Garbajosa made his first appearance here on DraftExpress early in 2005, in an article about the Spanish Kings Cup
. Despite not enjoying your typical NBA tools, we felt then that he was too good, and his performance too brilliant, to ignore--even in an NBA-related piece. Toronto Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo must have felt something similar to offer him a reported 12 million dollar contract over three years. So after a successful career in Europe, Jorge is now bound to test his game against the very best, in the NBA.
Garbajosa is another product of Tau Vitoria, then an up-and-coming team where he grew as a player, learning the ropes of the post game. Still, what hes become now cant be understood without his four years in Treviso, from 2000 to 2004, where developed a three-point shot and became a perimeter-oriented power forward, while taking up that unique Italian craftiness that has forged his winning character.
Under the guidance of two of the best coaches in Europe in the last years, Mike DAntoni and Ettore Messina, Garbajosa won two Italian League Championships, two Italian Cups and enjoyed two Euroleague Final Four appearances with an unforgettable squad that included Tyus Edney
, Ricardo Pittis, Denis Marconato, Marcelo Nicola and Massimo Bulleri. His individual accolades include an All-Euroleague Team selection in the 2002/03 season and MVP honors in the 2004 Italian Cup. His steady production can be summarized in his 12.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals in the Euroleague during his Italian years.
Back in Spain as a top-market signee for Unicaja Málaga, Garbajosa became a prophet in his own land by leading his team to the Spanish Cup in 2005 and its first ever Spanish League Championship this last season, earning MVP honors in both competitions. While in Treviso he was one of the main foundations of Benetton, in Málaga he was simply the cornerstone of the team. His impact was so notorious that some Málaga fans baptized him as the Porn Player, because he does everything and does it obscenely well.
Things didnt go as well in the Euroleague, with an early exit in the 2004/05 season and a disappointing top-16 stage this season. Still he upped his stats to a combined 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 2.1 assists per game.Strengths
Basketball IQ is the trademark of Garbajosa. Hes one of the best players in Europe in taking decisions on both ends of the court. He fully understands the game and tries to take advantage of it constantly for him and for his teammates. Hes first a team player, even when he presides as the leader.
Garbajosa gains most of his offensive advantages on the perimeter, forcing his matchup to step out thanks to his reliable perimeter stroke, and enjoying range that likely extends out to the NBA three-point line. Meanwhile, he will punish his man for guarding him too closely by taking him off the dribble and looking for the layup. Hes a nice ball-handler and will rarely turn it over.
Still, as important as his own advantages is the fact that he does a tremendous job clearing space in the paint for his teams center, allowing him to operate more comfortably with the room he creates. Garbajosa himself will feed him or move the ball so it can reach that spot. If hes guarded by a smaller defender, he can take him to the low post, where he usually tries to attract defensive help and feed an open teammate. Hes a very good passer, not spectacular, but tremendously effective, particularly within the flow of the offense. And hes constantly working to make the offense run smoothly, setting picks and moving without the ball.
Besides being a perimeter-shooting big man, he fulfils another international stereotype: hes a great player forcing personal fouls, mainly in slashing situations.
What makes Garbajosa so special is that hes as good defensively as he is offensively. He delivers every bit of intensity and intelligence to get the job done. His lateral movement is quite nice, and hes also a tough guy. Considering his limited physical and athletic gifts, hes a remarkable shot-blocker who shows excellent timing, although its hard to picture him getting any significant production in this department in the NBA.
Not a bad rebounder in the international game, it remains to be seen how he fares against much bigger opponents in the NBA. His aggressiveness and smartness should help him, though.Weaknesses
Its obvious, glaring and quite concerning the poor combination of size and athleticism that Garbajosa possesses. Hes a 6-9 power forward with limited leaping ability and nothing more than decent quickness. That makes the transition of his skills to the NBA level very questionable.
His decision making has one flaw: his shot selection is not always the best. Sometimes hell settle for the three-pointer excessively, even if hes not making them. However, that has been the case when he has enjoyed a leading role on his team; in a more marginal role, its hard to picture him going overboard with his perimeter stroke. Still, its quite probable that he will suffer with the transition to the NBA three-point line, even if you can see him knocking down long treys in Europe.
Originally a low post player, Garbajosa has lost some of his skills there. He suffers trying to finish around the basket unless he manages to release a turnaround jumper. Rarely utilizing his hook shot, he instead prefers to pass the ball to an open teammate.Why sign him?
It takes some serious courage to sign this type of player. We have seen other mature international players who did not enjoy NBA-caliber physical tools fail in the past. Antoine Rigaudeau
comes to mind. Also, neither Sarunas Jasikevicius or Arvydas Macijauskas
have shined this past season, despite enjoying a defined skill to play a role on their teams (both shooters, Sarunas also an excellent passer), although its debatable if they were in the right situation to succeed.
Anyway, although not as naturally talented, Garbajosa brings something that those guys hardly deliver: hustle. Hes a player who is willing to do all those little things a team needs to come up with a victory. Hes not a stat-stuffer, but a glue guy. He will help on both ends of the court, make his open shots, take good decisions, and be a real teammate. For the Toronto Raptors, he will also help his former teammate in Treviso Andrea Bargnani
to make the transition to the NBA game.
Time will tell if this bet pays off.