Player of the Week: Omri Casspi
You can perfectly understand the immense joy showed by Galil players when the game finished, almost like they had just won a championship, given Maccabis tyrannical dominance over the years in the domestic competition. They were in fact undefeated this season in the Israeli League. Casspi was particularly expressive, even during the game. Hes a hot-blooded player whose rights actually belong to Maccabi (hes loaned in Galil), which likely was extra motivation for him. He led his team in scoring with 17 points, adding 5 rebounds and 3 assists. He has scored in double digits in the last 7 games of the Israeli League, emerging as one of the currently best performers out of the 1988 international pool, only clearly behind Danilo Gallinari.
You have to love the passion and character Casspi showed in this game, even if he sometimes overreacts and acts a bit cocky. Hes actually a rather intense player, a fearless guy who rarely hides from responsibilities and loves to take the initiative. Its pretty obvious just watching him grabbing a rebound and driving the ball to the offensive end with enormous confidence. Indeed his go-to move is pretty representative of that spirit, as hes first a terrific slasher. Its truly very difficult to keep him out of the lane; as he enjoys a quick first step, very nice ball-handling skills, solid footwork, good use of his body, and all the determination to attack his rivals. Thats remarkable for a 6-8 small forward like him. Maccabi players were hopeless trying to stop him, and he ended up forcing many fouls. Casspi is also becoming a solid shooter. He knocked down a couple of spot-up three-pointers and missed another one by a hair, and he now credits an excellent 45.7% from that range in the Israeli League this season. Hes effective off the dribble from the mid-range area, but wasnt lucky here in this game. We could also see him delivering a rather orthodox right-handed jump-hook that almost went in, which tells us about his scoring mentality and skill adaptability.
Above anything, Casspi looks extremely natural playing the game. The visual impression couldnt be better, as he enjoys an excellent frame and notable wingspan, so he leaves a mixed feeling of elegance and aggressiveness. Hes not an outstanding athlete, but is very fluid. Its on defense where he suffers the most in this area. Hes aware of his limitations in terms of lateral quickness and prefers to concede space to his match-ups, risking easy shots, in order to prevent them from slashing. Still, hes rather active on team defense and rebounding. He enjoys a nice basketball IQ, although he sometimes gets caught up in the fire of the game and eventually forces some plays. Just like it happened to him right after surprisingly blocking Nikola Vujcic, as he tried to complete the humiliation on the offensive end by attacking the Croatian center one-on-one in the first seconds of the possession, resulting in a very bad shot.
Anyway, Casspi might potentially be a first-round pick, and well be following him closely. Particularly next week in the Nike Hoop Summit.
Taking a Long Look at
Despite arguably being a more talented team, Guangdong is not getting the job done. They have always started ahead in the score, but suffering from poor playmaking (Bayis point Wang Zhongguang has literally killed his opponents in the last two games), the more veteran team Bayi has successfully slowed down the games to execute its half court offense, using the low post very well to generate spaces and good shots, while showing more poise with the games on the line. Actually, the only victory for Guangdong came in the second game, when they just outran their rival with a frenzied transition game, which ultimately resulted in a blowout win.
Yi Jianlian in particular is having some troubles against Bayis excellent frontcourt (for Chinese standards). He has been battling mainly against Wang Zhizhi and Mo Ke, both members of the Chinese National Team and both long, mobile and skilled guys. Yi is especially suffering scoring near the basket when he isnt able to use his right-handed jump-hook from short distances (which is by the way looking pretty nice, with an excellent high release). Hes finding less space in the lane and more intimidation than usual, so he cant operate as comfortably and his teammates dont find him as easily. Simply put, he cant just score over his rivals at will.
Still, Yi has delivered a bit of everything regarding his offensive game. He has again shown his solid mid-range stroke, useful out to 20 feet, but still very inconsistent from the three-point line (1/6 in this series). He has also attacked his match-ups off the dribble with both hands and decent handles, also exposing severe limitations to finish with his left, just as it happens when he plays from the post. Indeed, we havent seen much of his turnaround shot off the post, actually missing the very few times he put it on display. Anyway, he never found the rhythm to heat up from the field, and couldnt lead his team with the games on the line; he couldnt become a real go-to player.
