So here we are again Razzball nation, another week down and another action packed weekend of NBA action just around the corner. The week has seen the good (James Harden putting up back-to-back 15 assist nights on Tuesday and Wednesday), the bad (injuries to Al Horford, Jae Crowder, Jeremy Lin, Will Barton and Ricky Rubio) and the ugly (Sam Dekker tripping over his own feet on a clear path to the basket to bounce the ball off his face).
Today I will be focusing on a somewhat specialist subject of mine: European basketball players plying their trade outside of the USA. Being European myself, and residing 50 miles south of London, my fascination for basketball in Euroleague and domestic leagues across Europe matches that of my love for the NBA and NCAA game (albeit, not doing my laptop much good with illegal streaming for domestic European league basketball from some questionable sites).
Ante Zizic, 19 years old, Center (Drafted 23rd overall):
If we rewind the clock back to August 31st –to the 1st edition of my Dynasty Rookie Rankings – you would have seen an aggressive ranking (13th) on the Croatian big man, despite knowing the talented 19 year old was going overseas for the season back to the Adriatic league. One of my favorite European players from this year’s draft, the Croatian had already made himself one of the most talked about players in the Adriatic league (a league in which recent seasons has produced NBA big men Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic and Nikola Pekovic) with his elite level production as one of the youngest players. The 23rd overall pick for the Celtics has started the season extremely strong, leading the Adriatic league in index rating with a whopping 30.3; to put that into context, that is double the value of every player in the league through 7 games outside of the top 9 players (a list that includes quality players such as Rade Zagorac and Luka Mitrovic who sit 8th and 28th in index rate respectively).
Through the first seven games Zizic is currently averaging 21 points per game on a whopping 71.6% (53-74) shooting while also shooting 82% from the line (41-50). Add to this outstanding efficiency 9.2 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 0.6 steals per game and you have the makings of a 19 year old in professional basketball who is learning to take his game to the next level in a very competitive league. It is evident the muscle strength that Zizic has gained this season and how he is using it to gain prime offensive position in the paint – highlighted by the problems he is causing opponents by going to the line just over 7 times per game.
The 6’11 center is extremely strong, and uses his body well in the pick and roll. He is strong on the defensive end as well, and runs the floor extremely well. Zizic doesn’t have the most attractive offensive game, and he lacks any range in his shooting limiting his fantasy upside somewhat, but I expect in the future Zizic to have the potential to be a double-double threat after a few seasons of development with a good chance of starting his NBA career sooner rather than later, especially given the fact that Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko all hit free agency in the summer. Ante Zizic is a high floor player, whom I fully expect to see have a significant rotation role in the NBA. If you are in a dynasty league that affords you enough roster space to stash players, then you could do a lot worse than one of the rising stars in European basketball.
Still not sold on Ante Zizic? The following table shows you the impact he made pre-draft in the 2015-16 season among the top European based prospects playing professional basketball.
Guerschon Yabusele, 20 years old, Small Forward (Drafted 16th overall):
The latest potential ”future wannabe NBA star” to be playing his trade in the land of the rising sun is the French 16th overall selection Guerschon Yabusele. Much like the aforementioned Zizic, you would already know from my dynasty rookie rankings that this is a player who I ranked aggressively and I greatly believe in the skill set. For those of you that missed the first edition of the dynasty rookie rankings, here is what I wrote about the talented forward back in August:
”Although playing his basketball overseas for the 2016-17 season, the ‘Dancing Bear’ brings a rare physique for a man of his size and a toughness you can’t teach. With the ability to stretch the floor, the French native has the raw skill set to be able to adapt to the modern NBA with high success, and the Celtics will be hoping that they have hit a long term home run in the 16th overall pick. We have seen similar undersized forwards have great success in the modern NBA, and with increased maturity and more seasoning, the ‘Dancing Bear’ could be a big name to watch for the future. It’s only because Guerschon is playing overseas that I list him so low.”
