Partizan Belgrade has been the story of this Euroleague season so far, reaching the Final Four with an estimated overall budget of ca. three million Euros and reminding all of us that it is very well possible to compete against the very elite of European basketball clubs
, even in this league that has frequently been criticised for its imbalance of power. Partizan’s run to the Final Four will guarantee for a very delicate matchup in early May: In Paris, the Serbs will face Olympiacos Piraeus, which has more than one player on its roster whose own net income easily surpasses Partizan’s annual club budget.
The fact that Partizan would one day make it this far had to be reckoned with. What’s surprising is the timing. This roster is built around a core of solid players that were hardly stars on the international scene before the beginning of the season: Aleks Maric had just spent a season in the ACB as Curtis Borchardt’s backup in Granada, Lawrence Roberts had been with arch rivals Red Star and Bo McCalebb had provided solid scoring for TBL quarter finalist Mersin. Meanwhile, Dusan Kecman returned home after a wasted season in Athens to complete the roster around the reliable but unspectacular home-grown core of Petar Bozic, Slavko Vranes, Aleksandar Rasic and Strahinja Milosevic. Nikola Pekovic had left Partizan in summer 2008, Novica Velickovic, Uros Tripkovic and Milenko Tepic followed a year after. This roster was lacking the elite class talent that had brought them to the quarter finals in past years. With the exception of Jan Vesely.
Vesely has been far from the only reason for Partizan’s historical success this season, but he’s one of the pieces of the puzzle. The Czech forward had generated high expectations via a remarkable Euroleague rookie season as a 18-year-old, where he averaged almost five points and more than three rebounds per game while displaying incredible energy and activity whenever he entered the basketball court, but even more importantly, a very unusual combination of size, speed, explosiveness and athleticism. Partizan coaching legend Dusko Vujosevic was wise enough to develop Vesely as a small forward
, despite his size of 2.11m/6’11ft. With the departure of star players, he was expected to step into a larger role on this hard-working but limited roster, while increasing productivity compared to last season.
However, Vesely didn’t show much improvement in the early going, averaging a little more than 6 points and 3 assists in the Euroleague up until mid-December, basically showing us what we had seen from him all of last season. Then came the big games, and the Czech forward’s game rose to the occasion: Vesely has played his best games this Euroleague season versus elite opposition: On the last day of the regular season, he had 11 and 7 against Olympiacos while limiting his matchup Josh Childress to 10 points on 3 for 10 shooting, 3 rebounds and 3 turnovers. For the start of Top16, Vesely virtually exploded in two surprising Partizan wins, first contributing 13 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals in a road victory over Panathinaikos before dropping 13 and 15 rebounds on Barcelona in the Catalonians’ first Euroleague defeat of the season. Vesely proceeded to average 9.5 points and 6 rebounds over the course of Top16 and the quarter final series versus Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Today, he’s probably the second most talked about youngster – we cannot ignore Ricky Rubio – in the European game and most likely a 2010 lottery pick in the NBA Draft: Draftexpress lists him at number ten in their latest Mock Draft.
PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES & CHARACTER
A 2.11m/6’11ft small forward, rail-thin at this point – the club lists him at 109kg (240lb), but I’d like to question that – , and incredibly mobile for a guy this size. A leaper, head over rim level on some of his dunks, incredibly quick in the open court. Outruns smaller players. Wide wingspan.Character-wise, I am only hearing positive reactions.
And you don’t need to be a team insider to see that this guy is relentless and tough, a no-nonsense type of player who dives after loose balls and plays the game with incredible determination and focus.
Within the Partizan offense, Vesely is a pure role player at this point. Run by playmakers Bo McCalebb and Aleksandar Rasic, Partizan is looking for Aleksandar Maric in the post frequently, as well as attempting to free shooters Bozic, Kecman and Rasic and generating the offense via the pick and roll. It is not Vesely’s role to create, however they have been looking for him more and more as a lowpost option as the season is progressing, most evidently in Athens for Game 1 of Euroleague Top16, when Vesely provided a huge boost with his post presence, drawing fouls and basically creating a huge mismatch on former Partizan player Milenko Tepic. His postgame is not by any means polished yet, but there are signs that hard work is already paying off, and his length can provide huge difficulties in this league
where many teams are forced to go with a swingman type of player on the small forward spot, usually giving up plenty of size when matching up with Partizan.
