Evaluating Aleksa Uskokovic, Marko Pecarski, and Jurij Macura
April 14th, 2021
By Alan Lu
Crvena Zvezda’s Aleksa Uskokovic has been putting up decent numbers in Euroleague play and is an automatically draft eligible international player in the 2021 NBA Draft. Therefore, I decided to watch him play in a March 27th Adriatic League game against FMP Beograd, with thanks to YouTube via ABA liga j.t.d. I wanted to assess Usokokovic’s skills, and it also was an opportunity to watch other prospects that played in this game, such as Marko Pecarski and Jurij Macura. Here are my thoughts on how Uskokovic and the other prospects fared, as well as where they may currently stack up as prospects for the NBA.
Crvena Zvezda’s 6-4 Serbian point guard, Aleksa Uskokovic had a solid showing in his team’s double-digit win over FMP Beograd. He excelled at attacking the basket to score and rack up assists, and he also is a feisty defender that also was able to get plenty of steals and stops for his team. In this game, he scored 10 points, and he also collected 6 assists and 2 steals to help his team get the victory. Uskokovic excelled at scoring on hustle plays. He showed a knack for scoring on quick, backdoor cuts to the hoop, and he would pick and choose his spots to take advantage when his defenders would be caught napping when tasked to guard him.
He also showed a solid ability to score on strong drives to the basket. Uskokovic was able to score on an acrobatic, double-pump layup after driving hard to his right once. He has a fairly quick first step, and he showed a knack for drawing fouls upon his defenders to get to the free throw line. On another play, he was able to quickly drive off of a screen, but he ended up getting blocked on a switch of hands layup by a taller defender. On the downside, he struggled to knock down outside shots from further out. He missed on a couple of pull-up jumpers from the mid-range, and he also missed long on a quick corner three another time.
He also displayed solid playmaking skills in this game. Uskokovic showed a knack for passing off the dribble to notch assists due to having good patience and court vision. He would throw solid interior passes off the dribble, and he is a very unselfish player that would often look to find open teammates on the court. On the downside, sometimes he would throw hasty, inaccurate passes, as one pass went out of bounds, and another ended up getting intercepted.
On the downside, he did not grab a single rebound when he was on the court. Uskokovic played solid defense in this game. He excelled at applying heavy ball pressure to disrupt his opponents’ timing and force turnovers. He was able to rotate to poke a ball away to get a steal, and he also intercepted a pass to get another due to possessing very good hands and instincts. He also managed to deflect a pass out of bounds another time. He would quickly fight through screens to stay with opposing ball handlers, and he would guard opponents tightly to make it difficult for them to handle the ball. He also managed to contest a three to force a miss. On the downside, there was one play where he committed an aggressive foul when defending an opposing ball handler up the court. On another possession, he hustled back, but didn’t contest the shot in transition, as his team allowed the score that time.
In general, Crvena Zvezda’s Aleksa Uskokovic played well, and he made solid plays to help his team on both ends of the floor in his team’s lopsided win over FMP Beograd. He is a fairly athletic, skilled playmaker that can reliably run the team at the point, and he also is a capable scorer that showed off strong defensive skills in this game. He will need to improve his outside shot, but his ability to run the team and defend may make him a borderline second round candidate in the 2021 draft.
FMP Beograd’s 6-10 center, Marko Pecarski also put forth a solid performance in his team’s loss to Crvena Zvezda. He especially played well early on, and he is a skilled big man that showed off versatile scoring skills, and he also showed off a much improved outside shot, as he made a couple of threes early on. He also showcased some playmaking skills, but he tended to make too many defensive mistakes in this game.
Pecarski shot the ball well, especially from downtown. He chased down an inaccurate pass, and he quickly made a corner three off of it to show his much improved floor-spacing skills early on. He also dribbled and used a crossover move to knock down a step-back three. He also ran in to score on a tip-in after grabbing an offensive rebound due to making a solid hustle play that time. He also drove in from the high post, but he ended up missing on a floater.
Also, he displayed adequate playmaking skills. He tended to make good interior passes, as he would find teammates on the break to set up scoring chances for them. He was able to throw good passes off the dribble, and he also showed that he can handle the ball in the open floor. On the downside, there was one play where he dropped a low bounce pass that led to a team turnover.
Though he didn’t get many rebounds, Pecarski was able to run in and leap up to get an offensive board, and he then scored to provide his team with second chance points afterwards. He also tipped a ball to a teammate to help his team get another offensive board later on. On another play though, he didn’t box out, and he allowed an opponent to get an offensive rebound over him.
Defensively, Pecarski struggled in this game. For the positives, he was able to intercept an errant pass thrown right to him to get a steal. He also rotated to double in the post to help force a ball-handling turnover. He also managed to contest a couple of corner threes to force misses. On the downside, he would be late to get out on shooters, which would lead him to allow opponents to score on jump shots. Other times, he wouldn’t pick up an open man or hustle back on the defensive end, and he also lost track of a cutter to allow a score. He also struggled to defend screens, as he would not effectively communicate to his teammates, which would lead his team to allow scores on those plays.
Overall, Marko Pecarski played fairly well, and he especially excelled from an offensive standpoint in his team’s loss to Crvena Zvezda. He shot the ball well, and he should have looked to take more shots on offense. On the downside, he didn’t rebound the ball very much, and he also made his fair share of defensive miscues. Right now, he will need to improve his rebounding and defense, but he could project to be a second round, draft and stash pick whenever he decides to enter the NBA draft.
