Euro Trip Journal: German BBL Roundup

After traveling around Germany for a couple of weeks and going to see six different games (4 BBL, 1 Eurocup, 1 FIBA BCL), as well as handful of practices, here are some thoughts and player/prospect notes from the journey.  Was able to see six BBL teams play: Bayreuth, Frankfurt, Bonn, Tubingen, Wurzburg, Bayern, Oldenburg, and Alba. So the notes on players will just be from the teams, players, and games I saw.

BBL Thoughts

The league is really growing and it’s cool to see such a fight going on for Playoff spots.  There will be some high intensity games down the stretch with many teams still in the mix. The budgets of the bottom of the league still need to get better to have the kind of well-rounded league that exists in Italy and France. It should be more common place to have a bottom team beating a mid level team or knocking off a top team occasionally. Teams are still working on becoming more creative with roster construction and searching the world of basketball for talent. As the BBL strives to be one of the best leagues in Europe, every team having a Sport Director will be a crucial part.  Many teams have become stable and strong but a lot has to do with the presence of a certain coach or manager and you need to be prepared for if that position changes.

The BBL gyms are really nice, the organization is very good in many places, and the general business of the BBL is always strong. The facilities in Germany are super. I even stopped in Gottingen to see their brand new practice facility and it looks like a place an NBA team would train. And around the whole country their’s tons of great arenas. The youth system is growing and having more players from around Europe added into the mix at a young age will only help to push the German prospects. Finding six good Germans for every BBL team can be a struggle but in the future, as these young generations of players age up, it should become easier. But as the league grows a consistent effort to be creative and innovative with rosters, team makeup, systems and ideas will be a huge step to continue moving the BBL forward.

Key Players

Luke Sikma | Alba Berlin

Possible BBL MVP at this point. Sikma is what makes the Alba system go. It’s his grab-go, point forward, and competitive mentality that fuels Alba. Playing as a 4/5 he’s such a clean ball-mover, passer, and playmaker. And one of the best grab n go bigs in Europe. Off the ball Sikma is quite active and certainly slams the offensive glass. He plays at all spots in the half court offense. Shooting or scoring has never been his priority, he can even look at the hoop more. Since Sikma is such a gifted passer, he can overpass, always looking to create a shot a little bit better.  In game vs Gran Canaria he forced too many tough angled passes but his activity was still key for Alba.

Nate Linhart | medi Bayreuth

The piece that makes Bayreuth go. When you have a 2/3 wing who can consistently play in PnR, its such a weapon. Bayreuth has clear roles for their players and it’s led to a lot of success but it’s Linhart who holds it all together. The team was basically unchanged from last year except for adding a new backcourt. Out went Kyan Anderson and Trey Lewis to higher wage jobs and in came James Robinson and Gabe York. Robinson is a big PG, low-key but has strength, is very under control and focused but lacks burst. York is the brilliant shooter, taking crazy off-balanced shots and making them with ease. Neither one is a super playmaker, which makes Linhart so valuable with his vision, PnR skills, and ball-handling/attacking ability in the halfcourt. When you have someone starting at the ‘3’ and averaging over four assists a game it’s special. And I was at the game Bayreuth went full fireworks mode vs Frankfurt in the Cup, so the system looked even better.

Jared Cunningham | Bayern Munich

Bayern has a loaded roster with tons of interesting players but I wanted to focus on Cunningham who had a big game and is new to the BBL. He’s an unstoppable transition player in the BBL. Really smooth, darts out into open space on the wing and has an array of creative footwork to get off shots at the rim. In the half court he’s still a savvy driver and cutter. Simple, efficient moves. Always is just staring straight ahead, he really has an expression on his face. Used as a baseline and weakside cutter, Cunningham is an alley-oop target. His 3pt shot is a weapon but never going to be a consistent threat. He attacks to score, never been one to drive to create space for others. But an athlete like this who can really score is such a threat in Germany.

Scott Eatherton | Baskets Lowen Braunschweig

Eatherton has been an inside monster for a surprising Braunschweig team. He definitely added strength last summer and this season which has been a big part of his breakout. With added strength he gets to his spots inside and just finishes with touch. Underhand, overhand, both sides of the rim, in front, he just finds a way to get a fairly open look and drops the ball in. It’s simple but effective and efficient. He started off really hot and set the tone in the game vs Gotha. Nothing phases him, he just keeps doing his work. There’s no one move that wow’s you or electric play, just hard work and consistency. He shot 10/11 from the field and 4/4 on FT’s vs Gotha.

Rookie/2nd Year Watch

Reggie Upshaw | Walter Tigers tubingen

Tubingen’s go-to offensive weapon, even as a rookie. Was 4/8 from the  3-point line in the game vs Bonn. All of them were spot-up shots, no dribbles. Zubcic just couldn’t find him on close-outs and the four makes were fairly open looks. Very low-key player. He did miss a key 3-point shot with under two minutes left, down five, Tubingen drew up the play for him, he barely missed, and still had an efficient 20 points. He’s more robotic going to the rim, stronger than he is athletic. But he is deliberate, doesn’t really waste motion or time. Hits the offensive glass, in 36 minutes had only one D-rebound but three O-rebounds. Has good footwork around the rim, made a nice spin layup. Has touch at the basket too.

Malcolm Hill | Telekom Baskets Bonn

Hill started off his time in Bonn really hot and has now has cooled down but is still productive. Has above average wing strength, good post up option. He has a bit of a slow-mo game but it’s effective. Can hit the mid-range jumper. Sees the game. Not an explosive player, does his work with craftiness, strength, and reading the game. Scorer in Bonn’s 2nd unit, could attempts more 3’s and up his aggressiveness. Tools are there.

