Assessing Hugo Besson, Ousmane Dieng, and Nikita Mikhailovskii

April 20th, 2022

By Alan Lu

Today, I took the time to watch Hugo Besson and Ousmane Dieng play in an NBL regular season that took place on January 30th between the New Zealand Breakers and the Tasmania JackJumpers, with thanks to YouTube via National Basketball League.  Hugo Besson had a fairly solid showing, and Ousmane Dieng made some impressive plays despite having his ups and downs, and Nikita Mikhailovskii also managed to get some run in this match.

In the aftermath of this game, Ousmane Dieng has seen his draft stock skyrocket recently, and Hugo Besson’s draft stock has stayed steady. As for Nikita Mikhailovskii, he ended up leaving after playing just 2 games in the NBL regular season as his draft stock plummeted throughout the season. Mikhailovskii and Tasmania’s head coach never got on the same page, and it became abundantly clear that he was never going to get the ample playing time he had received in the VTB United League or anywhere close to that if he had stayed in Tasmania this season.  Besson looked to have played the best amongst the draft-eligible prospects in this game, but as Dieng’s draft stock has been steadily climbing back up, it may be a good idea to keep in eye on that as we get closer to the draft.

New Zealand Breakers’ guard, Hugo Besson has had a productive year in the NBL, and he currently projects to go in the late first to the early second round range for the 2022 NBA Draft.
Steve Bell/Getty Images, via ESPN)

Hugo Besson also played fairly well to help New Zealand in this game.  He thrived at shooting and scoring the basketball, especially from beyond the arc, he rebounded the ball well, and he also was very active defensively.  He struggled with turnovers and sometimes had defensive breakdowns, but Besson turned in a solid showing to help New Zealand in this match.

Besson shot the ball very well, especially from beyond the arc.  He thrived at making quick, open threes off the catch, and he also did a good job of making them from the corners.  He also was able to dribble back to make a quick, step-back three.  He especially showed the knack for making spot-up threes, which could enable him to fit in well with any offense he plays in.

Also, Besson did a good job of scoring in the post.  He scored on a turnaround jump hook after getting the ball down low.  He almost scored on a put back while taking on the contact, but a whistle had been called earlier, so it didn’t count that time.  In this game though, Besson struggled to score off the dribble when he would look to drive the ball hard to the rim.  He tended to favor going to his left, and he would tend to take on the contact, but he would usually miss if he didn’t get foul calls.  He would tend to take tough, off-balanced shots, which would lead to misses.

He showcased average at best playmaking skills.  Besson primarily looked to score, but he also showed that he can throw long, accurate interior passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  However, sometimes he would throw hasty passes that would get intercepted.  Another time, he was called for stepping out of bounds after getting a defensive rebound. 

Plus, Besson did a terrific job of rebounding the basketball, as he would haul in numerous boards on both ends of the floor.  Sometimes he would bring the ball up and push the ball quickly up the court after getting defensive boards.

Besson also played satisfactory defense in this game.  He is an aggressive, pesky defender that would apply considerable ball pressure when defending his opponents.  Besson rotated to poke a ball off of a ball-handler to get a steal, and he also managed to poke a ball out of bounds to disrupt a dribble handoff another time.  He would fight through screens quickly, as he would stay up on opposing ball-handlers to cut off penetration, and he would apply considerable ball pressure to make it difficult for them to pass or handle the basketball.  Plus, he also would contest shots both out on the perimeter and in the paint to force misses.  Sometimes though, he would be too aggressive, as he would bite on pump fakes and commit touch fouls on the defensive end.  Other times, he would sometimes struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, as he would sometimes be late to make plays, which would lead him to allow opponents to score on jumpers.

Overall, Hugo Besson is a solid prospect that has been playing very well in the NBL this year, and he is an agile, skilled combo guard that can shoot and score the basketball.  He will need to show that he can consistently run the point well, but his ability to make shots and plays on both ends of the floor could enable him to thrive as a role player in the NBA, and he could project to be a solid role player similar to New York Knicks’ guard, Immanuel Quickley in the association.

New Zealand Breakers’ 6-9 forward, Ousmane Dieng is a tall, athletic forward that could project to get picked in the mid to late first round range of the 2022 NBA Draft.
Chris Hyde/Getty Images, via ESPN)

Ousmane Dieng had his ups and downs in this game, but he made some impressively athletic plays at times when he was on the floor.  He is a very tall, athletic forward that has received ample playing time with the New Zealand Breakers, and he’s been able to go through the ups and downs to continue to develop and improve his game.

