As evidenced by the seven International players on the Spurs, it is clearly a good idea to look outside of the good ole’ USA to find basketball talent. In part 2 of the “International Men of Mystery” we will check out a couple teenagers whose birth certificates require verification, and a player whom the Cavs clearly like in Damjan Rudez (who is reportedly meeting with the Cavs, today).
Related news: The Cavs are looking at David Blatt for the head coaching job. The American born coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv would bring an understanding of the International game to Cleveland. He coached the Russian National Team to a Bronze medal in 2012. It would be an intriguing hire.
As always, I have a set of scouting questions that help to discern whether a player’s skill-set will translate well to the NBA’s basketball culture.
My Major Questions:How well does he move laterally? Does he thrive in Pick and Roll, both offensively and defensively? How fast is his release? Finishes above the rim/How much does he rely on superior athleticism? Does he actually box out? Does he have an NBA position?
Kristaps Porzingis PF/C LatviaProjected Top 25
An exceptional leaper for man of his size and length, Porzingis displays the athleticism and offensive skill-set that are necessary in the modern NBA. The Latvian big man stands at 7’0″ and is filled out like a baby giraffe. He has a nice feel for the game, but his very obvious youth and resulting lack of strength are major concerns.
My Questions Answered:
Porzingis is surprisingly agile. He does a good job of staying on the balls of his feet when he locks in defensively. His resting position is a bit too upright, but once engaged, Porzingis has good hip swivel and balance.
His defensive PnR potential is huge. He already shows help and recover instincts when involved in the PnR. His good timing as a shot blocker from the weak-side was on display as he piled up blocks at a tremendous rate in the ACB Spanish League. Offensively, Porzingis’s quick leaping and roll timing provide great lob opportunities for his guards. He has good hands and enjoys throwing it down on the move. Though his percentages aren’t great, he shows an ability to pop behind the three point line if the roll isn’t there. The catch and release is pretty quick, but I am a bit concerned by his body lean. The arms in his release point are consistent, but his lift and lean are not. It is likely fixable.
Porzingis makes a point to finish above the rim when he can. He is rather aggressive taking the ball to the hole and exploding for the finish. He does have a rather soft touch and doesn’t rely purely on lift to get his shot off in traffic.
So far, everything seems hunky dory on this kid until we watch his sad attempt to box out. It’s not that he doesn’t want to, or even that he doesn’t fight for early position. He is simply a weakling at the moment. At barely 18 and looking more like 14, Porzingis just doesn’t have nearly enough strength to move anybody.
Cavs Relevance: Porzingis is a very intriguing talent. I doubt he will be available at 33. Some team will probably pull the trigger around 20 with the plan of stashing him for a few years.
NBA Future: Some people are getting a far too excited if they compare him to a young Dirk. Their games are not particularly similar. Porzingis looks more like Euro-lite Anthony Davis. If he can live up to that billing, he could still have a 15 year career. We will know a lot more after he has finished puberty.
Bogdan Bogdanovic SG SerbiaProjected Top 40
The 6’6″ sweet shooting Serbian swingman is a straight scorer. (Sorry, I got carried away with the alliteration.) With a wingspan approaching seven feet, Bogdanovic has great size for a 2-guard and the requisite length for spot duty at the 3. He is a high usage alpha type player who would be asked to scale it back a bit in the NBA.
My Questions Answered:
Bogdanovic uses angles and his length well to give the illusion of lateral quickness. I don’t buy it. His shuffle steps don’t cover enough ground and he isn’t able to mirror a guy with his hips. But he certainly isn’t horrible and many of his worst moments were against shifty PGs. He is better against bigger players.
He has trouble pressuring the ball in PnR situations. He rightfully doesn’t trust his quickness to pressure the ball handler, but that doesn’t mean he has to get caught in between assignments. Off ball, he is big enough to chuck the roll player, but doesn’t seem to understand he is involved on weak-side defense as well. But like the great Sasha Pavlovic, Bogdanovic’s offense is his defense. He is deadly in the PnR game as a ball handler. Bogdan’s high and quick release make his pull-up game a nightmare for defenses. Double-B isn’t much going all the way to the hoop, but he has a nice pocket pass sensibility. He really leads his bigman to the open area. This is a very important skill.
Bogdanovic tries to draw contact like he is playing pickup ball, aka, not at all. He doesn’t attack the defender’s body. He’d much rather settle for some circus shot than hit a guy in his chest. His limited athleticism will severely limit his drive and slash game. He relies on a left handed hesitation dribble to get to the cup most of the time. Defenders in the NBA will sit on that. If they didn’t, Mike Conley would average 30 ppg. Still, a player who can play pick and roll on offense and defend a wing player on defense is valuable.
Cavs: Relevance: As currently constructed, the last thing the Cavs need is a ball dominant player who can’t guard the ball on the other end. Yet, if the roster changes, he could be in play at 33.
NBA Future: If this section were NCAA future, I would have him pegged to win a few tourney games on his own. He has the college scoring game that rarely translates directly to the NBA. He could be a bigger Jimmer. Bogdanovic isn’t that caliber of shooter, but even with his limitations, he will be drastically better on the defensive end than Fredette. BB has good sixth man potential.
