International, Scouting

Scouting the FIBA U18 European Championship

Who impressed at the event in Samsun?

Despite the fact of having been moved from the summer to the time right before the holidays due to political reasons, the FIBA U18 European Championship in Turkey was an exciting tournament with tons of talented young players. France won it in the end, beating Lithuania in the final. We took a closer look at the best prospects of the event.

The known commodities

Frank Ntilikina – Playmaker – France – Born ’98

There was no prospect that was as much in the spotlight of scouting departments as him. In his club Strasbourg, he usually plays as a wing player with secondary ballhandling duties, which makes it hard to evaluate him properly for his possible future role as a lead guard. For the French team, he was asked to play as the primary option with the ball in his hand. So everybody wanted to know how Ntilikina would fare with this added responsibility in the creating and leadership department.

Early in the tournament, he was only able to fulfill expectations on the defensive end. France used him as the linchpin of their fullcourt pressing schemes when they wanted to speed up the game. He used his speed, length and quickness really well to roam around and covered a lot of ground without giving up plays. He had a couple of those soul-crushing chasedown blocks that put his freakish athleticism on display to the fullest, while sucking the life out of the opponents’ transition game.

In the halfcourt, he converted his excellent tools and defensive instincts into tough lockdown defense and steals when playing the passing lanes.

On offense, he disappointed at first. In the groupstage most of his baskets were a result of transition offense. In the halfcourt, he was easily slowed down by defenses, failing to create for himself or teammates. In the knockout stage this completely turned around. It was reported that Ntilikina battled the flu at the beginning oft he tournament. Maybe his improvement was just a direct result from getting healthy again. Maybe it was him figuring out that a player with his tools/skills-combination could simply dominate the field. Whatever it was, it felt like Ntilikina flipped a switch from the quarterfinals on.

All of the sudden he was able to dominate on offense as well. He ran the pick’n’roll exceptionally well and got to the basket a lot more. It was especially impressive how much confidence he displayed setting up his of pullup jumper from the midrange and from behind the threepoint-line.

If this glimpse that the tournament MVP showed in the later games is for real and he develops this newly found offensive game even further, Ntilikina should be viewed as the second best playmaking prospect in one of the deeper point guard classes. 

Isaiah Hartenstein – Big – Germany – Born ’98

This was a huge event for the young German big. After missing the Albert Schweitzer Tournament (AST = well-respected U18 event in Mannheim, Germany with alumni like Magic Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Vince Carter, Arvydas Sabonis, Hidayet Türkoğlu, Mehmet Okur, Pau Gasol and Toni Kukoč) earlier in the year and not receiving too much playing time with his club team Kaunas, it was his best chance to present his craft on a bigger stage for one last time in 2016. In general, this tournament can be viewed as a success for him on the individual level.

If we ignore his weaker semi final performance versus Lithuania (and 10/8/3 on 4/9 FGs isn’t too bad, right), he looked and played like one of the most talented two or three players on the court at all times, impacting the game in many ways.

On defense, he was the key for many German lineups. Playing with smaller teammates, he displayed some ability as a shotblocking rimprotector and intriguing help defender. Being on the court around taller, athletic wings, he also showed some switchability, helping to install a more flexible scheme. Hartenstein looked comfortable defending pick’n’rolls and on the perimeter in general. His rebounding was key for the German team.

On offense, he displayed a wide variety of skills. His handling, vision and passing are well above average for a player of his size. This makes him a triple threat on most spots on the floor. He can bring up the ball after a rebound and even run the pick’n’roll from time to time. I especially enjoyed his pinpoint outlet pass bombs.

Hartenstein was most effective as a cutter or faceup driver, but his postup game looked solid as well. He doesn’t shy away from contact and knows how to draw fouls. To improve in the future, he needs to work on his offhand driving and put some more work into his jumper. He showed shooting touch close to the basket and from the freethrow line but failed to display more range missing his threes badly from time to time.

Sidenote: Hartenstein had the reputation of being immature, not getting along with teammates and coaches. In this tournament there weren’t many signs of this. He looked focused at all times, integrated into the great German team culture and channeled his energy towards winning and not complaining. Big step for him.

Kostja Mushidi – Wing/Playmaker – Germany – Born ’98

The young guard had a superb AST earlier in the year and made a good decision moving to Mega Leks during the summer, receiving a lot of playing time in the Adriadic League. In Turkey, Mushidi didn’t have a bad tournament by any means, but with his “only solid” performance, he left a chance on the table to improve his draftstock.

As with Hartenstein, his package of skills and tools always felt top notch when he was on the floor. The problem was, he rarely used it very efficiently. Mushidi has the strength, speed and instincts to defend at a fairly high level, but he only did it for stretches.

On offense it is even worse. The 18 year old could make a living just on running the pick’n’roll, driving to the basket constantly using his handling, explosiveness and physicality to draw fouls or his excellent vision, feel and passing to punish collapsing defenses.

