Saer Sene's size, length and athleticism makes him one of the most intriguing big men amongst any of the prospects available. Oleksiy Pecherov is coming off a breakout season in Europe and looks poised to land somewhere in the mid-late 1st round. Damir Markota and Kosta Perovic are both fairly established Euroleague players who are hoping to be drafted somewhere in the 2nd round.
American Perspective on European Big Men, Part One
Saer Sene, 7-0, Center, 1986, Senegal, Pepinster (Belgium)
If his learning curve really is as steep as some NBA teams think, were talking about an absolute force in the middle that runs the floor incredibly hard, blocks shots and rebounds with the best of them, and best of all, shows a terrific attitude to do all the little things.
But if he ends up the way too many African prospects over the past few years have, the results will not be pretty for the team that drafts him. Olumide Oyedeji, Malick Badiane, Mamadou NDiaye, Soumalia Samake, the list of uber-athletic freaks with incredible wingspans and little to no basketball experience goes and on and on.
Sene essentially represents everything the NBA draft stands for. Hit a home run and you might get a Samuel Dalembert with the 27th pick. Strike out and you might suffer through four listless years of DeSagana Diop like the Cleveland Cavaliers did after drafting him 8th overall.
Senes more likely scenario is that he develops into a more athletic version of what Diop has become today, a big body in the post who intimidates with his length, runs the floor, sets good screens, rebounds with purpose and scores when the opportunity arises. As ordinary as that might sound, there is a plenty of value in getting a 7-footer in that mold, particularly when you are drafting somewhere from 10-20. Anything more than that is absolute gravy for the team that drafts him, which is where his upside kicks in.
For more info on Saer Senes strengths and weaknesses, click on his name to read his recently completed scouting report.
Oleksiy Pecherov, 6-11, Center, 1985, Ukraine, Paris Racing Basket
Pecherov made a name for himself in the States with the work he did in the Global Games in Dallas in the summers of 2005 and 2004, playing against strong American teams made up of numerous NBA draft prospects such as Rudy Gay, Rajon Rondo, J.J. Redick and Marcus Williams.
As our Director of International Scouting Luis Fernandez so eloquently put it, Pecherov is indeed your stereotypical European big man. He prefers to face the basket and has a very smooth looking high arching jump-shot that he gets off from above the top of his head. Hes a dangerous threat on the pick and pop, and if crowded, shows no hesitance to blow by his man with a nice first step and excellent ball-handling skills with either hand. Not being particularly strong or tough, he prefers to pull-up smoothly off the dribble from mid-range or use a fancy pivot stepping into a turnaround jump-shot. Overall he is a very good athlete for a European big man, featuring good footspeed and decent leaping ability.
This athleticism combined with his size and length makes him a good rebounder at the European level, as he has nice soft hands as well as a good initial and secondary bounce to go after the ball as it comes off the rim, showing nice anticipation skills in the process. When coming away with an offensive rebound, he goes back up fairly strong and has nice touch to finish off the glass.
At this point Pecherov isnt strong enough to fully take advantage of his size around the basket, and he indeed has trouble establishing position in the post. Even when he does, he doesnt appear to be the most contact loving player in the world, which causes him to either go to his turnaround jumper or float out to the perimeter and look from his offense from there instead. This certain lack of strength and toughness makes him a fairly average defender as well, being back down around the basket and generally showing fairly average awareness in everything revolving around his team defense, particularly in terms of rotating and defending the pick and roll. His lateral quickness is not stellar even for a player his size.
Pecherov had somewhat of a breakout season in Europe this past year, finally being given consistent playing time at the senior level after riding the pine for the most part over the past two years with BC Kiev. He is a candidate to draft in the 15-25 range and send back overseas for another year or two to work on his strength and overall polish, or he could be signed right away and used as a space creator and mismatch threat on the perimeter coming off the bench. Not being too unlike fellow Ukrainian Slava Medvedenko, he leaves a little bit more room for optimism regarding future improvement in the attitude he shows.
Damir Markota, 6-11, Power Forward, 1985, Croatia, Cibona Zagreb
Another name who has been on the radar for quite some time, Damir Markota finally developed into a productive Euroleague contributor this season, but may not have been quite productive enough to warrant staying in the draft when its obvious that he is still not close to being a first round pick.
