Bogdan Bogdanovic - PAR (15 pts, 10 assts, 6 rebs, 5 stls, 6 tos)
Darjus Lavrionvic - KIEV (11 pts, 2 rebs, 2 assts, 2 stls)
|Fenerbahce Istanbul - Q||7||1||677||594||120,2||105,1|
|FC Barcelona - Q||6||2||625||573||111,4||102,7|
|CSKA Moscow - Q||5||3||580||549||104,5||97,9|
In a highly competitive group with just one team above .500, both Strasbourg (1-6 before the game) and Zalgiris ( 2-5) needed a win to remain with chances for the next round. Thanks to a big performance from Ricardo Greer, Strasbourg prevailed and still has a tiny chance of making the Top 16.
Strasbourg didn't only look pretty dead prior to this game but also at its start. Kaunas went on a 11-0 run which was eventually ended after four scoreless minutes by Alexis Ajinca. Ricardo Greer and Paul Lacombe combined for 9 points late in the first quarter to tie the game at 18. It took Strasbourg to the third quarter to finally take the lead on a Antoine Diot layup.
Strasbourg opened the fourth strong on a five point lead but that was equalized by a couple of threes by Martynas Pocius and Justin Dentmon. Further free throws by Pocius gave Zalgiris a four point lead with three minutes to play. Ricardo Greer got foulded on a made three point basket and tied the game again. Zalgiris botched two threes of their own which gave Louis Campbell the chance to hit a three. After Kristof Lavrinovic tied the game via free throws, Justin Dentmon gave Zalgiris even a two point lead on a tough contested mid-range shot. Down one with just 2.5 seconds to go, Strasbourg needed a little miracle which they found in Louis Campbell who drove hard around the perimeter, stopped and hit an amazing three pointer at the buzzer. Another tough loss for Zalgiris.
Lous Campbell - STR (15 pts, 5 assts, 4 rebs, 1 stl)
Arturas Milaknis - ZAL (16 pts, 4 rebs)
David Chotti - MIL (8 pts, 8 rebs, 1 asst, 1 stl)
Rudy Fernandez - MAD (16 pts, 5 rebs, 3 assts)
|Real Madrid - Q||8||0||724||525||122,5||88,4|
|Anadolu Efes Istanbul||4||4||617||616||105,1||104,6|
|EA7 Emporio Armani Milan||4||4||601||613||103,1||106,4|
|Brose Baskets Bamberg||3||5||603||671||106,5||116,3|
Munich which started the tourney hot but has cooled down and is struggling lately needed some motivation going into the last three games of the first group stage, but facing Piareus without swiss army knife Nihad Djedovic... well, isn't the news you need in that situation. But holy hell, did Bayern push Piraeus to the edge in an up-tempo high scoring thriller that will go down as one of the greater games in recent EL history.
Piraues clearly looked like the favorite early on, taking a 28-19 run. An unsportsmanlike foul that set the tone for a competitive atmosphere in the 'Audi Dome' gifted Munich some extra points to cut the lead to six. Sparked by reserve big Vasileios Kavvdas, Piraeus took a nine point lead despite bonkers shooting from crazed heat check legend Heiko Schaffartzik (ended the night on 5-8 threes). In the third, the tides turned and Bayern roared back with a 13-0 run to take a one point lead. Olampiacos Stratos Perperoglu couldn't quite belive what he saw and took over, scoring 7 of 21 Olampicos points in the third to retake a tiny lead at 88-70.That's a score where many good Euroleague games would stop - but there were ten more minutes to go!
Olympicos looked to trail away early with back-to-back threes by Evangelos Mantzaris and Kostas Sloukas as well as a lay-up by Sloukas. Deon Thompson and Malcolm Delaney answered with a triple and lay-up combo themselves. Inbetween Piraeus layups, Heiko Schaffartzik came to life again, hitting a three and a a layup to cut the deficit to four. Perperoglu and former NCAA sharpshooter Lucca Staiger exchanged threes before Piraeus went on a mini-run to take an eight point lead with two minutes left. Bayern. Was. Not. Dead. Yet. Schaffartzik free throws and another three by Staigger off a chase-down blog by Delaney on Acie Law made it a one-possession game again before Vassilis Spanoulis spoiled the party with a layup. Schaffartzik lol'd briefly and hit yet another wicked three bomb before Malcolm Delaney free throws tied the game at 102-102. One minute to go. Unlucky Deon Thompson somehow fouled Bryant Dunston who hit a free throw but had his miss rebound by Stratos Perperoglu who was fouled right away. Stratos hit both for the 105-102 lead. Up by three with just a few seconds to go, Piraeus smartly fouled Malcolm Delaney.
Delaney made one and now, Bayern had to hope for the play that just never works out: Miss intentionally, rebound, put it back in. And oh my, it worked perfectly. Delaney missed, lucky Deon Thompson rebounded and heaved it to mad insane Heiko Schaffartzik who was somehow wide wide open at the top of the key (HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?) for an easy three at the buzzer.... and he missed. Heartreaking loss for Bayern but they showed they might actually make some noise in this tournament. Both teams combined for 29 for 61 threes and just 15 turnovers. Terrific game.
