New Pearls in the Adriatic Sea, Part One
STANKO BARAC 7-1 Center Siroki 1986
26.8 mpg 10.9ppg 6.2rpg 1.4 apg 1.5bpg
He is still not and will never be first class talent, because his athleticism is really below average by NBA standards, but Barac's stock is definitely on the rise, and he could see his name called in the 2nd round of this or next year's draft.
Stanko is very big, a legit 7-foot-1 with a good wingspan and frame. He definitely plays stronger than he looks, showing the necessary toughness and grit under the rim. Barac is a dependable defender, using his big body to put opponents into uncomfortable situations. Despite not being able to get much lift off the ground, he blocks a good amount of shots thanks to his anticipation, positioning, and willingness to alter shots.
Offensively, Barac is a smart and skilled player, possessing a reliable jump-shot with range out to the international three-point line, as well as some effective, although unpolished post moves. He is a good passer out of double teams and shows an above average basketball IQ.
Although he doesn't ooze with potential like some others, Stanko is a hard working 7-footer who will most certainly find his niche on the basketball map. It's yet to be seen if he will be able to carve out a niche in the NBA, but we are most certainly talking about a desirable Center for Euroleague teams.
ZORAN ERCEG 6-11 PF FMP 1985
25.5 mpg 10.4ppg 4.2rpg 1.3spg
This soon to be 22 year-old power forward has emerged in the last 12 months as a big man with one of the most polished face up games in the Balkans. He was very close to qualifying for Serbia's World Championship team this summer, and is putting up solid numbers for FMP in both the Adriatic league and ULEB Cup. Given that this is his first full season at this level, Erceg still has issues with consistency, and has rarely been able to string together a couple of nice performances in a row.
Zoran is a typical perimeter oriented big man who spends most of the time outside of the painted area, even if he is more willing to mix it up inside then he was before. Erceg is a below average rebounder and shot-blocker for his position, and he doesn't excel guarding the perimeter either.
Being automatically eligible for June's draft, Erceg has a shot to get drafted in the 2nd round thanks to his ability to put the ball in the basket. While it is pretty clear that he will never be a force down low, Erceg could fit in the role of a sweet-shooting big man off the bench to stretch opposing defenses, and lure their big men outside of the paint.
NIHAD DJEDOVIC 6-6 SG/SF BOSNA 1990
17.3mpg 4.9ppg 1.9rpg 0.8apg
There is a lot of buzz around this very young Bosnian, who is getting consistent minutes for a solid team at the tender age of 16. This is uncommon even for the Adriatic League, where young players eventually get their chance to shine, but not this early. Nihad has put up some intriguing performances, scoring three times in double figures.
He has reportedly signed a contract already with Spanish powerhouse FC Barcelona, where he will get a chance for much more comfortable development. Djedovic will spend rest of the season with Bosna. Other teams such as Akasvayu Girona and Tau Ceramica were also interested in his services.
In terms of skills, Djedovic relies mostly on his jump-shot at this phase of his career. He has good form and a smooth release, but lacks some consistency, as proven by his 34% average from the field. He is a good ball-handler and likes to put the ball on the floor, but has a lot of trouble finishing at the rim against opposition. Nihad shows great poise and ability for his age, especially on the defensive end, where he contributes more than on offense. He is a very good on ball defender, having nice lateral quickness, and looking very focused and motivated.
It is tough to evaluate a 16-year old in terms of his NBA draft potential, especially since we are talking about a European guard who doesn't have standout size or athleticism. Only time will tell how good Djedovic will become.
LUKSA ANDRIC 6-10 PF CIBONA ZAGREB 1985
13.5mpg 7.2ppg 3.8rpg 0.5apg
After a slow start to the season, Andric has been very impressive for Cibona lately in both the Adriatic and Euroleague. He averages 6.6 points and 3.1 rebounds in Adriatic, while in the Euroleague he puts up 7.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per contest.
His increase in production has come in direct relation to his ability to stay out of foul trouble. He has been more careful lately in avoiding ticky-tack fouls, as well as staying stagnant while setting screens. This has enabled him to stay on the floor for longer periods of time and allows him to contribute more.
Offensively, he moves well without the ball, getting good position to receive a post entry pass, or freeing himself up for an easy lay-up. Lately he has been on fire with his jump-shot; nailing them from 18 feet out with impressive consistency. Andric has previously displayed that he has good shooting mechanics and range out to the international three-point line, so this is not really a surprise.
If he continues his play from his last 5 games and gains stability, he will have a good shot at being 2nd round pick in June's draft. Although Andric is automatically eligible for the 2007 NBA draft, he still has plenty of potential left, since he hasn't really seen all that much playing time in senior basketball at the international level.