10 Newcomers to Watch: Spanish ACB

Many European top leagues will start in a matter of days or weeks and I decided to make some reports about the most interesting players that came into the league this off-season. First top league under my magnifying glass will be the Spanish ACB.

I set some simple rules which players are eligible for the report:

  • 1st rule: the players will be playing for the first time in this competition
  • 2nd rule: only non-domestic players were eligible for the list
  • 3rd rule: the player must be 27 years old or younger — so only players born in 1994 or after that were eligible for the list

The players on the list are not necessarily the best but just the most interesting to me and I expect that they will not have any problems translating to their new team and league. Also the players are not in any particular order.

The Lithuanian guard signed with Barcelona a four-year contract in this off-season and he will play under coach Jasikevičius again. They worked well together in Žalgiris and Šarunas definitely had a big role in the development of Jokubaitis. Rokas was also drafted as the 34th pick by the Oklahoma City Thunders in this year’s NBA draft but his rights were traded to the New York Knicks. Rokas is one of the most talented playmakers in Europe and even though he has strong competition in Calathes and Laprovittola on his position, I’m sure he will get enough playing time, especially in the ACB. A guard with great positional size and great understanding of the game that can create some points for his teammates and also for himself. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he will play in this offensively loaded Barcelona team.

Another ex-Alba Berlin player playing in Baskonia now. He was great last season with Alba Berlin and has shown very good performances for the Italian national team at the Olympics too. A versatile all around wing that can do many things on both sides of the court. Has very good court awareness and great feel for cuts. Can create something with the ball in his hands too but more of an off-ball wing that is great in catch & shoot and catch & drive actions. He signed a three-year contract with Baskonia and this is a great place for him where he can bring his game to an even higher level.

Hans Vanwijn was somehow going under the radar for most teams in the last few years. The Belgium national team player played most of his career in his homeland for Limburg and Antwerp Giants and last year played abroad for the first time where he played for JDA Dijon. He was an important piece of that team and averaged 11 points and 5.6 rebounds in the competitive French league. Hans is a forward that can stretch the floor and make shots in high percentages and also has the quality to put the defender on his back and play on post ups. Has great feel for the game and good instincts for rebounds and most teams would love to have a player like Hans in their team and, in my opinion, this is a great get for Zaragoza in this off-season.

Another interesting Belgium player coming from the French league to ACB is Ismael Bako. Manresa made so many great moves this off-season and I could mention many more players from their team on this list but decided to go only with Bako but I will definitely watch a lot of their games during the season. Bako caught my attention for the first time a few years ago when he was playing for Antwerp Giants and was playing great on both sides of the court. He spent his last two years in Euroleague playing for French team Asvel but he didn’t get too many opportunities to shine. In Manresa he should get more minutes to show what he is capable of. Great pick & roll player and efficient finisher at the rim. Not a player that could stretch the floor but can do a lot of damage in the paint at the rim. Also a very good rim protector and rebounder and I have a feeling that he will have a great season in Manresa.

Derek Willis is going into his 4th season as a pro in Europe. He spent his first two years in Germany playing for Göttingen and Ulm and last year he played in Italy for Brindisi. A forward with great motor and always plays with good energy. He is great in transition and when he is used as a stretch forward where he can sink those open three point shots. Not that efficient in isolations or on post ups but I’m sure Joventut will use him the right way. Has great instincts for rebounds and can bring some good rebounding numbers to the table. I have a feeling that he will be a great fit in this team and I expect a good season from him in ACB and Eurocup.

Shannon Evans is a bucket getter. Dynamic and explosive guard that can get to the rim with ease. Low gravity point and with his handles he throws the defenders out of balance and goes by them. Also has a great off-the dribble release so the defense can’t leave him too much space to breathe. His shot selection can sometimes be a little questionable but that is his game and if he gets hot it is really hard to stop him. Usually a high usage guy and it will be interesting to follow him in Real Betis because the team has a pretty deep rotation on the guard spots.

Another player from Real Betis and the third Belgian player on this list is Vrenz Bleijenbergh. This will be his first pro season abroad and outside of Antwerp so a completely new environment for him. He went undrafted in this year’s NBA Draft and I’m sure he will try to do his best and prove that his name should be mentioned on the draft night. A versatile forward that plays best as an initiator and with the ball in his hands in the so-called point forward role. Real Betis has deep rotation with some ball dominant guards so he will have to play a lot without the ball too and we will see how he will cope with that. His playing style should be a great fit for the ACB and for coach Plaza’s system and I think Vrenz could have a good season in Spain.

Henry Ellenson is the only player on this list with no experience playing in Europe. He spend the last 5 seasons mostly in the G League and trying to get a spot in the NBA and become at least a rotation player there. He was one of the best players in the G League but never made a true jump to the NBA but I think his game will translate great to the basketball played in Europe. Great offensive player that understands the game well and loves to play outside and stretch the floor. Lack of elite athleticism was obvious in defense on the NBA level but it shouldn’t be a big problem here in Europe. Definitely one of the most interesting scoring big men in Europe at the moment and top teams should follow how he will adapt to the European game because he has the potential for the highest level.

Another interesting player that signed for Obradoiro in this off-season is in my opinion Marko Filipovity. The Hungarian player spent his last year in Italy in Pesaro and averaged some solid numbers there. A versatile wing that plays great without the ball and in transition. Has a good shooting stroke and loves to stretch the floor and shoot or attack closeouts with drives. With his fluidity he is also a big threat to the defense in transition. Really agile and can defend multiple positions so very useful defender too. Every season he is improving and climbing the levels and I think his game will translate really well to Spanish ACB.

Last on the list is Džanan Musa. I think he doesn’t need a special introduction because he is a pretty known name in Europe. He spent his last two years in the NBA but didn’t get a lot of chances there and played mostly in the G league. Last season in January he joined the Turkish powerhouse Anadolu Efes but didn’t get a lot of chances there either. In Breogan he should have a lot more opportunities to show his talents and prove that he deserves a spot among the elites in the NBA. Offensively a really talented player and I think he could be amongst the top scorers of the Spanish league this season.

Twitter: @turkmarkoo