Malcolm Delaney - MUN (22 pts, 6 assts, 5 rebs, 2 stls, 1 blk)
Vassilis Spanoulis - PIR (24 pts, 7 assts, 1 reb)
Nik Caner-Medley - MAL (14 pts, 5 rebs , 1 asst)
Vladimir Dragicevic - GOR (20 pts, 4 rebs, 2 assts, 2 stls)
|Olympiacos Piraeus - Q||8||0||643||581||112,4||101,2|
|Galatasaray Istanbul - Q||5||3||556||580||102,6||109,2|
|FC Bayern Munich||3||5||658||646||112,5||110,6|
|Stelmet Zielona Gora||2||6||570||632||110,9||112,1|
Shodown between the group's top teams (Loko at 6-1 and Maccabi at 5-2 before this game).
A close game throughout the first half (39-40) seemed to trend in the host's favor as they outscored Tel Aviv 24-13 in the third, driven by their frontline. Alex Tyus, David Blu and Sofoklis Schortsanitis combined for 14 of those 24 points. Krasnodar rallied in the fourth quarter, allowing just 12 points but botched its final posession which had ended up a desperation three by Marcus Williams who had a tough shooting night anyway (3-10 shooting). Tel Aviv wins and leads the group for now. Nothing but seeding to play for in Group D as all four tickets to the second group stage are given out already .
|Maccabi Tel Aviv - Q
|Lokomotiv Krasnodar - Q
|Laboral Vitoria - Q
|Panathinaikos Athens - Q
|Crvena Zvezda Belgrade||2||6||624||639||105,6||110,3|
|Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius||1||7||540||643||92,8||110,5|
European Wing Prospects #4-1
4. Viktor Gaddefors (Virtus Bologna)
6'7" - born in 1992 - Sweden
Despite not showing much more than the guys listed last week, Viktor is a cool talent and I like his chances of somehow ending up in the NBA a little more. Gaddefors is yet another another product of Sweden's highly succesful recent run of basketball talents that features Jonas Jerebko, Jeffery Taylor, Markus Eriksson and (maybe) Ludvig Hakanson.
There are a few things speaking for Gaddefors. He's had good outings in international Youth competition basketball. After being not much of a factor during Sweden's B Division runs until 2009, Viktor has been a foundation of the Swedish Youth in the A Division tourneys. He's participated in the U-20 Euro Championship twice, scoring on average around 14 points and getting 6 rebounds. Gadde got A-level experience at this year's EuroBasket where he played 100 minutes in five games.
Gaddefors has been on contract with Italian side Virtus Bologna for some years now. His pro debut came 2012 in 19 MPG for Bologna where he didn't put up big numbers but showed a knack to draw fouls and finish strong inside (66% 2FG on 56 shots). Gaddefors role is bigger this year as his minute average is up to 25 in which he averages 9 pts, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. He's a decent free throw shooter but an uptick in 3FG% would definitely help his outlook as he's super streaky yet a frm believer in his outside shooting . He's flashing his inside efficiency again, shooting 70% on 32 2FGs so far. Bologna has tried to make him an all-around type player who could score in a variety of ways but Gaddefors hasn't responded well to that. I guess he'll stay rather a low usage player, even at the European level and despite not being super flashy, I like his potential a little more than the guys I presented last week. We're entering the big talents now.
|Viktor Gaddefors||PER GAME||PER 30|
3. Alessandro Gentile (EA7 Emporio Armani Milan)
6'7" - born in 1992 - Italy
First off: Alessandro Gentile should be a lot more productive than he already is. Or at least more consistent. Few European forwards are gifted with the body and physicality that he has, and if, they end up being power forwards without much ball handling ability. Gentile is a gifted talent that has the potential to be a various tools player like an old EA7 player that Milan's fans envision Gentile to be: Danilo Gallinari.
But at 21, it's becoming clear tha Gentile won't be Galinari as he's lacking the speed, athleticisim and creativity that made Gallo a clear NBA talent. Gentile has been a bright spot in Euro youth basketball as he's been a surprisingly effective scorer at the U20 championship in 2011 (at the age of 18!) with 17.3 points. Gentile played the U18 championship that year too, averaging 23 points, and after another run at the U20 championship in 2012 (18 pts) got a call-up for Italy's senior team for the Eurobasket. The tourney was Gentile's nicest coup to date and a big reason why he should have a chance to hear his names at a NBA draft night. For one of the tournament's surprise hits, Gentile scored 14 points in just 24 minutes of play (45% FG% - 13-33 threes).
