EA7 Emporio Armani Milan 81 - 51 Olympiacos Piraeus
If I told you that EA7 Milan was missing its star youngster Alessandro Gentile for the game and that its other star youngster Nicolo Melli only contributed 3 points in 24 minutes against the undefeated champs of the past year, you sure would bet that Milan would take another beatdown in its sluggish season.
Well, it was the other way around and the Italian fans in the Mediolanum Forum couldn't quite believe that its team (5-6 for the Euroleague season) was blowing Piraeus out of the building. The game went accordingly in the first quarter with Piraus taking a a 21-16 lead in a mediocre 10 minutes that featured multiple minutes of uninspired, scoreless basketball. The game turned in the second quarter with a 9-0 run sparked by four consecutive points by Gani Lawal and stopped by a Vassilis Spanoulis layup. The Greeks could stop the bleeding only temporarily though as Milan went on another 9-1 run in the last two minutes to end the quarter. The Greek fans in attendance were expecting their team to come out with better energy to start the second half, but had to witness another Italian 11-2 run early in the third that was sparked by Daniel Hackett's seven points. The third quarter was even worse than the second for the Greeks who got outscored 8-24 and their will broken by two consecutive three bombs by Keith Langford to end the quarter. At that point, Piraeus was done with the game as you could see by them not even scoring in the first five minutes (!!!) of the final quarter while Milan had hit two three pointers, a layup and a free throw already.
The Italians take home a huge and unexpected blowout win while Piraeus better forget about this game quickly. The Greeks couldn't buy a basket neither from the inside (37% on two's) nor the outside (3 of 16 three's) and usually deadly sharpshooters like Matthew Lojeski, Vassilis Spanoulis and Evangelos Mantzaris combined for only 1/11 three's. Milan on the other hand finally got an inspiring performance from newcomer Daniel Hackett who was one of the most productive players in the Regular Season with Italian rival Montepaschi Siena. Hackett contributed 17 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and gave Milan's fans reasons to cheer for him after they stated on banners that he had to earn their respect. The game's star was Keith Langford though who had an epic performance of 29 points in 31 minutes of play on just 13 shots.
Olympiacos has been able to keep the facade of a dominant force in the Euroleague, but as has been visible in league play, with the injury absence of Acie Law, Olympiacos looks at major concerns after losing rebounding vacuum cleaner Kyle Hines and flexible scorer Kostas Papanikolaou to free agency. There just isn't much creativity apart from Spanoulis and when he struggles, Olympiacos is losing a big chunk of its offensive potential. Furthermore, despite being a very efficient scorer, newcomer Matt Lojeski has not been able to reproduce the role of a creating wing shooter and slasher as he's been in Belgium the last few years. Still, Olympiacos is a top team and they've faced difficult times before.
Milan - Keith Langford (29 pts, 4 rebs, 2 stls, 5 tos)
Piraeus - Cedric Simmons (6 pts, 6 rebs, 1 blk)
Istanbul - Nemanja Bjelica (15 pts, 7 rebs, 1 asst, 1 blk)
Barcelona - Marcelinho Huertas (23 pts, 7 assts, 4 stls, 3 rebs)
Malaga - Zoran Dragic (17 pts, 6 rebs, 1 stl)
Laboral Kutxa Vitoria 64 - 72 Panathinaikos Athens
Vitoria - Thomas Heurtel (13 pts, 6 assts, 3 rebs, 1 stl)
Athens - Dimitris Diamantidis (12 pts, 9 assts, 2 rebs, 2 stls)
|Group E||W||L||Point Diff||ORTG||DRTG|
|EA7 Emporio Armani Milan||1||1||14||103,9||105,1|
|Laboral Kutxa Vitoria||1||1||6||111,4||106|
|Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul||0||2||-16||118,5||108,2|
|Anadolu Efes Istanbul||0||2||-21||100,9||106,2|
Istanbul - Zoran Erceg (24 pts, 5 assts, 4 rebs)
Kaunas - Justin Dentmon (22 pts, 7 rebs, 2 assts)
Belgrade - Tarence Kinsey (20 pts, 8 rebs, 2 assts, 2 stls)
|Group F||W||L||Point Diff||ORTG||DRTG|
|FC Bayern Munich||2||0||24||113,5||107|
|Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv||2||0||16||110,7||102,5|
|Galatasaray Liv Hospital Istanbul||0||2||-11||106,5||112,7|
|Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar||0||2||-17||101,8||103,9|
|Partizan NIS Belgrade||0||2||-22||97,6||107,7|
UPCOMING GAMES OF THE WEEK
Real Madrid vs. FC Bayern Munich
January 15th, 21 CET
The matchup between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich will be one between two top-3 offenses according to ORTG. Also, both are at 2-0. Tough to say whether Bayern's streaky defense shows up, but after two rather uninspiring games by the Spanish royals, Munich's offense might be good enough to give Real a real scare finally.
