Euros in the 2017 NBA Draft: Early Entrants

There are a lot of NBA Draft guides out there where you can find the classic player breakdowns but since we’ve seen all the Euro prospects live over the past few years we thought we’d send out our live game notes with some added context.  So from youth showcases, to pro games, to National Team play, here are our notes from watching each of those players up close.

Part II (auto-eligibles) follows.

Lauri Markkanen

STATS
Creator%1 17.1
% of HC2 FGA are jumpshots 54.5
Jumpshot FGA 81/187
Ballscreen: Roll/Pop% 16-84
Post up: Kick% 22.4

Outlook

7-foot Finnish four who is an elite jumpshooter. Pick and pop monster. Tough, smart, adapts. Translatable skill and character. Had problems defending and rebounding for Arizona.

Game Notes

Live: U20 Euros 2016 – Forwards

The tournament headliner. Just simply delivered without making a big deal about it. Averaged close to a point per minute (24.9 PPG in 26.5 MPG). Markkanen is indefensible in pick and pop, where he drills the triple or attacks off the catch. Effective iso scorer. 3rd in transition PPG (5.3) on 1.682 PPP, according to Synergy Sports. Dominant performance. He’s tough, rebounds, defends, absorbs contact. Never complained, just played. Markkanen is a once-in-a-generation talent and has the competitive mindset to go along with it. Still wasn’t enough to save Finland from relegation.

Live: Ergo SuperCup 2016

Not taking any breaks. Just finished under-20s, now playing extremely well against veteran Polish, German and Russian front courts. Incredibly versatile. You can run offense through him in the post or elbow area; if you’re not he’s going to get his points anyway: through spot up jumpers, cuts, putbacks and transition baskets. More than held his ground against Lampe/Hrycaniuk. Had a tough time when defended by the strong/athletic Russian Vorontsevich/Antonov tandem but kept attacking and kept going to the foul line. Finishes through contact well. Fearless, doesn’t back down. Relentless. Supe motor. Great timing and awareness as a defender. Long, rebounds outside of his area. Phenomenal for a player who just turned 19 three months ago. Future NBA lottery pick.

2016-17 Season Notes

Became well known for his outside shooting during his one season at Arizona.  But it wasn’t just the shooting, it was the shots he was making.  Markkanen was firing deep, contested threes at will throughout the season and college defenses didn’t know how to react (stretching the floor with a big man in college, who knew it’d work!).  It became clear pretty quickly into the season how easy of a fit Markkanen would be in an NBA offense.  He flashed his off the dribble/post/mid-range game but not necessarily at the same rate that made him such a tools-y prospect at the youth level.  He would punish hard closeouts at times but with his size, often Markkanen would just fire away over the top of a defender’s hand.  And he has touch not just outside but in the paint too, took floater type push shots when he didn’t have the physicality to get all the way to the rim.

Because of his still slender frame and the developed bodies he battled in the college game, Markkanen had trouble boxing out and keeping players out of the post.  But because he’s so smart and works hard, he actually did a sneaky good job on the offensive glass, finding open space and putting back up quick shots.  As well as having some highlight dunk tip-ins.  And he did a solid job drawing fouls, which is huge since he’s knockdown at the line.  But the after season ‘framing’ of Markkanen as just a stretch shooter by NBA analysts sprinting into Draft coverage, doesn’t take in to account all the other things he did well.  Don’t stereotype Lauri as a just a tall white shooting Euro big, he’s so much more.

(Meyerkopf/Jatsch)


Frank Ntilikina

STATS
Creator% 29.6
% of HC FGA are jumpshots 70.4
Jumpshot FGA 73/181
PnR: Attack% 39.1
PnR: Pass% 58.8

Outlook

Tall high-IQ, high-character combo guard with a smooth jumpshot both off the catch and off the dribble, outstanding length and high potential as a multipositional defender. Likely no allstar-calibre talent but plays many roles, gets the job done. Second youngest player in the current Draftexpress Mock Draft.

