Adriatic League Automatically Eligible Draft Prospects

Adriatic League Automatically Eligible Draft Prospects
Jun 07, 2007, 07:54 pm
An analysis of the Balkan prospects eligble for the 2007 NBA draft. After first exploring the early-entry candidates, we now turn our heads towards the automatically eligible players born in 1985. Zoran Erceg, leading scorer of the 2nd best team in the Adriatic League, is the headliner here, as is 7-3 big man Mirza Begic.

Part One: Balkan Early Entrant Draft Prospects

Zoran Erceg, 6-11, Power Forward, KK FMP Zeleznik, 1985
24.6 mpg, 12.9 ppg, 3.7rpg, 1apg

Zoran Erceg had a very good season, being roughly FMP Zeleznik’s most consistent performer. He received an increased role within their offensive sets and proved to be capable of taking a larger scoring burden on his shoulders. Zoran is a typical European Power Forward, possessing a refined face-up game, but lacking strength and willingness to make his way in the low post.

There are few players in this draft that share the same combination of shooting and ball-handling ability that Erceg possesses at 6-foot-11. He has a really developed game facing the basket. For starters he is a consistent shooter with fluid mechanics and range. He can hit shots from the international three-point line with acceptable results of around 35% on the season. Being deceptively quick and having solid ball-handling skills, Erceg can create his own offense from standstill positions as well as on the move. He likes to take a couple of short dribbles to create separation from his man before he finishes with a pull-up jumper from mid-range.

His athletic ability is pretty solid in general, he has quick feet, runs the court well and has a nice first step. Zoran’s vertical leap is not outstanding, and he will not wow you with any emphatic dunks, but he has some bounce in his step and gets good elevation while shooting.

There are some concerns about Erceg’s ability to translate his performance over to the NBA level, mainly on the defensive end of the floor where he lacks some toughness, rebounding skills and defensive prowess to survive in the American game. Zoran is a really poor rebounder for a player of his size, despite being 6-foot-11 with very good hands. Erceg has trouble cleaning the glass, since he doesn’t show the necessary fundamentals, grit and tenacity. He gets outmuscled and struggles to defend players who like to play with their back to the basket. Erceg plays better defensively on the perimeter, where his solid lateral mobility helps him.

Even if he is not a prototypical NBA prospect and didn’t show much progress in the areas of concern, Erceg certainly helped himself by putting together a good season in European competition, particularly in the strong ULEB Cup, where FMP knocked off Hapoel Jerusalem and reached the Final game. Someone might take a shot at him in the 2nd round, because of his size, ability to run the floor and shooting. Europeans usually get serious looks in the bottom half of 2nd round because of the advantage of being able to stash them in Europe and develop at others expense, so Zoran might be one of those players who gets drafted and is asked to keep playing on the Old Continent until he is ready to contribute.

Mirza Begic, 7-3, Center, Geoplin Slovan, 1985
22.1 mpg, 9.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, .9bpg

Mirza Begic has finally seen some meaningful playing time at the senior level, after just being a token member of Virtus Bolonga for the past few years. While his team was not really competitive in the Adriatic league, Begic certainly made good use of the playing time he got.

Begic’s biggest asset is his size, being a huge 7-foot-3, with an impressive wingspan. For someone as tall as him, Begic has decent footspeed, and moves properly up and down the court, not being overmatched by the speed of the game. Besides his gigantic size, Mirza’s potential lies in his good hands, nice feel for the game and good attitude. He is mostly a project at this point in time, with his main weakness being his physical strength. Begic is thin and frail, reminding a bit of Shawn Bradley in his initial appearance. Just like Bradley, Begic uses his sheer size coming from the weak-side to alter shots. The Slovenian is more of a help defender at this point patrolling the paint and looking to close out on the penetrators. His man to man defense is very average, not being keen on facing physical contact. As he is often faced with perimeter oriented big men who are a few inches shorter than him, Begic doesn’t do a good job of stepping outside of the paint and contesting shots.

Offensively, Begic gets the majority of his points on put-backs and assisted dunks, but he has a couple of weapons he could translate to the NBA level. Mirza has good touch and can hit a mid-range shot with solid accuracy out to 15 feet. He has very solid shooting mechanics as evidenced by his 70% free-throw shooting. Begic can also perform a right-handed hook shot with good results, while being a solid passer from the high post, where he towers above the opposing defense. Mirza needs to improve his footwork in the paint and add more moves to his repertoire, because his game is quite predictable at this point.

Begic has a very good shot at getting drafted somewhere in latter part of the 2nd round, mainly because of his enormous size as well as the good attitude and improvement he showed throughout the season. Even if he is already 22 years old, Begic is a player that is far from reaching his potential. If he works on his body, he could develop into a useful NBA player down the road.