While Markota plays the power forward position in Europe and has great height and athleticism to continue to do so in the NBA, his other physical attributes are below average. He lacks both bulk and the type of frame that can be expected to continue to add much weight to it. His wingspan is well below average as well, which hampers his potential as a defender and rebounder at the 4-point in the NBA. Markota also lacks any real tools to become a significant threat in the paint to take advantage of his great size and athleticism, showing little to no post footwork or back to the basket moves and limited scoring options besides his turnaround jumper.
If deemed a small forward, there are other significant question marks that Markota will have to answer, starting with his defense. His fundamentals on this end of the floor are extremely poor in man to man defense, using his hands too much, showing unpolished footwork and very average awareness, picking up careless fouls and being late to rotate in the team defense concept. Offensively, his shot selection can be very poor and his overall decision making questionable. His ball-handling skills are rudimentary at best, dribbling the ball with his head down and being quite turnover prone. Its probably too late to fix his shooting mechanics, so there are some question marks even here about much potential he has as a perimeter shooter.
Futher concerning about his upside and more-so his likelihood to achieve it are the many off the court problems Markota has had over the past few years, mostly in terms of his affinity for the night life scene in Zagreb and some issues hes had with coaches and teammates. Markota has noticeably matured recently, but the light bulb still hasnt fully come on as evidenced by quotes from his teammate Scoonie Penn in the Croatian media about whether he has NBA potential: Yeah, when he wants to. I said it to him two years ago; and Im still saying it to him. When I see him not working hard, I say: Are you kidding me, youre 21 years old, do you know what kind of life you have ahead of you? It all depends on him and his attitude. If he wants to, if he realizes what it takes to be a true professional on and off the court and he dedicates himself to it, he could be an NBA player, and a good one.
Despite these concerns, Markota is still an intriguing prospect with quite a bit of room left to develop. His size, athleticism and perimeter shooting skills could already make him a serviceable NBA player when considering what his likely role in the league would be, and there is always the upside of stashing him overseas for a few years to see how he continues to improve. With the depth of this years draft crop taking a hit with the age limit and a weak Orlando pre-draft camp, combined with numerous teams in the 2nd round possessing multiple picks, Markotas standing in the draft has improved almost by default.
Kosta Perovic, 7-2, Center, 1985, (Serbia and Montenegro), Partizan Belgrade
He's still absolutely huge though, 7-2 to be exact, with good enough hands, long arms and a nice touch around the rim. The hook shot is still his best and most polished weapon to score in the paint, and it is pretty hard to stop because of his size. He has an excellent mid-range jumper, and seems to be a fairly skilled player for a player his size.
Athletically, he is average to below average, even for a player his size. His feet are very slow and it takes him a while to do almost anything it seems. His vertical leap looked to be almost non-existent, barely being able to get off the ground to challenge shots, which makes him a very average shot-blocker despite his height. Defensively, despite the fact that he is humongous, he is a liability almost any way you slice it, due to his poor lateral movement, strength and basketball IQ. He just doesn't seem to put any effort in at all on this side of the floor, and that's a shame because that's basically the only thing he can do in the NBA at his height. Offensively, he often lacks strength to finish at the rim, playing a bit soft and not always that focused.
There are question marks whether he will be able to adjust to the speed that the NBA game is played at, and he'll certainly have to bring it stronger every night than he did in the numerous games of his I watched with Partizan over the past two years. He's still fairly young, only a 1985 prospect, so maybe not all hope is lost at this point. He will have to hit the weight room, try to become a little bit more explosive, and learn how to use his size to his advantage better on both the offensive and especially the defensive ends.
All in all, this doesn't seem like the best time for Perovic to have his game evaluated by the NBA, as his season was fairly underwhelming and he'll have limited time for workouts to improve his stock. Regardless, he is in the draft for good, and is hoping to get drafted somewhere in the 2nd round based on his size. Stashing a player like him overseas is usually an option, but Perovics team Partizan isnt interested in paying his huge contract next year and might insist that the team that drafts him signs him and even pays them a buyout for their trouble.