Game Notes

Live: U18 Euros 2016

Battled the flu for the early group phase games, reflected by a meagre scoring output (7.3 PPG on 8/24 shooting) through the first three games. Exploded in the knock out phase and deservedly won MVP. Shot the ball extremely well, drilling 15/22 off dribble jumpers. Had just one layup and two runners in half court offense the entire week. Attacking the basket and finishing are major question marks.

Best perimeter defender in the tournament. Led France to the title. Leads by example.

Live: French Leaders Cup 2017

Circa 15 NBA scouts showed up in Paris on cup final weekend (though several flew over to Berlin on Sunday) in order to see Frank Ntilikina (projected lottery pick by Draftexpress) & Matthias Lessort (likely early 2nd round) play.

Had seen Ntilikina two months earlier at the U18 Euros in Samsun, and it was more of the same, though against better opponents: not a shot creator at this point. Didn’t turn the corner at all in ball screen situations; usually moved the ball to the next teammate without forcing a rotation. The pull up jumper is a real weapon though. Already stands out defensively, even on this level at just 18. Phenomenal length & timing. Alters shots where an average defender has no effect.

2016-17 Season Notes

Team is competing in the Pro A finals right now. Were knocked out of the Basketball Champions League by Aris. 18 year olds who play double digit minutes on winning teams in a top six league (ACB, VTB, BSL, Serie A, Pro A, BBL) are extremely rare.3

Hadn’t been attacking the basket very often out of ballscreen/iso offense for most of the season, but is showing signs of improvement there as of late. Is a smart slasher off the catch and in transition. Connected on just 5/23 field goals one-on-one in switching situations though.

Current role is indicative of future role: Frequently defends point guard but also guards the wing in Strasbourg’s three-guard-lineups (Lacombe, Slaughter, Ntilikina). Defends extremely well both on and off the ball. Moves feet, has that extra length, focused.

One of the Pro A’s best perimeter defenders already.

Not a lone playmaker to single-handedly carry an entire offense, but brings the ball up against pressure, sees and passes over the defense, launches pull up jumpers and plays extremely smart off the ball.

Will do a lot of secondary action after ball reversal (hand-offs, side PnR, off-screen situations) in his career, an area he’s already very skilled and in-control in, despite the young age.

High-character athlete, a pro.

Has had strong playoffs, handling the basketball more regularly in half court and getting to the basket in ball screen situations more frequently.

Ntilikina PnR
Frank Ntilikina 2016-17 Pick and Rolls

Is barely making any mistakes; has had just one turnovers in four finals games so far.

Is regularly checking Chalon’s creative little guard John Roberson, one of the top pull up shooters on the continent.4

Not just cutting well off the ball, but also crashing the offensive glass aggressively when defended by a physically weaker player such as Roberson. Has 15 offensive rebounds through 11 games in the playoffs.

(Jatsch)


Isaiah Hartenstein

STATS
Creator% 9.8
% of HC FGA are jumpshots 41.4
Jumpshot FGA 13/46
Ballscreen: Roll/Pop% 33-67
Post up: Kick% 29.2

Outlook

Smooth, mobile, inside/outside seven footer with good handles and an NBA-ready body, but problems knocking down open jumpers. Has participated in a lot of events but remains a bit of a mystery.

Game Notes

Live: 2016 ANGT Kaunas

A man amongst boys here. Dominated the tournament and made it look casual. Wide shoulders, strong core & legs, body is NBA-ready. Moves really well baseline to baseline. A lot of wing iso/faceup game, where he had mixed success. Best when letting the game come to him, playing in transition, going to the basket right off the catch. Threw five pinpoint full court outlet passes in the tournament.

Best defender in Kaunas. Two-action player who contests and then goes aggressively for the defensive rebound.

Live: U18 Euros 2016

Had a good-not-dominant tournament on a stacked German team. Arguably the top big man defender in the tournament.

Did a little bit of everything. Brought the ball up, played the post, played pick and pop, finished on deep catches.

Had always had that “star” vibe about him, but really fit in here. Didn’t hold on to the ball too much, kept it moving.

