A Guide to Spanish Basketball for NBA Fans: Week 27 Preview

In this edition: Well wishes for Bertans, Jazz vs. Jazz, Mario Hezonja and more

Photo courtesy of RTVE.es

Pour one out for Davis Bertans.

This is old news by now, but since my last preview, the Latvian sharpshooter tore his ACL for the second time. He will miss at least 6-8 months of action. That means no Summer League with the San Antonio Spurs, no EuroBasket 2015 with Latvia, no NBA training camp, and maybe no NBA ever.

At just 22-years-old, Bertans had become one of the finest shooters in Europe. He was hitting 41.7 percent of his threes in the ACB and he looked ready to make the NBA leap next season.

Instead, he will enter recovery mode again as he tries to prepare for a comeback.

Get well soon, Davis.

Herbalife Gran Canaria (13-13) at Gipuzkoa Basket (9-17)

Tip-off: Saturday, April 4 at 18:00 CET (12:00 p.m. ET)

Last Meeting: Gran Canaria won 71-70

Why NBA Fans Should Care: Walter Tavares (Gran Canaria, Atlanta Hawks), Daní Díez (Gipuzkoa), Oriol Paulí (Gran Canaria), Brad Newley (Gran Canaria, Houston Rockets)

Walter Tavares continues to impress.

The 7’3″ big man excelled in the first leg of Gran Canaria’s Eurocup semifinal matchup with Unics Kazan (Russia). In just 21 minutes, Tavares had 12 points, 11 rebounds (eight offensive), four assists and two blocks.

He led Gran Canaria to an 83-70 road win and earned game MVP honors for his performance.

After the game, David Pick of BasketballInsiders.com reported the East-leading Atlanta Hawks hope to sign Tavares for next season.

You can check out a more thorough breakdown of Tavares’ progression in my Week 25 preview.

Also featured in this game are two promising Spanish small forwards, Daní Díez and Oriol Paulí.

Díez is a great rebounder for his position, averaging 6.82 per game (5th in the ACB). He’s also shooting 38 percent on threes and 54 percent on twos. The 21-year-old is No. 75 on DraftExpress.com’s list of top 100 prospects.

Meanwhile, Paulí doesn’t have impressive statistics, but he is a prospect to watch going forward. He’s long, explosive and he doesn’t turn 21 until next month. With Aíto García Reneses’ habit of developing young talent, look for Paulí to make a big leap next season.

MoraBanc Andorra (9-17) at Valencia Basket (14-12)

Tip-off: Saturday, April 4 at 19:00 CET (1:00 p.m. ET)

Last Meeting: Valencia won 65-64

Why NBA Fans Should Care: Guillem Vives (Valencia), Bojan Dubljevic (Valencia, Minnesota Timberwolves)

Guillem Vives withdrew from the 2014 NBA Draft last June, then moved from FIATC Joventut to Valencia.

Both decisions look a little questionable now. Vives went from 28 minutes per game last season to 18 this year, and Joventut is ahead of Valencia in the standings.

Vives is still No. 7 in the DraftExpress international ’93 rankings. He’s a big point guard (6’4″) and he has slightly improved his turnover rate. But he’s not an explosive athlete and he’s not a good outside shooter, hitting just 20-of-72 three-pointers (27.7 percent) across all competitions this season.

Hopefully Vives, who turns 22 in September, can find his range soon.

Dubljevic, 23, has developed into one of the best young offensive players in Europe. In March, Valencia rewarded him by extending his contract through the 2017-18 season.

Unicaja Málaga (22-4) at Montakit Fuenlabrada (6-20)

Tip-off: Saturday, April 4 at 19:30 CET (1:30 p.m. ET)

Last Meeting: Málaga won 72-63

Why NBA Fans Should Care: Moussa Diagne (Fuenlabrada), Mo Soluade (Málaga), Mindaugas Kuzminskas (Málaga), Rolands Smits (Fuenlabrada)

I wrote about some of the things that make Moussa Diagne special in my last preview.