There is a lot of room for improvement in Vesely’s faceup game. Shooting the basketball,, he is 12 of 27 in the Euroleague and 11 of 36 in the Adriatic League this season from beyond the arc, a combined 23 of 63 (36.5 percent) in both competitions. Being aware of his weaknesses, Vesely is shooting only when he has to, and while the 36.5-clip is already a vast improvement over last season’s 11.5 percent (3 of 26 in both Euroleague and Adriatic League combined), the jumpshot is not a dangerous weapon quite yet, in particular when firing off the dribble: 10 of his 12 successful Euroleague three pointers this season (83.3 percent) were created by an assist.
Despite his decent ballhandling and the ability to go for the crossover and drive to the basket, scenes when Vesely penetrated off the dribble have been pretty rare this season. He showed glimpses, but clearly maximising efficiency is the key in the Euroleague for Vujosevic, and a Vesely one-on-one isn’t the top option on this roster. It’s no secret that this is a key area for a small forward in the NBA game, and I’m pretty positive on his potential in this aspect. Physical tools and ballhandling are clearly there, polished allround-abilities off the dribble, not yet.However, Vesely is terriffic in terms of moving without the ball, cutting hard and with perfect timing, as well as running the floor with incredible pace and aggressiveness in transition. The open court is where he’s one of the most dangerous players in the whole league, often outrunning smaller players and finishing with authority
for one of those Tom Chambers-esque slams. He’s also seen pushing the ball himself in transition, either creating an open shot for one of his teammates by doing so
, or going all the way himself. On a pretty average-paced Euroleague team (at 70.47 possessions per 40 minutes), he is already providing valuable fastbreak baskets, possibly making him a great fit with the NBA, where the average club is playing at a pace of more than 79 possessions per 40 minutes.
A player’s size advantage on offense could become a disadvantage on defense when dealing with much smaller and quicker players, but Vesely does a very solid job. He’s been doing extremely well in matchups with some of the better small forwards in this league
, e.g. Josh Childress and Pete Mickeal, while helping limit his matchups Alan Anderson (more of a shooting guard) and Chuck Eidson (a point forward) to a combined 21 of 78 from the field in four games in a highly intriguing quarter final series recently.
While he’s been able to manage these situations a fair number of times, he still gets beaten sometimes in one-on-one isolation situations by the quicker and smaller opponent, and usually cannot help but to foul
, committing 4.3 of those per game in the running Euroleague season, with clumsiness and overaggressiveness being additional factors. Still, his long arms, great determination and activity level make him a quite capable defender both on and off the ball, and with more experience and more polished defensive skills, reaching the level of a Andrei Kirilenko would still be a long way to go, but not completely out of question.
Oncourt/offcourt-statistics (at an admittedly small sample size) indicate that Partizan is a better defensive team with Vesely on the floor, conceding 72.29 points per 70 possessions, while giving up 76.59 per 70 (a margin of 4.3 points per 70) without him.
4.6 rebounds per game sounds fairly weak for 2.11m guy, but the advanced numbers tell a different story. It is a well-known phenomenon in European basketball, which is played at a slower pace and where most rotation players log no more than around 20 minutes a game. While he is not the elite rebounder on his position in the league, Vesely is Top10 in both defensive and offensive rebound percentage, grabbing an estimate of 9.31 in offensive rebound percentage and 16.22 on the defensive end,
as good as fourth and eighth respectively among all small forwards that have played 150 minutes minimum this Euroleague season.
With the Czech forward going after every missed shot, determination is clearly not a problem.