On a young Milan team this year however, Gentile is struggling again, shooting just 2-17 threes in league play and having problems finishing around the rim as highlighted by a 45% 2FG%. Yet, he's showing a raised awareness for making the extra pass as he's averaging 3 asists per game in 17 EL & Italy league games with as many turnovers unfortunately. Still, Gentile should remain an interesting prospect due to his EuroBasket & EuroCamp showing and the inevitable yet false comparison to Gallinari.
|Alessandro Gentile||PER GAME||PER 30|
2. Dario Saric (Cibona Zagreb KK)
6'9" - born in 1994 - Croatia
Yes, Dario is more of a power forward but since the talent pool at the big position is packed with many intriguing guys, I put the kid here. I've told the story a few times now: Great great great kid, very unique talent even though flawed who had a very tough start to last year's season: His contract negotations were botched which forced him to sit out for months. Eventually, he signed with hometown team Cibona Zagreb KK which led to an ugly falling out with his dad (who called him a bust in the newspaper). This was followed by a very poor Adriatic League performance where Dario Saric could neither hit shots from behind the arc, inside the arc, under the basket, above the basket, at the free throw line. In 15 Adriatic League games, Darizzle shot ugly 39% on 2FGs, 30% on 3FGs and just 50% on FTs. He turned the ball over 2.3 times per game while dishing out 2.1 assists per game. Yes, that production is not worthy of a first round pick... or any NBA pick.
New year, new luck. Dario's performance was trending upwards late in the season, in the much easier Croatian League where he won the title and was crowned MVP of the clowns. Dario took part at the EuroBasket for a super fun Croatian team where he had to play in an off-ball hustle role for the first time in his life. The basketball junkie played the FIBA U19 Championship (All Tournament team with guys like Jahlil Okafor, Dante Exum, Vasilije Micic) as well as the U20 Euro Championship (MVP) in the months leading from Croatian League final to EuroBasket 2013. Especially at the U19 you could see Dario wanting to overcome the draft disaster. In 9 games, Saric averaged 20 points, 11 rebounds, 4.9 assists (as many TO's....) per game, shooting 56% on 2FGs. Don't ask about threes - at least he kept them to a minimum. While he attempted just 29 threes, Saric shot 66 free throws which he converted at 77%.
So is Lil Dario playing better in the Adriatic this year? Through 11 games, he is 7th in PPG (14). 4th in RPG (7.6). 3rd in FG% (61%). His FT% is at least un-hack-a-shaqy at 65%. He's 2nd in Win Shares. FT/FGA-ratio of 0.76. Finally an A/T-ratio above 1 (1.35). ORTG of 125.5. PPS of 1.80. TS% of .067. K, I'll stop. Bottom line is - the kid is playing great basketball right now and has made the transition from point forward to power forward exceptionally. And Cibona isn't even putting him into a great position as his point forward game is severly underused. He's just a load to handle for opposing big men. It's still early but Dario Saric is looking fine right now and might break into 2014 lottery (too bold of a prediction?).
|Dario Saric||PER GAME||PER 30|
1. Mario Hezonja (FC Barcelona)
6'7" - born in 1995 - Croatia
Small Forward /Shooting Guard
The speciality of Marrio Hezonja's talent is the Higgs-Boson of basketball (physicists kill me if this comparison doesn't work). You don't quite know whether it exists. What you know is: If it exists - oh boy, it's gonna be revoluationary and badass. 1995-born Mario Hezonja is something else in European basketball right now and the only thing holding him from being a well-known force in European basketball might be his team situation. Hezonja played (well) for Barcelona's 2nd team in Spain's 2nd division last year which netted him a guaranteed spot on Barcelona's senior team.
He's a great talent and that's understandable. What's not understandable is that he's not playing for the 2nd team at all. Obviously, a 95-year born... won't see minutes on a top Euroleague team, especially if the team is full of fresh new faces... uhm, unless you're named Kenan Sipahi I guess. Thus, often cranky and moody Hezonja practices with the pros and watches games mostly from the sidelines while we keep wondering whether he'll end up merely as Freeza, destroyer of planets or fulfill his dark talent as Kid Boo, destroyer of galaxies.
What makes us believers in Hezonism is Mario's unique combination of high skill at a very young age (even though it is getting a little monotonous when defenses focus on him - he'll def have to show something here) paired with very seldom seen athleticism. But he's not only a sick dunker, but has a sweet floater, can shoot off the dribble and connect on fairly fairly complicated passes.
Hezonja has been in the DX top 10 for the 2014 draft throughout the last year. Had he signed with a team that would have given him minutes at least at the league level, Hezonja might have proven that he belongs talent-wise (even though it's tough to see teams pass on US players in that draft class for stash candidates in the top 10). Thus, Hezonja has been knocked off by Dante Exum as the best '95-born prospect and you shouldn't expect Hezonja to enter next year's draft. Watching the Mario-Dario dynamic on the Croatian National team will be interesting too. As a very complimentary duo, they should bump Croatia into euro contendership soon right away.
|Mario Hezonja||PER GAME||PER 30|
|2013||FCB II||ESP II||22||48,80%||33,90%||78,40%||49,6%||52,5%||24,1||14,5||0,7