Turkey took home the 2013 U18 European Championships after narrowly defeating Croatia — a team missing their superstar, Mario Hezonja, due to injury. Spain won the bronze-medal game in a thriller against Latvia. Despite the loss, the Latvians showcased an interesting tandem of mobile big men.
Here is a list of the top NBA prospects:
Kristaps Porzingis (1995, 6-11, PF, Latvia, Cajasol Sevilla)
Porzingis was the best big-man prospect of the competition. He’s very skinny, but has excellent size for his position. He also possesses long arms and big hands, with good athleticism. He’s really fluid and mobile for his height, but he definitely needs to bulk up.
Despite his height, he prefers to play on the wing, showing amazing body control and ball-handling skills, even if his frame causes him to lose balance after contact or when he tries to take position in the post. He can put the ball on the floor with confidence, easily blowing past centers and power forwards off the dribble. He has good hands and good outside shooting range, but he must improve on his offensive skills, particularly in the post.
Porzingis reminds some scouts of a taller Andrei Kirilenko. On the defensive side, he possesses great shot-blocking timing, averaging five per game during the tournament. Has the height of a center (if not the strength quite yet), and he moves like a guard. He finished the competition with 11.6 points and 10 rebounds.
Kenan Sipahi (1995, 6-6, PG, Turkey, Tofas Bursa)
Sipahi won the tournament’s MVP award with his combination of athleticism, explosiveness and creativity. Standing 6-foot-6, he has excellent size for a combo guard, with good muscular definition, especially in his upper body. He has a lighting-quick first step and the ability to create his own shot, even if he sometimes tends to get out of control. This leads to a high number of turnovers per game (2.8 in Riga tournament).
Sipahi is still rather raw when it comes to game comprehension and play-making ability, and his decision making needs serious improvement. On the other hand, his ceiling is very high on both ends of the court. He has quick hands and a great motor, and he consistently puts in a strong effort on the defensive side. He still needs to work on his positioning and fundamentals. After Hezonja, he’s one of the prospects with real upside in the ’95 generation. He closed the tournament with 10.9 points 3.8 rebounds and five assists.
Anzejs Pasecniks (1995, 7-0, C, Latvia, VEF Riga)
Pasecniks was one of the tournament’s biggest surprises. He has a great body for the center position, with good structure to go along with his height. He’s mobile and skilled, with good post moves, both on the baseline and in the middle of the painted area. He has a good range from 15-16 feet when served in catch-and-shoot situations, but most of his game is based below the boards. His offensive development has still some room for further improvements.
On the defensive side, he’s able to protect the rim, but he tends to be foul prone, since he needs to work on his positioning and timing for blocks. He probably has a brighter future as an NCAA prospect than as an NBA one, but he’s certainly a big man worth tracking for the future. He closed with 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds.
Agusti Sans (1995, 6-4, PG/SG, Spain, Joventut Badalona)
Sans was the key cog for the Spanish team that clinched the third spot after two heart breaking games against Turkey in the semifinal and Latvia in the final for the bronze. In fact the Catalan guard showed all his poise and clutch ability, taking all the key shots and leading the team from a vocal standpoint. During the competition he showed his athleticism and great scoring instincts, combined with a remarkable rapidity and good height for the role. He has great body control leading the break with effectiveness and showing the ability to finish at the basket even when off balance. He has a slasher type of game, he drives to the basket basically in any condition, thanks to a lighting first step, but he’s really effective especially in transition. He has astonishing defensive instincts, with quick hands and a good sense for passing lanes. He’s definitely not a selfish player, with great passing instincts, even if sometimes he has turnover problems. His main shortcoming his the lack of a consistent jump shot, and of a reliable 3 point shot, even if when served in catch and shoot situations he can be quite effective. He’s also not the most fluid athlete. He finished the tournament with 12.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists.