Olympiacos Piraeus vs. FC Barcelona
January 16th, 20 CET
Two teams that went to last year's Final Four face each other for the first time this season. Piraeus is looking to bounce back after an unexpected blowout loss and might face a 1-2 start while Barcelona is looking to gain more confidence after a 2-0 start. Vassilis Spanoulis vs. Marcelinho Huertas.
SERGIO RODRIGUEZ & NIKOLA MIROTIC
MVP BEARD WATCH
EUROPEAN PROSPECTS - BIGS #2
8. Domantas Sabonis (Unicaja)
6'10" - born in 1996 - Lithuania
There's a special intrigue about sons who follow the footsteps of fathers who are considered sports legends. With Jonas Valanciunas and to a lesser extent Donatas Motiejunas, Lithuania is already spoiled with a young quality frontcourt and with Domantas, they might get another quality player who will wear the infamous Sabonis jersey in Lithuania's national colors.
Scouts got a first good look at Domantas during the 2012 Under-16 A Division European Championship when Lithuania disappointed with a low ranking albeit a strong performance by Domantas. Sabonis played 29 minutes per contest and averaged 14 points on 59% from the field, 14.4 rebounds (4 ORebs), 2.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per game. At the tender age of 16, Domantas (it just feels wrong calling him Sabonis for some reason...) played a significant role for Spanish 3nd Division Team Clinicas Rincon and averaged 5 points and 4 rebounds per 17.8 minutes against decent competition. Rincon's ACB affiliate Unicaja Malaga liked him so much that they called him up to the senior team where he is seeing sporadic time of ~a quarter per ACB and Euroleague game.
As the son of a basketball genius, there are obviously high expectations for Domantas who was born in Portland. He's a terrific rebounder and was a force offensively in youth competitions, also showing a knack for finding open players like his father once, and being remarkably light on feet similar to Motiejunas. Obviously he couldn't translate none of that to the big leagues yet since Unicaja is thick up front and he's very young playing in the two best European competitions. However, I am confident that he will outperform the ranking I give him here. What's also encouraging is an obvious growth spurt throught 2012-13 and has serious length for a center now. His big glaring weakness right now is his shooting which extends to the free throw line where he couldn't break 60% in any of the competition's and league's he's been at.
7. Nikola Milutinov (Partizan)
7'0" - born in 1994 - Serbia
Nikola Milutinov is somewhat of a late bloomer despite being only 18 years old. Even though he has been one of the very tallest players in European youth circles for the last three years, he couldn't quite use his physical advantage to dominate as you would think of an extremely tall and surprisingly mobile big.
Milutinov took a huge step in the last twelve months after a strong Under-19 World Championship showing where he went against US High School players like Jahlil Okafor and international prospects like Dario Saric and Dante Exum. Nikola played only around 20 minutes per game but scored a solid 11 points on 58% from the field. Milutinov played for Partizan's 2nd team last year, averaging more than a steal and a block per game to go with 14 points and 8.5 rebounds in 30 minutes before getting called up by Partizan's senior time for a full time roster spot. Ironically, Milutinov is playing more minutes in the Euroleague than the Adriatic League. He's getting good minutes in both for his age and is playing pretty low key without using up many possessions. Despite his height, he likes to finish a few feet off of the rim on hooks and jump shots with decent success for such a tall guy despite very streaky free throw shooting throughout his amateur and short pro career.
