Euroleague Prospects: Stock Up

Euroleague Prospects: Stock Up
Feb 15, 2007, 05:04 pm
The regular season of the most competitive international league is over, and the Top 16 stage is just kicking off. Some prospects are done as far as the Euroleague goes, but others continue onto the next round. To reflect on what we've learned since the beginning of the season, we look at 15 players who have seen their stock rise, drop or remain steady, starting with the most impressive performers first.


Rudy Fernández, 6-6, 1985, Shooting Guard, Joventut
24 mpg, 16.2 ppg, 53.9% FG, 46.2% 3PT, 3.3 rpg, 1.9 spg

Dimitris Ritsonis

After overcoming an early injury that limited his productivity early to a certain extent, it quickly became obvious who the most productive under 22 player in the world is at the international level. Fresh off a gold medal with the Spanish national team in the recent World Championships, Rudy Fernández has been impressive and at sometimes unstoppable during the entire Euroleague season, erasing almost all doubts scouts had of him from his play in the past. There were question marks about his leadership skills, continuous stability, outside shooting stroke, and his ability to emerge as his team's first offensive option, but Fernández answered those with flying colors in emerging as one of the top players in the Euroleague period regardless of age..

In what has been a dream season so far for Rudy, there can't be a single doubter who won't admit that Rudy has improved dramatically, both on the court as well as in the mental part of the game too. Sure, his first step remains a liability and he still isn't a top player when it comes to creating his own shot. But this is finally the time that he is using his athleticism the way he should and he is emerging like a real scorer, a true star, not a simple contributor. And all that while being a rookie in such a competitive league.

Getting to his game, Rudy has created many headaches for opponents with his offensive presence. He is getting stronger, is mobile and athletic, focused, enthusiastic and highly competitive. He runs the floor particularly well, can cut impressively and has a great feel for the game, while his hunger for winning is only getting stronger over the course of the season. He slashes well, has some natural shortcomings with his dribble and some one-on-one difficulties, but finishes spectacularly well and, overall, knows how to use his body and pull out defenses. He shoots well behind the arc, although he has still a lot of work to do with his off the dribble jumpshot. He knows when to pass, when to ask for the ball and he can free himself with optimistic results.

Defensively, he has a "nose" for the ball and he has good footwork. He doesn't get beat laterally easily, is improving his body control, and is smooth and lanky in avoiding screens. He might not be quite quick enough to matchup up with all of the most athletic guards the NBA will throw at him, but he has the tools to contain and do a good enough job. His frame unfortunately hasn't grown much since 2004 when he was first recognized as a top prospect at the Copa del Rey, but he won't be facing significant physical problems in the NBA, if he keeps working the way he does.

Overall, this has been a great season for Rudy and much more intrigue is bound to come in the top-16 round with Joventut facing fair competition and seeking a surprising top-8 qualification. We are asking for more and will be looking to see him continue to make strides.

Jonas Maciulis, 6-6, 1985, SF/SG, Zalgiris
30 mpg, 12.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.4 spg

Dimitris Ritsonis

Jonas Maciulis was the only player, along with Rudy Fernández, that showed extended maturity as a rookie during this Euroleague season. Aggressive and very dedicated, Maciulis managed to steal the show quite often, despite playing for the most unlucky team of the competition. This bad luck helped increase his playing time, but has nothing to do with the increased effort that the youngster was showing as the season was moving on, which made him the most trustworthy perimeter player of Zalgiris after the first round.

Maciulis has a very good body for the wing position and is strong and experienced enough to make good use of it. His basketball IQ is rather high for his age and he is already a competitor, after just half a season. He struggles sometimes and there are some shortcomings in his game, but he is athletic enough and has quite a good wingspan to cover for them. Maybe in the long-term, it will be proven that he isn't big enough to be more than a decent small forward, but this is his natural position and he has been learning it pretty well so far. If he needs to play some shooting guard in further stages of his career, he won't be bad, but he will have to work on his shooting and ball-handling skills, both of which are not the best parts of his game. In any case he could emerge as a nice big first-pass guard, with his ability to take advantage of his teammates and become more creative.

Defensively, Maciulis is very good. He can provide his team with decent size and he has the footwork and passion to prevent opponents from outmuscling him. Very good use of both his strong hands and his feet give him a lot of steals, making him probably the most complete youngster on both sides of the floor this season. He is a fighter and has good defensive positioning to add in his overall fine ability to fill the stat-line, while he is a rather good shot-blocker for his age and height, still lacking the timing to compete with older and bigger players though. Maciulis is not your typical European prospect in the sense than he is more of a bruiser than he is naturally skilled, but it wouldn't be a shock if a team decided to gamble on him in the 2nd round to see if he can develop the rest of his game over the course of the next few seasons in Europe.

Ricky Rubio, 6-5, Point Guard, DKV Joventut, 1990
18.1mpg 3.6ppg 2.5rpg 3.3apg 3.5spg 2/10 3FG

Kristian Hohnjec

After a sensational performance at the European Cadet Championship, it was expected that 16-year old Ricky Rubio would get some minimal playing time for Joventut. But few could have predicted that Ricky would emerge as an essential part of his team's success, becoming roughly Badalona's first guard off the bench. Rubio leads the Euroleague in steals per game at an amazing 3.5, even though he plays only 18.1 minutes per contest. His ability to steal the ball from opponents is truly unique, never giving up on a play and putting consistent pressure on ballhandlers with his length and terrific hands. Ricky anticipates what his opponent will do with astonishing results, seeing plays before they actually happen. He is already among the premier defenders at the point guard position in Europe. His defensive potential is really scary and down the road he could became a true game changing force on that end of the floor.

