Analyzing Blaz Mesicek and Luka Samanic

October 22, 2018

by Alan Lu

Recently, I took the time to watch another game from Union Olimpija’s 6-6, 1997-born guard Blaz Mesicek, as he has been playing very well across multiple leagues this year.  This time around, I decided to watch him play against Strasbourg IG in an October 9th game, with thanks to YouTube via Basketball Champions League.  This also presented an opportunity to get another look at potential first round prospect and 6-10 forward, Luka Samanic, as well as another chance to watch Washington Wizards’ rights-held combo guard Issuf Sanon participate in this match.  Here are my thoughts on how they fared, as well as how their games may project to the NBA.

Blaz Mesicek did a very good job of scoring on aggressive drives to the hoop.  He is a quick, shifty player that has a good first step as well as change of direction skills, and he is a patient, crafty player that can use an array of stutter steps and hesitation moves to get past first and second defenders, as he would tend to get scores off the glass.  He can blow by his man with ease, as he can accelerate to get past them, and then he will keep his dribble to go by the second man if the help arrives.  He also did a good job of drawing numerous free throws, as he can drive hard to the rim, and he will take on the contact to do so.

He also is a smart player that can use off-ball motion and timing to get other scores around the paint.  On one inbounds play, Mesicek was able to leap up to score on a tip shot after receiving the pass from his teammate.  Mesicek also showed off a decent ability to knock down jumpers.  After dribbling right off of a screen, he was able to use a stutter step and a step back move to knock down a pull-up, mid-range jumper.  He did attempt to take a couple of threes, but he missed both of his shots from beyond the arc.

Plus, he also flashed some low post scoring skills.  Mesicek was able to leap up to catch a high entry pass over Mardy Collins, as Mesicek turned to score off the glass. On another play, he did manage to back down a smaller guard all the way from the three-point line to the post, but he ended up missing on a turnaround jumper.  Also, he displayed solid playmaking skills.  Mesicek is a good passer and ball handler that can play either at the point or off the ball, and he possesses good court vision and the patience with the ball in his hands.   He can make passes out of the post or off the dribble to find the open man, and he does a good job of kicking the ball out to shooters to set up scores for them.  But sometimes, he can be prone to throwing inaccurate passes in crowds which can be deflected and intercepted, as this can lead him to commit turnovers.

Though he didn’t grab many boards in this game, Mesicek was able to collect a rebound on each end of the floor.  He was able to leap up to grab an offensive rebound, as he then promptly found the open man.  On another possession, he ran down a ball to get a defensive board, and he then brought the ball up quickly.  However, he will still need to improve his defense.  For the positives, Mesicek is an active defender that will contest shots to force some misses, and he also will fight through screens.  He also managed to jump on a loose ball to help his team get a steal, and he can be an adequate defender on the floor when he is dialed in.

He can tend to be too unfocused defensively, though.  He can tend to get caught ball watching, as on one play, this led him to get beat on a cut to allow the opponent to score on a dunk.  Another time, he over-helped in the paint and ended up being out of position, and his teammate had to rotate to defend on a drive but still got beat, as this led to a pass that set up an inside score.  On a separate play, he jogged back on defense, and ended up getting beat off the dribble to allow a score in transition. 

Other times, he tended to pick up fouls, though some of the calls could perhaps have been regarded as questionable.  In this game, Mesicek also would commit blocking fouls at times, and he also committed a foul when defending an opposing ball handler due to over-aggressiveness on another occasion.  In general, Blaz Mesicek had a very good game, as he scored 17 points and notched 4 assists to help lead his team to a win over Strasbourg IG.  Mesicek is an athletic, skilled combo guard that excels at driving the ball to the basket to get scores and assists, and he also is a solid facilitator that can run the point.  He will need to improve his outside shot and position defense, but as he is a productive player that can help teams on offense, he may project to be a solid second round prospect for the upcoming draft.

I also managed to watch Union Olimpija’s 6-10 Croatian forward, Luka Samanic, as he received some playing time off the bench to play against Strasbourg IG.  He’s a mobile, offensive minded big man that may have some upside, but he didn’t really get to do that much on offense despite being on the floor for a little over ten minutes in this game.  His lone basket that he made was when he initially cut to the hoop, found a loose ball on the ground, and he then proceeded to score on a turnaround jump hook around the basket off of a broken play.  On that specific play, Samanic showed off good instincts, motor, and awareness, as well as a good shooting touch within close range.  He also was able to get the ball deep in the post another time, but he ended up missing a jump hook off the glass.

On other offensive possessions, he would tend to pass the ball to open shooters as he would look to find the open man, and he also runs the floor well, as he can run off of screens to get the basketball.  But he would seldom look to score in this match.  Samanic did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He managed to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he would actively crash the glass to get rebounds for his team.  However, there was one play where he was unable to get a rebound amidst a crowd, as a ball appeared to bounce off of his hands on an offensive rebounding attempt that ended up going to the opposition.

However, he will need to improve his defense.  For the positives, Samanic is a pretty good athlete that can make timely rotations, and he can show good footwork to defend out on the perimeter when motivated.  Samanic was able to rotate to defend a roll man to cover for a blown teammate, in which his opponent ended up losing the ball out of bounds.  Also, Samanic was able to stay with an opposing ball handler on a drive, as he contested the shot to force a miss on a separate possession.

However, Samanic can tend to be unfocused defensively.  On one play, he didn’t immediately get back on defense as he initially ran towards the ball before going back on defense a little later, but he struggled to get down the court as he got beat in transition to allow a score.  Another time, he over-helped in the paint as he unnecessarily rotated down in the post, but he was late to rotate back to an open shooter, and he committed a foul to give up the three-point basket and an extra free throw.  He also tended to commit reach-in fouls as he would struggle to defend opposing ball handlers, and he would get beat off the dribble at times as he does not possess elite lateral mobility.