His minutes have dipped since a mid-season coaching change, but he is still one of the five best NBA Draft prospects in Spain. The skills he already has (shot blocking, finishing lobs and pick-and-rolls) translate directly to today’s NBA.

Don’t let his basic statistics fool you. Diagne, who just turned 21, would be a very good selection in the mid-to-late second round.

Real Madrid (21-5) at CAI Zaragoza (14-12)

Tip-off: Sunday, April 5 at 12:15 CET (6:15 a.m. ET)

Last Meeting: Real Madrid won 89-71

Why NBA Fans Should Care: Sergio Llull (Real Madrid)

Sergio Llull is one of the most enjoyable players in Europe.

He somehow seems faster with the ball than without it, he’s incredible in the open court, he hits clutch shots and he can play both guard spots. He has the size and skills to be a solid rotation guy on an NBA title contender.

Right now, my biggest knock against Llull is this photo:

Barca Spacing 2

“Oh, shit.” – Sergio Llull

That’s just Ante Tomic — one of the best passing big men on the planet — on the block with three wide-open shooters spotting up very far away from Sergio Llull.

The result, of course, was two quick passes and a corner three for Barcelona.

Laboral Kutxa Baskonia (15-11) at Iberostar Tenerife (11-15)

Tip-off: Sunday, April 5 at 12:15 CET (6:15 a.m. ET)

Last Meeting: Baskonia won 84-74

Why NBA Fans Should Care: Colton Iverson (Baskonia, Boston Celtics), Ilimane Diop (Baskonia)

In February, I wrote about Colton Iverson and his hopes of joining the Celtics next season. After improving his skills on both ends of the floor, his lack of explosiveness is the main concern regarding his NBA chances.

Iverson is relatively ground-bound, but he’s flashing his athleticism more as the season progresses. In Thursday’s Euroleague action, Iverson showed his ability to play above the rim with three big dunks against Fenerbahce.

FC Barcelona (18-8) at UCAM Murcia (12-14)

Tip-off: Sunday, April 5 at 12:40 CET (6:40 a.m. ET)

Last Meeting: Barcelona won 90-70

Why NBA Fans Should Care: Mario Hezonja (Barcelona), Tibor Pleiss (Barcelona, Utah Jazz), Tomas Satoransky (Barcelona, Washington Wizards), DeShaun Thomas (Barcelona, San Antonio Spurs), Ante Tomic (Barcelona, Utah Jazz), Raul Neto (Murcia, Utah Jazz).

The Utah Jazz have three draft-and-stash players in this matchup: Barcelona centers Ante Tomic and Tibor Pleiss and Murcia point guard Raul Neto.

After a rough start to the season prompted trade rumors for Pleiss, the 7’2″ German has turned things around. In his last five Euroleague games, Pleiss is averaging 8.4 points and 5.0 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per game. He’s shooting 75 percent during that stretch.

Since March 1, Pleiss is doing a great job when he comes in for Ante Tomic, who is still just doing crazy Ante Tomic things.

Neto is as entertaining as point guards come, but he’s been a little too reckless lately, committing four turnovers in each of his last three games.

In non-Jazz-related news, Barcelona stopped the petty tanking of Mario Hezonja’s playing time. The 20-year-old Croatian played 17 minutes in Thursday’s Euroleague win over Real Madrid.

Hezonja was brilliant, scoring 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc. He also showed some competitive fire on defense, diving on the floor in the second quarter to force a jump ball.

The most interesting aspect of Thursday’s game was Xavi Pascual’s decision to play Hezonja at the 4. In 385 total ACB minutes this season, Hezonja has played just 0.6 minutes at what you’d consider the 4-spot, according to baloncestostats.com.

