U18 Euros 2017 – Playmakers

Part one of our U18 recap from Slovakia.

Teaser:

Top Performers

Georgios Kalaitzakis (PG/SG/SF, Greece, 2-Jan-1999, 198cm)

The Panathinaikos guard’s size, handle, speed and scoring ability from any spot on the floor make him a point guard with legit NBA tools. Wasn’t the best playmaker here, but is the one with the highest upside.

Arguably the most potent pull-up shooter in Bratislava. Very good at stopping on a dime and elevating for the short jumpshot. Creates offense off the dribble. Is a super ballhandler for his size, shakes his defender, gets downhill, draws contact, hangs in the air, finishes. Was 2nd amongst playmakers both in iso PPG (1.9) & PPP (1.08), according to Synergy Sports. Attacks the paint. Is starting to put together a post game.

Got numerous deflections & steals with his length and anticipation. Crashes the defensive glass extremely hard (led all playmakers & wings in DRB%) and turns defense into offense in a flash. Finished 4th in Slovakia in transition PPG (4.1 on 1.38 PPP). Pushes the ball aggressively.

It wasn’t all good though. Has the tendency of walking the ball up the floor and generally slowing the game down instead of generating flow. Wants the ball in his hands, wants to make that play himself rather than sharing the ball early. Had a 15.9% turnover rate in PnR (3rd amongst regular PnR players). Had the 3rd lowest pass rate (passed out of just 33.3% of his PnR) in the tournament. Has to become more efficient and committed to moving the ball. Very adventurous player at this point who experiments with the basketball rather than always making the right play (which is fine for an 18 year old).

Arnas Velička (PG, Lithuania, 10-Dec-1999, 192cm)

Cool, calm, collected FC Barcelona floor leader. Had the tournament’s only triple double in Lithuania’s quarter final win over Italy. Best Lithuanian point guard prospect since Šarūnas Jasikevičius.

Stoic demeanor. Patient on the ball. Got to the rim. 3rd amongst regular PnR players in PPG at the rim in PnR. Doesn’t possess supreme explosiveness, but has feel and an effective hesitation dribble. Crafty at the rim; has a variety of finishes; a lot of difficult scoop shots. Strong, robust body; absorbs contact. Experienced PnR playmaker. Led all players in Slovakia in PnR possessions per game. 2nd in AST%. Good scoring/passing balance. Passed out of 51.6% of his PnR.

Has an extremely quick trigger, launched a three without hesitation every time he saw daylight. Not always the best decision. Made just 6/26 pull up jumpshots.

Velicka
Photo: fiba.basketball

Occasionally took the ball into the post and made competent passes there. Has real future as a post guard. Needs to become a scoring threat there too, rather than just a distributor.

Better athlete than I previously believed. Had some big defensive monents versus Serbia (big block on Uskoković one-on-one, plus a big weak side block that was ruled a foul). 2nd amongst playmakers & wings in DRB%.

Dimitrios Moraitis (PG, Greece, 3-Feb-1999, 192cm)

Moraitis is a bundle of energy and checks many boxes as a modern playmaker. Has size, athleticism, power, ballhandling, instincts, technique.

Explodes in transition (led the tournament in transition PPG at 6.4) and is an advanced finisher at the basket, both in footwork and ability to go to either hand. Pushes the ball on every opportunity, draws fouls all over the floor. Turns the corner aggressively coming off the ball screen, constantly puts pressure on the defense. Led the tournament in foul shots (8.6 per game). Loves to slash away from the screen and attack the help D. 4th amongst playmakers & wings in half court PPG at the rim, all while committing just three turnovers in 63 pick and roll possessions. Finished on a very good 1.03 PPP in own PnR finishes (3rd of 20 players with 3 or more PnR finishes per game). Shot creation at a very high level.

U18 2017 Point Guards
U18 Top Playmakers in Comparison

Missed a lot of jump shots — shot just 12.9% from three point range on 6.2 attempts per game — but kept shooting. Forced the issue when Greece fell behind. Not a patient player. Extroverted character, makes his opinion known.

Issuf Sanon (SG, Ukraine, 30-Oct-1999, 190cm)

Turned out to be one of the tournament’s main attractions. Showman who plays to the crowd, an entertainer. Finished 2nd in scoring (19.3 PPG). Attacking guard who is constantly riding the thin line between fearless and reckless. There’s a lot to criticize in Sanon’s game, but he flat-out gets buckets. Had Ukraine on the brink of an upset versus Turkey in Last 16.

Got to the basket at will off the dribble. 2nd amongst playmakers & wings in half court PPG at the rim. Advanced driver who Euro-steps around the help D with long strides and finishes right at the basket. Had big dunks through the crowd too. Increasingly forced the issue towards the end of the tournament. Finished on just 0.62 on his own PnR finishes. Isn’t selfish but doesn’t possess good feel at this point and isn’t much of a passer. Passed out of just 28.8% of his PnR, lowest pass rate of all regular PnR players in Slovakia.

Sanon
Photo: fiba.basketball

Tournament leader in turnovers. Took a lot of risks. Had mid-air passes that found their target surprisingly often, but had too many avoidable turnovers in non-playmaking situations.

2nd in Slovakia in transition PPG (5.9). Constantly attacking. Only knows one speed.

Played extended minutes (2nd in the tournament); defensive effort was up and down. When locked in, Sanon was a defensive difference-maker, using his quick hands to cause havoc all over the floor, harrassing point guards full court, denying alley oop passes, making big plays in transition defense. Finished 2nd amongst playmakers & wings in BLK%.

Other Notables

Sani Campara (PG/SG, Bosnia & Herzegovina, 3-Mar-1999, 188cm)

Tiny Real Madrid bucket getter who led the tournament in scoring (22.4 PPG). One man offense.

