Evaluating Rodions Kurucs and Romaric Belemene

January 30, 2018

by Alan Lu

Recently, I took the time to watch Latvian swingman, Rodions Kurucs play in an LEB Gold game that took place on December 17th between his team, FC Barcelona II, and Oviedo Baloncesto in Spain, as I was able to see this match, with thanks to YouTube via VINX TV.  Also, I was able to watch a couple of other prospects play in this contest.  Here are my thoughts on how they fared on this day.

FC Barcelona II’s 6-9 swingman, Rodions Kurucs had a good showing in his loss to Oviedo Baloncesto.  He seems to have improved his skill set on offense since the last time I’ve seen him, as he is a point forward like player that can shoot and also be a facilitator on the floor.  His low post game has improved leaps and bounds, but he didn’t rebound or defend too well when he was on the court.  Kurucs did a very good job of scoring in the post.  He looks to have gained significantly more strength in the offseason, as he can consistently back down his opponents to consistently score on turnaround jumpers. 

He also showed a good ability to knock down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  Kurucs is adept at making pull-up jumpers from all over the court, as he was able to make an open pull-up three on the break after running the floor, and he also made a contested pull-up, mid-range shot.  He also ran off of a screen to attempt a spot-up three, but he missed it that time off the catch.  He also showed a decent ability to get scores off the dribble.  Kurucs used a jab step to draw free throws on a quick drive to the hoop, and he was able to make both free throws.  But he also missed a couple of times when taking it to the rim, as he can struggle to get all the way to the basket on half-court drives.

Plus, he also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Kurucs is a good ball handler that plays unselfishly, and he can throw solid interior passes as well as get to ball to shooters to set up a wealth of scoring chances for his teammates.  He also managed to throw a long, near full-court outlet pass in transition to notch an assist once due to possessing good court sense, but he did commit a couple of turnovers due to carelessness, as he had a ball poked away from him after bringing the ball up once, and he also threw an ill-advised entry pass into traffic that got intercepted another time.

However, he did not rebound the ball very well in this game.  Kurucs almost ran down a defensive board, but he could not get a hold of the ball, but he did throw it off of an opponent before the referee called a shot clock violation on the opposition.  Another time, he went over the back to commit a foul on an attempt to get a rebound.  Also, he only seemed to exhibit average at best defensive skills.  For the positives, Kurucs managed to intercept an entry pass to get a steal.  Another time, he raced to get back to prevent an opponent from scoring on a dunk attempt in transition.  Another time, he was able to contest a corner three to force a miss.

However, Kurucs tended to be out of position, as he would end up allowing three-point baskets to his opponents.  On one play, he ran into a screener off the ball, but he didn’t fight through the screen very hard, and he was late to rotate that time.  On another, he whiffed on an attempt to steal a pass from the backcourt, and that caused his man to dribble up the floor to throw an easy outlet pass that set up a three-point score in transition.  Then, he was also caught ball watching on a separate occasion.  On a separate play, Kurucs over-helped in the paint, as he tried to gamble for a steal when rotating to defend a low post scorer, but that led his opponent to getting open and scoring on a reverse layup.

In general, Rodions Kurucs played well in his team’s loss in an LEB Gold game against Oviedo Baloncesto.  He is a skilled offensive player that can contribute to his team in a variety of ways, and he also may have some defensive upside due to the plays he was able to make on the court.  So far, he has played well in limited minutes in the Spanish ACB League, though it’s still a very small sample size, as he currently has only played a handful of games there this season.  But with his skill set, he could perhaps end up being a worthwhile pick for an NBA team in the late first to the second round range of the upcoming draft.

Oviedo Baloncesto’s 6-8 forward, Romaric Belemene from the Republic of Congo had a good showing in his team’s win over FC Barcelona II.  He excelled as a shooter in this game, he rebounded the ball well, and he also showed some defensive skills when he was on the court.  He did struggle with turnovers and he had trouble creating his own shot offensively, and he also had some problems with his position defense, but overall, Belemene was able to play fairly well on both sides of the ball.

