By Rafael Uehara
Nikola Mirotic – The Bulls have recently traded Luol Deng for financial flexibility, with the intent of signing 2011 draft pick Nikola Mirotic as their top priority, according to several reports. General manager John Paxson has since stated the organization is no longer as confident about doing so next summer, defining Mirotic’s buyout as prohibitive. Nonetheless these things are fluid and Chicago fans retain hope they will be able to see Mirotic in a Bulls’ jersey as soon as possible.
Real Madrid is having such a tremendous season all around (16-0 in the Spanish league and 12-0 in the Euroleague) that Mirotic’s terrific individual performance has gone under the radar. According to realgm.com, Mirotic’s 27.6 player efficiency rating ranks second in the Spanish league and his 1.59 point per shot average on 141 attempts (60.3% effective shooting, boosted by 35% three-point shooting on 34 attempts) ranks fifth. His 29.8 PER leads the Euroleague, he is averaging an incredible 1.82 points per shot on 90 attempts and posting a .700 effective field-goal percentage, boosted by 57.1% three-point shooting on 35 attempts. He has probably been the best per-minute scorer all around Europe this season.
Pierre Jackson – Jackson is dominating the D-League. In 19 games, he has averaged 29 points on 52% effective shooting (boosted by 37.3% three-point shooting on 8.4 attempts per 40 minutes) and five assists per 40 minutes. He was just named the most valuable player of the showcase last week. There have been rumors New Orleans was looking to trade him but nothing has materialized yet. With Jrue Holiday sidelined for a good portion of the remainder of the season, it would make sense for the franchise to keep him in the mix for now. However, with Brian Roberts and Austin Rivers in place and Tyreke Evans also capable of running point, a path to the lineup seems unlikely any time soon.
Ante Tomic – With Derrick Favors settling down as a center, as Ty Corbin has essentially given up trying to play both him and Enes Kanter together much, and with Rudy Gobert also in place, I’d like to learn how do the Jazz view Ante Tomic. Tomic has not played as well as he did last season when he was the best center in Europe. I wouldn’t say he has regressed either, though. Personally, I think the minutes are part of the reason why he hasn’t been as impactful. They are down a bit because Barcelona has Maciej Lampe as a third option in the center rotation earning (well, earning is a bit of a stretch) minutes as well, while Tomic only rotated with Nathan Jawai last season. Head-coach Xavi Pascual has changed the substitution patterns as well. He used to use shorter intervals, mostly not to tire Jawai.
When Tomic left Real Madrid, the idea of him as an NBA player was laughable. He was soft and incredibly uninterested in rebounding. But he has been a completely different player in his tenure in Cataluña, as a true rim protector who uses his mobility and length to challenge shots and is averaging eight rebounds per 28 minutes in the Euroleague, according to in-the-game.org. He leads the Spanish league in PER and ranks eighth in the Euroleague, per realgm.com. Is Tomic a 30-minute a game caliber center at the NBA level? I don’t think so but we never know how smart these guys are. He could be one of those who pick up the principles and do serviceable work. After all, Nenad Krstic logged 10,500 minutes in the league. His toughness is questionable but Tiago Splitter ain’t tough either and he’s out there doing solid enough work to earn $9 a year. What made Tomic such an interesting prospect when he was drafted remains there: seven-foot-two height with way above average agility for his size and position, the difference being now he plays two-way ball. I doubt he couldn’t at least be a 15 or 17-minute a game guy and those are extremely valuable. According to Salt City Hoops’ David J. Smith, general manager Dennis Lindsay has said as recently as last summer the franchise is monitoring his progress and he has wanted Tomic in a “Jazz uniform” for a long time.
Bojan Bogdanovic – Many expected Bogdanovic to join the Nets this season but for whatever reason things didn’t work out in the last hour. Fenerbahçe is a different team than it was a season ago and Bogdanovic has been uneven. The new coach (legendary Zeljko Obradovic) has installed a more structured offense, given more possessions to the versatile and outstanding Emir Preldzic (more on him later) and the team added a high volume shot taker in Linas Kleiza. Bogdanovic has still managed to get his shots out fine, posting 25% usage rate on both leagues but results have been mixed. He is posting 1.2 points per shot and 50% effective shooting on 159 attempts in the Euroleague, though 1.42 points per shot and 62.6% effective shooting on 127 attempts in the Turkish league.
Lucas Nogueira – this was supposed to be an important season for Nogueira. Estudiantes restructured his contract last summer, so the buyout for him to joy the Hawks next season already would be more favorable for them. But severe tendonitis has held him to just six games, 108 minutes all year.
Tibor Pleiss – Lamont Hamilton dealt with injuries early in the season and the team’s third option is teenager Ilimane Diop, so Pleiss got the opportunity to log the majority of Laboral Kutxa’s minutes at center up until this moment; 480 combining the Euroleague and the Spanish league. His advanced metrics have been impressive; 21.6 PER, 1.4 points per shot, 56.5% effective shooting, 10 rebounds per 40 minutes among Europe’s elite and 27.4 PER, 1.54 points per shot, 60.7% effective shooting, 10.1 rebounds per 40 minutes in the domestic league. Pleiss has taken steps forward but it remains unclear how much of a fit he is for the NBA. He is a high volume rebounder but some argue he’s likely to struggle against NBA-level athleticism. Pleiss hasn’t developed into that good a pick-and-roll scorer yet but his seven-foot-two, 242-pound frame is quite hard to slow down on his way to the rim, where he has scored 54 points on 61% shooting in 193 Euroleague minutes, according to in-the-game.org. Defensively, it’s hard to assess what type of impact he could bring to the table guarding the pick-and-roll as Baskonia has him hedging, which is definitely not the most optimal way to utilize his widebody and unlikely to be the way he would be coached in Oklahoma City.