FMP Beograd’s Jurij Macura didn’t have his best game, but he kept competing all the way until the end, and he even managed to score on his team’s final offensive possession. He didn’t take many shots, and he actually wasn’t on the floor that much, as he didn’t even get into the first quarter, but he was able to make some plays to help his team on both ends of the floor.
Macura showed a solid ability to score off the dribble. He showed a knack for drawing fouls on aggressive, left-handed drives to the hoop to often get to the free throw line. Late in this match, he used a pump fake, and he scored on a strong, left-handed drive to the hoop. He also rolled to the rim once, but did not get the ball that time. On the downside, he missed on all three of his three-point shots, and he was unable to connect on any of the long-range shots he took off of pick and pop plays.
He also showed off solid playmaking skills in this game. Macura is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he was able to pass out of the post and find a teammate on the break to set up scores for them. He also set an on-ball screen to help his teammate get an open jump shot. On the other hand, there was one play where he threw an inaccurate entry pass that ended up getting intercepted.
He also was able to leap up to get his fair share of boards, and he was able to chase down balls to get tough rebounds on both ends of the floor. He also tipped a ball to a teammate to help his team get a defensive rebound another time. However, there was another play where he got boxed out by an opponent, as he then allowed his man to get an offensive rebound and a put back score that time.
Also, Macura played adequate defense in this game. He rotated to block a shot off of a drive from behind due to possessing solid length and timing. Plus, he also managed to jump on a loose ball after his teammate deflected pass to help his team get a steal. He is an active help defender, but he also would get fouls called on him, though he ran into an opponent that appeared to get away with setting a moving screen, and he also committed fouls on plays where it looked as though he got all ball when trying to get steals and blocks. On the downside, he would sometimes struggle to defend opponents out on the perimeter, which would lead his team to allow scores.
Overall, Jurij Macura had some good moments in his team’s loss to Crvena Zvezda. It was surprising that he didn’t play more, considering his strong start to this season. After having played very well for Sixt Primorska, he ended up playing for FMP Beograd, but he has not seen nearly as much playing time since. He is a mobile, energetic big man that can do a little bit of everything, but he will need to get more consistent playing time in games. Currently, he projects to be a borderline second round candidate for the 2021 draft.
FMP Beograd’s 6-8, 2001-born Serbian forward, Nemanja Popovic had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Crvena Zvezda. He didn’t play much in the first half, and he didn’t make much of an impression at all in the first three quarters of this game. He managed to turn in a very impressive fourth quarter, and he is an athletic scorer that can make shots in a variety of ways, and he really cranked up his effort levels late in this contest.
Popovic did a good job of shooting the basketball. He used a crossover move to score on a step-back three effortlessly. Plus, he also dribbled quickly up the court and used a crossover to score on a speedy, switch of hands layup on a drive in transition. He also tried to score in the post another time. He backed down his man, and he used a drop step to his right, and an overhead ball fake to his left, and he showed off adequate footwork on that play, but he ended up missing on a step-through move in traffic. On the downside, he didn’t grab any rebounds in this game. He pushed off when going for an offensive board, which led him to commit an offensive foul in the second quarter. Another time, he had trouble boxing out his man, and his opponent went around him, as he then allowed a put back score.
Popovic also exhibited decent defensive skills. He was able to rotate to alter a shot off of a put back to force a miss. He also was able to get back on defense to get his man to pass the ball another time. He also was able to close out on a three-point shot to force a miss. On another play though, he over-helped in the paint, and he was late to rotate back, and he allowed his man to score on an open three-point shot.
Overall, Popovic played fairly well, especially towards the end of this game, and he excelled at shooting and scoring the basketball, especially when he would take it upon himself to do so. In the second quarter, he was too tentative, and he looked sluggish defensively. In the fourth quarter, he was assertive, he knocked down shots to showcase versatile scoring skills, and he was active defensively. He is an intriguing prospect that could be due for many more minutes in the Adriatic League, especially next season, and he could pack a strong scoring punch for his team off the bench by then. He will need to get more playing time in games, but he is a talented prospect that could end up being a second round, draft and stash pick in the 2022 draft.
FMP Beograd’s 6-3 point guard, Lazar Vasic also had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Crvena Zvezda. He didn’t really stand out athletically, but he was able to effectively run the team at the point with the ball in his hands. Vasic did an adequate job of knocking down threes in this game. He was able to move off the ball to drain an open corner three off the catch to show his shooting skills, but he missed on two other spot-up three-point attempts from beyond the arc.
He also was able to draw and make two free throws after using a behind the back dribble move when he brought the ball up. He seldom would look to score off the dribble, and he often looked to set the table on offense. He displayed decent playmaking skills in this game. He is an unselfish player that would look to find the open man, and he can also threw accurate interior passes to find teammates on the move.
Also, he played adequate defense when he was on the floor. Vasic actively fought through a screen when defending off the ball, as he was able to stay with an opposing ball-handler on the ball to force the opposing big man to make a longer pass as he denied the dribble handoff. On another play though, he took a bad angle to defend an opposing ball handler off of a screen, as he ended up allowing a pass that set up a score around the basket. Overall, Lazar Vasic played fairly well in his team’s loss to Crvena Zvezda. He didn’t seem to stand out nearly as much as the other prospects, and his lack of willingness to create his own offense could potentially prevent him from ascending to higher levels of basketball. Still, he is a savvy table setter that can get the ball to his teammates consistently, and he could be a solid pro at his level, even if he doesn’t end up making it to the NBA one day.