Belemene did a very good job of knocking down threes to space the floor for his team.  He can run off screens to get open or roll to open areas, and he has a quick release that can enable him to make numerous open shots from beyond the arc.  However, he was unable to score when he was inside the arc, as he missed on a dunk attempt after driving up the floor in transition, and he also had his shot blocked on a drive.

However, he displayed just average playmaking skills at best.  For the positives, he did seem to pass the ball better than the statistics indicated, Belemene is an adequate ball handler that can get the ball to shooters in the open court, and he can throw accurate interior passes, but sometimes, his passes were inaccurate, as he he threw an entry pass that was intercepted once, and he also threw a pass out of bounds that sailed over his teammate’s head when trying to kick it out to him off the dribble.  Other times, Belemene committed turnovers due to carelessness, as he dropped a pass on a cut as he took his eye off the ball, and he also stepped out of bounds when attempting to drive to the hoop.

Belemene did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He is an athletic, combo forward that possesses a very good motor, and he was able to leap up to tip balls to himself to collect boards, and he also was able to get boards in traffic.  Belemene would frequently leap up to get defensive rebounds, and he also would tip balls to his teammates to help them come away with more rebounds.  But he did go over the back once to commit a foul when trying to grab a defensive rebound on one play.

He also played good defense.  He did a great job of collecting steals, as he would pick off passes, and he would poke balls away to force opponents to commit turnovers.  He would also aggressively challenge shots to force misses from all over the court, and he also raced back in transition to deflect a pass out of bounds another time, but on one play, he got backed down when defending in the post, and he ended up allowing his man to score on a turnaround jumper despite contesting the shot.  He also ended up committing a foul when rotating to defend the post another time, as his team gave up the basket and an extra free throw simultaneously.

In summary, Romaric Belemene put forth a solid performance to help lead his team to a victory over FC Barcelona II.  He may not be getting anywhere near the draft buzz that Rodions Kurucs is getting, but Belemene could project to a 3 and D type of player in the NBA, as he could end up being a good find for a team in the second round range whenever he decides to enter the draft.

Other Notes:

FC Barcelona II’s 6-10 center Atoumane Diagne from Senegal also had a fairly good showing in his team’s loss to Oviedo Baloncesto.  He did a good job of scoring on hustle plays, as he would throw down powerful dunks around the basket, he was very active in hauling in offensive rebounds, and he also managed to block a shot off of a drive after defending out on the perimeter.

However, he did not score outside of the paint area, as all of the field goals he made in this game were around the basket.  Also, he ended up committing a couple of offensive fouls due to setting a moving screen once, and colliding into a defender of the ball on a separate play.  Diagne also did not play great position defense, as he would tend to be out of position, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores in the paint.  Right now, Diagne is an athletic big man that could project to be a rim protector in the NBA, but he will likely need to improve considerably on offense, and he will need to shore up his position defense.  But with his skill set, he could perhaps end up being a potential second round pick as a draft and stash candidate sometime down the road.

FC Barcelona II’s 6-9 swingman, Nedim Dedovic from Bosnia and Herzegovina put forth a decent performance in his team’s loss to Oviedo Baloncesto.  He shot the ball fairly well, as he can knock down quick three-point shots off the catch, and he can also run off screens to do so.  He also managed to make a pull-up mid-range shot from the elbow, though he struggled to score consistently when he was inside the arc.

He will need to work on his position defense, though.  For the positives, he managed to heap on an errantly thrown pass from an opponent to get a steal, and he also contested a three to force a miss another time.  But Dedovic would over-help in the paint, which would cause his man to score on three-point shots, and he also tended to commit fouls on drives to the hoop.

Right now, Nedim Dedovic is a skilled shooter that can space the floor, and he has the size to potentially be a stretch big at the next level.  But he will need to improve in the other facets of the game, and his lack of elite athletic gifts could limit his upside as a prospect for the NBA.  Right now, he will need to continue to work on his overall game, but if he can end up playing well at the higher levels, he could end up being a potential second round pick in 2019.