His robust frame and solid postup skills provide him with a lot of mismatch opportunities versus smaller defenders. He could be a nightmare to guard.

Instead, he often opts to chuck up shots from three where he shoots a rather low percentage. He also tries too many fancy, homerun plays, producing turnovers instead of choosing the solid, lower risk pass. Despite working on his long range jumper to add the three pointer as a new skill, Mushidi needs to focus on improving his decisionmaking to better use the abilities he already possesses.

Other interesting players

Borisa Simanic – Big – Serbia – Born ’98

Simanic is a very interesting bigman who signed his first professional contract with Crvena zvezda over the summer after impressing NBA scouts at the AST. The FIBA U18 in Turkey wasn’t the best event for the 18 year old, who Draftexpress lists in the second round of the 2017 draft. He was able to show his unique combination of mobility, quickness and shooting in spurts, but didn’t dominate the competition like he had in Germany earlier in the year. He looked a little bit off. In addition, he unfortunately even got hurt in his fourth game. Simanic didn’t provide answers to the questions around his lack of physicality and sometimes passive playing style, but nonetheless had some great moments displaying his advanced skill level. How many bigs can defend the perimeter like this?

Aleksa Radanov – Wing – Serbia – Born ’98

He might not be a stunning NBA prospect, but he has the chance to become a high level player in Europe. Radanov is an interesting 6‘7‘‘ wing who possesses some unique playmaking skills. As a very passionate player with the great will to lead, he was the heart of the Serbian squad at the AST and at this tournament as well. If he works on his shot and slightly tweaks his decisionmaking, he offers a lot as a tall, physical ballhandler with great intangibles.

Tadas Sedekerskis – Wing – Lithuania – Born ’98

At the age of 15, he moved from a small village in the Baltic region to Baskonia in Spain to take his game to the next level. Three years later, the young Lithuanian has already played some minutes in the Euroleague. In Samsun he proved why. He showed one of the broader skill sets of any player in the tournament and combines this impressive skill package with interesting physical tools. As a strong but also quick 6‘8‘‘ forward he can handle the ball, pass, post up, drive and defend on a pretty high level. Sederkerskis played every position from the three to the five for his team. Once he figures out his jump shot, he could become an interesting NBA prospect.

Sekou Doumbouya – Wing – France – Born ’00

He was the shooting star of the tournament. The extremely athletic 6‘8‘‘ forward managed to dominate many games despite being two years younger than most of his peers at the event. Doumbouya relentlessly attacked the basket, drawing 40 free throws in just six games. Using his speed and explosiveness to create strong drives, the young talent managed to be very efficient on offense. He helped his team on defense as well with his length and high switchability. He needs to work on his shot and improve his passing, but should be an interesting NBA prospect down the line.

Davide Moretti – Playmaker – Italy – Born ’98

It was a busy but successful year 2016 for the young scoring guard. He played at the AST, for the U20 team in the summer and at this event in Turkey. On offense, he hasn’t many wholes in his game at this point. His great dibbling ability allows him to get anywhere on the court and create space for himself or teammates. Scoring off of those situations is his big strength at this point, but his passing is solid as well. On defense, he could use a little more bulk. Heard some college rumblings. This would be an exciting path for him.

Oscar Da Silva – Wing/Big – Germany – Born ’98

He was the clear cut third best prospect on the German team. The tall forward possesses a very refined game and excellent tools. Foremost, he does his impact on the defensive end, being able to guard four positions due to his length, speed and switchability. On offense, he complemented Mushidi and Hartenstein as well, scoring off of putbacks and cuts mostly. In spurts, he showed that he can create some drives for himself as well. Da Silva is a solid passer with a high basketball IQ. If he refines his outside shot a little more he could become an impact player as a freshman for Standford next year immediately.

Arnoldas Kulboka – Wing – Lithuania – Born ’98

The 6’9”-wing presented himself as one of the best pure shooters of the tournament. In combination with his size, this could make him an intriguing prospect down the line, even though he needs to work on his body quite a lot. He is in a good situation with his club Bamberg, where he is allowed to play a lot of minutes for the farm team in the second division versus real pros. This makes it easy for him to gain experience rather quickly and improve his game.

Dzanan Musa – Wing – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Born ’99

The 17 year old Bosnian, who becomes draft eligible next year, might be the most talented pure scorer of all the European prospects. Dominating at the FIBA U17 world championship in the summer, he was even called up to the senior team to play some serious minutes at the EuroBasket qualifiers – a great honor for a player his age. In Turkey, Musa was scoring in bunches as always. He got to the basket and to the line with ease. He was using his gravity to create for his teammates. Still, his efficiency took a hit from being a little off with his threepoint jumper and committing some unnecessary turnovers. NBA teams have been and will monitor him closely for the next year. His club situation at KK Cedevita looks promising.

Tobias

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