Making The Jump Part III: Champions League Come Up

I’m doing a series of these Making The Jump articles with the focus on players moving up in level.  And with an extra focus on rookie, D-League, or NBA players making their first foray into Europe and players heading into their second or third season in Europe who are on the rise.

Part I: Euroleague
Part II: Eurocup

And now a dive into the new players in the FIBA Basketball Champions League (BCL).

Dyshawn Pierre: Baskets Lowen Braunschweig to Banco di Sardegna Sassari

A dynamic attacker, Pierre was one of the hot Year 1 names of the early summer.  He had a huge 2nd half of the season with some big performances late for a low budget Braunschweig team he helped stay above relegation.  As he and the team played well down the stretch.  In his last 10 games of the season he had 20+ points seven times.

Pierre is a 4/3/5 of sorts, basically a total swiss army knife.  He’s at his best going up against players a little bigger than him because he can usually swerve by them and can probably match them with power inside.  Smaller than him, he’ll post you up.  And he led the BBL in rebounds (7.9RPG) at 6’6″.  He’s the type of dynamic big wing everyone is looking for who can play on the perimeter offensively and is able to defend 3-4-5 and switch on to guards defensively.

Pierre has an average to below average outside shooter.  He can pass out of drives, he isn’t just focused on scoring but it’s another thing he can improve on.  The big jump for him will be the much longer season with BCL and heavy pressure in Serie A.  But Sassari brought in a nice young core with Pierre including Levi Randolph, Shawn Jones, Darko Planinic and Scott Bamforth, so this could be a chance for this group to grow together.  And if not, Pierre has the Euroleague in his near future.

Rosco Allen: Rio Natura Monbus Obradoiro to Iberostar Tenerife

Another member of our Top 10 rookie seasons in Europe. Allen is a wild horse of sorts but is quite the wing talent for Europe.  He’s tall, skilled, athletic, and he can really jump.  Even though he doesn’t have a thick body, Allen is an exciting finisher who has rim rattling ability.  He’s a quick action guy, attack, shoot, or move on.  With his long strides he can rip a baseline drive in one dribble.

Aaron Doorenkamp was a key piece of Tenerife’s BCL championship identity last season and filling in for him won’t be easy.  The keys are defense, rebounding, and intensity.  Allen has to be committed and focused on defense and he has to up his rebounding from last season.  A tall wing athlete like Allen has big things in his future and Tenerife was the logical next step.

Adam Smith: Roseto Sharks to Elan Chalon

Smith was the sidekick of Marcus Georges-Hunt at Georgia Tech for his senior season after transferring from Virginia Tech.  Mainly playing the 2-guard, his job was to shoot from 3 a lot and he did.  Saw him play live in college a couple times and really liked his deep shooting ability, not only spotting up but also his pull-up game.  But what made Smith breakout last season as rookie was how much of a dribbler he ended up being and how much his scoring game expanded.

Smith was a true bucket-getter in Legadue.  Coming in 2nd in scoring at 24.3 PPG and leading Roseto to the 2nd round of the Playoffs. He isn’t so big, probably between 6’1-2″. But he just scores.  Continuing that same super shooting but made a lot of plays off the dribble. He’s very elusive, slippery driver who was fearless attacking the paint. And Roseto also needed him to score a ton so the question as he moves up in level is, now how much of a distributor can he be in a more even role?

Chalon has a habit of looking at lower leagues and plucking out quality players.  John Roberson made the jump from Sweden to Pro A champion with Chalon, now we get to see what Smith can do in a similar role.

James Farr: Alba Fehervar to Elan Chalon

Farr will be Smith’s pick n pop running mate as Chalon rebuilds their championship team.  Good thing for Chalon, Farr is coming off a championship of his own with Alba Fehervar in Hungary.  Farr has a funky game.  Farr has a spiked up afro, a round body, a big sweeping jump hook and at 6’10” an array of step-back jumpers.  He’s still willing to bully inside too and it’s tough to push around this burly big. Farr is a unique threat and it will be cool to see how he and Smith gel together as a duo.  A backup big to monitor.

As Simon said during the season, “That guy (Farr) would be Oguz Savas level cult material if more people saw him play.” Now they have the chance.

Jabril Trawick: Sioux Falls Skyforce to Hapoel Holon

Trawick has always been an interesting prospect at NXS because of the insane motor, intensity, aggression, and strength he plays with.  Let Jabril be Jabril.  He looks like an NFL player with how bulky and strong he is.  He was able to play both forward spots in the D-League and even won the D-League championship as a rookie with the best defensive team the league has ever seen.

