2022 Draft Watch: First Evaluation of Tristan Vukcevic

June 2nd, 2021

By Alan Lu

I decided to take the time to watch Real Madrid’s 6-10 Serbian big man, Tristan Vukcevic play in two Spanish ACB League games, one against Unicaja Malaga that took place on May 23rd, with thanks to YouTube via David Maestre, as that was split into two parts.  I also managed to watch him play against Acunsa GBC in an April 4th game, with thanks to YouTube via brdbasket, as that was also split into two parts.

It also provided an opportunity to watch Usman Garuba and Carlos Alocen play once again, and I also was able to watch Acunsa GBC’s Dino Radoncic play in the April 4th game.  I decided to watch those games together to get a fuller picture in analyzing Vukcevic’s skills.  Here are my thoughts on how he played in those games, as well as how his game may translate to the NBA.

Real Madrid’s 6-10 Serbian forward, Tristan Vukcevic is a sharpshooter that can also block shots, and he is a first round prospect for the 2022 draft.
Aykut Akici/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Tristan Vukcevic is a mobile, skilled big man that can space the floor and block shots to help his team in games.  He can stretch the floor due to his size and shooting skills, and he also can make solid plays to help his team protect the paint.  On the other hand, he can be streaky with his jump shot, and he also can sometimes be mistake prone defensively.

Vukcevic is a solid shooter that excelled at knocking down open, spot-up threes off the catch.  He also was able to make one off of a pick and pop play.  On the other hand, he seemed to have a bit of a slow release, and he seemed to struggle a little more when he would get sped up. He also generally excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Vukcevic was able to score on a put back after grabbing an offensive rebound.  He also drew free throws on a dunk attempt off of a roll to the rim.  He also made a swift baseline cut to the hoop another time, but he ended up missing on a double-pump layup. He also managed to draw free throws after he backed his man down to try to score in the post.  Another time though, Vukcevic missed on a contested, turnaround jumper.  He also took a long two-pointer from the corner, but he ended up missing that time.

Also, Vukcevic displayed satisfactory playmaking skills.  He would tend to throw sharp, accurate entry passes, and he also can throw quick outlet passes.  He also managed to pass out of a double team from the post to find an open shooter to set up a score for his teammate.  He also would set plenty of screens for his teammates.  On the downside, there was one play where he appeared to get a ball poked away when posting up, but the referees bailed out by calling a foul on his defender.  On one roll to the rim, he dropped a hard pass that resulted in a team turnover.

Plus, he also was able to leap up to get his fair share of rebounds.  Vukcevic would crash the glass to help his team get offensive rebounds in games.  On the downside, he seemed to struggle to consistently get boards, and he seems to be an area rebounder that struggled to get boards outside of his area.   He would sometimes forget to box out his opponents, which would allow them to get offensive boards instead.  He also had some trouble securing rebounds, as he would sometimes not come away with those rebounds in games.

Adding to that, Vukcevic showcased adequate defensive skills.  He is a solid shot blocker that would tend to swat shots in the paint due to possessing solid length, athleticism, and timing.  He can roam in the paint to block shots, and he also managed to defend a drive out on the perimeter to do so.  He also showed that he can intercept dropped balls to get steals, and he also ran in to deflect an errant pass to help force a shot clock violation.  He also will look to poke balls away on occasion to make things difficult on opposing ball handlers.  He also would contest shots out on the perimeter as well as in the paint to force plenty of misses.

On the downside, he would tend to over-help in the paint and sag too far off of shooters, which would lead him to allow opponents to score on three-point shots.  He also tended to struggle to guard opponents off the dribble.  Sometimes he would get beat off the dribble, and other times he would over-pursue opposing ball handlers and then trail his man on drives to the hoop.  He also would sometimes lose track of cutters, and there were other times where he would not contest shots despite being in the area to do so.