Kostas Papanikolaou – the Rockets acquired the rights to Papanikolaou (and Marko Todorovic) last summer in the trade that sent Thomas Robinson to Portland. Papanikolaou is a star role player at the European level and will likely be a good one in the NBA. He has gone through a bit of a slump shooting in the Euroleague but has hit 15 of 38 three-point attempts in the Spasnish league. According to sport24.gr, the buyout on his contract with Barcelona is one million euros for the summer of 2014 and 750 thousand euros for the summer of 2015. Quick sidenote on Todorovic: he has been hurt most of the season and played very little.
Sergio Llull – There were rumors that the Rockets were attempting to convince Llull to transfer last summer. Llull was not particularly interested and though he said at the time he hasn’t ruled anything out, it’s questionable Houston will get to enjoy his services any time soon. Llull remains the same player he has ever been; a good shooter who does solid work running the offense for a little while before Sergio Rodriguez comes off the bench to set the earth on fire and he plays with a good deal of energy on defense.
Emir Preldzic – the Wizards got the rights to Preldzic in the trade that sent Antwan Jamison to Cleveland and it’s unclear if they are aware of his existence. The six-foot-nine point forward has played really great ball under Obradovic’s tutelage at Fenerbahçe and splits the duty of running the offense with Bo McCallebb almost in half. He is averaging seven assists per 40 minutes in the Euroleague and 10.1 in the Turkish league. His combination of height, court vision and passing skills make him one of the most unique players in the world and this is the first season he has gotten close of reaching his full potential. Preldzic has just extended his contract with Fenerbahçe until the end of the 2016-2017 season but no details regarding NBA outs have been reported. I have heard in the past Preldzic wasn’t particularly interested in the NBA. His name was only in the 2009 draft because he was automatically eligible. It’s a shame, though.
Nemanja Bjelica – Bjelica resisted the shift to full time power forward a bit but it’s clearly the position that suits his physical profile best and where his skill-set can make the most impact. Obradovic has made full use of his passing, having Bjelica play a similar role to the one Boris Diaw does for the Spurs. He has rebounded with more effort, leading Fenerbahçe with 150 in 568 minutes in the Euroleague and the Turkish league. And he has improved his outside shooting, having hit 41.4% of his 87 three-point attempts at this moment.
Mike Muscala – Muscala’s Draft Express scouting video has him as an extremely intriguing prospect. Or he might just be Brian Cook. I guess we will see. In Spain, Muscala is leading the league in rebounding (12.6 per 40) and ranks seventh in scoring (21.3 per 40). He is not shooting three-pointers, though, attempting only three in 393 minutes. His team is weak, having lost 11 of 15.
Raulzinho Neto – the Brazilian point guard impressed many in the summer league with his pick-and-roll proficiency. He has taken a step forward but perhaps not as significant one as the most optimistic were expecting. He is averaging six assists per 40 minutes and shooting 46% on 113 attempts but has gotten to the foul line just 32 times in 347 minutes and gone eight-for-26 from three-point range. He seems on his way to figuring it out but another season in Europe would probably do him good.
Erick Green – Statistically speaking, Green hasn’t had as good a season with Montepaschi Siena as some expected when the team signed. He has shot just 29% on 75 attempts from three-point range and recorded just 34 assists in 576 minutes in the Italian league, Euroleague and Eurocup. Green has shot perfectly fine from two-point range, though, and his assist totals are low because Daniel Hackett did most of the ballhandling before transferring last month. It looked as if Green was about to get a chance to run the team now but newcomer Marquez Haynes has already took over.
Alex Abrines – With Brad Oleson missing multiple weeks and Juan Carlos Navarro expectedly not available for every game, Abrines has gotten good minutes again this season and I think we have a pretty good idea of what type of player he is; a good but not exceptional shooter who plays hard on defense but whose impact is limited by his below average athleticism. Abrines has hit 38% of his 71 three-point attempts in 494 minutes.
Tomas Satoransky – Satoransky is very quietly of the most productive all around players in Spain. He is averaging 16.1 points, 5.7 assists and 4.7 rebounds per 40 minutes in 470 minutes with Cajasol. Still not much of a shooter, though, having hit just 10 of 35 attempts from three-point range.
Bojan Dubljevic – the six-foot-10 gunner is one of the very best shooters in the globe. I can’t believe he was drafted 59th overall last year, with Alex Oriakhi going ahead of him. Valência’s head coach Velimir Perasovic like using him as a stretch five but, though he has improved as a rebounder, Dubljevic is mostly a specialist. He has hit 51% of his 53 attempts from three-point range in 309 minutes in the Spanish league and the Eurocup.
Davis Bertans & Livio Jean-Charles – have been hurt the entire season.
DeShaun Thomas – 20.8 PER, 1.21 points per shot, 54.2% effective shooting, 8.2 rebounds per 40 minutes in 326 minutes in the French league.
Joffrey Lauvergne – 15.4 PER, 1.29 points per shot, 53.3% effective shooting, 8.9 rebounds per 40 minutes in 509 minutes in the Adriatic league.
Jon Diebler – has hit 51.3% of his 78 attempts from three-point range in the Turkish league. Seems noteworthy.