Only six weeks into the 2010-2011 season, you'd be hard pressed to find a more productive young big man in all of high-level European basketball than 20-year old Leon Radosevic. The 6-10 Croatian has taken advantage of the serious economic issues at Cibona Zagreb to establish himself as a consistent performer in the Euroleague, currently ranking 8th in the competition's MVP formula. Much of that is due to the huge minutes he's seeing, but it's impressive nonetheless, especially when you consider that he's often been considered just the fourth best prospect on his own team, behind fellow Croatians Bojan Bogdanovic, Tomislav Zubcic, and Mario Delas.
Radosevic will likely never be considered a first-class NBA prospect, as he's not an incredibly naturally skilled player, and his physical tools don't really jump off the page at you on first glance. While he has good size at 6-10, he still has work to do on his body and isn't an incredibly explosive athlete. Where Radosevic does stand out is with his basketball IQ and workmanlike approach to the game, as he finds a way to be effective despite his clear-cut limitations.
Offensively, Radosevic gets most of his production as a pick and roll finisher or through his mid-range jumper. He has good hands, nice touch, excellent smarts moving off the ball, and is a pretty quick leaper jumping off two feet all things that make him an attractive option in the two-man game for Cibona Zagreb. He is very effective with his jumper in the 15 to 17-foot area, currently converting close to 50% of his 2 ½ attempts per game according to Synergy Sports Technology.
He isn't the type of player who is going to create a great deal of offense for himself, as he does not possess great ball-handling skills and lacks the strength and footwork to operate effectively with his back to the basket. Occasionally he'll take the ball to the basket in a straight line after a shot-fake, but as with the rest of his game, nothing he does is particularly pretty or fancy. He is a solid passer, though, which lends credence to the notion that he's an excellent teammate and possesses a very good basketball IQ.
Defensively, Radosevic works hard, but is frequently a target for opponents' post-up plays, as he sees far more time at the center position than he probably should in Cibona's extremely shallow frontcourt. He lacks the strength and girth to keep high-level big men from establishing deep post position against him, and gets backed down fairly easily, which gets him in foul trouble from time to time. Guarding power forwards, Radosevic has good fundamentals, will put the effort in hedging on the pick and roll, and gets a good amount of steals due to his strong activity level, but could struggle guarding some of the stronger and more athletic 4's he will encounter in the NBA. Perhaps most concerning is the fact that he's just an average rebounder on this end of the floor, which is not what you want to see out a clear-cut role player.
Still a year away from becoming draft-eligible, Radosevic could very well elect to test the NBA draft waters this spring considering the excellent numbers he's currently putting up in both the Euroleague and Adriatic League. To truly maximize his NBA prospects, he'd be well served continuing to improve his defense and rebounding and increasing his shooting range out to the 3-point line things that would make him a lot more attractive as an NBA power forward. While his game might be better suited for the European style, it wouldn't be a surprise if some NBA team decided to take a flyer on him somewhere in the second round, as he looks very likely to continue to improve and will likely establish himself as one of the better power forwards in Europe at some stage in his career.
Quick Hitters - Adriatic League Edition
Though Saric was tested by Caja Laboral, he opted to stay in his native Croatia to play for KK Zagreb, who has made every effort to give him opportunities to gain experience. Loaned to Dubrava for Croatian League games, Zagreb has kept Saric on their roster for EuroChallenge competition, Adriatic League play, and will allow him to play against his peers for their youth team. In maximizing the amount of game action Saric sees, Zagreb hopes to accelerate the maturation of the highly-touted, young point-forward.
Much of Saric's development as a player in the immediate future will come in his decision-making. Functioning as a do-everything point guard at the U16 Championships, but working primarily off the ball as a small forward in limited minutes in Adriatic League play, Saric has a tremendous feel for the game, shows great touch from the perimeter, proves to be a solid passer, and shows a degree of versatility that is extremely rare for a player his age. Despite all that, he remains a bit turnover prone, especially when handling the ball regularly as evidenced by the 12 turnovers he registered on top of his triple-double in the U16 Championship Game.
Just as Saric has room to improve his game, he has plenty of room to improve from a physical standpoint, a key concern regarding his NBA potential. Standing 6'8, Saric has terrific size for a small forward already, but lacks NBA caliber footspeed and the strength to take care of the ball against more aggressive defenders. Should he continue to grow, which is entirely possible, he could play multiple positions in the European game, but will need get stronger and continue to work on his athleticism to improve his ability to create offense and defend any position effectively on the NBA level.
Considering that we're talking about a player that won't turn 17 until April of next year, we would be remiss to draw any definitive conclusions about Saric at this point, as he's just scratching the surface of his potential. There is no question that he has a fantastic skill-level for a player his age and is dominant in his age group. However, he's seeing just 12 minutes per-game in the Adriatic League. We'll be monitoring his progress as his role grows both this year and in the future.
Standing 6'3, with a solid frame, Nedovic is a very good athlete, especially for the European game. Reminiscent of Goran Dragic in some ways, Nedovic has the explosiveness to play above the rim with space and the quickness to get to the basket off the dribble. Spending the majority of his time running the pick and roll or going one-on-one from the top of the key, the Belgrade native does a fine job using screens and hesitation moves to create lanes to get to the basket. Highly aggressive when he has a head of steam, Nedovic is at his best creating contact at the rim. Though he is a bit out of control at times, he is able to attack with either hand, shoots a solid 55% in finishing situations, gets to the line at a very good rate, and makes some excellent passes threading the ball to cutters through traffic.
Away from the rim, Nedovic isn't nearly as effective as a scorer or as a passer at this point in his career. He can create his own shot from the perimeter, but he has shot just 25% from three point range this season and needs to refine his mechanics when pulling up off the dribble. He looks a bit stuck between positions as well, forcing some difficult shots from the outside and looking to create his own offense rather than making the easy pass or using his quickness to drive and dish. His ability to develop as a shooter and point guard will be key to his NBA potential.
Defensively, Nedovic shows solid lateral quickness and very pesky hands, but may struggle to keep up with the faster floor generals in the NBA, at least initially. His effort level wavers at times and he makes some mistakes, but he's capable of using his athleticism to pressure the ball in the Adriatic League.
Just 19 years old, Nedovic still has plenty of time to improve his offensive arsenal and develop his intensity defensively. Averaging in double figures in his first real taste of Adriatic League basketball, Nedovic could develop into a high-level producer on the European level in time, but could garner quite a bit of attention on the NBA front if he improves his perimeter tools and becomes a more fundamentally sound floor general. Regardless, he took a big step forward this summer, and deserves mention here for how well he's played in starter's minutes.
-Milan Macvan rejected overtures from some top European teams this summer and instead elected to stay in Vrsac with Hemofarm for another season. As you can see in his DX DX Stats page, he is absolutely destroying the Adriatic league offensively thus far, to the tune of 23 points per-40 minutes pace adjusted on 60% shooting. We'll surely be revisiting his progress in a more in-depth fashion soon enough.
-Jan Vesely and Partizan Belgrade both got off to an extremely slow start after losing their head coach and team icon Dusko Vujosevic to CSKA Moscow this summer. Vujosevic was recently fired by CSKA, but Partizan has regrouped nicely over the past few weeks, winning some key games in the Adriatic League and Euroleague after Vesely recovered from a minor hand injury that set him back early on. We're planning on going back to Belgrade once again this February and will be keeping a close eye on Vesely all season long.
-Other Adriatic league players who will be getting closer looks in this space over the next few weeks include Partizan's Dragan Milosavljevic (1989), Tomislav Zubcic (1990), Mario Delas (1990), Miro Bilan (1989) and others.