Tai Webster | Fraport Skyliners

Frankfurt got blown out by Bayreuth so it was a tough game to look good. Webster was quiet in the first half but really woke up in the second half. He’s a super creative driver, really can just attack. Makes the most of transition. Is wily, tough to stay in front of. Aggressiveness fades in and out. Has vision, can fling passes around once he gets rolling. Frame is still developing. Not a player who’s always going to bail the offense out in late shot clock situations but when he really attacks and pushes the pace it ignites the team.

Gabe York | medi Bayreuth

York was cut in Cremona last season after signing a big rookie deal and being asked to be their main playmaker. It wasn’t the right fit. He went to the D-League and then in the summer Bayreuth took the chance on him. Role really matters with York. He’s a scorer, plain and simple. Makes some pretty amazing shots with the ball in his hands. Fadeaways, step-backs, jab and pull-up. His shooting has been a special this season. Had it rolling vs Frankfurt and was active in transition as well. Above the rim athlete. York needs freedom and when given, he has made the most of it.

Retin Obasohan | Rockets

Obasohan is still developing but he’s a physical freak and has one of the best, most explosive frames in Europe. Was locked in and focused vs Braunschweig. With Gotha cutting three of their imports, there’s a ton of pressure on Obasohan. He played the whole game, only subbed out once briefly. He got poked in the eye, thrown down going to the basket numerous times, and always had Kone or Lansdowne pressuring him. Kept cool, kept attacking. Had 16 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals. He’s forced to play a ton of PG and at times seems like the teams only playmaker. Every shot created is a grind, nothing easy. But once he gets his shoulders squared towards the rim you can’t stay in front of him. More of a player who gets faster as he gets moving, than just creating from a stop. Does a great job taking contact (7/7 FT). He’s electric in transition. Tends to over-dribble, but he had to at times.

Armani Moore | EWE Baskets Oldenburg

Caught Moore in only his 3rd game with Oldenburg after coming over from Stelmet. Physically he’s great, big arms, he looks the part. Coming off his first 2 games with Oldenburg where he had a combined 29 points, he was off vs Monaco. Had 1 point, was 0/4 FG in 15 minutes. As a 3-man he lacks ball-handling, even if that is the position his size dictates. And Monaco is a really tough matchup with so many wing defenders. If the defense cuts down his drives or transition opportunities he doesn’t have a spot-up shot to rely on. Still his frame is impressive and he had 7 rebounds. Grab n go ability is there. Needs space to take advantage of his skills. Probably better as a mismatch 4.

German Prospect Quick Hits

Jonas Mattisseck (2000) | Alba Berlin

With Alba being hit with injuries in the backcourt and Aito never wavering on keeping players in their roles, the freshly turned 18-year old has gotten minutes recently. He’s pesky and tough. Jumps right into the game with energy. Wasn’t bothered by ball pressure. Has very good size for a PG (1.95m) and his body is still developing of course. But he’s not fazed. In the game he did have two open pull-up shots after penetration but elected to pass.

Isaac Bonga (1999) | Fraport Skyliners

Frankfurt has really been hurt so Bonga has been forced to play more. They count on him to produce, different from a lot of other prospect roles. He has real pressure. With Bonga the idea of having such a tall player be a primary ball-handler is tantalizing. But he really lacks an in-between game, no pull-up shots, and is adverse to contact anywhere near the rim. He has vision with size. His length is also a factor on defense. But consistency as a scorer and decision maker are still far off.

Karim Jallow (1997) | Bayern Munich

Jallow is a long, athletic, hungry wing and that’s tough to find in Germany. While he’s killing the Pro B level he’s barely getting any shakes in the BBL. Bayern need to find a situation he can play more on a good level. He’s a body that glides around the court and gets after it on defense. Have only been able to see flashes at a real level because that’s all we’ve been given.

I also saw a NBBL game between Frankfurt and Hagen. Frankfurt has two big prospects who were playing way up in age as this is a U19 league and they are 15 and 16 years old and actually producing.

Max Begue (2001) | Fraport Skyliners

Fairly filled out physically for his age, tall, either a point guard or a point wing. Begue is an unbelievable passer. In the game he had a no-look extra pass on the perimeter, reverse pivot pass off a drive, a baseline drive and feed to a cutter, and a couple throw ahead transition passes. He really has every pass for this level. Didn’t look to shoot really, even on drives he’s thinking to setup teammates. Started to attempt elbow pull-up shots later in the game. Shot will be key.

Len Schoormann (2002) | Fraport Skyliners

Schoormann is still so damn young. But you can see the potential. His in air dynamics are impressive. Athletic, leaper, super smooth. Only really took jumps shot from the corner 3, made one, missed two. Was passive but it’s an older kids team. Did show some grab n go ability.  Was able to drive and kick from the wing or on the baseline. Had a huge block off a guard’s spin move. Really interesting wing player to follow.

Culture

City: It has to be Berlin. A nod to Bonn which is a nice city to walk around and see some history. But in Germany there’s nothing else like Berlin. I stayed at an apartment in Friedrichshain, not far from the arena. A plethora of cool coffee shops to choose from, though I kept going back to Coffee Profilers, highly recommend.

Food: Not the best food country, of course there is cool ethnic food throughout the country and especially in Berlin. But I love currywurst and that has to be the pick. Have probably had the best currywurst at Curry 36 in Kreuzberg.

Arena: Going to make an exception here for the practice facility in Gottingen. It’s brand new this season and with two courts, workout gym, lounge, offices, nice locker rooms… There’s nowhere else I can highlight like this. Hope to see more facilities like this soon in Germany and around Europe. Very interesting.