In summary, Luka Samanic has some interesting skills, but he still may be quite raw as an overall player.  On the bright side, he is a fairly athletic basketball player that may project into being a stretch big at the NBA level.  However, he did not take any shots outside of the paint in this game, and he didn’t seem to show much defensively despite his team going on to win by double-digits.  He will need to be in games where he can play significantly more minutes than he has so far, but based on what I have seen right now, Samanic may be a second round, draft and stash candidate if he ends up entering the upcoming draft, as he may be a skilled, but unpolished big man that may still need more seasoning to hone his craft.

Other Notes:

Strasbourg IG’s 5-9, 1999-born point guard, Ludovic Beyhurst is a smart, gritty game manager that does a good job of running the team when he is out on the floor, and he is quite effective at driving to the basket and kicking it out to shooters to set up numerous scoring chances for his teammates.  He has pretty good court vision, and he is a patient player that plays unselfishly.  He also is a good rebounder for a player his size, as he excelled at running down balls to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he will sometimes push the ball up the floor off of rebounds.

He also is a fairly good defender.  Beyhurst has good hands, and he can poke balls away from opponents, as he did so twice to almost come away with steals.  He also will look to challenge shots, and he will look to quickly go around screens.  However, he is very undersized as a player on the court, even at the point guard position, as his lack of length at times made it hard for him to effectively challenge jump shots.

Also, Beyhurst didn’t look to score very much, and he actually did not make a single field goal.  He did manage to draw numerous free throws due to his ball handling skills, and he showed a pretty good ability to knock those down from the charity stripe.  In summary, Ludovic Beyhurst probably will end up being a solid role player for Strasbourg IG, as he can be an effective point guard in the French Jeep Elite.  However, his lack of size or scoring ability combined with having just average athletic gifts may make it hard for him to get many NBA looks either this year or down the road.  Most likely, he might end up going undrafted in a future draft, but he may have the smarts and skills to carve a long and prosperous career in international basketball.

Strasbourg IG’s 6-9, 1998-born forward Quentin Goulmy has played well in limited minutes off the bench in the French Jeep Elite and in the Basketball Champions League thus far this season.  In this game against Union Olimpija, he didn’t get to play much, but he is an above average athlete that plays hard, and he will hustle to get rebounds.  Goulmy has a very good motor as he will dive on the ground to get loose balls, and he will also tip balls to teammates to help his team get rebounds.   He didn’t do that much overall in this game, and he will still need time to develop his overall game, but he is an energetic combo forward that may project into a defensive specialist role in the leagues he plays in this year.

Union Olimpija’s 6-6 Croatian swingman, Roko Badzim was able to make a three in transition after running the floor to get the ball, and sometimes he will look to cut to the hoop to put himself in scoring position.  He also did a good job of moving the basketball, and he also managed to dive on the ground to get an offensive rebound.  Overall, he didn’t play very much as he also ended up missing on a couple of other shots, and while he will need more time to develop his game overseas, he could end up being an effective role player off the bench for his team this season.

Other Notes, Part II:

Union Olimpija’s 6-3, Ukrainian combo guard and Washington Wizards’ rights-held player Issuf Sanon had his ups and downs throughout this game.  He struggled considerably on offense as he had trouble knocking down jumpers or cutting down on his turnovers, but he played good defense and had one highlight on offense, as he made enough plays to show why he was selected as a second round, draft and stash pick by the Wizards.

Sanon played good defense in this game.  He was able to get back to back steals on consecutive positions, as he poked a ball away from an opposing ball handler due to possessing good quickness and anticipation skills, and he also intercepted an entry pass that was thrown to him.  Plus, Sanon was able to rotate off of a drive to contest a shot to force a miss, and he also has good feet to trap opposing ball handlers.

However, sometimes he can be a bit undisciplined on the defensive end.  He was called for a reach-in foul in the backcourt early on due to being too aggressive when pressing his man once.  On a separate play, he over-helped on a drive, and he was late to rotate back to a shooter in the corner after a kick out, as he ended up allowing his opponent to score on a three-point shot.  He also showed off a decent ability to rebound the basketball.  Sanon managed to get one defensive rebound, and he threw a long outlet pass shortly afterwards on that instance.

On offense, he had his struggles, but he did have some good moments.  After poking a ball away from an opposing ball handler to get his first steal of the game, Sanon promptly drove up court to score on a thunderous one-handed dunk on the  breakaway.  He also was able to throw a high entry pass to set up a score for Mesicek, and Sanon is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man.  However, he still can be too turnover prone, as he may play too wildly and carelessly on offense.  Sanon tried a jump pass off of a drive that ended up getting intercepted.  He also dribbled too wildly after driving right off of a screen, as he didn’t control the ball in which it ended up out of bounds.  Later on, Sanon walked the ball up the court but took too much time trying to get the ball up the floor, as he was called for committing an eight-second violation in the backcourt.

He really struggled to knock down jump shots in this game.  Sanon missed on a pull-up mid-range jumper from just outside the right elbow, and he also missed both of his three-point attempts from beyond the arc.  Overall, Issuf Sanon is a project player that will still need to spend some time overseas, and he may need to spend a couple of years thereto hone his craft.  The positives are that he is an athletic combo guard that has the potential to thrive in an uptempo offense, and that he is a defensive minded player that can bring heavy ball pressure.  However, he tends to play too wildly to be able to run the point effectively on a consistent basis, and he will need to improve his jump shot.  If he can make those improvements as an overall player, Sanon could then end up in the NBA one day as an end of the rotation, backup point guard type of player in the league.