Ilimane Diop (1995, 6-11, C, Spain, Caja Laboral Vitoria)
Diop is a mobile big man with a tremendous wingspan that makes him a reliable shot blocker. He’s still raw, both from a technical and physical standpoint, but his frame should allow him to put on weight in the next few years. Plus, he possesses good instincts for the game, with a good base of skills and a soft touch, even from midrange.
He needs to work on defensive balance and timing, since he’s often foul prone. He was one of the best players during 2011 U16 European Championships, but he hasn’t developed as expected since then, especially with his offensive fundamentals and rebounding. He finished the tournament with 8.9 points and 6.9 rebounds.
Damien Inglis (1995, 6-7, SG/SF, France, INSEP)
Inglis hasn’t shown significant development since NJIT Finals in London, combining his typically astonishing physical skills (primarily his great athleticism and speed) with poor shooting and overall game comprehension. He’s already a grown man from a muscular standpoint, especially in the upper body. Plus, he has big, strong hands. Thanks to his structure, he has the ability to withstand contact and attack the basket without issue at youth level, often generating and-1 opportunities. He likes to create with the ball in his hands, especially attacking the basket in isolation situations. At this level, Inglis can use his speed and physicality to slash to the rim. He projects as a great defender on any level, due to length, lateral speed and strength.
His main shortcoming is his poor shooting ability, especially from outside the 3-point line. Right now, his game is based on physical domination. When the talent level of his opponents increases, his offensive effectiveness could be limited. As in Riga, his performance in this tournament was not remarkable, despite his strong all-around stats (11.8 points, 7.4 rebounds 3.9 assists).
James Birsen (1995, SF, 6-7, Turkey, Fenerbahce)
Birsen has shown his ability to play multiple backcourt positions, but the feeling is that he may have simply stopped developing. He has a natural feel for the game, combined with great passing instincts and court vision, especially in transition. On defense, he has good instincts, working effectively in passing lanes for steals.
Despite all of his strengths and perceived ceiling, there is a big concern about his streaky jump shot and average explosiveness. He has trouble beating defenders off the dribble. During the tournament he barely attacked the basket, waiting to be served outside the 3-point line by his teammates. Birsen is still a huge talent, but he needs help from a mental standpoint, as he seems to have really lost his confidence. He finished the competition with 11.6 points 7.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists.
Karlo Zganec (1995, PF, 6-8, Croatia, KK Zagreb)
Zganec was the hidden leader of his team, collecting stellar all-around numbers during the tournament: 13.3 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists. Standing 6-8, he’s a bit undersized for the power-forward position, struggling against bigger and taller players defensively. This shortcoming is offset by his quickness and mobility, which allows him to defend small forwards and even shooting guards.
Offensively, he lacks elite post moves, but he’s skilled and polished. He shows a complete offensive repertoire, both from midrange and below the boards. He has great instincts and game comprehension. In fact, he was close to double digits in rebounds, thanks to his sense of positioning and timing. Zganec is prospect with a limited upside, but he’s definitely ready to compete at a solid pro level.
Luke Nelson (1995, 6-2, PG, England, UC Irvine)
Nelson is a long, athletic point guard with impressive physical skills for the point-guard position. He’s a little bit skinny right now, but due to his age, he has plenty of time to develop. He’s lighting with the ball in his hands, with an impressive repertoire of crossover moves that allows him to beat just about any defender in transition at this level quite easily.
Sometimes he tends to over-dribble, leading to turnovers — especially when the tempo on the floor decreases in half-court game. His playmaking skills are still rather raw, as he needs to add some maturity and consistency to his game. His shot is inconsistent, too, especially from 3-point range. Next year, he’ll play at the NCAA level with UC Irvine. He concluded the competition with 19 points, 3.4 rebounds 2.2 assists.