Defensive rebounding percentage could be higher, but Vesely’s tendency to get out on the break in a hurry probably plays a part here. Adding muscle will help improve his stability on the boxout
. How playing on the best offensive rebounding team in the Euroleague – not only this season, but over the last three seasons – influences the rebounding stats is debatable.
Jan Vesely | NBADraft.net
Strengths: Possesses a terrific combination of size and length for the SF position ... Offensively, he improved his low post game and is looking to post up more this year;
he can post up smaller defenders and uses his height advantage to score over defenders; has a height/length advantage on almost every player in Europe ... Jan has good motor and excellent ability to run the floor
(most of his points are off of dunks, put-backs and points in transition) ... Good hands around the basket .
.. Facing up to the basket, he is able to get to the rim quickly due to his quickness and good first step. Very explosive off the floor when attacking the bucket and finishes strong ...
As a shooter he improved since last year and feels more confident taking shots outside the 3pt line and creating off the dribble; his mechanics and follow-through look fluid
; good elevation on his shot ... If he catches the ball and his feet are set and pointed towards the basket he usually will knock down shots ..
. Defensively he is good
, thanks to his length and can guard multiple positions ... His lateral quickness is impressive for his size and he does a solid job at moving his feet
(good P&R defender and closes well on the perimeter staying in front of guards) ... Plays with lot of emotion ... A competitive player that hustles for loose balls and brings energy on the court ...
Weaknesses: Vesely needs to continue improving his offensive ski
lls. He's still a work in progress as a player as his athleticism and "wow plays" exceed his effectiveness and consistency ... He has had a decent season but more was expected from him coming into the year ... He is limited to one or two dribbles when creating off the dribble and needs to improve his 1-on-1 game and ball-handling skills
... Has to become more efficient/consistent shooter overall (50% FG, 46% FT, 46.3% 3FG in Euroleague and 74.1 % FG, 51% FT, 31.8% 3FG in NLB League) ... Hasn't added any weight since last year and will have to get stronger in order to compete in the NBA; still has trouble finishing plays under pressure
... Has strength and athleticism but not productive enough as a rebounder (4.4 rpg in NLB League and only 2.9 rpg in Euroleague) ... Could run into some problems fitting into an NBA position as his length slows him some on the perimeter in the half court set and he lacks the strength and toughness to play in the paint right now ...
Strengths: Vesely is very athletic with tremendous leaping ability. Very active around the rim, as far as blocking and contesting shots.
Has the ability to be a small forward in the NBA....great range on his jumper that extends to three point range
. Has that European swagger that allows him to play with a high motor......seems to have that competitor's edge, to never give up. Vesely becomes a nightmare matchup when he takes big guys out on the perimeter and simply abuses them with a impressive first step
, followed by a crossover, or a vicious dunk. On a numerous amount of times evaluating Vesely,I see he has the ability to run the floor, being one of the first guys down the court,
which translates to many easy touches, and lobs...... that asset of his game is what intrigues me the most. His game is more polished than many college prospects, because of the experienced early years that Euros are allowed to compete professionally
, Long and lean frame allows him to disrupt the passing lane and create easy buckets. Great Weakside Defender
Weaknesses: Vesely is more athlete than skills at this stage in his development.
Body needs more bulk......very skinny and lean, and doesn't posses the physical mind set to play the four effectively. Jumpshot needs to be more consistent, as he relies now on running the floor for dunks and garbage buckets. Needs to solidify handles a little more
Outlook: Could be the bust or boom for this draft. It is hard for me to really get a good feel as to how well his game will translate to the NBA because you just don't know what position he really is. Running and jumping can only get you so far in the League, as you will have to develop a back to the basket game, or some perimeter ability. Although he does show that ability at times, he is still very young at 19, and will have time to develop. Gambling on Vesely as a lottery pick might be a bit of a reach, but mid to late first round is where I project him. Great upside because of youth, speed, and athleticism.
+Quick First Step
+Not super fast, but good speed
+Clean Shooting Mechanics
+3 Point abillity
Andrei Kirlinko, Rasheed Wallace