A 23-year old center who only started playing organized basketball 5 years ago after giving up on his career as a swimmer, Yiannis Bouroussis
made serious enough strides this past season to earn himself a rightful spot on this listone that he probably wont be relinquishing anytime soon until he makes his way over.
A legit 7-footer with a huge frame and a very nice wingspan, Bouroussis looks the part and then some. And while he is not a spectacular athlete by any stretch, particularly in the way he gets off the floor to finish around the basket, he moves well enough and is fluid and coordinated to the point that this wont be whats holding him back either.
Skill-wise, Bouroussis is intriguing as well. He has a beautiful looking flat-footed stroke with range that extends past the European 3-point line, and the touch to punish any rival that dares leave him open from there. His quick release combined with his size establish him as a fantastic option to space the floor for his team from the perimeter, and hes talented enough to present himself as a pick and pop threat from mid-range as well.
Bouroussis bread and butter this year lied in his ability to play the pick and roll, though. Whether setting the pick himself and rolling to the hoop or coming off a secondary screen as the cutter following one of his guards forays into the paint, he established himself as an incredibly reliable presence in the paint thanks to his fantastic hands and very sure touch around the hoop. His strength helped him here as well, as he can take contact and finish around the hoop fairly well thanks to his great frame.
Leading the Euroleague in Field Goal Percentage (at a ridiculous 76.5%), shooting 41% from behind the arc, finishing fourth in the Greek league in rebounds and second in blocks, there is a lot to like about the way his season went. What might even be considered more frustrating is the fact that he often did not see as much playing time as you might have hoped considering his productionaveraging just under 9 points and 6 rebounds in just 16 minutes per game. In fact, he only played a total of 6 minutes in Olimpiacos first five Euroleague games, immediately beginning to produce as soon as he was thrown on to the floor.
Its with those numbers that we wonder just how much room he has left to grow when considering his learning curvehe could barely get off the bench for AEK Athens just two years ago, and is now one of the best centers in Europe. Bouroussis still hasnt played for the Greek national team much eitherits almost a give-in that he will surpass Sofoklis Schortsanitis on the teams depth chart this summer at the European Championships in Spain. Its there that his notoriety could grow amongst NBA personnel that somehow missed the terrific outbursts he had in the Euroleague (for example 16 points, 6 rebounds in 22 minutes at CSKA).
What that does for his ability to join the NBA is still a bit up in the air, though, even if he probably isnt athletic enough to be considered more than just a nice backup in todays NBA regardless. He just signed a four year contract with Olimpiacos last year according to his agent Costas Papadakis of First Class Management, and only has an NBA out clause in 2009. Papadakis says that as many as ten teams have regardless expressed interest, and that Bouroussis does have a desire to play in the NBA, like all players. In his opinion he will need at least one more year in Greece, since he still is very far from reaching his full potential as a player due to the fact that he started playing the game much later than most, at age 18. But, as Papadakis explained, when the time is correct, hell surely be interested.