Luksa Andric, 6-11, PF/C, 1985, Cibona Zagreb
13.2 mpg, 5.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 0.9bpg

Andric had a disappointing season in general, but has came up strong as of late with his play in the Finals of the Croatian league. In the last 3 games against Cibona’s arch-rival Zadar, Andric averaged 18 ppg, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.5 blocks. He has been really turning heads with his play in the last month, when he finally started to gain starting minutes after Hungarian Center Marton Bader went down with an injury.

Luksa has a solid physical gifts, having good size at 6-11 and long arms to boot. He has a decent strength, although he is on the slim-side, but his very good frame leaves the impression that he will not have any troubles putting more weight onto his body. Andric is fairly quick , running up and down the court like a deer, often being involved in transition plays. His quickness in the half-court is also solid, being able to take players off the dribble, while showing decent lateral mobility on the defensive end. The least impressive part of his athleticism is his vertical explosiveness, as Andric is slow to get off the ground and doesn’t jump very high.

Offensively, we are talking about a player that has a complete package, although he has rarely been able to put it all together in one game. Andric has a good repertoire of low post moves he can go to, once he establishes position on the low block Luksa likes to shoot a right-handed hook shot, while he also can perform an up-and-under or spin to the basket. He is equally good facing the basket where his rock solid jump-shooting ability plays a big part. He has range out to the international three-point lane and will punish defenses when they give him space. Andric also has surprisingly good ball-handling ability and is a solid passer. When he is matched up against slower players or if there is an opening in the defense, Andric will not hesitate to put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket. He picks up quite a few offensive fouls when slashing, since it is tough for him to change directions. The biggest hindrance in his offensive game is his finishing around the basket, where he is slow to react and his lack of explosiveness is exposed.

Defensively, Andric is fairly inconsistent, showing glimpses of potential by playing lockdown defense on a Euroleague star like Nikola Vujcic or a former NBA player in Predrag Drobnjak, only to lose focus and pick up cheap fouls or miss on a simple defensive rotation. Andric is known as a foul-machine, picking up cheap fouls in some of the most frustrating ways possible. He is especially prone to offensive fouls while setting screens on the offensive end, and also tends to flop sometimes, a skill that European refs don’t appreciate as much as American ones.

Luksa is a good rebounder and you have to like the intensity and tenacity he shows fighting in the paint. His effort isn’t questionable, but his fundamentals and defensive awareness are. Andric is not much of a shot-blocking threat, due to his already mentioned poor leaping ability.

It is really tough to evaluate the stock of a player like Andric. On one hand we have a 22-year old who doesn’t possess stand-out physical gifts and hasn’t accomplished anything significant on the European level. On the other hand, we have a guy who shows an array of skills, has a passion for the game and works very hard. When it’s all said and done he might not get drafted, but he could crack the NBA down the road via free-agency once he develops further.

Luka Bogdanovic, 6-8, SF, 1985, Partizan Belgrade
15.5 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 2.9rpg, 40.5% 3FG

A player that was once considered a highly touted prospect with a chance at possible becoming a first round pick has fallen completely off the radar due to the lack of improvement he showed in the past two years. Bogdanovic is a bench player for Partizan, and his role and minutes haven’t increased since he signed with them two seasons ago. In fact, he was getting more touches and playing time in the beginning when he came to Partizan from their rivals Red Star as a big-time signing. Earlier in his career he played more on inside, being a combo forward who got most of his playing time at the Power Forward spot. Because of his lack of size, Bogdanovic was forced to make the transition to the wing and play on the perimeter, which has not been easy for him. Luka is an intelligent player, but has become a one-trick pony at this point in his career-- he’s a terrific outside shooter with almost flawless mechanics and swished most of the open looks he gets.

Adaptation to the perimeter has been tough for him since he has poor athleticism, especially in terms of quickness. Luka’s lateral quickness is poor and so is his effort on the defensive end, where he gets beaten off the dribble on a regular basis. That is the part of the game which keeps him from getting more consistent playing time. Despite his very good size and the nice elevation he gets off the ground, Bogdanovic doesn’t participate much in the rebounding department, as his passion for the game and toughness has been criticized throughout the season.

Offensively, outside of his shooting ability, Bogdanovic doesn’t show much in the half-court. His lackluster ball-handling ability prevents him from attacking the basket, and his slow first step doesn’t help either. He rarely creates off the dribble and is almost strictly a finisher. To his credit, Bogdanovic has a good feel for the game and is a nice passer. He is good in transition play, where his good leaping ability enables him to throw done some impressive dunks.

As far as the draft goes, Bogdanovic appears to be an extreme long shot. It would take a major showing in private workouts leading up to the draft to get him picked. Even if Luka once looked poised for at least European stardom thanks to the outstanding level of play he showed in youth categories, that is not the case anymore, as he isn’t considered an exiting prospect even for European competition. Unless he starts to improve his game significantly, Bogdanovic will hardly develop into a more than a one-dimensional shooter at the Euroleague level.

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