By: Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen
This new Euroleague Adventures project will take a look at three post-prospect players this year and see how they develop. All three of these players are past a draft-eligible age and are in a time where production needs to out weigh potential. Every other week I’ll write a new Emerging Player Watch with info on how each player has played, how his team is progressing, his role on the team, and if he looks to be improving in any areas. The goal of the project is to follow three different cases that are in different situations, to see how a player develops once he’s past the age of being considered a prospect. I’ll be after questions such as, do players fair better with a heavy workload on a lesser team or learning to play a role on a good team? What areas are the toughest to get better in at this age? And many more intriguing conundrums.
All three players were born in 1989 and spend a fair amount of time on the wing, which makes it even more interesting when cross comparing the three and their progression. Enjoy, comment, and please if you ever see these guys in person, be sure to write in. So without further ado, the chosen tripod:
Zoran Dragic, G/F, Unicaja Malaga
Dragic was chosen because he will be in a very interesting situation where he’ll be the only one of this group entering a new team. He’s been quite a productive player in the past in the Slovenian League and was a solid contributor for KRKA Novo Mesto in the EuroCup last season. He’s the closest of the three talent wise to making the jump into being a really good Euroleague player but has the least high level experience. As the brother of an NBA guard, he has the added advantage of having blood lines NBA teams should be continually interested in for the next few years. As a crafty ball theft on defense and smooth scorer on offense, it’ll be very intriguing to see how Dragic is used in Malaga and what he’s able to improve on.
Dragan Milosavljevic, G, Partizan Belgrade
Milosavljevic is already a fairly proven player at the Euroleague level after two seasons playing with Partizan and he had an impressive performance last year averaging eight points a game while being counted on to play big minutes on the perimeter. Milosavljevic was picked because at such a young age he’s already been chosen to be a leader of his team and someone who needs to take huge leaps in his game if Partizan is to play above expectations and advance to the Top 16. Unlike Dragic or Kuzminskas he can’t just fit into a role on the team, he needs to be the vocal point of it. At 23 years old, is putting this much pressure on one player good for development? If there’s anyone I’d trust developing young talent, it’s his coach Dusko Vujosevic, who’s got a lengthy track record of progressing talent. Now it’s up to the young Dragan to be more than just a piece but elevate to be “the guy” on Partizan. Similar to the role Sergio Llull was thrust into a couple years back and succeeded, while Emir Preldzic has had similar expectations and faltered.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas, F, Zalgiris Kaunas
Kuzminskas is the wild card of the threesome. He’s had the least amount of success but it could be argued was the most hyped prospect of the three when they were teenagers. Now entering his third season with Zalgiris, he’s done very little on the Euroleague stage to be counted on to do much this season. But that’s why I wanted to follow Kuzminskas. After any hype that was there is gone and the word potential is now used cautiously, how does a player respond? He’s on a team that brought home a whole lot of veteran Lithuanian players who he needs to not only learn from but also beat out for playing time. With an uncertain role ahead of him, can Kusminskas finally emerge and put together a season of quality basketball to go along with his exciting athletic style? We’ll have to see but I’m really excited to follow a player who has tons of talent but isn’t even sure what his best skills will be yet.