But with Thursday’s game on the line, the 6’8″ Hezonja shared the court with Tomic and three guards. The result was this beautiful amount of spacing:

Barca spacing

Juan Carlos Navarro went off the screen going right, knowing the strong-side defender couldn’t help off a red-hot Hezonja. This forced Rudy Fernández to help off Tomas Satoransky (who is working his way to the corner in the photo above) and Sergio Rodriguez had to drop down to cut off a potential baseline pass. That left Brad Oleson all alone on the left wing.

Navarro kicked it to Oleson, who pump-faked his scrambling defender and buried the game-clinching three.

It was a beautiful play from Pascual, and it hints at more creative usage of Hezonja in the final months of the season.

Rio Natura Monbus Obradoiro (12-14) at Sevilla (7-19)

Tip-off: Sunday, April 5 at 18:00 CET (12:00 p.m. ET)

Last Meeting: Obradoiro won 88-77

Why NBA Fans Should Care: Kristaps Porzingis (Sevilla), Willy Hernangomez (Sevilla), Nikola Radicevic (Sevilla)

Let’s give some well-deserved love to Sevilla point guard Nikola Radicevic.

DraftExpress ranks him at No. 25 in the international class of ’94. But with his progression this season, I think the lefty’s earned a promotion.

In last week’s game against Barcelona — a game loaded with top prospects and draft-and-stash guys — Radicevic stood out.

First, we have his fanciest play. He pump-fakes a flying Satoransky, drives right, does the Rondo-style fake behind-the-back pass, then takes a giant step around Pleiss and finishes with his off hand.

Then he gives us the righty floater going right and the righty floater going left. Again, he’s left-handed.

Next we have his passing skills.

First, he comes off the pick, glances at Hernangomez to get Bostjan Nachbar out of position and fires a bullet to the open man on the baseline.

Here’s a long-range bounce pass to Hernangomez as he rolls to the rim.

This possession he grabs the defensive rebound, looks up and hits a streaking Hernangomez for the dunk.

And finally, Radicevic recognizes the baseline defender sucking in to help out on the Hernangomez roll. He throws a skip pass to the open man in the corner for a good look.

Considering he’s 6’4,” and has shown flashes of outside shooting ability, Radicevic is one of the most promising young point guards in Europe.

Bilbao Basket (18-8) at Movistar Estudiantes (10-16)

Tip-off: Sunday, April 5 at 18:30 CET (12:30 p.m. ET)

Last Meeting: Bilbao won 64-63

Why NBA Fans Should Care: Marko Todorovic (Bilbao, Houston Rockets), Dejan Todorovic (Bilbao), Jaime Fernández (Estudiantes)

Marko Todorovic has been the best center in the ACB this season. This week, he was acknowledged for his efforts, earning the league’s March MVP award.

Dejan Todorovic will also be in action this week as he returns from his four-game suspension.

La Bruixa d’Or Manresa (8-18) at FIATC Joventut (15-11)

Tip-off: Monday, April 6 at 19:15 CET (1:15 p.m ET)

Last Meeting: Joventut won 84-79

Why NBA Fans Should Care: Marius Grigonis (Manresa), Marc Garcia (Manresa), Alberto Abalde (Joventut), Alex Súarez (Joventut)

Marius Girgonis one of my favorite underrated prospects in Spain. The young Lithuanian hasn’t been lighting it up since returning from an ankle injury a few weeks ago, but he’s still shooting the third-highest percentage among players with at least 85 three-point attempts (43.53 percent).

On the Joventut side, Alberto Abalde (No. 12 in the DraftExpress international ’95 rankings) has gotten more run in recent weeks. In his last three games, Abalde is averaging 8.6 points in 16.3 minutes per game.

During that stretch, he has been excellent behind the arc, hitting 8-of-11 three-pointers (72.7 percent). He should get more opportunities this week against an 8-18 Manresa club.

Austin Green runs LosCrossovers.com from Madrid, Spain with the occasional help of his friends and colleagues.


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