FIATC Joventut (14-7) at Rio Natura Monbus Obradoiro (9-12)
Tip-off: Saturday, Feb. 28 at 20:00 CET (2 p.m. ET)
Last Meeting: Obradoiro won 78-72
Why NBA Fans Should Care: Alberto Abalde (Joventut), Álex Suárez (Joventut)
Álex Suárez deserves respect.
At 21-years-old, he is playing real minutes on a top-five team in the best domestic league outside the NBA.
He is shooting 68 percent on twos (3rd in the ACB) and 82 percent from the free-throw line. Of course, it’s easier to shoot a high percentage from those areas when you only take 28 twos and 17 free throws in 21 games.
Instead of mixing it up inside the arc, Suárez is the definition of a stretch-4.
Sixty of his 88 shot attempts this season have been threes (68.1%). That’s the 9th-highest rate in the league, according baloncestostats.com.
Only five ACB power forwards have taken more threes than Suárez and all of them have played at least 75 more minutes.
His addiction to the three-ball is mostly paying off. He’s hitting 35 percent of them, and while that’s not ideal, it’s respectable for a 6’9″ forward — especially one who doesn’t turn 22 until September.
Unfortunately, Suárez has been ice cold lately.
He made just 2-of-21 three-pointers (9.5 percent) in his last 10 games. He hasn’t made more than one three in a game since December 28.
Slumps happen, even to the best shooters. And, like I said, he’s only 21. He’s bound to become more consistent over time. But this is the type of extended slump that can mess with your confidence.
Hopefully Suárez stays positive and regains his form heading into the spring.
La Bruixa d’Or Manresa (5-16) at MoraBanc Andorra (5-16)
Tip-off: Saturday, Feb. 28 at 21:00 CET (3 p.m. ET)
Last Meeting: Manresa won 88-80
Why NBA Fans Should Care: Marc Garcia (Manresa)
Marius Grigonis, my favorite underrated ACB prospect, will miss this game with an ankle injury.
That leaves us with Marc Garcia, who is having a rough season in Manresa.
Garcia is one of the most talented players in his age group, but he’s simply not strong enough to make an impact in the ACB right now.
He’s averaging just 7 minutes per game in 2015. When he does see the floor, it doesn’t go well.
This stretch against Barcelona sums up his ACB experience.
First, he gets muscled off a screen by Mario Hezonja, leading to a turnover. This isn’t totally his fault, because Roger Grimau — probably thinking Garcia would curl the screen — threw the pass to his inside hand.
What is Garcia’s fault is he puts zero effort into his transition defense. Instead of sprinting back and trying to prevent an easy bucket, he jogs back in the most casual way possible.
If you’re 18-years-old and want minutes on a professional team, that lack of effort is unacceptable.
About 30 seconds later, Garcia’s inexperience showed again.
This time, he catches the ball several feet behind the three-point line with five seconds left on the shot clock. Edwin Jackson is defending.
This isn’t a great situation, but as a shooter, you should love it. Passing the ball probably isn’t an option. You just have to make one or two quick moves and launch it.
Instead, Garcia tries to do too much. Jackson pokes the ball away, and Manresa gets a shot-clock violation.
I still think Garcia will do well this summer against competition his own age. He should be a key player for Spain at the FIBA U19 World Championships (June 27 – July 5).
But unless he improves quickly, he won’t contribute much to Manresa this season.
Gipuzkoa Basket (7-14) at FC Barcelona (15-6)
Tip-off: Sunday, March 1 at 12:15 CET (6:15 a.m. ET)
Last Meeting: Barcelona won 57-43
Why NBA Fans Should Care: Dani Díez (Gipuzkoa), Mario Hezonja (Barcelona), Alex Abrines (Barcelona, Oklahoma City Thunder), Tibor Pleiss (Barcelona, Utah Jazz), Tomas Satoransky (Barcelona, Washington Wizards), DeShaun Thomas (Barcelona, San Antonio Spurs), Ante Tomic (Barcelona, Utah Jazz)
Like Álex Suárez, Dani Díez is a 21-year-old Spaniard who has not gotten enough love on this site.
Díez is shooting 56 percent (18-of-32) from behind the arc in his last seven games. In Week 20 against Andorra, he hit 6-of-7 threes on his way to 32 points and his first ACB Player of the Week award.
For the season, Díez is shooting 38.6 percent on threes and 56 percent on twos. He has scored in double figures in 12 of his 18 games, and he’s Gipuzkoa’s second-leading scorer behind Taquan Dean.
He’s also an amazing rebounder for his position.
Díez is the ACB’s third-leading rebounder (7.1 per game), ahead of big men like Marko Todorovic and Augusto Lima. Earlier this season, he strung together a ridiculous three-game stretch in which he had 13 rebounds each night.
With his strong play, the young Spaniard’s draft stock is on the rise. Draft Express has him at No. 74 on their list of Top 100 prospects and No. 60 in their latest 2015 mock draft.
For Barcelona, Tomas Satoransky and Mario Hezonja should see plenty of minutes against a far less-talented Gipuzkoa side. That means anything can happen, be it eight 3s or breakaway windmill dunks or God knows what else.
