Friday, January 10, 2014

Thoughts on Norvel Pelle and Thanasis Antetokounmpo during the D-League Showcase

Here are my impressions of Delaware 87ers' draft-eligible prospects, 6-7 forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo from Greece, who is also the older brother of Giannis, a rookie forward on the Milwaukee Bucks, as well as 6-10 center Norvel Pelle throughout the D-League Showcase in Reno during January 5th to the 9th.  In addition, the box score of their first game is listed here.

Day 1:

The first day of the 2014 D-League Showcase was not a very good showing for either draft-eligible prospect.  They would later fare much better in their second game of the showcase on the last day in Reno, but the performances of both players on the first day were quite lackluster in general.

Norvel Pelle looks to be quite a raw prospect, based on his performance against the Reno Bighorns.  He looked to be every bit the shot blocker as advertised, but appeared to be lacking in most of the other skills, especially on offense, and his skill level and IQ level still looked to be unpolished at this stage, as he appeared to be overwhelmed by the level of play at times, and generally wasn't very effective in this game.

For the positives, he's very athletic, runs the floor well, and is an active shot blocker who looks to swat every shot.  On one play, he rotated to block a spin move inside the paint, and nearly had two more blocks but those were ruled as goaltending, which gave the other team points.

But his aggressiveness also got him into trouble, as he tends to commit fouls at a very high rate this year.  He committed all kinds of fouls involving a moving screen, another was where he fouled an opponent off of a drive, one may have been called an over the back foul on him, and another was where jogged in transition and got back late to foul an opponent deep inside the paint.  Mostly, he had lots of problems with playing under control on defense, as his tendency to go for every block also leads him to commit a lot of fouls.

Offensively, he was barely existent.  He did draw a non-shooting foul in the post on a rip move, but other than that, he really didn't do much on offense.  Pelle did run the floor well, would set screens and roll off of them, but rarely would they call plays for him.  He seems to be at a disadvantage here, as he has looked overmatched at times when facing older players, including some that have played in the NBA and/or professionally, and his only shot attempt was a missed three.

What he had going for him is that he is generally an active player who provided a presence on defense at times with his ability to rotate from the weak side to block shots, and also has great length and timing to swat shots on the ball inside the paint as well.  Pelle received some minutes in the fourth quarter and early in overtime, which is a positive sign for him.  But he'll need to increase his skill level on offense, and must be a more disciplined defender, as he looks to be a bubble second round prospect for the upcoming draft.

It wasn't a great showing for Thanasis Antetokounmpo, as he sat out most of the fourth quarter and in overtime, and didn't seem to play any of the pivotal minutes in crunch time against the Reno Bighorns.  But he did do some good things on the floor, as he could look to build on that.

He runs the floor very well, as he was often the first player down the floor.  Rarely would his teammates try to take advantage of this by hitting him on the move to try to get early scores in transition, though, as his teammates often looked to set up offense in the half-court or to score themselves on fast breaks.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo would generally camp out on the three-point line, and rarely moved off the ball.  But one positive was that he drew three free throws when he was fouled on an outside shot from beyond the arc.

Defensively, he seemed to be about average.  When he was in position, he would do a very good job of contesting and altering shots against his opponents to force a miss or two, as he'll go for blocks.  Thanasis Antetokounmpo would funnel his man into the help when he would get beaten off the dribble, but committed one bad foul by fouling a jump shooter to give the other team three free throws.

Like his teammate Pelle, Thanasis Antetokounmpo seems to be a work in progress who may need more seasoning in the D-League or overseas.  He's a bubble second round prospect for the upcoming NBA Draft, but like his teammate, is probably a long term project if an NBA team picks him, as he'll need to continue to build on his skills.

Day 5:

This was a much better showing for both of the prospects.  Both of them flashed many skills consistently on both sides of the ball, and appeared to make serious strides to gain notice as draftable prospects for the upcoming draft.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo had a really solid game in the final day of the D-League Showcase despite his team, the Delaware Sevens barely losing to the Texas Legends.  He did a good job of attacking the hoop to garner scores, displayed an adequate jump shot, made some good passes out on the floor, was active on the glass, and also defended well during his time on the floor.

He did a very good job of scoring in transition, as he would drive up the court very quickly, and did not shy away from contact as he would draw many fouls upon opposing defenders.  Antetokounmpo is an aggressive scorer in the open court, and has very good speed to blow past the opposition.

Also, Thanasis Antetokounmpo did a good job of scoring on put backs.  He drew free throws on one put back attempt, and did a great job of hauling in offensive rebounds, and frequently was able to garner chances to score on second chance points.  He has very good quickness to get to rebounds, and possesses very good motor when he's on the floor.  Adding to that, he was usually the first player down the court on offense, which even further illustrates his strong motor on the court.

He also displayed adequate shooting skills.  He made an open three off the catch after moving off the ball early, and made a long two another time.  Antetokounmpo did miss a couple of threes other times, but generally did a better job of making outside shots against Texas, as he was able to find his shooting touch early on.

