Assessing Philipp Herkenhoff in Two Basketball Champions League Games

April 13th, 2021

By Alan Lu

Today, I took the time to watch SC Rasta Vechta’s 6-10 forward, Philipp Herkenhoff play in two Basketball Champions League games.  He’s a skilled stretch big that has been shooting the ball very well in Germany’s top league, the BBL.  It was hard to find regular season basketball games that he’s played in this season, so I decided to watch him play in two games, one against AEK that was played on January 29th, 2020, with thanks to the Basketball Champions League.  He also played in a January 21st, 2020 game against Teksut Bandirma, as I saw that also via Basketball Champions League.  I wanted to assess his skills to see how his game would translate to the NBA, and it also provided an opportunity to watch some of the other prospects that played in these games.

Rasta Vechta’s Philipp Herkenhoff is a tall, skilled stretch big that is a draft-eligible prospect that can be selected by an NBA team in the 2021 draft.
Jonathan Schmidt/Basketball.De)

SC Rasta Vechta’s 6-10 German big man, Philipp Herkenhoff is a tall sharpshooter that can shoot and score the basketball.  He’s not overwhelmingly athletic, and he looks to be quite a flawed prospect, but his size and shooting skills may make him an intriguing prospect for the NBA. He is a very good spot-up shooter that showed a knack for making open, spot-up threes off of pick and pop plays.  Herkenhoff has a lot of range, and his size and outside shooting prowess can make him tough to guard for plenty of big men out on the perimeter. He also generally excels at scoring on hustle plays.  Herkenhoff rolled hard to score powerfully around the basket.  He also scored on a quick put back after grabbing an offensive rebound.  Another time though, he missed on an open, quick put back, as he rushed that shot and went up too weakly on that occasion.

Also, Herkenhoff showcased adequate playmaking skills.  He generally passes the ball well.  He is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he also can throw good passes off the dribble as well as out of the post.  He will look to find cutters, and he can make drive and kick passes due to possessing solid patience and court vision.  Plus, he will set screens to help his teammates get open jump shots and driving lanes.  On the downside, he can be clumsy with his ball handling, which can lead him to commit turnovers.  He would sometimes get balls poked away, and he also traveled off of a drive after taking one too many steps without dribbling.  He also threw a hasty pass from the post that sailed out of bounds that led to another turnover.

While he’s not an elite rebounder, he can grab his fair share of rebounds on both ends of the floor to help his team get boards in games.  Herkenhoff is an area rebounder that will pursue balls to get them for his team, and sometimes he can get quick, aggressive rebounds in games.  On the downside, he is an area rebounder that tends to struggle to grab rebounds in traffic, and he would sometimes tend to allow quicker, more athletic opponents to swoop in to get boards around him.

Defensively, there may be significant concerns about whether or not if he can capably or effectively guard opponents consistently at the NBA level.  For the positives, Herkenhoff will sometimes get his hands on passes to help his team get steals and deflections on occasion.  He will also close out on shooters and hold his ground when defending in the post to force misses.  He will actively guard opposing ball handlers, and he consistently gives solid effort on the defensive end.

On the downside, his lack of athleticism really makes it tough for him to effectively defend in space.  In both of these games, he really struggled to defend screens, as he would tend to pick up quick fouls, and he would also tend to be late on his rotations, which would put his team in scramble situations.  He also would sometimes go the wrong way when defending screens.  He also tended to be overtly physical when defending in the post, which would lead him to commit touch fouls. He also struggled to defend quicker ball handlers out on the perimeter.  He also would tend to over-help in the paint and sag too far off of shooters, which would lead him to allow them to score on three-point shots.

Overall, Philipp Herkenhoff is a tall, high-motor big man that projects to be a skilled stretch big in the NBA.  There may be plenty of flaws about him as a prospect that may make him a long shot to be drafted.  He’s not very athletic, he looked to be a fairly clumsy ball handler, he consistently struggled to grab rebounds amidst crowds, and he also tended to struggle defensively when he would have to defend out on the perimeter.

On the bright side, he is tall, and he can shoot.  Not only that, but he shoots the ball very well, especially from beyond the arc.  Because he does one thing very well, he could project to be an effective, limited use floor spacing big man in the NBA.  In a favorable scenario, Philipp Herkenhoff could end up being an effective role player similar to former Charlotte Bobcats’ big man, Walter Herrmann in the NBA.

Other Prospects:

AEK’s 6-7 forward, Nikos Rogkavopoulos was barely on the court in the first game I saw, but he is a mobile player that showed adequate footwork to defend opposing ball handlers out on the perimeter. Also, there were several other notable prospects that had played for Teksut Bandirma.  Sehmus Hazer started the game and logged plenty of minutes, but also current first round draft prospect, Alperen Sengun also suited up for Teksut Bandirma, and at the time, he was a skilled, high-motor 17-year old Turkish big man that showed flashes of his potential, but he didn’t appear to be anywhere near as polished as he currently is right now. 

This also provided an opportunity to watch how Alperen Sengun played last season as a 17-year old for Teksut Bandirma.  Back then, Sengun was still a fairly athletic, high-motor big man, and he was still a skilled scorer that also excelled as an interior defender, but last year, he struggled more with his consistency as a scorer in the post because he would make one too many moves rather than make the simple move that could’ve allowed him to get a more effective path to score at the rim.

Sengun showed some real promise as a low post scorer, even though he didn’t actually score in his former team’s win over Rasta Vechta.  He continually showed off a good spin move that would enable him to get past his man due to possessing good footwork, but he would then tend to make a ball fake right into a defender that would lead him to miss in traffic.