Overall, Tristan Vukcevic has a solid set of skills, as he can shoot and block shots to help his team on both ends of the floor.  He will need to add more muscle to his frame, and he will need to continue to improve his ability to create his own shot and to defend in games.  Currently, he may project to go in the mid to late first round range for the 2022 draft, and if things pan out for him, he could end up being a solid role player similar to former veteran forward, Vladimir Radmanović in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Real Madrid’s 6-8 forward, Usman Garuba played fairly well in both games, especially in the May 23rd showing against Unicaja Malaga.  He is a very athletic big man that defends well, and he is an unselfish player that can score the basketball in a variety of ways.  He can sometimes be too passive on offense, but he has consistently played well recently this season. Garuba shot the ball well from downtown in both games.  He excelled at making open, spot-up threes off the catch, and he was able to provide solid floor spacing skills for his team on offense.

He also excelled at scoring in the post.  When posting up once, he used an overhead ball fake and a drop step move in order to dribble left to draw a foul upon his defender.  If the referees had given him continuation, he would’ve scored on a thunderous, rim-rocking dunk and then would have obtained an extra free throw afterwards. Also, Garuba managed to score on a thunderous, two-handed dunk off of a hard roll to the rim.  He also used an overhead ball fake, but he ended up missing a put back too hard off the glass, as he didn’t get enough shooting touch on that shot.

On the downside, he was fairly turnover prone when he was on the floor.  For the positives, Garuba is an unselfish player that will keep the ball moving, and he also would set solid screens to help his teammates on offense.  He can pass on the move, and he was able to find a cutter to notch an assist.  He can make good passes when he plays with patience, and he can swiftly find the open man.  He also would set good screens to help his teammates get open jump shots.  On the downside, he would sometimes commit careless turnovers.  Garuba telegraphed a pass that got intercepted.  He also threw a quick interior pass that was dropped by his teammate.  He also would tend to set moving screens, which would make him prone to committing offensive fouls.  He also committed a charging foul after getting the ball on a roll to the rim. 

He also showed a solid ability to rebound the basketball.  Garuba was able to leap up to get an impressive, one-handed offensive rebound, and he would leap up to get aggressive defensive boards in traffic.  He also managed to push the ball up the court after getting a defensive rebound once.  However, he would sometimes get outmuscled when fighting for rebounding position against taller, stronger opponents, and he also would tend to commit loose ball fouls as a result.

Plus, Garuba also played satisfactory defense.  When defending in the post, he would use his long reach to deflect passes to his teammates to help his team get steals.  He also hustled back to nearly make an impressive chase down block on a tip-in in transition due to possessing good athleticism and timing, except his teammate had committed a foul earlier.   He also showed that he can ably defend out on the perimeter as well as in the post.  He would use his length to contest jumpers to force misses, and he would also contest shots in the paint to get stops for his team.  Sometimes though, he would not actively contest shots in the paint, which would lead his team to allow scores.  Another time, he got backed down and outmuscled when defending in the post, which led his teammate to have to rotate to commit a foul. 

Overall, Usman Garuba is a very athletic, high-motor big man that excelled in his role in both of the games.  He made shots efficiently, he tended to set good screens, and he also excelled as a rebounder and defender in games.  He was counted on to play valuable minutes down the stretch, and he showed his defensive versatility by being able to defend out on the perimeter as well as in the paint.  There would be long stretches on offense where he looked to be invisible at times, as he can be too passive on the offensive end, but he still was able to score and make plays when he was needed to do so.  Currently, he projects to be a mid first round pick in the 2021 draft, and he may have the skills to be a solid role player in the NBA.

Real Madrid’s 6-5 point guard, Carlos Alocen also recently declared to enter the 2021 NBA Draft, and he is a skilled playmaker that can reliably run the team at the point.  On the downside, his play was fairly inconsistent in these games, and he struggled to make shots consistently in his team’s win over Acunsa GBC. Alocen did an adequate job of scoring off the dribble.  He was able to score on a strong drive in transition.  On another play though, he had his shot blocked on a half-court drive to the hoop.