On the offensive side, Rubio shows the poise and decision making of an accomplished veteran, improving all the time at running his team and being a pass-first playmaker with very good court vision and ballhandling ability. He is good at slashing to the basket thanks to his technique,excellent length and decent quickness, showing patience and intelligence once in the lane to dish the ball off to open teammates or finishing by himself. He has some troubles finishing in traffic though since he doesn't get great elevation off the floor and is weak physically. His lack of a productive pull-up jumper is also a notable weakness, since once he gets separation from his defender, it is quiet predictable that he will go all the way to the basket looking to score by himself or passing the ball to a teammate. Rubio's major weakness at the moment is his shooting ability, he doesn't excel from any range, showing questionable motion on his shot and a real lack of consistency.

There is a certain excitement every time Rubio steps on the floor, as he has been producing remarkable results despite all the pressure from the fans and media. Ricky is certainly an unbelievable talent-- his competitiveness, intelligence and maturity is brilliant for a 16-year old. While he might not have the physical tools of some other European players, Rubio is currently a top prospect in the Old Continent and with the level he currently shows it would be a real surprise not to see him developing into a star player in one form or another. By the time he will be eligible to enter the draft, Rubio should be among the top players in European competitions and a very likely lottery pick, possibly the first European guard ever selected in the Top 5.

Dimitriy Khvostov, 6-3, 1989, Point Guard, Dynamo Moscow
8 mpg, 2.6 ppg, 0.9 apg, 1.3 T/Os

Dimitris Ritsonis

It all started with the opening Euroleague game of the season, when legendary coach Dusan Ivkovic decided to use teenage sensation Khvostov in a surprisingly close game against Euroleague newcomers Rhein Energie. Khvostov entered the court with more determination than even Ricky Rubio. He dazzled his opponents with his passion and killer instinct, earning fouls with his very quick movement, his nerve and quick first step. He should be moving more when without the ball, but he still found many shooting opportunities, even making an open shot, showing good mechanics and confidence. He was fought for every possession on defense, was coming from behind to steal balls and was using every inch of his body to prevent his opponents from slashing. He has a natural feel for the game, already knowing very well how to use his body to penetrate and being able to finish with his right hand, even when he is fouled. Well determined, yet not as team-oriented as one would expect given his young age, this game was the only one that Khvostov was a real factor for Dynamo. However, it was more than enough to notice his potential against senior competition. In other words, he grabbed his chance and never let it go.

As for his drawbacks, there are many holes to fill, but he isn't more than a kid and he has long ways to go. His thin frame may not be growing much. He is thin and weak and the bad news is that if he gains a lot of weight, he may be losing his nice mobility. As for his point guard skills, most would swear that Dimitriy can pass. But since we don't see it; they can only make this hypothesis, because he sees the court well. He is so confident with the ball on his hands and maybe thinks too highly of himself, meaning he doesn't really come out with that many assists, or at least as many as he should be providing his teammates with. A good idea would be to focus on that part of his game in the limited playing time he will be getting during the top-16 round and leave the offensive show for the Russian Superleague games. Right now, his task is to keep growing and improve his playmaking abilities, because otherwise, he may be seeing a step back in the following months of the year, especially with so many scouts checking his game in the upcoming U-18 Euro Championships.

Manuchar Markoishvili, 6-6, SG/SF, 1986
30.5mpg 10.6ppg 2.9rpg 1.4apg 1.4spg

Kristian Hohnjec

Even through his statistical improvement in comparison with last year might not be that big, we saw a lot of development in Markoishvili's game over the past twelve months. There are still big question marks surrounding his NBA potential, but Manuchar has addressed some of his weaknesses quite well. Lately he has been especially playing with more consistency, which has been an issue for him in the past. Athletically, Markoishvili is very close to reaching his maximum, despite being 20 years old he is already bulked up properly and has good strength in both the upper and lower body. His size and quickness are average or slightly below average by NBA standards.

Markoishvili is a tough nosed defensive player, very aggressive and motivated. He makes full use of his physical capacities and always delivers maximum effort. However, there is again the question of how good he would be against athletic NBA swingmen, since he doesn't have great lateral quickness, nor size. On the offensive end, Markoishvili has steadily improved his jumper, which does not have text book form and could certainly use a quicker trigger, but he has a high release point and has been quite accurate when given a good look. He has also improved at creating his own shot, being able to get enough separation with his fairly solid ball-handling ability. Markoishvili is also an above average passer from static positions, while he is not quite as good off the dribble.

Given the depth of the 2007 draft, if Manuchar declares he would probably go undrafted. However with another good Euroleague campaign and showing some more improvement in his game, Markoishvili could hear his name called late in the 2nd round next year. As already stated there are serious doubts about his potential, but Manuchar is a solid all-around performer with a great attitude and work ethic. He will most certainly establish himself at the highest levels of Europe as a good role player, but we are not sure if he has enough to be a successful NBA player.

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