Just outside of Venice, in the city of Treviso, NBA GMs gathered this weekend for the Adidas EuroCamp, the European version of the Pre-Draft Combine. Billy King and Bobby Marks have stayed behind, getting ready for interviews with coaching candidates. On hand are Gregg Polinsky, the chief scout as director of player personnel; Danko Cvjeticanin, the chief international scout, and Frank Zanin, the Nets director of player procurement and the No. 3 guy in the front office.
More notable than the names present at the camp will be the names not attending. Assumed first round picks Sergey Karasev and Dario Saric will not be present with Europe’s best. Although he denies it, Karasev reportedly has a guarantee between #14 and #24. Saric looks like he'll drop out of this year's draft. To make things worse, on Day 1, Rudy Gobert (food poisoning), Livio Jean-Charles (unknown) and Dante Exum (stress fracture) sat out. Gobert, who's been working out in the US, in fact stayed there. Whether Jean-Charles makes it back for Day 2 could determine how productive the combine will be.
On Day 1, both NBADraft.net and DraftExpress reported the big winner was projected first rounder Lucas Nogueira, the seven-foot Brazilian. As Aran Smith of NBADraft.net wrote Saturday night, "Lucas Nogueira was easily the stand out performer from day one and the top overall prospect in the event by a long shot."
The Nets have interest in several of the prospects, both for their first round pick at #22 and for any second round picks they might buy.
With no Saric or Karasev this weekend, Rudy Gobert becomes the man to see in Treviso ... if he shows up. Everyone that has followed the draft process is well aware of Gobert’s physical traits, 7’2" with a 7’9" wingspan.
However, looking closely at him, there are many flaws to this physical freak’s game.
Gobert is not the athlete one expects a player with his size to be, for he is not particularly quick and he gets pushed around in the post by stronger defenders. At 238 pounds, Gobert has stick-like legs that need to fill out and is a poor defensive rebounder.
For all his weaknesses—Gobert has so much upside to look past. Any team would love to have a prospect like him on the floor, even though he may not be as athletic as he looks.
He is a fine finisher around the basket, but not used often. He is used mostly off of pick and rolls and much of his baskets come off of the offensive glass. He did hit 74% of his 2-point opportunities, which is just incredible. Outside the paint he struggles, though. Gobert isn’t very talented with the ball in his hands if he isn’t going straight up with it.
Gobert’s strength is on the defensive end. Despite being a heavy runner, Gobert is great at hedging on pick and roles and has great instinct to block shots, he blocked more than three per 40 minutes. Not only is he a great shot blocker, but also his opposition is forced to stay out of his paint when he is in the game, simply due to his presence.
Gobert didn't impress with his skills at the Pre-Draft Combine and now missing at least the first day of EuroCamp, his stock is bound to fall in the Draft, possibly to #22. If he is there, Brooklyn will be put in an interesting scenario, for Gobert could be a formidable backup to Brook Lopez ... but not immediately. He's too raw for that. He wouldn’t be depended on to do much in limited action, but eventually, the two could form a "twin towers"-like frontcourt. Still, the Nets are looking for players who can be effective now, and it is unseen if Gobert can be.
Like Gobert, the 7'0" center could be one of the biggest projects in this draft, but also like Gobert, he has the potential of the biggest pay-off. Nogueira is only 220 pounds, one of the skinniest centers in the draft, and in the league. Even still, he is extremely mobile and quick, much more than fellow post players. He gets out in transition very easily and is a weapon coming down the floor, for he shot 84% from the floor while running the fast break. The 20-year-old prospect is also a high-energy player. He uses his length to keep possessions alive, for he grabs 4.9 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes.
Even though "Bebe" could be used effectively in transition and in pick and roll sets, he has no offensive game. The prospect doesn’t leave the paint, he took only nine shots outside of it this past season, and can’t play a half-court style game. He is not talented enough with the ball to take his defender one-on-one, he needs to have a step on the opposition. His lanky body makes it difficult to gain position in the post, and he an efficient player in traffic.
Nogueira, though, may be much more useful as a defender in the pros. He has a wingspan of 7’6" and has great timing as a shot blocker. The Brazilian blocked 3.3 shots per 40 minutes. He also averages one steal a game per 40 minutes, making him a very versatile player in the post. Nogueira is a fine shot blocker, but once that ball hits the rim, he is doomed. His undeveloped body allows him to get pushed around by his opponents. He must put on weight because a near-7’0" big can’t be grabbing three rebounds per game.
As a Net, Nogueira could be an asset and may be more ready than Gobert. At the moment, the team is projected to take Gorgui Dieng, according to several top mocks, but "Bebe" could be more talented. Nogueira is not a freakish athlete, but a 28.5" max vertical is quite good for seven-footer. He also needs to grow into his body. He is nearly three years Dieng’s junior and has a lot of upside as a defensive enforcer.
The Nets, if they do have interest in him, may have to wait, for he has a great situation with his team, Estudiantes in the elite ACB Spanish league. It may be for the best, though, he has a lot of working to do to become a serviceable player in the league.