He also flashed the ability to knock down three-point shots.  Alocen was able to dribble up to make a smooth, pull-up three-pointer once.  However, he struggled to make threes consistently, and he tend to take plenty of rushed threes off the dribble that would make it difficult for him to make on a consistent basis.  He also didn’t take nearly enough spot-up threes from beyond the arc.

He also displayed satisfactory playmaking skills.  Alocen can throw solid passes off the dribble, and he was able to use a spin move and throw a nifty, behind-the-back pass to find an open shooter once.  He also can throw long passes to get balls to corner shooters.  He had a ball poked away once when dribbling off of a screen, but he did not turn the ball over once in either of the games. Also, Alocen showed a solid ability to rebound the basketball.  He would chase down balls to get defensive rebounds, and he would tend to push the ball up the floor afterwards.

He also showed off adequate defensive skills.  Alocen was able to contest a pull-up three to force a miss.  He also successfully drew a charge when defending a drive in transition.  He also was able to get around a screen quickly when defending an opposing ball handler, and he was able to cut off penetration to force his man to pass the basketball.  On the downside, he would struggle to defend screens, as he would get beat to spots and put his teammates in bad spots, which would either lead him to allow open jumpers or put his team in scramble situations.

Overall, Carlos Alocen is a skilled playmaker that can run the team with the ball in his hands.  On the other hand, he will need to be a more consistent shooter in games, and he will need to be more assertive on offense.  Currently, he projects to be a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft, but his skill level combined with his experience in playing in high-level professional basketball could warrant him a selection late in the second round this year.

Acunsa GBC’s 6-8 forward, Dino Radoncic played very well in his team’s loss in an April 4th game to Real Madrid.  He is an athletic, skilled combo forward that excelled at attacking the hoop to score the basketball, and he also rebounded and defended well. Radoncic did a great job of scoring on aggressive drives to the hoop.  He can use subtle dribble moves to get past his man, and he would score on floaters and strong layups around the basket.  He also nearly scored on a powerful, breakaway dunk on a drive in transition, but was fouled midway due to a clear-path foul that was committed by an opponent.  He also handles the ball fairly well, and he would absorb the contact to draw fouls upon his opponents to get to the free throw line often.  He really showed the knack for contorting his body to draw fouls, and he did a masterful job of drawing free throws in the process.

He also managed to get the ball on a cut to the hoop, and he used a pump fake to score on a tough, reverse layup while getting an extra free throw afterwards.  Radonic was able to use a drop step and a pump fake move to score on a strong put back off the glass.  Sometimes though, he would miss on wild, uncontrolled tip-in attempts after leaping up to get offensive rebounds.

On the downside, he struggled to knock down jumpers from outside of the paint area.  He would consistently hoist up pull-up jumpers and miss from long range, and it seems clear that outside shooting is not a strength of his.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  Radoncic can throw an assortment of passes off the dribble due to possessing solid court vision, and he also lead the break and threw a nice lob pass to nearly get an assist (which was called back due to committing a charging foul).  On the downside, he would tend to over-dribble into traffic.  Radoncic tended to commit charging fouls on aggressive drives to the hoop, as he can be too reckless at times on offense.  He also over-dribbled another time, and he had a ball poked away from the blindside while handling it to lose it to the opposition. Plus, Radoncic did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would hustle to get numerous boards on both ends of the floor, and sometimes he would push the ball up the court after leaping up to get defensive boards.

Radoncic also played good defense in this game.  He would run in to intercept passes to get steals.  He also did a good job of defending opponents off the dribble, and he would cut off penetration and driving lanes, as he would stay in front of them to force them to pass the basketball.  He also held his ground and contested a shot in the post straight up to force a miss.  He also managed to successfully challenge a long two to get another stop for his team.

Overall, Dino Radoncic is an athletic, energetic combo forward that can score and defend, and he is playing fairly well in the Spanish ACB League this season.  He will still need to significantly improve his outside shot and he will need to take better care of the ball on offense.  Still, his ability to score and create his own shot could make him an intriguing option for NBA teams to consider late in the draft, and he could end up being an effective role player similar to Dante Cunningham in the NBA.

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