Still error prone though. Had a bunch of careless turnovers that get you benched on a higher level.

Very left-hand dominant.

2016-17 Season Notes

Just finished a season where he barely got on the floor in the Euroleague,5 played only sporadically against top-level LKL teams, but got extended minutes against the league’s lesser teams.

Inconsistent decision-making, mental lapses kept him out of lineups against top-level opponents. Jasikevicius could never be quite sure what he’d get from Hartenstein.

Long considered a power forward with good perimeter skills, Hartenstein has grown to 7-1 1/4 feet in shoes, making it very likely that he’ll defend the five in the long run.

He’s been a faceup/iso, transition and pick and pop player for most of his young career so far, while lagging in terms of feel/footwork/decision making/finishing as a roll man, which he has the tools for but simply hasn’t gotten enough repititions in so far. Moving into more of a rim-rolling rather than creative role would be a mental adjustment too.

There are plenty of uncertainties (mentality, jumpshot, roll game) in Hartenstein’s game, but the NBA-level body, floor-sprinting and his ability to cover space on defense give at least some room for optimism. He’s a physical specimen.

Developing a reliable jumper would be a major plus. Hartenstein drilled just 13/46 jumpshots this season. He went 32/45 from the foul line across competitions.

(Jatsch)


Jonah Bolden

STATS
Creator% 16.5
% of HC FGA are jumpshots 60.2
Jumpshot FGA 80/201
Ballscreen: Roll/Pop% 9-91
Post up: Kick% 8.1

Outlook

Long, versatile Aussie four who handles the ball well and regularly drilled jumpers from well past NBA range this past season, both off the catch and the off dribble. Poor decision maker. Athletic but unfocused defender.

Game Notes

Live: Scouting the Adidas Nations (Aug. 2013)

Offensive Game: Bolden was forced into the role of leading scorer for his team and while he played well, it’s not where he thrives the most.  Bolden is giant for a wing and probably had the biggest wingspan compared to height at the tournament.  A good passer who was looked on to create a lot of his team’s offense with some sub-par point guard beside him.  A decent dribbler who can get really low with his dribbler but isn’t a dynamic driver.  Looks to be better as an off the ball cutter and open court player.  Was very efficient and rarely made bad decisions or took bad shots.  His frame makes him looks like Nicolas Batum and he has a good overall skill set but I was left wanting a little bit more.

Defensive Game: This is where Bolden’s potential deadly.  Stretched out the guy can cover half the court. Getting his hands on passes, coming over to contest shots, and tipping out rebounds.  Bolden can just get his fingertips on anything and does a great job of transitioning from defense to fast break offense because he can run the break or finish at the end of it.

Needs To Improve: Shooting.  He already has a pretty smooth shot and it’s so extended that it’s really hard to block.  Since Bolden looks to be a secondary offensive option in the future, he can really become a deadly player on cuts if defenders have to honor his shot.  Catches anything thrown his way, so a great target whether you are trying to get him the ball cutting to the basket or on a kick-out.

2016-17 Season Notes

Strong season on Crvena Zvezda’s farm team, FMP. Has two more years with Crvena Zvezda.

Versatile, perimeter-oriented four man. Has good handle for his size and  loves to push the ball in transition off the own rebound, with mixed results as a decision maker. Enjoyed a lot of freedom in FMP’s fast-paced offense, took risks, had fancy passes picked off and turned the ball over on one-on-one dribbles, but also drilled over 40 percent of his three point shots and averaged a block per game in the ABA. Streaky shooter.

Multipositional defender with an intriguing combination of size and mobility. FMP played quite some 1-2-2 zone press with Bolden or Isaiah Austin on top disrupting passes.

Has a lot of work left to do as a half court defender. Poor decision maker in help situations, questionable toughness, doesn’t box out, oftentimes unfocused.