Advanced footwork and touch. Very high skill level. Has an arsenal of moves in the mid range, including making runners off the wrong foot and dropping lefty floaters. Finished 5/9 on runners/floaters. Assassin from the short mid range area, went 10/18 from there.

Is short and not much of an athlete. Against elite defense: needs the ball screen to gain separation. Came out gunning from Day 1: Took 12.7 jumpshots per game. 75.2% of his half court FGA were jump shots. Is looking for his own shot. Passed out of just 30.8% of his PnR (2nd lowest PnR pass rate in Slovakia).

Led the tournament in minutes per game. Is best when starting the possession off ball and moving into a playmaking situation later on the clock. Was saved off the ball on defense, but is too short to defend the wing and was occasionally targeted by taller players in the post.

Sofiane Briki (PG, France, 15-Apr-1999, 193cm)

Talented INSEP playmaker with decent size. Pull up jumpshot is his main scoring weapon. Balanced playmaker. Has patience on the ball, very good feel and makes good reads from top of the key; but doesn’t get into the teeth of the defense very often. Doesn’t explode to the basket, plays mostly until the foul line. Had just 0.7 runner/layup FGA per game in PnR. 81.1% of his half court FGA were jumpshots. Hit 12/33 pull up jumpers.

Elegant half court playmaker with very appealing flair to his game, but weak in the upper body, doesn’t deal with contact well at this point, and didn’t give his team enough extra points in transition, relative to other playmakers.

Ignas Sargiūnas (SG/PG, Lithuania, 11-Sep-1999, 193cm)

Smart, competitive combo guard who’s turning into a quality allrounder. Originally more of a two guard, but competently took over playmaking duties whenever Velička sat down. Usually defended point guard even when he was playing two guard on offense. Pesky full-court defender who tries to get into his opponent’s head. Not an athlete but tough; makes winning plays.

Word is Jasikevičius loves Sargiūnas’ high-IQ game & competitiveness.

David Kralj (SG/PG, Slovenia, 25-Jan-1999, 190cm)

Athletic, powerful lefty on-ball two guard who never got tired of attacking the hoop and making plays and posted extremely efficient numbers while doing so.

Kralj
Photo: fiba.basketball

Attacks the basket hard off the dribble in ball screen and iso situations, had a couple of big slams crowded lanes, played with high confidence. Was money on runners/floaters, making 6 of 8. Has very good PnR feel, had plenty of spot-on mid-drive decisions, turns the corner, not afraid of contact. Finished 2nd in PnR PPP (1.034) of 24 players with three or more PnR finishes per game. Killed opponents in iso, finishing first in iso PPG (2.0) & PPP (1.40). Had the 2nd-best shooting fouls drawn rate in PnR out of regular PnR players in Slovakia.

Had a slow start to the tournament before dropping 32 on Finland and 21 on Bosnia in Last 16. Went through ups and downs as a scorer.

Aggressive and locked in on the defensive end, matched up against the opponent’s best perimeter player. Smart defensive plays, did all the little things, including hard fouls when necessary. Like what I’m seeing.

Vuk Vulikić (PG, Serbia, 7-Mar-1999, 194cm)

One question going into the tournament was which player would distinguish himself from Serbia’s balanced but not exceptional backcourt — it ended being Vulikić, who played steady basketball all tournament and came through big time in crunch time versus Lithuania before tallying 8 assists in the final versus Spain.

Finished 6th in the tournament in AST%. Passed out of 76.1% of PnR, highest pass rate in the tournament. 3rd lowest turnover rate amongst regular PnR players in Slovakia.

Andre Gustavson (SG, Finland, 7-May-1999, 190cm)

Mid range assassin. 41.2% of his half court FGA were mid range jumpshots. Arguably in the top three of mid range shot creators here, together with Kalaitzakis and Campara. Puts pressure on the defense. 5th in transition PPG (4.0). Gets hit, misses, comes back at you next possession, keeps attacking. Has good acceleration, gets into the paint, mid-drive decision making a work in progress.

Had a below-par tournament altogether for his standards. Strong in the group phase, then completely let down by his shooting touch, going 2/17 from three and 2/9 from the foul line in knockout- plus placement games.

HONORABLE MENTIONS Pol Molins (tall, in-control floor general), Aleksa Uskoković (pesky Serbian slashing PG), Davids Atelbauers (one of the top slashers here; killed switch defenders), Yanik Blanc (French glue guy who made clutch shots)

Top 2000-born

Mert Akay (PG, Turkey, 12-Jul-2000, 190cm)

Youngest point guard in this tournament together with teammate Akyuz. Played with incredible poise for his age. Led the tournament in AST%. Passed out of 64.3% of his PnR. Also led regular PnR players in TOV% in PnR though. Didn’t emerge as a PnR scorer in Slovakia.

Pavle Titic (PG, Montenegro, 2-Mar-2000, 190cm)

Looked very promising as Montenegro’s main playmaker. 2nd in Slovakia in PnR possessions per game. Showed good balance as a playmaker, attacking the basket and finishing on layups, runners (with either hand), drilling pull up shots, finding teammates and burning tall switch defenders off the dribble. Solid, not exceptional athlete with a nice Euro future.

Eray Akyuz (PG, Turkey, 12-Jul-2000, 189cm)

Slashing playmaker who was on the 2016 U16 All-Tournament Team. Tied for youngest playmaker in Slovakia. Absolutely fearless slasher who attacks the hoop despite his slender frame and draws contact. Was 3rd in drawing shooting fouls in PnR out of 20 players with 3 PnR finishes or more. Finished his pick and roll possessions on just 0.52 PPP though.

HONORABLE MENTIONS Jonas Mattisseck (fearless combo guard with swagger), Didac Cuevas (tiny microwave shooter)