By Simon Dresden
After looking at the 1986 class (automatically eligible), here’s a look at the 1987 class of Euroleague prospects.
Milenko Tepic was the starting point guard for his team, and by leading his team to the Top 16 he has established himself as an excellent prospect. He was handed full control over this team by his coach and has responded showing solid leadership qualities. His extraordinary size for a PG, combined with his ability to score with the jumper, make him a tough match up. He could use a little more poise setting up his teammates as he managed too few assists for his position but he made up for that with his all around play and rebounding. He logged heavy minutes and was the catalyst in most of the games, as the teams success usually directly correlated to his play. He was solid all season long with just two uninspired performances, that we can be blamed on his youth. He can really shoot the ball as one can see by his 90% FT clip and with practice and time his threeball will drop with more than the 32% he converted this year. What he lacks in his game is the aggressiveness to take full advantage of his size and skill combination. His size advantage (length) on defense is a detriment offensively (speed) as he’s a step slow off the dribble.
Considering his NBA chances, he is in the same mold as Marco Jaric was when he was at the same age. He probably will be drafted whenever he declares, be it late in the first or early in the second round by a team that is not so eager to bring him over right away, but letting him develop for a few more years in a high quality spot in Europe to fine tune his game and then try him when he is approaching his full capability at around age 24. He has the size and the skill set to play point. He can use a little work on his shot but the fundamentals are there to develop and even though he is not blessed with stand out athletism, his size and skill level should give him a fair chance.
Milos Teodosic made a tough decision before this year. He decided to change teams and jump right into the thick of it with a big time multiyear contract at European powerhouse Olympiacos. Teams like Piräus are destined to win right now and usually spend a lot of money for proven commodities as this team has veterans like Greer, Blackney, Seibutis Macijauskas in their backcourt. Not the best situation for a youngster to get instant minutes. Teodosic caught everyone by surprise nonetheless. After being buried on the bench for the first couple of games, while adjusting to the new team and the new situation, he got the chance to produce as Olympiacos had to cope with injuries to their vets. Milos never looked back establishing himself as a player in the regular rotation, even earning a couple starts and some heavy minutes he used for big production. Even when the vets came back, he didn’t drop off having established himself as a player who receives regular minutes. What a progress he has made with this years performance and he will be expected to be a cornerstone for the next years as a real contributor for the Greek team.
Considering his NBA chances, he has good size for a combo guard. We know he can knock down shots from everywhere, while being a solid passer going along. So offense shouldn’t be a big concern. Concerning his defense, he is a big liability. He doesn’t have the natural speed to blow by NBA defenders and on defense right now there is no way he can guard anybody in the league as his foot speed is less than average. He has a solid frame that may help him become more athletic down the road but to make up these deficiencies will be tough. He is what US scouts usually consider a Euro-Guard who will excel in the more structured Euroleague setting, maybe try the NBA on a FA deal he earned with exceptional play in Europe or the Olympics someday, only to come back frustrated after a season on the bench. As we have seen happen with so many before him: teammate Macijauskas, Planinic, Welsch, Rakocevic, Becirovic, Spanoulis…you name them.
Vidmar got a chance to gain valuable experience in the youth movement that Fenerbahce enforced this year. Being one of the true center sized players on the roster, he was counted on to play regularly and when he did he started quite a few games. He took full advantage of the injury situation to Semih Erden, which helped up his minutes instantly. When given the time and after some adjustment to the speed and physicality of the league, he found his way and produced at a good rate and his courageous play offered the young group another shot at the Euroeleague Top 16, with 6 more games to test their stuff.
Gasper also has good size and strength and therefore a true position. He is not blessed with outstanding athletic ability. He only managed to block 5 shots all season and had some trouble guarding more agile or bruising frontcourt players, as he was totally dominated by Pekovic, who abused him in the last game of the regular season. As for the NBA level, he will have to face this kind of bruising competition on a daily basis and it is hard to see him excelling there. He misses that one special skill that would make him a role player commodity as he does everything well, he can hit his FTs, never goes out of his range and he tries hard most of the time. There are no players like him in the NBA so to find a comparison is hard. Down the road he may be able to become a kind of Papadopoulos player who dominates in Europe with his big body and his vast experience.
Pellin is surely one of the movers and shakers of this years season. His coach fearlessly sent him out there as a starting guard in every game and he paid back the confidence with some amazing performances. He logged heavy minutes and really earned his spot and even though he dropped off considerably as the season progressed, he had a great season. His team missed the Top 16 stage but that was not his fault. He was always in there competing and doing astonishing things, particularly in the rebound department, averaging 3 a game. What earned him his playing time is his relentless defense as he was a terror all season long, raiding passing lanes and harassing opposing point guards on the ball with his good speed and determination. He is not the shooter he should be, when left open but he is fearless on his drives and shows a knack for finishing between the tree branches of the bigmen.
Considering his NBA chances, it’s very hard to see him being drafted, even in the second round at any point. His size is not encouraging, at 5-7, and a small handful at this size have made it in the league. The few that made it were blessed with some special attributes: blazing speed and a sure three pointer, combined with very good strength compared to their mass. Pellin has good speed but not what scouts would consider game changing and his under 30% from even the European three point line is not what teams look for, considering the line in the NBA is even further away. Pellin could probably guard, or at least stay in front, of most of the NBA guards, but he will be eaten alive when taken into the low post, as some opponents this year did and he had no answer. On the NBA level he will be abused as long as he is on the court in exactly this manner since he does not have the strength to hold his ground down there at all. Anyway he has had a good season and should have this kind of production for years to come. Working on his shot should get him into the 10ppg range and he should be able to dish out 6 dimes a night, all in all not exceptional, but steady and surely useable somewhere for a good paycheck in Europe.
Oguz Savas had a fine season and seems to be destined to a fruitful career in Turkey in the future, as he possesses the mass to earn respect down low, but not the skill or athletism to be much more.
Emir Preldzic had a kind of up and down season, he may be on the radar for the future because of his versatility but a SF prospect shooting only 37% on FT and 17% is a hard fact for scouts to swallow.