On defense it was a bit of the same story. Its not that Wang Zhizhi has exaggeratedly dominated him, but Yi has suffered trying to stop him. Still far from being a really physical defender (as we have stated before, he needs to use his body better and be more aggressive), Wang has been able to rely on his pure skills to outscore him. Besides, this time his frontcourt teammate Jason Dixon has not been as effective as in the semifinals, as his limited size doesnt match well with Wangs height and wingspan.
Yi has averaged 20.4 points and 9.5 rebounds in these four games, which might look good at first sight, but is a bit disappointing when we consider that he has needed almost 43 minutes per game to achieve these numbers. Where he gets picked on draft night will greatly depend on who falls in love with his potential. He will need a big adjustment in his defensive game from what hes displaying in the CBA to what will be required in the NBA. Still, he seems a smart kid, and if he puts enough effort, he shouldnt have troubles in the long run. Offensively, he will start as a pure role player, which should make things easier for him.
State of the Prospect: Whos Hot
Nikita Shabalkin had 24 points and 11 rebounds against one of the best Russian squads, Unics Kazan. His team Samara is losing some ground in the SuperLeague lately and as expected couldnt get away with the victory.
Rudy Fernández led DKV Joventut to an important victory over Unicaja Málaga in the ACB League. It was quite an inspired performance with 19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. He was very active all game long, perhaps sometimes abusing his long-range shot or over-dribbling a little looking for one-on-one options, but having an excellent impact on his team. Hes particularly passing the ball more lately (averages 4.2 assists in the last 6 games) and looks aggressive taking advantage of his athleticism to clean the boards (averages 6.3 rebounds in the last 3 games).
State of the Prospect: Whos Not
This week were focusing on a well-known young couple playing for Pau Orthez. They are European junior champions and enjoy good-to-great potential, but they are struggling finding minutes on the court for the French team. The last round of the Euroleagues top-16, a meaningless game for Pau against Tau Vitoria, was a perfect opportunity for his coach to give them some burn.
Ludovic Vaty even started for his team, although he only stayed on court for 13 minutes. Although nothing more than garbage time, hes been the one receiving seeing more action during the season. It makes sense, since hes a strong and fairly athletic guy who rarely suffers physically against top European competition. Facing Tau, besdes a surprising spot-up three pointer that didnt go in, he looked very similar to the player we saw last summer, playing very close to the basket and still lacking a reliable touch to consistently net the ball. He was aggressive on the offensive glass, grabbing 4 rebounds (although 2 of them were off his own missed shots), while he did a decent job on defense. He needs to work on his skill repertoire, but apparently he looks ready to contribute at some (small) degree to his team.
According to the Spanish newspaper elcorreodigital, Tau Vitoria is very interested in Vladimir Dasic, the very talented forward from Montenegro that plays for Buducnost in the Adriatic League. Its not that much of a surprise since Taus new field commander, Boza Maljkovic, had already tried to bring him to Real Madrid a couple of years ago, when he was coaching there. However, it seems like a long-shot for Tau to sign Dasic, since his team would likely ask for a very big sum (there were rumors at the time stating that the failed deal with Real Madrid was estimated at close to 2 million Euros).
Henk Norel has extended his contract with DKV Joventut for two more seasons, until 2010. Still 19 years old, he currently plays on loaned in Prat, in LEB-2 (third Spanish division), where he averages 12.6 points and 8.5 rebounds. Its highly likely that he will get playing time with Joventuts first team next season. Anyway, check future editions of the roundup for more in-depth information on him.
After his excellent performance in the ACB League, featured here on DraftExpress, Marc Gasol earned MVP of the week honors in the ACB League. In less than 30 minutes, he scored 16 points with great accuracy (5/6 from the field, 6/7 from the line), grabbed 13 rebounds, dished out 1 assist and had 2 blocks. This weekly honor is purely based on efficiency scoring (similar to the one used by the NBA, but taking fouls committed and drawn into account) and nobody came close to Gasols 36 efficiency points.