European Roundup: Super Mature Aguilar

European Roundup: Super Mature Aguilar
Nov 30, 2009, 10:18 pm
Pablo Aguilar seeing huge minutes in the ACB...Pietro Aradori the man for Biella...Augusto Cesar Lima getting playing time in the Euroleague...Motiejunas over Seraphin...Big game for Fofana...Teenagers breaking age records...Tyler getting on track...

Aguilar a Stud for Granada

In what is quickly shaping up to be a fairly underwhelming crop of international draft prospects, one name that surely stands out from the pack is that of Spanish power forward Pablo Aguilar.

Despite competing in the toughest domestic league in European basketball, the Spanish ACB, at the tender age of 20, Aguilar has emerged as arguably the most consistent player on CB Granada's roster, playing 30 minutes per game. Needless to say, it's extremely rare for a player this young to see such heavy playing time at this level, which should begin to tell you quite a bit about Aguilar’s maturity and dependable style of play.

Aguilar is a face-up four man in the mold of Matt Bonner, Ryan Anderson or Jorge Garbajosa. He’s not the most versatile player you’ll find offensively, showing very little in the way of a post game and being somewhat limited trying to create shots for himself facing the basket, but he offers plenty of value thanks to his ability to space the floor and contribute in little ways to various parts of his team’s efforts.

Aguilar is first and foremost an outstanding shooter, having made 41% of his 3-pointers on the season on over five attempts per game. As it stands, half of his field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. He’s terrific with his feet set, even with a hand in his face, and is smart enough not to take many shots off the dribble, which is not his forte.

The word ‘smart’ comes up quite a bit when watching Aguilar, and for good reason. He plays a very mistake-free brand of basketball, having committed just six turnovers in over 300 minutes of action in 10 games this season, a big reason why his coaching staff seems to trust him so much. Watching him on film, it’s not difficult to see how well he executes in his team’s half-court offense, as he plays with great poise and finds ways to make things happen. His 3/1 assist to turnover ratio would be considered outstanding for a point guard, let alone a power forward, and he currently’year=2009%2F10&q=usage&per=pergame&qual=all&sort=17&min=20&stage=&league=ACB&conference=&pos=&sort2=ASC, coughing the ball up on a minuscule 6% of his possessions.

Aguilar is a solid athlete for a European prospect, but would only be considered average by NBA standards. He lacks the strength or explosiveness to finish in traffic around the rim at times, only converting a sub-par 41% of his 2-point attempts, and not getting to the free throw line much at all to compensate. Filling out his frame and continuing to work on his ball-skills should be his big priorities.

Defensively, Aguilar is extremely effective at this level, showing great competitiveness and smarts, showing the ability to use his length very well. He is more than willing to get physical in the post, bodying up his man despite his noticeable lack of strength, displaying excellent timing and fundamentals to help get the job done. That timing, along with his terrific wingspan, helps him rank 2nd in the ACB at the moment in blocked shots.

On the downside, Aguilar is just an average rebounder, particularly on the defensive glass, and his good, but not great lateral quickness might become more of an issue on the perimeter in the faster paced and more athletic NBA. Not being the biggest guy in the world at just 6-8, he needs to continue to get stronger and play with the same intensity he usually does if he’s to avoid being targeted on post-up plays as well.

While he’s probably not going to knock anyone’s socks off with his physical attributes or upside, Aguilar is slowly but surely developing into a solid NBA prospect. He would certainly have to land on the right team--a slower paced, more half-court court oriented that plays unselfishly--like Utah, Cleveland, Orlando or Portland for example, to be effective, but there is a place in the League these days for guys like him. If anything a team can draft him in the 2nd round and see how he develops over the next few years--there’s a pretty good chance that he will emerge eventually as one of the best power forwards in the ACB and a Spanish national team player--ala Jorge Garbajosa.

Quick Hitters

Aradori Stepping Up

Week by week, it’s getting tougher and tougher not to notice the amazing production of Italian swingman Pietro Aradori. With American shooting guard and former NBA player Fred Jones on the shelf the past few weeks, Aradori has stepped up his game in a major way, emerging as arguably the best Italian player in the league. The 1988-born product has scored 20 or more points in each of the last three rounds in the competitive Italian league, while adding another 18 points (plus the game-icing free throws) last week in the EuroCup.

Aradori continues to shoot the ball with excellent consistency, making 50% of his nearly five 3-point attempts per game, all while getting to the line at a great rate, rebounding extremely well, getting in the passing lanes and making plays for others. Statistically-speaking, he might be the most productive player (including imports) in the entire Italian league right now. He currently ranks 3rd in PER.

Beyond the numbers, Aradori brings great toughness and smarts to the table, along with a winning spirit and a penchant for stepping up and making plays in big moments, particularly late in games. The main thing holding him back from being considered a great NBA prospect, though, is his underwhelming physical profile. Only 6-4, and just an average athlete by European standards, Aradori would likely have a much harder time getting his shot off in the NBA. He struggles defending athletes on the perimeter already due to his poor lateral quickness, so it’s safe to say that he would have a very difficult time guarding NBA shooting guards.

With that said, it's tough to argue with the sheer production Aradori is generating right now, and with how down this crop of European prospects appears to be, it’s not out of the question that a roster-conscious team in the 2nd round decides to take a flyer on him. After all, he is clearly a very good basketball player, and there is something to be said for that. So far NBA interest has been fairly lukewarm reportedly, but that could change as the season moves on if he keeps putting up big numbers.