In addition, Thanasis Antetokounmpo also displayed fairly solid playmaking skills.  He is a good interior passer, as he can hit the cutter, and will throw accurate passes inside to notch a wealth of assist opportunities.  Also, he'll pass to open shooters as he is an unselfish basketball player.  However, he struggled to score on half-court drives at times, as he was called for traveling once, and lost the ball another time to commit multiple turnovers despite using very quick moves to initially beat his man off the dribble.

He also rebounded well, as he did a good job of hauling in boards from both sides of the ball.  He has good ball location skills, and especially was able to nab three offensive rebounds against Texas.

Thanasis also showcased very good defensive skills.  He showed an impressive ability to block shots, which is especially noteworthy since he spends his time playing the small forward position for the Sevens.

On one play, he ran the floor to get back in transition, waited patiently for his opponent to pass back to the trailer, and promptly blocked the shot and sent it back far once the opponent went up with it.  Thanasis also was able to rotate to block a shot inside the paint off of a drive, and went around screen quickly to block a long range jumper to swat his first shot early in the game.

Another great, smart, heady play he made defensively was where he deflected a pass to the inbounder to force his opponent to commit a turnover.  Thanasis has great timing, quickness, as well as very good length, speed, and jumping ability to make numerous plays on the ball.

There were only a couple of things that he could look to work on based on this game.  Thanasis tended to pick up minor touch fouls, and also was late to contest a few shots that led to three-point scores.

In all, Thanasis Antetokounmpo scored 17 points, and notched 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals, and 1 assist in the loss to the Texas Legends.  He had a solid showing on the final day to make one final push to gain some draft buzz before the end of the D-League Showcase.

Antetokounmpo is a solid defender that excels at blocking shots and in forcing turnovers, is a fairly good rebounder, and is a very athletic, 6-7 forward from Greece that also possesses a high running motor.

But while he can make a three, he still needs to continue to improve on making them more consistently from downtown.  He also tended to struggle to score off the dribble in half-court sets at times, especially when facing a loaded defense, and at times didn't play under control as he would be prone to committing turnovers and fouls at times.

From analyzing how he's played during the two games, Thanasis Antetokounmpo looks to be a bubble second round draft prospect for the 2014 NBA Draft.  He is a good rebounder and defender, and has a variety of offensive skills, but is an inconsistent player offensively that occasionally struggles with his shot and control issues from time to time.

Definitely, he would be worth a summer league invite to an NBA team, and I could see an NBA team such as the Philadelphia Sixers drafting him in the 50s during the late second round portion of the draft. I'm not sure if he warrants much consideration above the second round, but his strong showing on the last day certainly looks to have helped his case to get into the NBA next season.

Though Norvel Pelle played just 5 minutes and 7 seconds, he played a good 5 minutes (and 7 seconds) when he was out on the floor.  He played noticeably better, as he scored efficiently, rebounded well, and also made a good defensive play during his stretch run out on the court.

Pelle displayed solid low post scoring skills in this game.  He was able to make a nifty turnaround jumper in the post to garner a solid score inside the paint.  Also, he used quick moves and showed surprising agility, footwork, and fluidity to make the shot over a defender.

He also did a good job of finishing garbage plays inside the paint.  Pelle would go up strong to draw a couple of free throws around the hoop, and displayed good strength to get the foul calls.

Pelle also rebounded well.  He obtained many defensive rebounds, and had a really active presence on the glass, as he collected three defensive boards in a little over five minutes of play.

He also displayed solid defensive skills.  Pelle poked a ball away to get a steal in the backcourt, and promptly was able to draw free throws around the hoop afterwards.  Another time, he hedged quickly onto a point guard to cut off penetration.

But he did commit fouls at a fairly high rate.  He was called for a minor touch foul inside the paint, and also committed a charging foul on a high post drive on one of his first offensive possessions of the game.  In addition, Pelle's motor ran hot and cold, as he would jog slowly up the floor on offense a few times, than would sprint on other occasions.

Moving forward, he still has a lot of work to do, as he is still rather undisciplined as an overall player.  He needs to work on avoiding cheap fouls, and staying in proper defensive position.  Also, he probably could stand to develop his offensive skill level.

Like his teammate, Pelle is a bubble second round draft pick for the upcoming NBA Draft.  If he gets picked, it'll be likely because of his size, athleticism, shot blocking skills and defensive potential, and upside.

But he still has a long ways to go offensively, as he's not always the most involved player on that side of the ball, and also tends to commit a lot of cheap fouls defensively.  He'll likely need to spend more time in the D-League, and may need to spend multiple seasons to hone his game.  But with enough coaching, he could end up being a resourceful defensive specialist at the next level if he makes significant strides to improve his overall game.

Other Notes:

The Delaware 87ers released Aquille Carr a couple days ago, just days before the D-League showcase.  That was rather unfortunate timing for the 5-6 speedy combo guard, who like his teammates is also a draft prospect.  Hopefully, he'll latch on with a team, because if he goes unclaimed, he could be on the outside looking in on draft day.

But after watching 2013 undrafted basketball player and 5-7 point guard, Kiwi Gardner play really well for the Santa Cruz Warriors by giving them a defensive presence with his feisty on-ball defense and ability to force turnovers, as well as by providing strong scoring and playmaking skills, it's likely that Carr will go undrafted, and may have to prove himself at a lower level just to make his way back to the D-League.