On another play, he used a pump fake to draw a non-shooting foul on a right-handed baseline drive, and Sengun showed a decent first step off the dribble to get past his man.  He also would run the floor hard to try to get open on cuts and transition scoring opportunities, but he wasn’t able to get the ball on those occasions. He also was fairly turnover prone in this game.  He threw a hasty interior pass that ended up getting intercepted.  He also rolled to try to catch the basketball, but that resulted in him dropped the pass out of bounds. On the bright side, Sengun is an aggressive rebounder that will crash the glass to try to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he was able to get a pair of defensive boards in limited minutes.

Plus, he also played solid defense in this game.  Sengun excelled at blocking shots off of drives due to possessing solid length, quickness, and timing.  He rotated from the blind side to swat one to himself.  He almost got another, as he defended an opponent from out on the perimeter, and he made an impressive block, only for it to be waved off because his teammate had committed a blocking foul earlier.  Sengun showed solid footwork when defending both out on the perimeter and in the paint, and he also rotated to successfully draw a charge another time.

On the downside, there was one play where he bit on a pump fake when rotating to the post, which led his team to allow a basket on that occasion, although his decision to rotate down to the post also ended up leaving a shooter wide open.  He also sagged too far on a switch and gave up too much space to a shooter, which led him to allow an opponent to score on a deep three.

Overall, though this game has pretty much no bearing on Alperen Sengun’s draft stock whatsoever, it was interesting to see how he played in a Basketball Champions League game a season ago.  It’s clear that Sengun has improved leaps and bounds and exponentially this season, but it’s good to see that he was still a skilled scorer that competed relentlessly on the defensive end.  This year, he’s been a tremendously productive big man in the Turkish BSL and in the Europe Cup, and he is a likely mid first round pick that could end up going in the late lottery in the 2021 draft, and he could end up being a solid starter similar to current Orlando Magic center, Wendell Carter Jr. in the NBA.

Sehmus Hazer started the game as he received plenty of playing time in Teksut Bandirma’s double-digit win over Rasta Vechta.  Hazer is an athletic, energetic combo guard that can make high-flying plays on both ends of the court, but he also really struggled to knock down outside shots in this game. Hazer is a quick, fleet-footed guard that can consistently score on drives in transition.  He was able to quickly jump a pass to get a steal, as he then drove up court to score on an emphatic dunk.  On another play, Hazer also should’ve scored on another quick drive in transition, but the referees then ruled his shot as having been blocked, even though his opponent clearly looked to have committed a goaltend, as the ball hit the glass first, and then the opponent swatted it off the glass as the ball then went off his hand.  Even worse, Hazer’s coach didn’t even make much of an attempt to protest the call, even though the ball was swatted on the way down and off the glass, which at least would’ve clearly had been goaltending by the NBA and college basketball’s rules.

On the downside, Hazer missed on both of his three-point attempts.  He was wide open on both of those occasions, but he missed on two corner threes despite no one being anywhere near him to guard him.  When he would play off the ball, he end up in the corner on offense, but his inability to shoot threes or corner threes allowed defenders to not have to guard him honestly from those distances.

Also, Hazer displayed decent playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that can make an assortment of passes, and he also was able to throw a sharp pass to find a cutter to notch an assist.  He will kick it out to shooters due to possessing solid court vision, and he also was able to set a hard, off-ball screen another time.  On the downside, he over-dribbled into traffic once and had a ball stolen away from him to lose it to an opponent.  He also threw a pass to a roll man, but his teammate mishandled the pass and fell, which led to a team turnover another time. Though he didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, Hazer was able to get a defensive board off of a tap out, as he then quickly pushed the ball up the floor afterwards.

Plus, he also played solid defense in this game.  Hazer jumped a pass quickly to get a steal, and he would close out on three-point shooters to force misses.  He also quickly fought through a screen off the ball to stay with his man another time.  On the downside, there was one occasion where he sagged too far off his man, which led him to allow an opponent to score on a three-point shot.  He also was called for fouling an opponent on a corner three another time, but it didn’t seem like he fouled him as he did not seem to make any forceful contact with his opponent on the latter play.

Overall, Sehmus Hazer is an athletic combo guard that can score, facilitate, and defend in games, but he will also need to significantly improve his three-point shot.  That may be the thing that’s holding him back right now, as defenders can leave him open from beyond the arc.  If Hazer improves as an outside shooter, he could increase his odds to make it to and succeed in the NBA.  Currently, he projects to be a fringe backup point guard in the NBA, and he is a borderline second round candidate in the 2021 draft.

6-10 Turkish center Furkan Haltali also played for Teksut Bandirma in this game.  He is a mobile, high-motor big man that excelled at rebounding the basketball, but he struggled to score, especially off of put backs in his team’s win back then over Rasta Vechta. Haltali was able to draw free throws on a drop step move in the post.  However, he really struggled to score on put backs, and he especially struggled to score in traffic. He was able to pass out of the post, and he also set a good on ball screen to help his teammate score on a drive another time.  However, on one play when posting up, he dribbled off of his own foot to lose the ball to the opposition.

He did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  Defensively, he looked to be about average at best.  When defending a drive out on the perimeter, Haltali managed to block a shot to a teammate using length and positioning.  He also managed to use his length to contest a shot in the post and a mid-range jumper to force misses. On the downside, he would tend to pick up touch fouls when defending opponents off the dribble or in the post.  He also was in an area to defend a shot in the paint, but he opted not to once, which led his team to allow the score around the basket.  Another time, he didn’t alert a teammate that a screen was coming and he should’ve called for a switch, and while he initially appeared to do so, he sagged way too far off of a three-point shooter, which led his team to allow the basket. Overall, Haltali is a high-motor big man that will outwork his opponents to get rebounds in games.  He struggled to score consistently in this game, but he’s been efficient at making shots albeit in low volume since.  He will need to improve his handles and his defense, but he could be a prospect to keep tabs on in the future.

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