Gameday Review (10/24): Basketball Champions League

The BCL has kindly put their live streaming on the esteemed LiveBasketball.TV for a monthly fee. The games will be archived on Youtube but if you want to watch them live, it’s no longer free.  On a Tuesday in front of the screen I was able to watch Elan Chalon vs BK Ventspils, AS Monaco vs Enisey Krasnoyarsk, and PAOK vs Capo D’Orlando. A lot of the notes taken were focused on the younger players and imports.

Game Stories

Monaco’s Stacked Backcourt

The Monaco backcourt has unbelievable depth and just comes at you in waves.  Between the guards and wings there is Aaron Craft, Gerald Robinson, Paul Lacombe, Chris Evans, Sergiy Gladyr, and now they have subbed out Dru Joyce for DJ Cooper. Robinson in particular is just such a load to handle. He hammered the Enisey defense relentlessly in the first half.  Monaco, like last year, gets quickly into transition and with Robinson as the new Dee Bost, goes right at the rim. Bull-dozing drives and finishes.  Even capping off his 15 point first quarter run with a deep late shot clock three.  Monaco ran away in the first half and made it close to impossible to catch. This is a high Eurocup or fringe Euroleague backcourt.

Ventspils Close Wins

Ventspils now has beaten the Pro A champs (Chalon) and last year’s BCL champs (Tenerife) by one point each. Rookie wing Blake Hamilton’s performance is characterized below but it was really the Latvian core that won the game. Aigars Skele finished with his second near triple double (16-9-8). As a ball-handling wing with size, Skele routinely created problems for the Chalon wing defenders, who also didn’t always seem defensively interested. Ronalds Zakis had a couple huge momentum plays including a post spin and dunk right on Farr in the 4th. And Julius Jucikas kept putting pressure on the rim with his hard rolls. He was also a thorn in Smith’s side as he was the one meeting him at the basket for those shot contests. Ventspils finished with 21 assists and five turnovers in a sound team win.

PAOK vs Capo: The Struggle

You could say this was a defensive battle but it was more an offensively challenged game. Both teams really lack primary playmakers who can constantly set up solid offense. PAOK has quite a few American ball-handlers but they weren’t all even close to in sync vs Capo. But the game did pick up in the second half and there are a plethora of young players profiled below. PAOK really had the game under control, up close to double digits from a lot of the second quarter on.  But they played a few players heavy minutes, Owen Klassen and Ousman Krubally (who both played really well) got into foul trouble and Capo found their way back in the game. Everything for Capo starts with Engin Atsur who is their leader. Capo had a couple chances late to take the game but couldn’t convert.

Player Reports

Imports

Blake Hamilton | 2.5 | Ventspils

A product of the University of Buffalo, Hamilton stood out in synergy’s ball-handling metrics and in assists among last year’s seniors (thanks Simon). But still he flew under the radar and certainly under my own radar. A point wing, giant guard, forward who can handle… Hamilton is a playmaker.

He scored in a variety of ways vs Chalon: transition 3, mid-range pull-up, and a cut for a layup. It equaled a not so impressive sum of 7 points but where Hamilton really impressed was with his passing and pace. Had a beautiful PnR lob bullet pass to Jucikas (check first highlight of the video). Routinely threw on the money passes. He’s got a really filled out frame for a rookie, strong and sturdy. Every rebound is a grab n go opportunity. And he is always playing at a deliberate, patient pace. For a Euro rookie, he plays with such a calm demeanor. He’s not a player that is easy to rattle.  Hamilton could also use some more burst and change of speed. He didn’t play much in crunch time but he’s definitely an interesting rookie worth monitoring.

James Farr | 4.7 | Elan Chalon

Farr had a fairly bone-crushing 16 minutes of action. His post shooting game is tough to defend. For such a wide body he’s able to get off tough turnaround jumpers. Even if some of the shots are forced. Versus Ventspils he had a noticeable impact on the offensive glass. Farr just pushes and pushes until his opponent is out of the way and he has a clear shot at a tip-in. Once he missed an easy tip-in and got fouled, should have been an and-1. But he routinely put pressure on the opposing bigs and if they didnt get a body on him early they paid the price.

I counted 3 post cross-court bullet passes that resulted in 2 assists and one dropped pass by Rozenfeld that would have been an open 3. Farr loves to cradle the ball with one hand and zip a pass to the opposite wing. It’s an interesting skill but also the passes could be a bit more catchable.  There’s a lot of fine-tuning to be done, he had 3 turnovers in 2 quarters of play.

In the final 2 minutes of the 1st half Chalon went to a double big lineup with Farr and Camara, with Farr playing the 4 and even curling up the wing for a missed spot-up 3. The lineup didn’t really work.

