6-9, Small Forward, Geoplin Slovan
Originally from Bosnia, Preldzic emerged as the top Slovenian youngster this summer by leading his new country to the bronze medal at the European U-20 Championship in Turkey, only about 10 days after he got his Slovenian passport. We were expecting him to get some meaningful minutes in the Adriatic league this season, but so far he has exceeded expectations by logging a team-high 31.1 minutes per game.
Despite being 6-foot-9, Preldzic plays as a full-time small forward, which is rare in Europe for a player to play strictly on the perimeter at this size. One would assume that he has problems playing defense, since his usual matchups are 3-4 inches shorter, but that is really not the case. Actually, Emir has earned his playing time more with his defensive effort than his offensive output, which has been inconsistent so far. Preldzic has quick feet and moves well laterally, being able to draw charges and bother opponents with his length and quick hands. He is very active in the rebounding department, averaging 7.1 boards per game (3rd in the League). Emir anticipates where the ball will land and reacts accordingly, using his excellent length and above average leaping ability to get to the ball.
On offense, Emir shows quite impressive ball-handling skills, being able to create shots for himself as well as for his teammates. He is very crafty with the ball, both in terms of posting up smaller players on the block as well as getting by them with his face to the basket. Although he is not overly explosive, Preldzic can get enough separation thanks to his size, ball-handling skills and intelligence. He is a very good passer, always recognizing the holes in the opponent's defense.
Emir shows two major weaknesses at this point: his body and his perimeter shooting. He is underdevelop physically, lacking strength in both the upper and lower body, which hurts him when he tries to mix it up inside as well when finishing in traffic. Preldzic has a Tayshuan Prince type build, and it is very unlikely that he will able gain the appropriate bulk to become a legit inside player.
He is also an unreliable shooter, not showing the necessary touch to convert at a higher rate. He is shooting a terrible 19% from three-point land (7/36) and 43% from Free-Throw line (10/23). In the early going he's been forcing things with his three-point shot, even though it's obvious this is not his strength (he achieved similar results at U-20 Championship), taking 5.2 long range shots per game. He has a quick trigger, but lacks a consistent release point on his shot.
Preldzic is nevertheless a hot commodity, though, being a true small forward at 6-9 with very promising defensive skills as well as the ability to create off the dribble on the offensive end. Being just 19-years old, Emir has plenty of time to expand his game and body, and certainly has enough potential to land in the first round in 2008 or 2009. Playing only his rookie season at the Adriatic League level, Preldzic will only get better as he sees more time on the floor.
7-3, Center, Geoplin Slovan, 1985
What Begic has cannot be taught - gigantic size. He is a legitimate 7-foot-3 Center with an equally impressive wingspan, solid coordination and decent athleticism for his size. It is a give in that the players of his size get long hard looks in the NBA draft (Ramon Van Den Haare, Cheikh Samb, Martynas Andriuskevicius, Slavko Vranes, Nedzad Sinanovic etc.) , even if they don't necessarily achieve much on the court.
Mirza has had a lot of troubles with injuries so far in his career, and now he is finally seeing consistent minutes at the mid-major European level, for the first time in his career. Since he will be automatically eligible for 2007 NBA draft, he doesn't have much time at his disposal to show scouts that he is worthy of a draft pick. Begic has being loaned to one of worst teams in the Adriatic league - Geoplin Slovan - from legendary Italian giant Virtus Bolonga, where he couldn't crack the 12-man lineup. So far, he's averaging 8.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 20 minutes per game. Like his teammate Preldzic, Begic was also impressive for Slovania at the U-20 Championship, this time in Russia, averaging 14.5 ppg, 8 rpg, and 5.5 bpg. He surely gathered some interest from the NBA scouts there.
Begic uses his terrific size to come up with plenty of blocks and rebounds. Mirza is more skilled in the shot-blocking than the rebounding department currently and is showing solid anticipation and timing to swat shots away. He is especially effective coming from the weak-side. As already stated, Begic isn't a particularly skilled rebounder, getting his fair share of captures because of his height, but often not boxing out his opponents and lacking strength and toughness on the glass.
Speaking of strength, this seems to be most concerning factor for Begic. Being 21 years old already, Mirza is an unbelievably weak player. His legs are one of the thinnest you'll find and his upper body looks frail too, without much potential to fill out. All of this makes Begic very prone to the injuries, as well as limiting his upside to improve on his weaknesses.
On the offensive end, Mirza shows solid footwork and decent touch around the basket. He is able to release a hook shot with either hand, and this seems to be his only reliable source of scoring. He shows good enough hands and touch around the rim finishing with acceptable results. Occasionally, Mirza will pull-up from the mid-range area, but his percentages here are poor, even if he shows some fluidity in his jump shot.
Essential for Mirza is to get as strong as he possibly can, which would help improve his questionable durability, as well as his overall game. Begic reminds a lot of former Raptors bust Aleksander Radojevic. A couple of years ago he could have possibly cracked into the first round thanks to his pure size and potential, but at this point a 2nd round selection is the best he can hope for unless his production in the Adriatic league really takes off.