Previous editions of this tournament saw the likes of Pau Gasol and Rudy Fernández blossoming. From last year, three participants were selected in the 2005 NBA draft (Fran Vázquez, Mickaël Gelabale and Axel Hervelle), while four more signed as free agents with an NBA team (Arvydas Macijauskas, Fabricio Oberto, José Manuel Calderón and Pat Burke). It wouldnt be a stretch to say that because of the fact that every team in the NBA is represented here, including numerous GMs and player personnel directors, these could be the most important games of the year as far as showing NBA potential is concerned.
Part one of our two part series looks at the NBA draft prospects on display at the tournament. Part two will look at players already drafted in the past as well as potential future NBA free agent targets.
-2005 King's Cup Coverage
-2004 King's Cup Coverage
This year Tiago Splitter was the hottest name linked to the NBA. The scouts that came to Madrid didnt waste their time as his performance was extremely worthwile of taking in in person. As usual, he was another very solid piece for an impressive Tau Vitoria, the winners of the competition. This is a team that at some point of every game, rolled over its rivals with a perfect combination of aggressiveness and refined basketball.
Lets take a look at some of the most interesting players seen in the tournament:
Tiago Splitter leads this section with the counterpoint being the disappointing Marko Tomas, while Rudy Fernández rests somewhere in the middle. Marc Gasol didnt see enough playing time to deserve mentioning.
Tau Vitoria; 7-0; 1985; PF/C; 25.4 mpg, 10 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.3 TOpg
Tiago didnt particularly shine in some aspects where hes notoriously brilliant, basically post defense, but he addressed a few concerns about his game. As if he were aware of the presence of multiple scouts, general managers and other NBA personnel in the stands, he took care of leaving no doubt that:
- he can play above the rim
- he can score in the low post
- he has a nice soft touch around the basket
The quarterfinal against DKV Joventut was probably the most spectacular game for him. His aggressiveness on the offensive end was soon obvious when he powerfully dunked an offensive rebound that, in other circumstances, might have finished with a layup. However, nobody expected what happened in the last quarter. Dribbling the ball in transition, his only opposition was a rival standing under the basket ready to stop Tiago. To avoid him, Splitter jumped, made a spin and finished with a double-handed reverse dunk (in the photo). Impressive stuff that we just arent usually used to seeing out of him.
This game also set the tone for the rest of the weekend in terms of showing his soft touch. Every time that Splitter delivered a semi-hook shot around the basket, whether with his left or right hand, it went in. He still needs a bit of work to gain some height in order to more comfortably avoid the rivals opposition, but he showed excellent reliability.
After his excellent 18-point performance in 25 minutes in the quarterfinals, he went a bit more unnoticed in the semifinals against Real Madrid. Still he showed authority on the boards collecting 8 rebounds, finished a spectacular alley-up delivered by Prigioni after a pick-and-roll play in the high post, and exhibited his defensive ability a few times.
All in all, Splitter played a good tournament in terms of defense, but perhaps not on par with what were used to, particularly in big-time situations. He suffered more than usual in the low post, probably due to foul trouble, a constant during the tournament that didnt allow him to be as aggressive as he would likely have desired.
Still, Splitter showed his excellent lateral quickness, from which his coach took advantage of in the last quarter of the final against Pamesa Valencia, matching Tiago with the very athletic wing Mindaugas Timinskas, who couldnt produce off that mismatch despite repeatedly attacking the Brazilian.
However, the most interesting situations in the final came in the couple of times Splitter was left open on the perimeter, with his defender waiting near the key (Tiago is usually given space, as he never shoots from the perimeter while playing for Tau). The Brazilian decided to put the ball on the floor, dribble towards the lane looking to make contact with his defender, bang him a little trying to get closer to the basket, perform a post move (faking to one side first, going to another later; not a finesse movement, but useful anyway) and then let his soft touch take care of putting the ball in the net.
Perhaps the most negative side of his showing here was his free-throw shooting. Coming off a good streak, he extended his accuracy to the quarterfinal, but the last two games revealed his inconsistency from the line, going only 2-9.
To summarize, Splitter really helped his stock in this Cup, leaving the impression that his future, sooner or later, rests in the NBA. It was probably a top-5 performance draft-wise.
DKV Joventut; 6-5; 1985; SG; 1 game, 20 minutes, 11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 TO
After missing the Cup last season after not landing in the top-8 of the ACB league, Rudy Fernández came back to the competition that made his name familiar to basketball fans world wide two years ago.
This time he didnt enjoy the best situation to shine. For starters, coach Reneses decided to leave him out of the starting five. Coming off the bench, he quickly got into foul trouble and could only stay on the court for 20 minutes before being fouled out.
Losing in the first round, there wasnt time for much more. Rudys stock hasnt suffered any significant variation after this tournament. Hes still a legit first round prospect, although it would be nice to see him assuming more of a leading role in DKV Joventut at some point of this season. He has the talent and maturity to do it.
Real Madrid; 6-8; 1985; SG/SF; 2 games, 20 mpg, 5.5 ppg
In the quarterfinals against FC Barcelona, he notched a couple of catch-and-shoot three pointers after receiving looks, showing his nice accuracy when he is in a good position. The second one, in the last minutes of the game, was rather important to secure the victory for Real Madrid. However, that was his entire contribution in that game.
There was a curious play in the semifinal against Tau Vitoria that illustrates the huge problems he has creating his own shot. Marko was left defended by Tiago Splitter in a mismatch situation with more than enough space to play one on one. Tomas tried, but he wasnt anywhere close to beating Tiago off the dribble (see the photo). At least he could deliver a mid-range shot that went in, but the final impression was the image of a limited player in terms of slashing.
Tomas didnt help his draft cause at all, which was already suffering the effects of the long-term contract he signed last season with Real Madrid. That decision now looks like the right one, as he looks everyday less of a first-round player, but is economically secure now, earning good money under a long contract in a strong European club.