As a tall and mobile big with good hands and an intriguing yet streaky shooting touch, Milutinov is interesting but I have some reservations about him since his offense isn't quite developed and he isn't that special on defense either. There have been just too many guys like him that have disappointed as a NBA prospect and Nikola hasn't even really dominated any youth competition he's been at. He should be a great European prospect especially with getting extensive Euroleague experience at a young age but I'm not sure whether he'll be able to survive in the NBA. He likes to face the basket on the attack which was easy during his youth years but is struggling a little to get good looks in the pro's. He's not been a strong rebounder in youth basketball either but has upped his rebounding ratio in the pro's so far, especially offensively. DX has him currently ranked 15th in the 2015 draft. Well, as you can see I'm a little clueless about him as I often am with very very tall guys that don't put up crazy numbers. I mean, they're tall and should kind of do that, right? I watched some Partizan games because of the bunch of youngsters, but I don't quite get Milutinov. Whatever, let's give him two years.
6. Damien Inglis (Roanne)
6'8" - born in 1995 - France
Power Forward / Small Forward
Another product of the French Centre Federal du Basket-Ball, Inglis is a wingish power forward with great athleticisim and physical tools. Still a promising work in progress on offense with very limited range, Inglis has made a name for himself in youth circles for being one of the best defenders at either the wing spot or inside.
Inglis got his name out during the 2011 U-16 European Championship as a swiss army knife where he averaged 14.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.6 blocks & 1.4 steals. A strong finisher inside who draws a good amount of fouls, Inglis has been a poor shooter so far. In his first full season with the CFBB basketball academy in 2012, Inglis shot just 19% on 78 threes while only taking 95 shots inside. That year, Inglis reminded scouts of his versatile potential as he played a terrific role for the U-17 French team, averaging 7.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.1 stealsand 1 block in 25 minutes of play. 2013 was his last year with the youth academy on which he played a dominant role. In 30 minutes of play, Inglis scored 15 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks . Scouts were also happy to see him shooting a promising 35% on 65 threes. Tough to say whether this was just an extended hot streak as he also shot just 60% on free throws.
Consequently, Inglis signed with French pro team Roanne where he is playing 16 minutes per game. Inglis is doing a good job in his first pro season against decent competition and is playing especially well in the last three weeks. In the last three games, Inglis averaged 10 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1 steal in 23 minutes.
With the general success of French prospects, Inglis should have no problem being drafted at least in the second round at some point. There have been few prospects with his physical attributes in Europe and especially prospects that matched his attributes with a decent set of all-around skills that could make him a player who succeeds either inside or outside. 'Improving his shot' should be a prhase printed out 500 times and pinned all around his appartment. It's a little disappointing that he hadn't been as much a scoring threat as you'd like in youth basketball, but a Damien Inglis who keeps up putting numbers solidly as he does right now in France with a decent shooting touch is a prospect I like a lot.
5. Jusuf Nurkic (Cedevita)
6'10" - born in 1994 - Croatia
So Jusuf Nurkic came out of nowhere and became one of the most productive per-minute power forwards in the Adriatic League (don't laugh...). Jusuf's story is a long and wacky one with disputes between his current Croatian club Cedevita Zagreb and his original Slovenian club, but somehow, the 19-year old has kept a cool head and is destroying opposing frontlines in the 20 minutes he gets per game in his rookie season. Nurkic should not be a complete stranger to NBA scouts since he participated in the Eurocamp and a few European youth competitions where he showed his potential. The fact that he's playing in the same city as Dario Saric was thought to be helping his visibility to but Nurkic has become way more than a side attraction to the Dario show due to his surprising strong play.
Nurkic was a monster in B Division Championships. In 2012 at the U-18 Euro Championship, Nurkic averaged 19 points, 13 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 1.9 steals an 1.1 assists per game in 30 minutes and two monster performances in which he scored 30+ points. This year, Nurkic got green light from Cedevita coaching staff to see extrended minutes of 16 minutes per game and his play is making the argument that it's not enough. In those, he's averaging 11.3 points on 59% from the field, 5.1 rebounds (2.1 ORebs) and 1.2 steals and similar production in the Euroleague. He's drawn 99 free throws (73% FT%) to his 157 field goal attempts. In the Adriatic, the rookie is 10th in Win Shares, 13th in ORtg and has the highest USG% of all players with a TS% of .633. Watch the Draftexpress video for an extensive scouting session on his stellar early play.