Assessing Usman Garuba and Carlos Alocen in the EuroLeague Playoffs

May 3rd, 2021

By Alan Lu

Recently, I heard about Real Madrid’s 6-8 forward Usman Garuba having scored 24 points while also collecting 12 rebounds in his team’s Game 4 Euroleague playoff win over Anadolu Efes that took place on April 29th.  I was able to see this game, with thanks to YouTube via Buzzer Beaters.

Garuba is a very athletic, high-motor big man that excels primarily as a rim runner, rebounder, and defender.  He is also a solid role player in the Spanish ACB League and in EuroLeague, which is especially impressive considering that he is just 19 years old.  He has a knack for always being in the right spots on offense, and he is a talented defender that can cover plenty of ground, and he may have the defensive versatility to guard a wide range of positions in the NBA.  I decided to watch him play in this game, and it also presented another opportunity to also assess Carlos Alocen’s skills, as he also played in this game.  Here are my thoughts on how Garuba and Alocen fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

Real Madrid’s Usman Garuba (pictured with the ball) scored 24 points and had 12 rebounds to lead his team to a Game 4 win over Anadolu Efes in the EuroLeague playoffs, as he helped his team tie up the series at 2-2.
(Photo:
Angel Martinez/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)

Usman Garuba primarily excelled as a scorer in the paint, and he also rebounded the ball very well in this game.  He did a good job of scoring on rolls to the rim, as he would score on powerful dunks around the basket, and he also caught a lob pass to score off the glass another time.  He also can use drop steps and pivot moves, as he would go up strong to draw free throws to often get to the foul line.  He can sometimes force up tough shots, and there was one play where he missed on an awkward, contested one-legged, fade-away jumper, as he tried unsuccessfully to draw the foul that time. He also did a satisfactory job of scoring on hustle plays.  He often scored on rolls to the rim, but he also managed to score on a quick, tip-in, and he also drove up court after getting a steal to throw down a powerful, two-handed dunk on a breakaway.  He can be prone to rushing, which can lead to a few misses around the basket.

Garuba also did a good job of scoring in the post.  He displayed tremendous balance and finishing ability when he scored on an acrobatic, double-pump, reverse layup midway through this match.  He also slipped a screen to get the ball in the post, and he showed deft footwork to score on an up and under move. Plus, he also made an open corner three early on, and Garuba was able to make a spot-up three off the catch to show his improved shooting touch.  He later missed several other three-point shots, and he seemed to have a slow release, and he would sometimes shoot the ball too hard.  Still, that he was able to make a three-pointer early on helped establish himself as being able to score from both out on the perimeter as well as inside the paint.

Even better, he also made most of his free throws when he was at the foul line.  His free throw shooting motion was a bit of a line drive shot, and the one time where he missed his free throw was when he shot the ball too hard that resembled a shot put. He’s struggled to make his free throws on the season, but he did a good job of making his free throws in this particular match.  It was good to see that Garuba was able to consistently make his free throws in this game, which may be an encouraging sign that may suggest he could develop a repeatable shooting stroke in the future.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills in this game.  Garuba was able to throw a timely pass to a shooter that ran off of a pin down to notch an assist.  He also would set good, firm screens to help his teammates get open jump shots and driving lanes.  He also ran off the ball quickly, and he threw a quick, accurate pass to a cutter, although his teammate then dropped the pass out of bounds.  On the downside, he struggled to handle the ball when heavily pressured, and he also can tend to set moving screens.  He also threw a hasty interior pass that got intercepted.  He also mishandled the ball and then passed it off on a dribble handoff, but it led him to set a moving screen that led him to commit an offensive foul and a turnover.

Also, Garuba did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would often leap up to aggressively get boards on both ends of the floor, and he also tipped a ball to a teammate to help his team get another.  Sometimes though, he wouldn’t put a body or box out an opponent, which would lead him to allow some rebounds to them.  There was also one play late in this game where he leapt up to go for an offensive rebound, but the ball went off of his hands and to an opponent instead.

He also played solid defense in this game.  Garuba is an active help defender that showed the knack for getting steals and blocks.  He would use his reach and instincts to swipe balls away from opposing ball handlers to get steals, and he also blocked a shot when defending in the post to himself.  He also would deflect passes, and he would close out on three-point shooters to force misses.  He also showed decent footwork when defending out on the perimeter, as he would quickly hedge and look to cut off penetration on drives, which would make it difficult for them to handle the ball or get their shots off.  Sometimes though, he would be caught ball watching, as he would sag too far off of shooters, and he would be late on his rotations on the defensive end.  Other times, he would over-pursue opposing ball handlers and get beat off the dribble, which would lead his team to commit fouls and allow scores.

In general, Usman Garuba played very well in this game, and he was able to help his team tie up the series to bring it to a pivotal fifth game against Anadolu Efes that will be played tomorrow.  Garuba is a talented prospect that is excelling in some of the toughest professional leagues overseas, and he is a lottery candidate that likely projects to be a solid role player that could similar to current Cleveland Cavaliers’ forward, Larry Nance Jr. in the NBA.

Real Madrid’s 6-5 guard, Carlos Alocen also started this game, and he had some good moments in his team’s win over Anadolu Efes.  He started the game very well, as he thrived as a facilitator early on.  He didn’t take many shots, and he struggled a bit with turnovers and on the defensive end at times, but Alocen is a tall, agile combo guard that showed that he can capably hold his own when playing in a high stakes, EuroLeague playoff game. Alocen didn’t take many shots on offense, but he was able to made a quick, spot-up three from well beyond the arc.

Plus, he also is an unselfish player that displayed solid playmaking skills.  He would often look to find the open man, and he would throw timely passes to get shooters the basketball.  He also can throw quick kick out passes off the dribble, and he also would throw crisp, accurate interior passes to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  Sometimes though, he would throw inaccurate passes, as one pass skipped out of bounds, and another ended up being dropped and intercepted. Though he didn’t grab many boards in this game, Alocen was able to chase down a ball to help his team get a defensive rebound.

Defensively, he looked to be fairly average at best.  Alocen was able to run in to intercept a pass to get a steal due to possessing fairly solid quickness, motor, and instincts.  He also stayed in front of an opposing ball handler and managed to deflect a pass.  He also managed to rotate to close out on a three-point shooter, as he didn’t give up on that play, which enabled him to force the miss. On the other hand, he would struggle to stay in front of his man or to defend opponents off the dribble, as he would get end up committing fouls and allowing scores.  He also struggled to defend in the post, as taller opponents would back him down and shoot over him to score around the basket.

Overall, Carlos Alocen excelled as a facilitator in this game, but he didn’t really seem to stand out in the other areas in his team’s win over Anadolu Efes.  While he is a fairly agile combo guard that can play either backcourt position, he doesn’t really look for his own offense very much, and he seemed to struggle to defend more athletic opponents.  He may not project to be a high volume scorer or an elite defender in the NBA, but his size, playmaking skills, above average athletic gifts could enable him to carve out a role there in the future.  He will still need to be more assertive on offense and improve his defense.  In the meantime, he is a borderline second round candidate that in a favorable scenario could project to be a quality backup point guard in the NBA.

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