RIGA (LAT) – 27th July 2013 - DX Mock Draft: unranked
U18 European Championship 2013
It was on a Friday, as usual, when I arrived to the U18 European Championship 2013 in Latvia. I normally cover the last three days of these events in order to see the top 8 teams compete against each other in decisive games. I knew the Riga Arena from previous events already but I was not aware that I was going to see a future lottery pick for the first time on that day. Latvia faced their arch-rivals from Lithuania in the Quarter-Final and in my game report; all I noted on Kristaps Porzinigis was
Kristaps Porzingis did not play that many minutes because of some minor foul trouble but he managed to show his skills with a nice spin move in the paint for example.
Porzingis rejected some shots to start the second half which gave his team the opportunity to create a small lead.
Porzingis continued to dominate in the paint with a variety of moves while Sabonis could not really find the way to the basket.
He finished the game with 17 points (on 16 shots), 8 rebounds and 6 blocks.
The semi-final on Saturday was a frustrating event for Porzingis as he was well guarded in the first half by the Croatians. The second half was quickly over as Porzingis fouled Karlo Zganec on the drive but gave him another hit afterwards called as an unsportsmanlike which was his fifth foul. Croatia ran away and the Latvian dream for a Gold Medal at home was over. He finished the game with 4 points, 1 rebounds, 2 blocks and 5 fouls.
There was still a chance to win a Medal in Riga as Kristaps Porzingis and his team faced Spain in the Bronze Medal game. But there is no worse opponent than Spain when it comes to winning a decisive game. And it came as expected as Juan Hernangomez nailed an incredible step-back three-pointer with 2 seconds on the clock to give Spain the lead. Porzinigis had the ball for the buzzer beating shot but it did not go in. Latvia with their highly talented team finished their event at home on the most disappointing place, the 4th. Despite the final miss, Porzingis was close to a triple-double in that game with 11 points, 15 rebounds and 9 blocks.
Porzingis got the individual recognition by being selected into the All-Tournament Team but he remained without a Medal in his sole Youth European Championship of his career.
The 2013 Scouting Report
Kristaps Porzingis – 2m12 – PF – 1995 – Latvia
Coming a bit out of nowhere as he has never played any European Championship in his career, Kristaps Porzingis had a coming-out party during the days in Riga. The player who is under contract with the Spanish team Cajasol Sevilla has worked hard over the last two years in order to live up to the potential that he has, displaying a great 2m12 tall frame with good coordination and PF skills. Porzingis is really mobile and will definitely play as PF in the future if he does not even move to the 3 spot as he lacks a bit of toughness in the paint. He is not the hardest guy which is underlined by the very poor amount of free-throws that he shot during the event. More of a player that likes to come from outside, Porzingis can create of the dribble as he has the ability to shoot from the perimeter and therefore attract the defenders to close out on him.
When Porzinigis puts the ball on the floor, he mostly stops though in the mid-range area to finish from there. He rarely attacks the hoop totally and prefers the jump or scoop shot from around the key. He has the necessary footwork to come up with quick spin moves as well but his still rather thin frame does not allow him to finish with the contact down low. When the 2m12 tall forward receives the ball in the low post, he prefers to go for the face-up baseline drive instead of banging his defender backwards to the hoop. His jump shot looks really fluid for a player of his size and he can score from around the key as well as from behind the arc. Out of the dribble, the Latvian forward can create his own shot and likes also to finish on some nice running hook shots. With his changing speeds in the dribble, he can overcome his lacks in explosiveness of his first step.
On the defensive end, Porzingis showed amazing shot blocking potential especially coming from the weak side. He has a great timing and terrific length to reject shots as a help side rotation. It has to be added that he mainly blocks the shots in a way that the defense can rebound the rejection and not going for the show effect and volleyballing the ball out of bounds. Despite averaging about 10 rebounds per game, Porzingis does not look like a superb rebounder mainly because of his lack of physical presence. Porzingis has made huge steps forward over the last two years. The question is how much can he develop in a next step over the coming years. During the days in Riga, he helped himself a lot to showcase his skills for the first time in a continental event.
Stats: 11.6ppg (49.4% 2FGs – 18.8% 3FGs), 10.0rpg, 4.9bpg
In 1935, the World Basketball federation FIBA organized the first ever European Championship. In the Final of this pre-WW2 event, the Latvian Basketball National Team won the Gold Medal by beating Spain 24-18. The team coached by Valdemars Baumanis was one of the many teams called "Dream Team" as it reached something special for the small Baltic country. The story of this team from another era got pictured in a movie called Dream Team 1935.
Since 1935, Latvia has never won a Medal anymore in any Eurobasket. The team could not participate for a long period because of the Soviet occupation and since their independence in 1991, Latvia has never done better than an 8th place in 2001.
Gundars Vetra is a Latvian Basketball legend. He became the first Latvian player to ever play in the NBA. In his debut on the 6th November 1992, Vetra entered the court for one minute in a blowout loss against the Celtics. He played 13 games in his NBA career for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The second Latvian to play in the NBA was Andris Biedrins. A 10 year NBA veteran, the 6 foot 11 tall Biedrins had his best season in 2008/09 when he was averaging a double-double for Golden State Warriors. Biedrins played his last game in the NBA on the 16th December 2013 for the Utah Jazz. Biderins though was more of a laughing stock at the end of his career because of his poor free-throw shooting and only few people remember him for his prime seasons between 2006 and 2009.