Lovro Mazalin (1997, 6-8, SF, Croatia, Cibona Zagreb)
Despite being the youngest player of the competition (two years under the cutoff age), Mazalin was one of Croatia’s most effective players, showing advanced skills and maturity. He’s a strong, crafty point forward with a high basketball IQ and game comprehension. He has average explosiveness and leaping abilities, but he should definitely be considered a solid athlete, especially given his solid frame. He’s a natural scorer, with a wide variety of offensive solutions (attacking the basket, catch and shoot, midrange jumper). Plus, he has a smooth shot and perfect mechanics.
Despite being so effective from a scoring standpoint, he also has great passing instincts and court vision, combined with a wise shot selection. His quick first step allows him to beat forwards at this age, making him a difficult matchup. In order to develop his possibilities as a NBA prospect, he should work on his body and lateral speed. He closed with 10.4 points 5.7 rebounds 1.3 assists. He is already one of the top European prospects of his generation.
Domantas Sabonis (1996, 6-10, PF, Lithuania, Unicaja Malaga)
Sabonis showed his solid fundamentals, great passing instincts and a reliable hook shot, as he was consistently effective under the boards. He’s long and mobile for his height, but he needs to work on his body control when he attacks the basket, since he tends to lose balance during contact. He’s a good athlete, but nobody would call Sabonis explosive. His mobility allows him to run the floor well, with great effectiveness in secondary transition situations.
He needs to increase his shooting range and improve his ball handling in order to become a more effective offensive player. The main concern, though, is his mental toughness. Sometimes, he struggles to manage pressure — possibly due to the difficulties to live up to the pressure of his surname. He closed the competition with 14 points and 11.4 rebounds.
Rade Zagorac (1995, 6-7, SG, Serbia , Mega Vizura Belgrade)
Zagorac is a tall, skinny guard with an amazing wingspan for his position and big hands. He’s not excessively fast on the court, but he’s able to effectively put the ball on the court. He is reliable in catch-and-shoot situations, a skill that is more effective for him right now than attacking the basket, since he lacks speed. His passing skills and game comprehension are above average. He exploits his height advantage to pass over the top of defenders and he’s always looking to set up his teammates for easy shots.
His main shortcomings are physical. He struggles with quicker opponents and he absolutely needs to bulk up, but he is a prospect with a ceiling and upside worth tracking. He closed with nine points 4.3 rebounds 1.7 assists.
Okben Ulubay (1996, 6-7, SF, Turkey, Anadolu Efes)
This lefty was the second-leading scorer for the first-place squad from Turkey. He shows an advanced mid-range game, good athleticism and above-average length. He is young and shows good scoring ability. He plays point forward, but he is quite turnover prone at this point. He shows loads of potential, due to his driving and shooting ability. Think of Ulubay as a Hedo Turkoglu-type if he can continue to develop. Birsen received the same comparisons and hasn’t.
He still has a long way to go, so his development over the next few years will be critical. Turkey doesn’t have the best track record developing young guys. He lacks the hype of Lovro Mazalin, but some scouts feel he could end up better.
Marc Garcia (1996, 6-6, SG, Spain, FC Barcelona)
His body and face make him look even younger than his listed age. Garcia seems to have a lot of physical growth left in him based on his hands and feet, but he will need to work on adding strength. He has the desire that some other Spanish players seem to lack. At 6-foot-6, the big question is whether he can develop the leaping ability to stay with NBA athletes. He appears to be among the best under-17 scorers in Europe based on this event.
Marko Arapovic (1996, 6-10, PF/C, Croatia, Cibona Zagreb)
Arapovic showed his solid fundamental with solid footwork, great body control, and good body strength for his age. The most impressive part in his game is his shooting ability. He is very adept at the pick and pop, and is the prototypical stretch big man with his abilty to consistently make shots behind the three point line. Arapovic has good rotation and arc in his shot; some scouts have compared his shooting ability to former Duke player Ryan Kelly. While his foot work is solid he has limited athleticism that obviously hurts his chances for the NBA. But a big man with his fundamental skills and shooting ability is worth monitoring.