Damien Inglis SF French GuianaProjected Top 45
Like Porzingis, Damien Inglis is only a teenager. Unlike Porzingis, Damien Inglis is a full grown man. When a SF measures at 6’8″ and 240 lbs with a ridiculous 7’3″ wingspan, people take notice. He is expected to immediately contribute on the defensive end.
My Questions Answered:
Inglis is light in his feet and quick with his hips. The result is lateral quickness rarely seen from a man his size. He is astoundingly good at stopping guys from going to their left. The right to left crossover that is so often used from elite wing players in the NBA will be tough to get off on him. His length allows him to play with more of a cushion while still staying in contest position.
In PnR defense, Inglis is slippery getting through screens and strong enough to switch and bang with the bigs. He reclaims his man quickly and accurately. There aren’t a lot of wasted steps. Offensively, he is best served off ball in PnR play. He is neither a skilled enough ball handler or dangerous enough roll man to be a primary partner.
Inglis has good upper body shot mechanics but is lazy with his legs. He often lands on one foot for no good reason. He gets little lift on his shot. These are simple improvements to be made and I expect him to be more than serviceable as a catch and shoot player off ball movement.
Inglis has the size to make up for a lack of elite explosion. He can play a bit of bully ball in his drives, but his footwork is clunky and he isn’t a creative finisher off glass.
He is a fantastic rebounder for any position, let alone for a SF. He has the strength and will to box guys early in a possession, while also exhibiting a natural feel for rebound angles. He frequently flies in to snatch a ball out of his zone, but is also perfectly content boxing out hard for his team to collect the rebound.
Cavs Relevance: I think 33 is too high for him, considering his youth and limited experience, but it wouldn’t break my heart to see him in a Cavs jersey. He would immediately give the team a strong wing defender to battle you know who.
NBA Future: Thabo Sefolosha. It’s creepy how much they are alike. Thabo was a touch more explosive coming into the NBA, but Inglis is quite a bit bigger. Inglis can guard multiple positions and knock down a three. The NBA is the perfect home for him.
Damjan Rudez SF/PF Croatiaprojected undrafted
Damjan Rudez has been on the NBA radar for quite some time. Declaring himself eligible for the 2008 draft class, the 6’10″ forward went undrafted before continuing his European career. Originally praised for his ability to handle and get to the hoop, Damjan also displays a nice shooting touch. As his body has developed, the 27 year old’s shooting mechanics and percentages have improved greatly.
My Questions Answered:
Rudez’s lateral quickness still leaves something to be desired. At 6’10″ with average length arms(not a Jay Bilas, all-star but no T-Rex either), Damjan can make up for some slow footwork against smaller wing players.
Defensively, in Pick and Roll action, Rudez seems to have a good feel for how long to stretch out a ball handler during his show responsibilities before reclaiming his man. Off ball, he is aware, if not overly aggressive, with his chuck of the roller. Offensively in PnR, Rudez does a good job of finding space on the pop. He isn’t much of a threat when rolling to the rim. But Rudez is very effective as a weak-side spot-up shooter with an incredibly high and quick release. It is a beautiful combination. He has answered early criticism of his shooting form by consistently putting up solid percentages. His strong handle and ball fake off the catch make teams pay for blindly closing out. A little less than half his shot attempts come from behind the arc.
He already relies more on smarts and control than fantastic physical attributes. He has little explosion off of two feet which mitigates his solid touch around the rim.
Rudez is miserable rebounder. His body has matured, but it has not resulted in better rebounding instincts. He fights for low post position pretty well on offense, but gets buried under the hoop rather easily on the defensive glass.
Rudez has a better shot in the NBA now than in 2008 because the PF and SF positions are merging more now than ever. He can play either position if his counterpart at forward can make up for his deficiencies.
Cavs Relevance: If the Cavaliers workout goes very well, it wouldn’t be a bad free agent signing. Rudez has a buyout in his contract with CAI Zaragoza and is also being courted by Unics Kazan, according to Eurohoops. Zaragoza is very interested in getting him to the states.
The Spanish club has given the permission to the player to travel to the States, in order to visit the city in which he may continue his career. Zaragoza, the club which owned also Giannis Antetokounmpo’s rights, knows really well that this kind of transfer may be mutual beneficial for every party involved.
Rudez finished the season in Liga Endesa with 24 mpg in 34 games and also 10.6 ppg, 2 rpg, 40% in threes and 35% in two points shots. In Eurocup he had 25 mpg in 16 contests with 10.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 49% in threes – during regular season this number was the almost unreal 57% – and 49% in two points shots. In his last game, the 101-95 defeat by Real Madrid, he had 20 points on 4/5 threes…
Update: Damjan Rudez flies tomorrow (9/6) [June 9th] to Cleveland, in order to meet the management of the team and have dinner with the GM and others from the organization. According to sources the Croatian Forward is in advanced talks with the Cavs.
NBA Future: His game screams of Mike Dunleavy Jr, but he isn’t nearly as talented. He might get some eighth man rotation minutes on an average team.
Of this group, the highest ceiling player is Porzingis and the most NBA ready is Inglis. I like both players for very different reasons. I’d actually like to see them play on the same team. Their talents balance well if the team features a top flight ball handler at the point. Interesting thought for Cavs fans of 2017, though not horribly realistic. Until next time.
note: All statistical info was taken from DraftExpress