In Israel it’s entirely possible we could see Trawick guard 1-5 this season.  He’s an attacking forward with a solid drive game.  But what he really brings is all that trash talking, mean mugging, and get up in your face style.  The emotions can spill over but it’s impressive what he brings to the court every time he plays.

Dez Wells: Doxa Lefkadas/OKC Blue to Scandone Avellino

It’s been a tricky couple of pro seasons for Wells.  Coming out of Maryland he was a fringe draft pick and one of the top rated seniors.  He started his career with a season in the D-League where he was solid but didn’t look as powerful as he did in college.  Last season he signed a contract with Tubingen, which was surprising in itself, but he failed the physical and moved to the very low budget Greek island team of Doxa.  Thru nine games Wells was leading A1 in scoring but because of some team issues he chose to leave and head back to the D-League.

Now Wells makes the jump to Avellino where in the past couple years with James Nunnally and Levi Randolph, they’ve developed young scoring wings.  Wells is a tank, can theoretically play 2-3-4 because of his strength.  He’s an on-ball penetrator, likes to get downhill and is willing to take contact.  Will be interesting to see if he can capture that same ability it looked like had coming out of Maryland and for a flash last season in Greece.

Darion Atkins: Hapoel Holon to Strasbourg

Atkins broke out as a prospect as the last fill-in at the 2015 PIT.  I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my report from the tournament:

Atkins played the best of any player at PIT.  He’s quick, with great footwork, and was able to maneuver wherever he wanted in the paint. He’s got a soft mid-range shot. He finished first in scoring, third in rebounding, and tied for first in blocks. Really liked Atkins during the season but minimal production was a concern. After seeing him explode at PIT outside of UVA’s restrictive offense and given much more freedom, his potential was confirmed. He was a step ahead of every other big man.

And a lot of people, including myself, still held on to that Atkins PIT performance.  Even after a disappointing D-League season with the Westchester Knicks where they improperly played him at the 4.  Atkins is a 5 or a 5/4 or a mid-range 5, whatever you want to call it.  But he played mainly in the middle in Israel and it was the perfect league for him.  He didn’t have to play so physically but was able to use his mobility, agility, and mid range touch to lead Holon to the #1 seed.  And he was arguably the first half MVP of the league.  Atkins cooled down a bit in the second half of the season, Holon played well but was ultimately upset in the first round of the playoffs by the #8 seed Maccabi Haifa.

By chance I was in Israel and got to see Game 2 of that series in Haifa.  Atkins flaws were a little bit on display that night, a lack of aggression, not playing close enough to the rim, and not a lot of banging.  He’s need space to play his game, he’s skinny for a 5 and is better going around you than through you.  Coach Collet and Strasbourg have had success with these combo type bigs (Matt Howard, Romeo Travis, Ali Traore) recently.  And while there is a big worry about the physicality step up for Atkins, the fit is good making the likelihood for success much greater.

Quincy Diggs: Eisbaeren Bremerhaven to CEZ Nymburk

Had a big season in Bremerhaven. Athletic guard/wing with decent size. Can really make plays off the dribble. Can get out of control but has that breakdown the defense ability and at 6’6″ even played some PG this season. At that size to be able to handle the ball and slash has such value in a world where teams want more and more ball-handlers and decision makers at all positions.  Diggs will need to up his defensive prowess if he wants to continue to move up in level.  With Nymburk passing on VTB from now on, his only chance to really show his stuff is in the BCL.

Chase Fieler: Doner Groningen to Oostende

Fieler will be entering his fourth pro season so he’s a bit more experience than the other guys on the list.  But he’s taken an interesting and slightly off the radar route to the BCL.  After being a huge part of FGCU’s ‘Dunk City’ in college, Fieler played one year in LEB Gold where he won the championship in a role as a supporting player (remember when Ourense was supposed to be in the ACB).  After that and for the last two seasons he’s been a key member of the current dominant Dutch team Doner Groningen.

Fieler had his breakout season last year at age 24.  He finally put together his efficient combination of outside shooting, passing, crafty off-ball movement, and no-nonsense basketball.  He’s really turned himself into a long-range bomber, even willing to take some shots from Mirza range.  A super deft passer, usually he’s just a stationary dime artist, waiting for an open cutter, big, or shooter to emerge.  It’s a simple but effective game.  He reads most situations well, takes a guard quick to the post on a switch, it’s an auto shot if the closeout is late, and it’s a pump n go if it’s a rushed closeout.  Can easily see Fieler on a playoff BBL team next season or even make a hop back to Spain but in the ACB.  He could easily fit into an Obradoiro type style.