adidas Nations Experience 2008: European Prospects

adidas Nations Experience 2008: European Prospects
Aug 16, 2008, 12:33 am
adidas brought a stronger group of European prospects to the US this summer compared to last year. As is often the case due to the type of prospects they are and the very specific strengths they bring to the table--the European squad took a few days to fully mesh and look comfortable playing with each other. By the end of the camp, though, they really started to show their potential and were only narrowly knocked out of the bracket in the semi-finals by the eventual champion 2010 US team. This was an excellent opportunity to evaluate two extremely intriguing prospects that we weren’t all that familiar with before—Deniz Kilicli and Tomas Satoranski, as well as a host of other well known names from the 1990 and 1991 age group.

Deniz Kilicli, 6-9, Power Forward, Turkey, 1990

Kilicli started off this camp strong and finished even stronger, winning many new fans along the way and a slew of comparisons to players like Luis Scola and Blake Griffin. An incredibly well built left-handed big man standing somewhere between 6-8 and 6-9, Kilicli does not enjoy a great wingspan or incredible explosiveness around the basket. He makes up for that though with outstanding footwork in the paint, the ability to finish craftily with either hand, or a variety of unorthodox moves in the form of scoop shots and pivot moves.

Kilicli is an extremely tough young big man—he competes very hard inside and thus does a great job grabbing offensive rebounds and blocking shots. He has an excellent feel for the game to go along with that, and even showed some sparks of ability to face the basket and either knock down a mid-range jumper (out to about 17 feet) or put the ball on the floor intelligently. He seems to be very well schooled, boxing out fundamentally on every shot attempt, showing a great sense for finding the open man (possibly the best part of his game), and reacting very well to things going on around him. Although he’s left-handed, he oddly shoots free throws and mid-range jumpers with his right hand, and appears to be ambidextrous around the basket.

Considering his very mature frame, combined with his relatively average size and athleticism, there will be some concerns raised about just how high of an upside Kilicli has to develop into. He’s a pretty damn good player already, though, so he definitely shouldn’t be discounted too fast. It will be very interesting to see how his game translates to the senior level. It seems like his rights are owned by a 2nd division team in Turkey, but we don’t expect that to last too long. He can play in the first division, and probably as soon as this season.

Nicolo Melli, 6-9, Small Forward, Italy, 1991

After a somewhat disappointing performance at the Reebok Eurocamp in Treviso (going up against players far older than him we must point out), it was good to be able to see Melli compete against players in his own age group (or in this case, sometimes a year older).

The results were somewhat mixed, as Melli started off the camp very slow, but got better as it went on, showing some intriguing tools, but also quite a bit of room for improvement as is expected considering his tender age of 17.

Melli is a versatile player, capable of (and very much enjoying apparently) grabbing a rebounding and bringing the ball up-court himself. He is a good ball-handler and a solid passer, also showing a nice stroke from outside, and some very basic ability to play with his back to the basket in the post. He is pretty skilled for his size (6-9) and shows a good frame too. Athletically he is good, but definitely not great, and his touch and all-around feel for the game leave a lot of room for optimism regarding his future development.

With that said, there are definitely some concerns to share as well. Melli often looks extremely tentative on the court, going through long stretches of unproductiveness, playing very passive, even soft to a certain extent, looking afraid to throw his body around and put himself in harm’s way. This is exactly where the wide-spread comparisons with Danilo Gallinari appear to come up short. He’s a very average finisher around the basket, struggling badly in particular if asked to finish through contact, and is an even worse defender—showing concerning lateral quickness that raises serious question marks about his ability to guard the perimeter down the road. Melli is definitely stuck between the 3 and the 4 at the moment, showing the size and the frame of a PF, but the skill-set and mentality of a SF—but not enough aggressiveness or athleticism to guard either spot effectively.

Melli will continue to play for his hometown club of Reggio Emilia in the Italian second division--Lega Due—this season. Teams like Tau Vitoria and Armani Jeans Milano (amongst many others) have been linked with his signature this summer, but it appears that he’ll spend one more season getting playing time at a fairly solid level of competition.

Andreja Milutinovic, 6-6, SG/SF, Serbia, 1990

After a fairly average showing in the U-18 European Championship in Greece (both individually and collectively) with the Serbian national team, Andreja Milutinovic was not really able to put his problems behind him in Dallas either, despite his obvious talent. Milutinovic looked frustrated and not all that confident or even interested in what was going on around him, displaying concerning body language around his teammates and being unable to make much of an impact on the game. He missed free throw after free throw in the contests we watched, not looking like he was in the game mentally in the least bit. Milutinovic needs to work on his body, as well as his ball-handling skills, in order to be able to stand out in a setting like this. Coming out of the incredibly well-oiled machine known as FMP Zeleznik’s junior team, where he is a true standout, hasn’t been the best thing for him in other settings thus far, but he’s obviously young and talented enough to bounce back.