(Meyerkopf/Jatsch)


Vlatko Cancar

STATS
Creator% 27.7
% of HC FGA are jumpshots 58.9
Jumpshot FGA 45/126
PnR: Attack% 43.5
PnR: Pass% 36.7

Outlook

Tall, smooth shooter. Stretch forward. Perimeter guy, will be mainly a spot-up shooter if he ever makes the NBA. Touch, feel guy. Played on Misko’s stat machine Mega Leks but didn’t put up crazy numbers. Not tough at all. A tease.

Game Notes

Live: U18 B Euros 2015

The competition’s best wing player. Is a serious shot maker on one/two dribble attacks off the catch. Smooth athlete. Skinny combo forward with good size. Played four here.

Live: U20 Euros 2016 – Forwards

A typically intriguing yet unassertive Cancar performance.

Played three and four but is a legit small forward thanks to his on-ball skills. Finished 14th in PPG (13.6). His off-dribble jumper is legit and there is noone better in Euro junior basketball at stopping, shot-faking and then elevating for a contested 2 with the defender all over him. Advanced shot-making. Unselfish and passed the ball well. Had a bunch of athletic help-side blocks but often pushed around in on-the-ground battles. Frame/core strength still below average.

(Jatsch/Meyerkopf)


Alpha Kaba

STATS
Creator% 10.2
% of HC FGA are jumpshots 27.0
Jumpshot FGA 26/107
Ballscreen: Roll/Pop% 81-19
Post up: Kick% 23.1

Outlook

Second season at Mega, put up good not great production. Has crazy length, what’s got him on draft boards. Goes after the glass but doesn’t have great skill or explosiveness around the rim to be a solid NBA prospect.

Game Notes

Live: Eurocamp 2016

Came in with tons of hype but didn’t quite live up to it.  Super long (7’5″ wingspan) but has no explosiveness.  Just not a jumper, missing dunks.  Length is affecting some shots.  Doesn’t have great hands.  Needs to find a role, game. Just not an athlete around the basket, totally relying on length.

(Meyerkopf)


Simon Birgander

STATS
Creator% 16.0
% of HC FGA are jumpshots 0.0
Jumpshot FGA 0/0
Ballscreen: Roll/Pop% 100-0
Post up: Kick% 16.7

Outlook

Late-blooming Swedish big man who had an efficient performance in the under-20 Euros last summer in limited minutes and played a backup role in LEB Oro this past season. Surprisingly stayed in the draft. Will likely never play in the NBA.

Game Notes

Live: U20 Euros 2016 – Centers

Breakout tournament. Plays in LEB Gold. Finished 8th in BLK%, 9th in putback PPG, 10th in ORB% in limited minutes. Big near-7-foot body, decent frame, long, moves well for his size. Can elevate & finish, had a bunch of good slams in warm-up. Has sound touch around the hoop. Had a bunch of good, translatable defensive plays where he picked up the ballhandler coming off the ball screen, trailed and blocked the layup attempt. Was quiet, not talking much. Not playing physical ball yet, not banging, but has potential.

U20 video analysis (by Artur Kowis).

2016-17 Season Notes

2nd year for CB Clavijo in LEB Oro. Backup big. Averaged 13.3 MPG. Relatively low level of competition compared to other prospects his age. Team got relegated to LEB Plata.

Is a finesse big who has good hands (including a good off hand) in the paint, is a fairly decent extra passer on the mid-roll and dunker spot catch, but needs to become a lot more aggressive and physical (e.g. creating deep high-low position on the roll).

Very polite player who doesn’t deal with contact well at this point. Misses when contested. As a consequence tends to pass out rather than finishing through help defense.

Has decent defensive instincts, gets into the right positions, contests. Doesn’t like to be bumped around. Gives up deep position too easily.

Is a couple of years away from being a serious pro player, but late bloomers are always worth keeping an eye on.

(Jatsch)

  1. Possessions finished in iso, pick and roll (ballhandler) or post up situations versus total half court possessions
  2. Abbr: Half court
  3. Only Luka Doncic and Kenan Sipahi in the last five years.
  4. Leads the Synergy Sports European leadersboards of players with over 200 pull up shots at an outstanding 62.5 eFG%.
  5. Considering Zalgiris long contended for a quarter finals spot, that’s hardly a surprise