Jean-Charles was expected to be one of the biggest draws at the camp, for he stole the show at the Nike Hoop Summit in April and has been one of the most touted European prospects since. With an absurd wingspan of 7’2" for a forward, Jean-Charles has exceptional speed and a fine motor to be a forward in the league. At the Hoop Summit, Jean-Charles defended both the small and power forward positions fine during the game. What Jean-Charles did best, though, was be a force coming off the pick and roll. For a player that will likely play small forward in the NBA, the fact that he can set screens and score off of them makes him dangerous in offensive sets.
The Frenchman is not all the way there yet, though. At a wiry 217 pounds, Jean-Charles must add some size to his frame. He also needs to show he can be a consistent threat from beyond the arc, something he didn’t show much of at the Nike Hoop Summit, or in France. He has an awkward, long release, so he will need to showcase his perimeter talents to confirm his draft status.
At 19, and with a down season in France, Jean-Charles can be selected, but he is still young enough to develop overseas.
As a Net he would fit right in. The Nets need to find a player to play some minutes behind Gerald Wallace, even if it is a couple of years from now, and Jean-Charles could fit the bill. With more size then "crash," Jean-Charles could be more of an offensive threat if he refines his game and be a similar defender to what Wallace was this past season.
There are also several potential candidates likely to be "stashed" in Europe for the next several years, and most of these prospects are big men. With a big group of big and undeveloped prospects in Italy, expect teams to try and use their second round pick on a big man from overseas and let them develop there.
Here are three that teams, including the Nets, may be intrigued by.
Dubljevic is a player the Nets are familiar with (and he was this week's Draft Sleeper). He wasn't around Saturday either but is expected back Sunday. Overall, there are questions surrounding Dubljevic on whether he is a power forward or a center in the NBA. He's a fine shooter beyond the arc and his size will not match up well with centers in the pros. Dubljevic was a 47.8% three-point shooter this past season in the competitive Spanish ACB league playing, despite playing center.
The trait that makes Dubljevic the most intriguing is his basketball IQ. He has great anticipation skills, which is a plus for a player built like he is, one that is slow and not strong enough to push around fellow big men. He also shows toughness and fire out on the court, something that many European players lack when they make it to the NBA.
It is difficult to overlook his athletic deficiencies, though. Dubljevic is slow laterally, and has a tough time defending players in the post due to the fact that he is so undersized for a center. Despite being such a fine offensive player, one that can spread the floor for teams, he is just too much of a liability on the defensive end.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see one team take a chance on Dubljevic, for he has leadership qualities and played with arguably the most difficult competition in Europe. If teams can look past his defensive woes and look at his efficient offensive play, he is a prime candidate for a draft-and-stash late in the second round.
Pustovyi is one of the prospects who could reap the benefits of a good showing over the next several days. For teams who even know who he is, he is thought of as a project with very raw tools. He still needs to fill into his frame, at just 213 pounds, and needs to refine his game as a whole. The International Scouting Service gives the 7'1" Ukrainian only two and a half stars out of five in regards to "skill level."
Pustovyi began to pop up on the NBA radar with a fine showing last summer at the U-20 European Championships. Pustovyi, who averaged less than four points and a block with his club, BC Khimik, two seasons ago, posted a stat line of nearly 15 points and two blocks in seven games.
The big man did regress to his former self, though, over this past season. Still, the International Scouting Service gives him four out of five stars in the "potential" category.
Pustovyi needs to find his niche on the floor on both sides of the ball, but he has tons of potential if he could put on some weight. Pustovyi is expected to play on the Ukraine national team this summer, which is coached by Mike Fratello.
Kupsas challenges Rudy Gobert in terms of length, with a reach of 9'2", but he can support such a long wingspan. Unlike a skinnier Gobert, Kupsas weighs 261 pounds and is fairly mobile for a true big man.
He gets up and down the floor fairly well for his size and has shown off that he can make moves around the basket. He did only play 20 minutes per game in the Baltic league this past year, but did post averages of nearly 10 points and six rebounds in such limited action.
At 22, he still lacks experience as a basketball player, and needs to go up against tougher competition, for he only played in the B league of the Baltic League, in Lithuania. Also, for such a bulky big man, he lacks much strength in the post. He gets pushed around while boxing out, and has trouble being a defensive presence down low.
However, the International Scouting Service gives Kupsas a rating of four and a half stars on "potential." He is coached by former successful NBA player, Arvydas Sabonis, a fellow seven-footer, who can help him develop. Chad Ford, of ESPN, reports, "He's a potential stash-away pick in the second round."
Will any of these three end up playing in the NBA, or even taken for that matter? Nothing is for sure, but if they perform to their potential over the weekend, expect many teams to be inquiring about the possibility about playing in the NBA.
Also at the camp is YouTube sensation Aquille Carr. Carr, is the enigma of this camp. The 5’7" Baltimorean was slated to go to Seton Hall next year, but then he suddenly announced he would be playing overseas. This is the path famously taken by Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings. Carr is quick off the dribble and has a slew of moves in his arsenal, similar to Nate Robinson. This will be a starting point for Carr to begin his overseas career.