EuroLeague 2019: NBA Draft Prospects & Stashes Report

Two European players that are expected to be picked in the 2019 NBA Draft played a key part in their EuroLeague teams’ respective wins this week.

EuroLeague’s Georgian sensation

Goga Bitadze continues proving he’s the best player his age in Europe. After his latest EuroLeague game, a Buducnost win over Gran Canaria, the 19-year-old center now averages 14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and 1.0 assists for competition-high 21.3 PIR. The sample of six games is small to make comparisons with other EuroLeague players but still serves as an outstanding example of how Bitadze has adapted to basketball’s second-best league.

Bitadze scored 16 points (five-out-of-seven 2-pointers, 6-out-of-seven free throws) grabbed seven rebounds, along with three blocks and two assists in 28:36 vs. Gran Canaria. He finished with a game-high 27 PIR while his team was +8 with him on the floor.

Buducnost is simply winning with Bitadze on board. Before his arrival, the Montenegrin team was 3–11. They are now 6-14 and have won three in a row, including over reigning champion Real Madrid. Bitadze was a defensive monster in the latter.

Against Gran Canaria, Bitadze especially produce in the second half when the big guy got more active on offense. He got to the line, connected with his guards for some pick n’ roll action, banked tough layups even after getting fouled and followed fast guards in transition to dunk the ball, or save a play with putback baskets. He didn’t forget to school opponents inside the paint with a couple of fancy fakes.

Bitadze’s passing is underrated.

“You have Goga for short roll, he can find everyone,” Buducnost coach Jasmin Repesa shouted during a timeout down the stretch after his big guy gave the handoff assist to Norris Cole for a jumper. Coach knew what he was saying. In the next play, Bitadze got the ball by Earl Clark then quickly saw the latter’s personal defender giving him a bit of space. Bitadze immediately sent the ball back to his teammates for the 3-pointer.

Essentially Bitadze was directly involved in 19 out of the 34 points Buducnost scored during the last 16 minutes of the match, having dropped 14 himself and providing the passes for five more. He was a beacon for his team’s offense and a bringer of a definite, game-winning impact.

Zoosman the defender and passer

If you take a peek in the boxscore of Maccabi’s win over Panathinaikos, you’ll see Yovel Zoosman scoreless after five field goal attempts. Yet, the Israeli swingman played a key part in a result with playoff implications.

It was far from a coincidence that Zoosman finished the game with a team-high 15 on plus-minus, along with the top offensive rating in the match (126.10).  Zoosman’s main role in the middle of the first period was to be a watchful eye on Panathinaikos’ mastermind Nick Calathes. It was a “mission impossible” kind of assignment for “Zoos” against perhaps the most dangerous playmaker outside the NBA.

Zoosman pursued Calathes up and down, left and right to prevent him from even touching the ball. He tried his best to become a nuisance and contain the action of the former All-EuroLeague guard.

Calathes finished with 14 points but only scored five with Zoosman guarding him. The latter couldn’t contain his passing, as Calathes had nine out of his 10 assists but did commit two turnovers.

Zoosman’s team-high five assists stood out the most: It could’ve been more if some Maccabi players made wide open shots.

Similar to his match vs. CSKA Moscow, Zoosman displayed some passing savvy and court vision. He was aware, always knowing where his teammates were, then he accurately and quickly read the offense to find the open man. I particularly liked the way he kicked out passes on the perimeter after attacking the closeout defense.

It speaks volumes that his five dimes arrived in six actual ball possessions he had.

Meanwhile, in Istanbul, Timma is looking to recover his rhythm

Janis Timma hasn’t found sufficient playing time this season with Olympiacos. The Orlando Magic stashed forward faces heavy competition at his position from former NBAers Kostas Papanikolaou and Axel Toupane. Papanikolaou especially is having an All-EuroLeague campaign.

It’s been difficult for Timma—a player that needs minutes to show what he can do—especially when it comes to his shooting forte. During the Reds’ away loss to Fenerbahce Beko (EuroLeague’s best team), the Latvian player was on a court for 23:54 minutes—nearly double than the 23:54 he averages—and scored 14 points with an efficient four-out-seven 3-pointers, plus an impressive slam.  He also tallied two assists.

Quite the contrast from the 4.2 points he has averaged this season.

Timma attempted to jumpstart a defective Olympiacos’ offense at the beginning of the second period with back-to-back triples. He spent some time as a “2” (not his natural position) until David Blatt later pulled him in favor of a two ball-handler lineup.

During the third quarter, Timma went in with the score 49-36 and made a bucket when Fener had taken a 19-point distance, 55-36. Olympiacos couldn’t overcome such a deficit.

Blatt is still experimenting with various lineups that utilize all the players at his disposal. While Timma is, in theory, the team’s best shooter and a versatile offensive weapon with the ball in his hands, he requires a more significant role to fully unlock his strengths.

Photos courtesy of EuroLeague.net. Stats via EuroLeague Basketball/Overbasket.com

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