Tomislav Zubcic, 6-10, SF/PF, Croatia, 1990

This definitely wasn’t as strong a performance for Zubcic as the Euroleague Final Four Junior Tournament was, showcasing a lot of the same concerns we’ve expressed on numerous occasions over the past few years while scouting him. The talent is still undeniable—in particular the athleticism and excellent hands, the excellent touch inside and outside, and the ability to score in a variety of different ways. That was mixed in with the same lack of toughness inside, the tendency to fade-away from contact rather than finish through it, the inability to take advantage of his superior size on mismatches, and the same soft, porous defense we’ve seen before. A lot to like, and a lot to dislike as well. Zubcic’s rights are owned by Croatian Euroleague team Cibona Zagreb, and it doesn’t appear that he is ready to contribute much at that level just yet, despite the fact that he’s obviously oozing with talent.

Leon Radosevic, 6-9, PF/C, Croatia, 1990

If Zubcic is the flashy but unpredictable talent in this Croatian age-group, Radosevic is the steadier, more fundamentally sound counterpart. He had a solid all-around week, not knocking anyone’s socks off with his talent, but definitely helping his team in his minutes on the floor. Radosevic looks to be moving his game further from the basket every time we see him these days—he hit quite a few 15-17 foot mid-range jumpers and also did a decent job putting the ball on the floor and beating his man off the dribble as well. He plays within the flow of the offense, not someone who is going to create his own shot exceptionally well, and probably not big, strong or athletic enough to be much of a presence inside the paint either. He’s a pretty tough guy, though, fundamentally sound and aware of what his role is on the floor, rebounding the ball well and playing solid defense too. His overall talent and upside aren’t incredibly impressive, but there is little doubt that he is going to develop into at least a solid big man for European basketball in time.

Nihad Djedovic, 6-5, Shooting Guard, Bosnia, 1990

When Team Europe was struggling for a basket early on in the week, there was always one player on the floor able to offer instant relief—Bosnian swingman Nihad Djedovic. Mature, creative, highly aggressive, with outstanding all-around scoring instincts, Djedovic appears to have an American style of play that is better suited to this camp setting than most of his European counterparts. He was incisive throughout the week in his ability to attack the rim, showing nice ball-handling skills, excellent body control around the rim, a solid frame for a player his age, and the hunger to put the ball in the rim that most great scorers have.

In addition to his ability to create his own shot, Djedovic can also stroke the ball from the outside, showing nice touch and a quick trigger getting his shot off. In terms of his NBA potential, things get a bit murkier, as he appears to be quite a bit more mature than most players his age, and therefore has seen his upside questioned compared to some of his peers in his age group. He’s not the most athletic guy by any stretch, and also doesn’t seem to show all that much interest in playing defense. Still, NBA teams need guys who can put the ball in the hole, and Djedovic will likely be able to do that on any level, making him a player to keep tabs on for sure over the next few years.

Tomas Satoransky, 6-6, Shooting Guard, Czech Republic, 1991

The MVP of the U-18 European Championship, Division B, a few weeks ago, Tomas Satoransky (or Tomas Satoranski) did not disappoint in the least bit with his performance, although he did have to sit out his team’s last game with the flu. Satoransky is a skinny, athletic wing player with excellent size at 6-6, but a pretty poor frame and short arms. He gets off the floor extremely well and can really finish around the rim, but is most notable for his excellent feel for the game, as he sees the floor incredibly well and is an absolutely spectacular passer. He regularly found teammates cutting to the rim with his fantastic court vision, either pushing the ball up the court in transition, or taking the ball to the basket and driving and dishing in the half-court. Despite standing around 6-6, Satoransky plays point guard for his national team, and led the entire U-18 Division B in assists at 6.4 per game.

Satoransky’s jumper is not pretty by any stretch of the imagination, it’s an ugly flat-footed stroke with a one-handed release, but it goes in at a pretty good rate, particularly from mid-range, but sometimes from behind the arc too. This doesn’t appear to be his biggest strength, though, and it’s definitely something he’ll have to work on if he’s to reach his full potential. He wasn’t the most aggressive player here in terms of looking for his own offense in general.

Satoransky is incredibly young, born in late 1991, which makes him just 16 years old still. He needs to grow into his frame and his overall game as well, but he seems to have some nice tools to build off. He apparently has quite a few contract offers on the table from teams in Spain after his showing in the U-18’s, but he’ll be staying in the Czech league with his team Praha for now. We’ll be keeping tabs over the next few years to see how he continues to develop.

Josep Franch, 6-2, Point Guard, Spain, 1991

This was a good, but not great showing from Spanish point guard Josep Franch, appearing to tire a bit as the week wore on, and not really a factor in the later stages. A fundamentally sound point guard with average physical tools, Franch showed some excellent ball-handling skills throughout the week going left or right, and a solid command of running the pick and roll. He is skinny, with extremely short arms, and just decent quickness, but has a nice sense for changing speeds and thus did a pretty good job getting to the rim in this setting. He tries some very risky passes at times, making him a bit turnover prone at times, but for the most part is pretty impressive running an offense considering his extreme youth, and seems to exert some effort on the defensive end as well, even if his potential here seems limited due to his average physical tools. Able to hit a jumper from mid-range, he looked more content setting up his teammates than looking for his own offense.

-Branislav Djekic was sick for most of the event and barely played, which didn’t give us much of a chance to evaluate him.

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