Assessing Nik Slavica and Dzanan Musa

October 25, 2017

By Alan Lu

Recently, I decided to take the time to watch Cedevita’s 6-8 forward Nik Slavica from Croatia, as he received extensive playing time in the Croatian A-1 Liga against Ribola Kastela.  In addition, it was also another opportunity to see first round prospect Dzanan Musa, who already has been playing well in the Adriatic League this year.  With thanks to YouTube via cedevita cedevita, I was able to see Slavica, Musa, and others play in an October 23rd game.  Here is how well they fared, and how they may stack up as prospects for the NBA.

Slavica primarily scores the bulk of his points on hustle plays.  He likes to score on floaters around the basket, as he was able to make several of them in this game.  He showed good quickness and scoring touch from close range, as he can score off of a cut after diving to the rim, as well as off of a tip-in.  One particular nifty play was when he grabbed a defensive rebound, and went coast to coast to score on the break by dropping in a floater off of a fast break drive.  However, Slavica does not always play under control, as he can rush his shots, which can lead to misses.

He showed off decent low post scoring skills.  Slavica possesses fairly good footwork down low, and he was able to take advantage of an opponent that reached in by pivoting to score on a quick turnaround jumper that banked in.  He also managed to draw free throws on a running jump hook, though he missed both of his attempts from the foul line.  However, he did rush a turnaround jumper once that led to a miss, as he may not always be patient in making moves on offense.

Also, Slavica seems to show an improved three-point shot recently.  It’s still not great, but he has been making strides to make more long-range jumpers.  He managed to make one open three off the catch, and Slavica possesses the footwork to potentially be able to make shots on the move, but he is still too inconsistent in making jump shots right now.

Plus, he also possesses adequate playmaking skills.  Slavica is an unselfish player that can handle the basketball, and he can throw solid interior passes particularly off of drives.  He possesses good court vision, especially for a player his size.  Plus, he will set numerous screens for his teammates, and he moves fairly well off the ball on offense.  But he did commit one turnover as he was thrown an inaccurate outlet pass that was far ahead of him, and he managed to save the ball, but to the opposing team.

Slavica is also a good rebounder.  He is quite active on the glass, and he will outwork his opponents to get second chance points for his team off of offensive rebounds.  He is quick and instinctive, and he can chase down loose balls.  Plus, he also can push the pace after grabbing defensive boards.

However, he showed off only average at best defensive skills in this game.  For the positives, Slavica can block shots due to possessing good athleticism and adequate timing to do so.  In this game, he sprinted down the court to make a chase down block to prevent an opponent from scoring on a fast break drive.  Plus, he also can use his length and ball skills to get stops and the occasional steal when defending the post, as he is surprisingly strong for a player that has a skinny build.

Slavica has a tendency to hug his man when defending ball screens, as he can be vulnerable to allowing scores on cuts, and he can manipulated in pick and roll defense.  His teammate would tend to fight over the screen, and he wouldn’t hedge to cut off penetration or disrupt the cutter, so this would lead to easier scores or in him having to commit fouls.  He also tended to overhelp in the paint, and he would be out of position to close out on shooters, and sometimes he will over-rotate to compensate for this, which can lead him to getting beat on drives.

Right now, Nik Slavica looks to be a borderline second round prospect for the 2018 NBA Draft.  He will need to improve his skill set offensively, in particular his jump shot.  But he will also need to work on his defensive positioning, as improved awareness and refinement in his techniques could help him get more stops consistently.  If he can make these adjustments and continue to hone his game, he could potentially be an intriguing draft and stash pick in the second round down the road.

Cedevita’s 6-8 Bosnian swingman, Dzanan Musa did not get nearly as much run as he did in the previous time I saw him play, but he still showed off some pretty good offensive skills when he was on the floor.

In this game, he was much more of a facilitator, as he primarily looked to set up scores for his teammates.  Musa is an unselfish player that handles the ball well, and he can make an assortment of passes when he is on the floor.  He possesses solid court vision, and he can even throw an alley-oop pass to set up a scoring chance on the break.  But sometimes, he can be too fancy with his passes, as his teammates may not always be ready to react or to get to them on offense.

He also looks to be a good shooter.  Musa can make difficult shots, as he was able to make a pull-up three off of a screen after dribbling the ball out after hauling in an offensive rebound earlier.  But he missed a standstill, spot-up three off the catch, despite having room to get his shot off.  Musa possesses the potential to be a very good shooter, but he will need to be more consistent in making long range jumpers.

He also possesses a fairly good ability to score off the dribble.  Though he lacks an elite first step, Musa is a patient player that posseses a very good shooting touch.  On one play, he dribbled around to ensure that he would get the switch, and he went on to quickly get past a taller defender to score on a floater, but Musa can go in too recklessly at times, as he can miss on rushed shots in traffic.  Musa also rebounded the ball very well.  He excelled at collecting defensive rebounds, and he would always push the pace up the floor afterwards, which would create numerous fast breaks and scoring opportunities for his team.

He also exhibited decent defensive skills.  Musa possesses adequate lateral footwork and ball skills.  In this game, he managed to heap on a loose ball after an opponent lost his handle on a ball in the post to obtain a steal.  Plus, he also fought quickly through a screen once early in the game, but another time, he fought too hard over a screen, which resulted in him being out of position when defending a drive.  Plus, he over-helped in the paint another time, which led him to be late in rotating, and to allow a three-point basket to a shooter.

Currently, Dzanan Musa may project to be a mid to late first round prospect for the 2018 draft.  He is a skilled offensive player that can really help his team on that side of the ball, but it is uncertain if he will provide plus-level defense at the next level.  But with his skill set and basketball savvy, Musa may have the skills to become a solid complementary player in the NBA, especially if he continues to progress as an overall player.

Other Notes:

Cedevita’s 6-8, 1999-born forward Darko Bajo from Bosnia and Herzegovina had a fairly solid game in his team’s win over Ribola Kastela.  Bajo is a skilled passer that can throw quick passes off of cuts and drives to set up scores for his team.  He wasn’t consistent in making jumpers, but he did make an open, spot-up three off the catch in this game.  But sometimes, he can throw sloppy passes that can lead to turnovers.

He also showed off good defensive skills in this game.  Bajo can jump passes to help his team get steals, and he can rotate down to the paint to alter shots to force misses.  Also, he can hold his ground in the post to force misses and turnovers down low.  On the downside, he may not possess great lateral footwork on the ball, as he can have trouble guarding quicker players off the dribble.  Right now, Bajo has not drawn much draft buzz, but with his size, playmaking ability, and defensive potential, he could perhaps be an interesting player to keep an eye on in the future.