Watching Chinese basketball reminds me of watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air back in the day, and a particular episode featuring the school basketball team whose coach has the sole tactic of ‘Pass the ball to Will’. It is no secret that the Chinese basketball league is devoid of domestic talent, and is heavily reliant on imported players (often those past their prime, or have already failed in the NBA) but it is still a professional league none-the-less that often serves as a much needed development stage for the younger player.
With the Chinese domestic league just 2 games into the season, it’s difficult to read too much, but in both games the ‘Dancing Bear’ put up impressive stat lines, most recently against the Jiangsu TX (a side that features Jared Cunningham, Dejuan Blair and my new favorite name in basketball Zhendong Zhendong). Through 26 minutes the forward put up 21 points, 12 rebounds, a block and 4 threes without turning the ball over once. This comes off the back of a very impressive debut in which the Frenchman scored 29 points with 11 rebounds and 5 treys (That is now 9-18 from downtown through 2 games). Both games resulted in wins for Shanghai.
The Shanghai Dongfang Sharks are surely going to be fun to watch this year with their imported players being Jimmer and the Dancing Bear (Import dancing pun here…………….), and with Yabusele having the type of skill set that is craved in the modern day NBA, would it be a surprise to anyone to see this uniquely gifted player have significant success in the NBA after more seasoning?
News and Notes:
- You know that buy low window on Kris Dunn I was talking about last week? Well that is now truly gone with the news Ricky Rubio is out indefinitely with a sprained elbow. Drawing his first ever start for the Timberwolves the PG put up a commendable 10 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds and an incredible 5 steals. The 1st round pick then followed this up with another strong performance in a tight loss to the Nuggets Thursday dishing out 9 assists and swiping another 3 steals. It is likely that Dunn is scooped up in your league already, but if the league is sleeping and he is available then you need to ensure that Dunn is a part of your roster.
- Who was that guy that sneaked into the top 20 of my Dynasty Rookie Rankings?…..Yep, Deyonta Davis, and what a game he had with Marc Gasol having a planned night off. the 2nd round pick for the Grizzlies put up an impressive 17 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and steal in 26 minutes. Yes the game had early garbage time, but is a reminder of the fantasy friendly skill set that he possesses.
- Bucks second round pick Malcolm Brogdon had himself quite the game on Tuesday, playing 24 minutes and rewarding owners with 14 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds and a three. Most impressive of all though was his efforts on the defensive end in which he picked 4 pockets. The 2nd round pick followed this up with a strong performance against the Pacers adding another 12 points, 3 steals, 5 assists and a block. It is hard to trust a Jason Kidd rotation, but performances like this are surely earning Kidd’s trust and putting him firmly in the mix to continue receiving 24 minutes per game (as he has done last two outings) in the absence of Kris Middleton.
- Jaylen Brown took advantage of Jae Crowder’s ankle injury Thursday night by picking up 35 minutes in a start against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. The first round pick took full advantage and rewarded fantasy owners with a stat stuffing performance putting up 19 points (8-16 shooting), 3 treys, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and a block. With Crowder expected to miss at least two weeks expect Brown to be a hot pickup in all leagues following a performance like this.
- Jamal Murray drew the start on Thursday in the absence of Will Barton Thursday night but had a forgettable night on the offensive end. Through the 29 minutes played the 7th overall pick from the 2016 draft went 0-8 from the floor and finished the game scoreless. Nights like this will happen for the talented combo guard, and maybe you can use performances like this to buy low in dynasty leagues for the talented combo guard.
- With Ersan Ilyasova out of town Domantas Sabonis had his most productive outing of the young season Thursday in a loss against the Warriors scoring 13 points with 6 rebounds, a block and a three against the Warriors. With Ghostface now in Philly the Thunder really lack a frontcourt who can stretch the floor and this could leave the door open for the occasional trey for the Lithuanian. Don’t get too excited about this outing, especially given the nature of the blowout loss (especially given the fact Enes Kanter only played 3 minutes in the game), but Sabonis might have some cheap DFS upside later in the season when facing teams who like to play a lot of small ball.
Be sure to tune in next Saturday for more player development news in and around the NBA.
All statistics are correct at time of writing (4th November). You can find me on twitter @storytelling41