin frame is still a red flag, but scouts and insiders are all well aware of this drawback, and it is not limiting his appeal as a top 10 pick. He averaged 15 points and 6 rebounds over the past month, with excellent efficiency, shooting 60% from the field.
Luka Mitrovic (’93, 6-8, PF, Serbia, Red Star Belgrade)
Mitrovic played a key role in the claiming of the ABA league championship by Red Star Belgrade, the new powerhouse of Balkan basketball. During the final series against Cedevita, the kid from Novi Sad had 15 points and 7 rebounds. He showed his mobility and smoothness in running the floor, with the ability to spread the court with his three point range. The concerns remain, as he’s generally considered a tweener by NBA standards, but his maturity and game comprehension, combined with his physical strength make him a reliable second round prospect.
Cedi Osman (’95, 6-8, SF, Turkey, Efes Pielsen)
After a victorious U20 European Championship with Turkey (he was named MVP of the competition) Osman has had the opportunity to play solid minutes with Efes this season under coach Dusan Ivkovic. His maturity and basketball IQ are really impressive, with Osman often playing as a point forward thanks to his nice handle and passing skills. He also has shown intriguing athletic skills even by NBA standards, with some amazing blocks in help during transition. He had 8 points and 5 rebounds during the playoff series in Euroleague against Real Madrid with a key role played, elevating his status as a potential first rounder. He has just declared he will stay in Europe for another two seasons, thus making him an ideal draft and stash pick.
Mouhammadou Jaiteh (’94, 6-10, C, France, Nanterre)
Mam Jaiteh has been quite effective over the season with Nanterre, after a 2013-2014 without consistent minutes on the court. His performances have improved at a steady rate throughout the season (11.8 pts and 6.6 rbs overall), with 18 points and 7 rebounds over his last 4 games in French pro A. He has just left his team for the last games of the season to participate at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, hoping to recover the ground lost during the previous season. If he performs well he could rise in the second round.
Mario Hezonja (’95, 6-7, SG, Croatia, FC Barcelona)
Hezonja has shined all the year capitalizing upon the increased minutes due to the injuries to Navarro and Oleson in the middle of the season. That two month stint had significantly boosted his stock, since he shown all the necessary physical and technical skills to excel at NBA level. Notwithstanding his accomplishments, the last month has been quite difficult for him, with some struggles in the relation with coach Pascual. This has had consequences on his minutes on the court – even not summoned for the last game against Bilbao – both in Euroleague and ACB. Luckily what he shown through the first months of the season is more than enough for being unanimously considered a top 10 pick.
Moussa Diagne (’94, 6-11, C, Senegal, Fuenlabrada)
Diagne’s digits were solid during the first few months of the season, elevating his status as a legit prospect, with a slight likelihood to be selected at a late first round. But as the season progressed, his technical limitations have clearly emerged, and now it’s crystal clear that he belongs to the second round of the draft. His excellent lateral speed and mobility, and his effectiveness in P&R situations on both ends of the court, combined with remarkable athletic skills make him a potential solid rotation player in an NBA frontcourt. He averaged just 2 points and 5 rebounds over the last month in ACB.
Marc Garcia (’96, 6-6, SG, Spain, La Bruixa d’Or Manresa)
Garcia declared for this year’s NBA draft most likely only to test the waters, after a rather disappointing 2014/2015 season in Manresa. He’s definitely a creative and crafty scorer, but he definitely needs to work on his defense and body, since the results of his first professional season have shown that he’s simply not ready yet to make a difference at the pro level. His statistics and minutes on the court have decreased over the last two months, falling to less than 10 minutes and 1 point average, for a team at the bottom of ACB.
Aleksandar Vezenkov (’95, 6-8, SF, Bulgaria, Aris)
Vezenkov is having consistent performances on the court, leading Esake in points – almost 19 per game – and adding 9 rebounds. JR Holden and Brian Wright were seen in attendance during his last game against Olympiacos as a confirmation that he’s a legit potential first rounder. Nevertheless the events off the court seem to be affecting his draft stock, with some issues with his agent Nick Lotsos (who was dropped and then taken back by Vezenkov) and unsuccessful talks with Arn Tellem. Furthermore several top European teams have already shown interest in him (Panathinaikos and Barcelona among the others), and a new more lucrative contract could lead to a higher NBA buyout clause, which is currently at $500.000 US dollars. The player’s camp is expected to wait until the end of the withdrawal deadline in order to decide what will be his best course of action.
On the Radar
Timothe Luwawu (’95, 6-7, SF, France Antibes)
Timothe Luwawu is definitely a dark horse for the upcoming NBA draft, coming from the second French division, where he’s averaging 7.1 pts and 2.6 rebs. Nevertheless – like for Antetokuompo – the level faced from the player is not always a complete indicator, since the potential could explode with the competition rising. It’s apparent he has terrific physical tools, with great speed and leaping abilities, combined with a solid frame a remarkable wingspan. He’s a solid spot up shooter, who could excel in the NBA considering the different spacing. Furthermore, he shows reliable passing skills and court vision. On the defensive side he’s solid thanks to his physical tools, but he could improve focus, positioning and fundamentals. He lacks ball handling skills and consequently he’s less effective in creating from off the dribble, but his body and game style make him a legitimate first round candidate.
Arturas Gudaitis (’93, 6-10, C, Lithuania, Zalgiris)
Gudaitis could be considered a late bloomer, since he became quite recently a legitmate NBA prospect. As a senior he made his debut with Klaipedos LCC TU, RKL (Lithuania minor league) during the 2010-11 season, then he moved to a satellite team of Zalgiris during 2012-2013. He finally was signed for the 2013-14 season by BC Zalgiris Kaunas. He has been member of the Lithuanian U-18 and U-20 National Team, playing at the 2011 European U-18 Championship.
Standing 6-10, he has solid size for the role also from the muscular standpoint. Furthermore, he shows great mobility and explosiveness, being really effective in P&R situations and as a shot blocker. His game is based facing the basket, with an above average ability to put the ball on the floor above for a big man. His post game is solid, but he could work on his moves and fakes, he’s more effective with momentum to the basket. This can be considered his breakout season with 10.2 pts and 5.7 rb in LKL and 6.5 pt, 4 rb in Euroleague.
In Other News
Sad news to pass along on Wednesday with the report surfacing that promising Danish bigman prospect Rasmus Larsen was found dead in his room. The cause of his death is still unknown, with an autopsy pending. Our condolances to his family, friends and team for this tragic loss.