Dieng is an athletic swingman that has struggled at times due to playing in a very physical league, and at times, he’s struggled to score due to the lack of whistles that are called on plays involving contact.  He looked to be at his best on offense as a scorer on hustle plays.  Dieng ran the floor to get the ball, and he took one dribble before throwing down a thunderous dunk in traffic.  He asserted himself that time, and he also absorbed the contact that probably would’ve netted him a extra free throw in a different league.  On the other hand, there was one play where he received the ball on a backdoor cut, but he didn’t go up strong enough, and he ended up missing a weakly contested shot in traffic.

He also showed an adequate ability to score off the dribble.  On one play, he would have scored on a beautiful, turnaround layup off of a baseline drive, but unfortunately, he was called for stepping out of bounds that time.  He also ended up missing a runner in traffic on a separate possession.

Also, Dieng was able drive to his left to score on a mid-range floater.  Another time though, he drove to his right, but missed on an off-balanced, fadeaway mid-range jumper.

He was able to make an open corner three quickly off the catch once, but Dieng struggled to consistently knock down his threes, especially when he would try to pull up to take them from beyond the arc.  Plus, he also showed off fairly average playmaking skills.  Dieng can throw accurate passes off the dribble to find the open man, and he can find his teammates on the move due to possessing solid court vision.  However, he can tend to rush his moves, which can lead to turnovers.  He threw an inaccurate skip pass that sailed out of bounds.  He also tried to score on a baseline drive, but was called for inadvertently stepping out of bounds another time.

Though he didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, Dieng was able to haul in boards on both ends of the floor to chip in on the glass.  He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  Dieng is an athletic, rangy defender that can play very good defense when he’s dialed in.  He blocked a mid-range jumper to himself due to possessing good timing, length, and instincts.  Dieng also leapt up to intercept an entry pass to get a steal early on.  He also would use his length to contest jump shots both out on the perimeter and in the paint to force misses, and he has solid footwork that enables him to stay in front of his man.  On the downside, sometimes he would be caught ball watching, as he can sometimes lose his focus and lose track of his man, which would lead him to give up baskets.  Other times, he would be late on his rotations, which would lead him to wind up out of position on the defensive end.

Ousmane Dieng had his ups and downs, but he is a tall, athletic swingman whose versatility and skill set could enable him to be a better fit in the NBA than in the NBL.  He will need to improve his outside shot, but Dieng’s size, athleticism, and ability to make hustle plays, especially on the defensive end could prove to be intriguing.  He may be a high-upside prospect, but he will need to be drafted by an NBA team that will be patient and work with him to develop his skills. Dieng is a talented prospect that could project to be a solid role player similar to Minnesota Timberwolves’ forward, Jaden McDaniels in the NBA.

Nikita Mikhailovskii had built an impressive resume as he had put up strong numbers as a sharpshooter in the VTB United League, so it was thought that he would at the very least see some rotational minutes before working his way into becoming a fully fledged, top 6 rotation player on Tasmania’s team.  But things didn’t end up going that way, and Mikhailovskii ended up departing Tasmania’s team after playing just 2 NBL regular season games, and this was one of the two regular season games that he would end up playing in this league. 

The warning signs of him that he was out of his element in the NBL obviously was that he did not getting many minutes at all, even in the NBL Blitz. When the NBL regular season was well underway, he hadn’t gotten off the bench during the regular season prior to this match.  Then, when I watched him play in this game in what looked to be a fairly restrictive role for him on offense, it was abundantly clear that he was out of element, as he was playing in a role he didn’t look comfortable in, and at times, he really looked to be trying too hard to try to please his coaches rather than just play his game.

He made only one field goal in his NBL regular season career.  In this game, Mikhailvoskii made a nice, backdoor cut to take advantage of a defender that had grabbed onto him off the ball before falling down, and Mikhailovskii then received a bounce pass and scored on a quick cut swiftly at the rim.

He also had several chances to take three-pointers, but he seemed to be far more passive than how he played in previous leagues.  On one of the last plays of the game, Mikhailovskii ran really quickly off of a pindown, caught the ball, and was in a prime spot to take an open three in rhythm, as he had the space to take it, but instead, he kept driving to the rim, and passed it off.  Later on, he got the ball back, he dribbled towards his left, and missed a pull-up three off the dribble.  The most disappointing aspect of watching him play in this game was that he never showed his strong, shooting off the catch skills that made him a coveted prospect prior to the start of the season.