On the 29th July 2014, the website of the Eurocup announced that Scott Roth was the new head coach of Baloncesto Sevilla, the team where Kristaps Porzingis was supposed to play during the 2014/15 season.
It looked like an interesting coaching move as Sevilla got a highly-regarded NBA Assistant coach which could help Porzingis to develop into an NBA player. However, it did not last long until the problems started as reported ESPN's Marc Stein back in November 2014.
According to ACB regulations, specifically those ordained by the Spanish coaches association, head coaches must possess a league-sanctioned license as well as FIBA clearance to coach league games. Roth didn't have the license when Sevilla hired him but was assured by his new club that, after a decade as an NBA assistant as well as head-coaching experience in both the D-League and internationally with the Dominican Republic, Sevilla would either have the grounds to obtain the license for him or be able to pay some sort of fine to clear him.
But the ACB and its coaches association, which is known to have made exceptions in the past when in the mood, is refusing to bend despite Roth's obvious qualifications. As a result, Roth can only coach the team in its mid-week Eurocup games. In ACB play, he can only act as team "manager" and has to defer to stand-in coach Audie Norris, since Roth is forbidden from standing during games to shout instructions to his players, talking to the referees or doing most of the things that professional basketball coaches are allowed to do.
It's a farce that prompted Marca, Spain's biggest daily national sports newspaper, to refer to Roth as Sevilla's Entrenador Fantasma.
Next to this specific situation, the results did not follow as expected so that Roth gave a memorable press-conference in January 2015 following a Eurocup game against Ostende.
3 weeks later, Scott Roth got fired.
The 2014 Scouting Report
FIVE Magazine - Germany
In the range of modern big men that excel more with their technique than their physical force, Kristaps Prozingis from Latvia is the player from the 1995 generation who might develop into an NBA player. The 2m13 tall athlete, who plays this season for Cajasol Sevilla in the ACB, has a good shooting touch, shot blocking qualities and is quite mobile.
2013 was the first major event for Porzingis as he formed a very long inside duo with Anzejs Pasecniks during the U18 European Championship. With his long arms, Porzingis surged multiple times from the weak side to stop the penetrations with either a quick help defense or an emphatic block. Offensively, Porzingis mainly played as a wing player who scored either with the three-point shot or close to the rim. With his good athletic abilities, he was able to beat defenders on the drive but he was not that aggressive as he drew nearly no fouls at all while being foul-prone on the defensive end.
In his first ACB season 2013/14, Porzingis was getting some first glimpses of the physical play on the Senior level. Once again, his lack of toughness resulted in a very poor number of free-throw attempts (a total of 6 free-throws attempted in the first 15 games of the season). However, the situation in Sevilla forced him to work on this part of his game as well as on the other weakness which is defensive rebounding. Even if he has great length and a good jump, Porzingis has quite a narrow build and struggles to box out his opponents. He needs to add some weight in order to stop being pushed around in the paint by other players.
Porzinigis will most likely not be in the Draft pool for 2014. However, everything looks like he is going to make the step to the NBA after the Draft 2015.
Kristaps Porzingis finished his season in the ACB with a win against FIATC Joventut at home. The Latvian added 12 points and 5 rebounds playing 19 minutes off the bench. It was probably his last game with a European club for a long time. Stats-expert Simon Jatsch gave us a great overview of Porzingis' season in the ACB comparing his numbers to the other Power Forwards in the Spanish league.
On the 1st of June, Grantland started a web-documentary on the Latvian forward who was still called a "Mystery Man" by a multitude of mainly American Media, and this despite having played more than 1000 minutes on the professional level in the second best domestic league in the world.
Nevertheless, the article that introduces the video portrait needed a catch headline so that it started like this.
After skipping the Adidas Eurocamp, the traditional NBA Pre-Draft event in Treviso (Italy), Kristaps Porzingis and his camp decided to do an official workout for all interested teams in Las Vegas. More or less all NBA Teams made the trip to the Desert in order to see the so-called "Mystery Man from Europe".
For some NBA observer, it was the first time that they saw Porzingis in person. They left very impressed according to the multitude of reports that were published immediately afterwards.
Andrejs Silins is a Basketball writer for Sportacentrs.com and a basketball coach in Latvia. I asked him how Kristaps Porzingis is currently seen in Latvia and what the people from his country are expecting from the potential lottery pick.
Kristaps Porzingis is one day away from being drafted by the NBA. The whole country of Latvia is hoping that he finds a great situation where he can excel and develop into a world-class player.
Porzingis has all the tools to become a great player on the NBA level. He might need a year or two until he can fully play up to his potential. But after having played more than 1000 minutes in the ACB this season, he should be able to adjust quickly.
On Thursday, everybody will know when Adam Silver is going to pronounce his name. The chances that it will be among the Top 5 are very good.
Pictures: FIBA Europe