Lima Seeing Minutes for Unicaja

A couple of injuries along the frontline for Unicaja Malaga has opened up playing time for one of the youngsters they’ve been developing for a few years now, 1991-born Brazilian Augusto Cesar Lima. Still sharing time with Malaga's farm team in the Spanish 2nd division (LEB Gold), Clinicas Rincon, Lima has been coming off the bench lately and seeing real minutes in non-garbage time situations.

He played 18 minutes in Malaga's win over Lithuanian powerhouse Lietuvos Rytas last week in the Euroleague, coming up with 10 points and 4 rebounds before fouling out.

Lima's role for Unicaja is extremely limited as you might imagine, as he's mostly asked to run the floor in transition, crash the offensive glass and finish pick and roll plays around the basket. His very nice physical profile makes him a good fit for this role, as he's a long and athletic 6-9 guy who brings energy off the bench. He scored a couple of baskets against Rytas by simply beating opposing players down the court. Sporting wide shoulders that could handle additional weight, Lima still has some room to continue improving from a physical standpoint, but already uses his tools well.

Not surprisingly, the 18-year old Lima doesn’t possess great strength, and isn’t a very skilled offensive player at the moment. He doesn’t have much of a post game or great shot-creating ability, and is a very streaky outside shooter, having knocked down just 2 of his 19 3-point attempts on the year.

Still, Lima seems to be garnering some good experience at the highest level of European basketball at a very young age, and clearly has plenty of upside to continue to improve. That makes him, at the very least, someone to keep an eye on for the future.

Motiejunas and Benetton Over Cholet

The most interesting game of the first round of the EuroCup from an NBA draft perspective was clearly Benetton Treviso’s trek to France to take on Cholet. This game pitted two of the top European big men prospects, Donatas Motiejunas and Kevin Seraphin, against one another.

After a couple of bad losses in the Italian league at home against Varese and on the road against Cremona, it was important for Benetton to get back on track. They were indeed able to narrowly come away with the very important victory, winning 71-70, with neither Motiejunas nor Seraphin appearing to have great games according to the box scores. The Lithuanian scored 6 points (3/9 FG) and grabbed 1 rebound in 20 minutes, while the Frenchman settled for 2 points (1/6 FG) and 8 rebounds in 12 minutes.

Motiejunas appears to be playing a bit better these days since we last wrote about him, even starting a couple of games as of late, while Seraphin continues to struggle to get off the bench for Cholet. He’s seen just 7 minutes in each of the last two games his team has played in Pro A France.

The two teams and their highly touted NBA draft prospects will meet on January 5th for a rematch in Treviso.

Big Game for Fofana

A rare NBA draft oriented Euroleague highlight came this week from French big man Bangaly Fofana, putting up 6 points and 10 rebounds in 16 minutes in ASVEL-Villeurbanne’s important victory over Cibona Zagreb.

Tony Parker’s team—the reigning champions, sporting the most expensive roster in the league by far-- has been struggling badly to start off the season, finding itself at the bottom of the French league standings with a shocking 2-7 record, and kicking off the Euroleague 0-4 as well.

Fofana seemed to give them a spark in that Cibona game, running the floor purposefully and crashing the glass like a mad man. Unfortunately for him, the abundance of film that we’re able to see now against high-level competition makes it painfully obvious that he can’t be considered anything more than a fringe prospect.

Fofana lacks agility in a serious way, looking uncoordinated in many of his movements and having great difficulty finding ways to score if he’s not catching the ball directly off the offensive glass. He sports a very narrow frame that will probably never be able to add much weight, particularly in the lower body, and thus has all kinds of issues defensively and holding his position in the paint. His terrific wingspan allows him to be a presence at this level as a weak-side shotblocker, but it will take a lot more than that to make it in the NBA.

Only 20 years old, Fofana has another year and a half to continue to add weight to his frame and polish up his skill-set before becoming automatically eligible for the 2011 draft.

15-year Old Breaks Greek League Age Record

After 14-year old Edvinas Seskus of Rudupis Prienai broke the first division Lithuanian league record by being the youngest player to ever enter a game last week, 15-year old Alexandros Aggelakos accomplished the same feat in the ultra physical and competitive Greek league on Saturday. This, according to European basketball website

It seems like Ricky Rubio and DKV Joventut may have started a trend in Europe.

First Solid Game for Jeremy Tyler

After serving a one-game suspension for being ejected from a game following a altercation in which he reportedly head-butted an opponent, an embarrassing story in the New York Times, and a series of contests in which he was mostly a spectator, there is finally some positive news to report from Israel about Jeremy Tyler.

Tyler played 12 minutes and finished with 5 points, 4 rebounds, 3 fouls, 2 turnovers and 1 block on 2-4 shooting from the field this weekend, helping his Maccabi Haifa team secure the victory on the road over Barak Netanya. It's good to see him crack the rotation in a more significant way and find some productivity at such a young age. Hopefully he can build on this and continue to progress.

For those who are interested, Maccabi Haifa’s games are being broadcasted on tape delay on the DIRECTV channel “Jewish Life TV” as well as online at TriangleInternet.TV. There is also a program on both outlets called “Inside Israeli Basketball” which focuses on Maccabi Haifa and Tyler in particular.

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