In previous games in prior years, Mikhailovskii seemed to be much more comfortable as a spot-up shooter that would run off the ball and work in the confines of a motion offense to help his team in games.  However, in this game for Tasmania, he seemed to be thrust uncomfortably into the role of a playmaker, to which he struggled considerably, and ended up committing some hapless turnovers.

On his first offensive possession of this game, Mikhailovskii threw a lazy pass that got intercepted.  Later on in this contest, he dribbled but picked up his dribble after getting swarmed by Besson and another defender, and Mikhailovskii ended up forcing a rushed, inaccurate pass that easily ended up getting intercepted.

He was really trying hard to get rebounds, though sometimes it may have been almost at a detriment to the team.  Early on, he ran in very hard and leapt up to try to get a hustle defensive rebound, but he was unable to corral it as the ball went off his fingertips, and his opponent ended up getting the offensive board and scored off of that instead.  Another time, Mikhailovskii was almost able to come down with a defensive board, but the opponent had shot an air-ball, and it led to a shot clock violation before he had the opportunity to get the rebound.

On the plus side, Mikhailovskii looked to have played better defense than I remembered him playing before.  He showed some grit and toughness by making his defensive rotations in the first few minutes that he played late in the fourth quarter. On one play, Mikhailovskii hustled back on defense and got in front of an opposing ball handler on the break to cut off penetration and force the pass.  He also fought through a screen and cut off penetration from a smaller guard to force a pass another time. 

On the downside, as a result of playing in a much more physical league, he struggled at times to fight through screens, and he was called for committing a foul in trying to get through a screen once, even when his opponent clearly looked to have set an illegal, moving screen.  On another play, after committing his second turnover when he threw a poorly thrown ball that got intercepted after having been swarmed by two defenders, Mikhailovskii went back on defense, but sagged too far off his man and didn’t actively contest a three-point shot on the break, and he allowed his man to score in transition, and it seemed that he took his turnover woes with him to the defensive end that time.  Overall, I’d say Mikhailovskii’s defense looked to be adequate in this game.  I was generally pleased with his effort on the defensive end, with the exception of that play where he allowed his opponent to score on a three-point shot late in this match.

Overall, it seemed like the most likely cause of Nikita Mikhailovskii not fitting in well with Tasmania was that his style was probably incompatible with the style of play Tasmania’s head coach prefers to play, in addition to having gone to a contending NBL team where he would not get consistent playing time, in addition to other factors that prevented him from getting on the floor as well. 

To me, Mikhailovskii is a spot-up shooter that would thrive in a motion offense, and it seemed that his team wanted him to be more off an off-ball facilitator and defender instead, and he wasn’t in a role where he could utilize his skills to the fullest.  As he ended up playing six regular season minutes all year long and is immediately eligible for the 2022 NBA Draft, Mikhailovskii in all likelihood probably will not be drafted, unless if an NBA team were to decide to make a draft-and-stash pick on him. 

Prior to the start of the season, there were high hopes for him, but now that he’s no longer on Tasmania, his chances to get drafted look to have just about washed away.  His chances to reach the NBA may be unlikely at best right now.  Mikhailovskii didn’t really get much of a chance to show off that shooting stroke of his, and he really struggled to operate in the off-ball, distributor role in the NBL, and he also seemed to struggle a bit with the physicality of the league defensively at times.  He’s probably not going to end up in the NBA or back in the NBL, but regardless, Mikhailovskii could still carve out a solid playing career overseas as an offensive role player in the VTB United League.

Tasmania’s 6-6 swingman, Sean MacDonald was able to get some run late in this match.  He ‘s not an overwhelming athlete, but he was able to make some team plays late in this game.  MacDonald played unselfishly, and threw accurate passes to find the open man.  He was able to score on a right-handed drive off of a screen.  MacDonald leapt up to grab a defensive board and brought the ball up that time.

He also played adequate defense.  He rotated to defend the roll man in the post, and he contested the shot to force a miss.  On another play though, he got beat off the dribble and committed a reach-in foul that time. Overall, Sean MacDonald will most likely go undrafted in the NBA draft, and he is probably going to remain overseas for the duration of his professional career.  He also rarely has obtained playing time this year.  MacDonald will need to improve his outside shot and ability to guard opponents out on the perimeter, but his ability to make hustle plays could enable him to compete for rotation minutes in the NBL over time.

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