Hezonja, 20, and Satoransky, 23, have become must-see TV and reliable contributors. Let’s hope Xavi Pascual gives them the playing time they deserve.
Fuenlabrada (5-16) at CAI Zaragoza (11-10)
Tip-off: Sunday, March 1 at 12:15 CET (6:15 a.m. ET)
Last Meeting: Zaragoza won 69-67
Why NBA Fans Should Care: Moussa Diagne (Fuenlabrada), Rolands Smits (Fuenlabrada)
After suffering a scary head injury in Week 19, Moussa Diagne seems to have recovered well. He played double-digit minutes in both games since the injury, and while he didn’t put up big numbers, it was great just to see him running up and down the court again.
Like most young, long, athletic bigs, Diagne is raw offensively. Right now, he is most effective diving to the rim and dunking after a pick-and-roll.
However, you can see flashes of offensive development.
In Week 18 against Bilbao, Diagne showed some diversity in his skill set against the more-polished Marko Todorovic.
Mid-way through the second quarter, he caught the ball on the right block and made a decisive move, taking two large steps through the lane and sinking a runner.
A couple minutes later, he caught the ball on the left block and again made a quick, decisive move. He took one dribble, did a little shoulder shimmy, and spun baseline to launch the jump hook.
He missed the shot, but that’s not the point. The fact that he’s even making that move is a great sign. And the thumbs-up from Andy Panko after the play suggests we’ll be seeing more of Diagne in a non-dunking role.
Defensively, Diagne has the length and ability to be an excellent rim protector.
In the same game against Bilbao, he showed his desire to swat shots as a help defender.
In the second quarter, he saw his teammate getting beat off the dribble and immediately rotated from the opposite elbow to spike the shot into the ground.
However, Diagne is often over-eager on help D, and Bilbao was able to exploit this a few times.
Once Diagne improves his decision-making as a help defender, he will be a nightmare for opposing offenses.
UCAM Murcia (9-12) at Sevilla (6-15)
Tip-off: Sunday, March 1 at 12:30 CET (6:30 a.m. ET)
Last Meeting: Murcia won 98-68
Why NBA Fans Should Care: Raul Neto (Murcia, Utah Jazz), Kristaps Porzingis (Sevilla), Willy Hernangomez (Sevilla), Nikola Radicevic (Sevilla)
Sevilla has won all three of their ACB games since firing former head coach Scott Roth.
Nikola Radicevic has been particularly impressive in the post-Roth era, averaging 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game without the American coach barking at him from the sidelines.
During that same stretch, Willy Hernangomez is averaging 12 points per game while shooting 64.7 percent from the field and 100 percent (14-of-14) from the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, a confident Kristaps Porzingis is dunking on everybody.
Without Roth, Sevilla is now a legitimate problem for playoff teams. Don’t be surprised if they take down Murcia for a fourth-straight win.
Iberostar Tenerife (10-11) at Real Madrid (17-4)
Tip-off: Sunday, March 1 at 13:00 CET (7 a.m. ET)
Last Meeting: Real won 93-82
Why NBA Fans Should Care: Sergio Llull (Real, Houston Rockets)
This post is running long, so things are about to get very brief.
Llull is a monster. You should know this. Watch him every chance you get.
Laboral Kutxa Baskonia (11-10) at Bilbao Basket (15-6)
Tip-off: Sunday, March 1 at 18:00 CET (12 p.m. ET)
Last Meeting: Baskonia won 86-74
Why NBA Fans Should Care: Marko Todorovic (Bilbao, Houston Rockets), Dejan Todorovic (Bilbao), Colton Iverson (Baskonia, Boston Celtics), Davis Bertans (Baskonia, San Antonio Spurs), Ilimane Diop (Baskonia)
The matchup of young centers in this game is very intriguing.
Both Todorovic and Iverson were 2nd-round picks in the 2013 NBA Draft. Iverson is a more bruising player, while Todorvic’s polished offensive game has led him to three ACB Player of the Week awards this season.
This should be the best game of the week.
Valencia Basket (12-9) at Movistar Estudiantes (9-12)
Tip-off: Sunday, March 1 at 18:30 CET (12:30 p.m. ET)
Last Meeting: Valencia won 84-67
Why NBA Fans Should Care: Guillem Vives (Valencia), Bojan Dubljevic (Valencia, Minnesota Timberwolves), Jaime Fernández (Estudiantes), Juancho Hernangomez (Estudiantes)
I will be at this game and am excited to watch offensive savant Bojan Dubljevic do his thing. I’ll have a more in-depth post on him soon.
Herbalife Gran Canaria (11-10) at Unicaja Málaga (18-3)
Tip-off: Sunday, March 1 at 19:00 CET (1 p.m. ET)
Last Meeting: Málaga won 74-67
Why NBA Fans Should Care: Walter Tavares (Gran Canaria, Atlanta Hawks), Oriol Paulí (Gran Canaria)
This is Oriol Paulí. You’re welcome.