2017 Leaders Cup Notebook: Wings Impress

With all major cup tournaments taking place at the same weekend, a decision needed to be made. Opted for Paris to get a close look at the Pro A’s top eight teams.

Wing shooting & intangibles: Gladyr, Butterfield

The offensive outburst that won Sergiy Gladyr (49 PTS in 3 games, 12/17 3FG) Leaders Cup MVP was an outlier, but his intangibles are consistent week-to-week. Zvezdan Mitrovic has just one assistant (it works) and Gladyr is partially operating as that 3rd guy, calling out opponent plays, jumping over the bench to help teammates up and generally communicating a ton. Hustled all over the floor in Paris and executed well on the weak side defensively. No elite athlete, but Gladyr has a pro body and holds his ground.

It’s no secret Spencer Butterfield is drawing a ton of interest; even Pascal Donnadieu said so publicly in early April. Butterfield has gradually gotten better throughout his career,1 but long range shooting has always been there: never had a sub-40% 3FG season in NCAA D1/pros. Doesn’t create separation well himself but is far from one-dimensional; drills the off-dribble jumper when given space, is 60/159 on pull ups this season (40.9 FG%, 47.5 eFG%). Doesn’t have Jaycee-Carroll-speed navigating around pindowns, but make one mistake and he’ll punish.

Had quiet first halves in Paris, but he’s patient, lets the game come to him and eventually leaves his mark on the scoreboard.

Has a real pro body, is tough, competitive and coachable. Is defending small forward a lot and holds his ground. Defended the 10cm taller and 15-20kg heavier Jordan Aboudou for long stretches in the Leaders Cup semifinal.

One of the top pound-for-pound rebounders on the continent. Has phenomenal instincts: attacks the offensive glass only when there’s real opportunity, doesn’t carelessly give up transition opportunities. Gets into the battle zone for defensive rebounds; plenty of pokeaways from offensive rebounding bigs.

Monaco/ASVEL perimeter Intensity

Hard to come up with a more athletic non-Euroleague back court than Monaco’s. Bost (trash-talking, mega-intense on-ball pest), Zack Wright (less confrontative character but similarly effective defender), Shuler (intense shooting wing who is best on D when on the ball) & Ouattara (polite yes-sir-no-sir character who is a real bouncy athlete) are hounding ball handlers full court. They’re quick, shifty, and genuinely enjoy inflicting pain on others.

And then there’s Bangaly Fofana cleaning up, really finding his footing as an effective rim protector. Had 3 blocks in the final versus ASVEL. Difference maker this year.

ASVEL guards: a more traditional defensive force. Nelson is one of the better non-Euroleague perimeter defenders. Physical, big dude, a real presence, got deflections on ball and in one pass away D. Hodge went after it. Very intense, defended aggressively full court.

Monaco got two press turnovers out of Kyle Gibson. ASVEL really held John Roberson, a phenomenal shot creator, in check. Roberson was unable to create separation here and it brought Chalon’s offense to a standstill.

Prospects: Ntilikina, Lessort, Elizier-Vanerot, Okobo

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.

Lessort had dominant first quarters: blocking shots, setting hard screens, slamming home PnR feeds through the crowded lane, finishing via off-hand. Fouls took him out of games; got frustated with himself, never found his way back. Missed a huge potential go-ahead dunk in the semis with 35 seconds left. This was likely an outlier though. Is an emotional player but not self-destructive. The general vibe is positive: cares, plays hard, teammates like him.

Elizier-Vanerot had a rough, not uncharacteristic 1-4 FG game offensively. But he really executed on defense. Got 3 deflections, tipped a live ball from the rim and ran into a moving screen.

U20s standout Elie Okobo had a quiet weekend and eventually suffered an injury. Was unassertive in DJ Cooper’s shadow; more off ball than usual. Has had big moments this season though, including a game winning triple in Székesfehérvár in FIBA Europe Cup.

Other Notables

  • Kyle Gibson couldn’t get going. Couldn’t make plays versus athleticism/length. Scored his points out of broken plays.
  • Adrian Uter was phenomenal for ASVEL. Really short; ~200cm. Strong on the boards. Right-on-point mid-roll game, had some excellent mid-roll passes. Good decision making. Can legitimately play the four now. Is drilling triples this season.
  • Chalon was (uncharacteristically) poor. Only Nzeulie came to play. Super glue guy for them; athletic, clever, unselfish. A lot of extra passes.
  • Guard speed was phenomenal: Hodge, Roberson, Bost, Warren, Zack Wright, Erving Walker, Cobbs — these guys attack and make plays
  • The Pro B Final was merely a middle of the pack team (Roanne) versus a bottom three team (Boulogne-sur-Mer). Roanne got a big game from 21-year-old combo guard Thomas Ville and an MVP performance from undersized/oversized big Joe Burton. Burton moves his heavy body around with surprising quickness and has incredibly soft hands.
  1. Played for Yuba Community College from 2010-12, was on the WAC All-Conference 2nd Team in 2012-13 for Utah State, averaged 13-6-3 as a senior, averaged 10-4 for Melilla as a Euro rookie in LEB Gold, starting just 7/25 games, averaged 15-6-2 across competitions for Juventus in FIBA Europe Cup 2015-16.