Adam Smith | 1.5 | Elan Chalon

It hasn’t been an easy start to the season for Chalon (0-5 in Pro A) and a lot of that blame has seemingly fallen on to Smith, who his coach has blasted publicly as not a point guard. And Smith is not a traditional PG and certainly can’t fill the shoes of the departed John Roberson, but who really can. What Smith does is he scores. He started the game at the 2-guard next to Rozenfeld but ended up playing 35 minutes with the ball often in his hands. Shot selection was an issue, there’s a lot of tough pull-ups and step-back jump shots Smith takes that he can make but in a flowing offense there doesn’t need to be quite as many. He was excellent in transition and early offense, whenever his team had an advantage he scurried right to the rim. He was blocked at the rim a few times in the game, the Ventspils bigs were very active and swatted two Smith layups in the last two minutes of the game.

The last play of the game can maybe be seen as a microcosm of the Chalon offense this season. There wasnt much of a play set up, Smith tried to force a post-up to Camara who was too far out of the paint, it quickly was passed back to Smith who hit a covered Gillet at the top of the key who passed back to Smith for a rushed baseline floater that didn’t have much chance of going in. And that’s how the game ended. Chalon has signed Darrin Dorsey to bring in a guard to help make the fit better with Smith and others.

Octavius Ellis | 5.0 | Enisey Krasnoyarsk

The 2nd year big man is still finding his way at a higher level. Fouling out in 14 minutes, Ellis showed energy and mobility to try to stymie the Monaco guard attack.  He wasn’t the only one on Enisey that had problems. He has an incredibly wiry frame, long but skinny. With driving guards he showed the ability to slide over and contest shots. But matched up vs Kikanovic in the post it was a different story. Kika has some of the sharpest elbows in Europe and he powered his way around Ellis, even if a bit dirty, and drew the majority of the fouls on him. Ellis put in work on the boards, he’s always jumping and fighting but didn’t consistently have the ability to just snag the ball in traffic.  He needs to add more body mass to do that.

Lucky Jones | 2.5 | PAOK

The third year wing is starting hit his stride with PAOK. Jones played the full 40 minutes against Capo even with four other Americans on the roster. He’s got a great frame, has a solid base of strength for a guard/wing. He did a good job attacking closeouts, power driving to the rim and delivering kick-out passes if the defense recovered. He consistently made the right or close to right basketball play, even at times over passing.

The 3-point shot was a solid weapon and he used a pump fake n go to create space. Jones is more strength than speed but because of his ball handling ability at his size he can attack. But he was consistently under control and used his strength to his advantage. And did a solid job defending on the ball or as solid a job one can do playing the whole game. He came up with the 2 big defense rebounds to close the game and finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 1 block and most importantly PAOK’s first BCL win. You can see some his physical drives in the highlights.

Justin Edwards | 2.0 | Capo D’Orlando

It was a trying game for Edwards who had a heap of playmaking responsibility on his shoulders.  The electric wing is a constant attacker.  He flies into the paint. Which can lead to some wild finishes but also continually gives a sometimes plain offense, a kick start.  He was often matched up vs Jones who he just physically doesn’t have the size to contend with.  Besides Engin Atsur and Edwards, no one else can really create offense on Capo. Edwards did show control on his mid-range pull-ups, hitting two of them. But going against bigger defenders and having to constantly create something out of nothing led to some inefficient drives. With more playmaking help next to him, Edwards can be more patient and efficient on his attacking opportunities.  Until then he’ll be forcing up shots and drives as Capo moves to 0-3.

Young Euros

Both players we recently scouted at the 2017 Adidas Eurocamp in Treviso so it was good to get a look at their early season action as they have heavy roles on their BCL teams.

Antonis Koniaris | 1.0 | PAOK

The Greek sides starting and closing PG, he was the lead playmaker and by far best passer on the team. Kevin Dillard had a real off day and Brandon Triche barely played, meaning a lot of the guard work came down to Koniaris and Jones. He plays like a veteran PnR operater who rarely gets rushed or flustered. Holds on to his dribble till the play develops. I started counting all of Konairis’ plus PnR passes but it became too long a list and I stopped. He showed off drive to corner kicks, pocket passes to rolling bigs, and heady interior dump-downs.  On one PnR, as the defense overplayed for a pass, Koniaris got the defender on his back, road him to the charge circle and all of a sudden flicked up the quickest floater you’ll see.

Konairis did hit two 3’s in the 4th quarter giving PAOK some much needed offense, both teams struggled to score.  Overall PAOK was missing a real end of shot clock creator, Koniaris had the ball with under six seconds left and often tried to force a pass inside of just looking to score.

Arnoldas Kulboka | 3.0 | Capo D’Orlando

There was a lot of classic Kulboka stuff on display last night and as he’s already shown in this young season that he can be a relied upon scorer for Capo. He was 4/7 from 3 for 15 points. He hit two very clutch 3’s late in the 4th to keep Capo in the game. PAOK was up 13 heading into the 4th quarter but the young Capo team continued to fight. Kulboka had a put back and-1 to get the Greek lead down to just one with under five minutes left. In total he had nine 4th quarter points and showed that even when everyone knows he can shoot and he’s facing fairly physical defenders, Kulboka can still hit clutch 3-pointers.