Evaluating Usman Garuba and Carlos Alocen in Two Spanish ACB League Games

September 29th, 2020

By Alan Lu

Some of the basketball leagues overseas have either resumed playing or have started new seasons recently.  The Spanish ACB League started their 2020-21 season this past month, and so I set out to watch Usman Garuba play for Real Madrid in a September 25th basketball game against Zaragoza, as I saw this with thanks to YouTube via Muhannad TV.  I also saw Garuba play in a September 27th game against Joventut that I will get into later in this article. Garuba is a very athletic, energetic big man that has been quite productive in high-level basketball, especially for a player his age, and he currently projects to be a lottery pick in the 2021 draft.  He played quite well against Zaragoza, but struggled against Real Madrid, but in both games, he consistently played solid defense when he was on the floor.

This game also featured other prospects such as Real Madrid’s Carlos Alocen, an offensively skilled playmaker, and Zaragoza’s Vit Krejci, a very athletic swingman who had yet to see consistent playing time at the highest levels of international basketball.  Unfortunately, Krejci went down to a knee injury early on, but I was able to see Garuba and Alocen get extensive playing time.  Here are my thoughts on how they fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

Real Madrid’s 6-8 forward, Usman Garuba is a very athletic, energetic big man that has solid defensive skills, and he projects to be a likely lottery pick in the 2021 draft.
(Photo:
Oscar J. Barroso / AFP7 / Europa Press Sports via Getty Images)

Usman Garuba quietly had a solid showing to help lift his team to a double-digit victory over Zaragoza.  He excelled as a finisher around the basket, made some good passes, and he also rebounded and defended well in this game.  He is an athletic big man that provided solid interior play to help get his team the win.

Garuba generally excelled at scoring around the basket.  He is a high-motor player that will outwork his opponents.  After having missed an easy layup once, Garuba quickly grabbed the offensive board to score on a tip-in off of his own miss.  He also excelled at scoring on off-ball motion plays, and he would score on powerful, two-handed dunks off of cuts and rolls to the rim. 

Usman Garuba showed off very good athleticism, defensive skills, and some ball handling skills in his team’s September 25th win over Zaragoza.
(Clip from: Derek Murray of Babcock Hoops)

Garuba can also handle the basketball, and he was able to use a nice eurostep move on the break to score on a crafty layup after getting a steal.  He did struggle a bit to score in the post, as he missed on a fadeaway jump hook, and he missed both of his three-point shots off the catch, despite being open.  Still, he did a good job of making shots efficiently, and he is a solid finisher that can make plays above the rim to do so.

Also, Garuba displayed decent playmaking skills.  He is a smart player that can pass and handle the ball, and he would make the extra pass to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  He also passes the ball well out of the post, and he was able to find teammates on the move to get them prime scoring opportunities.  He also would set screens for his teammates, and he did not turn the ball over once in this game. Plus, he did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  Garuba was able to haul in multiple boards on both ends of the floor, and he also would box out and tip balls to help his team get other rebounds.

He also played decent defense in this game.  Garuba is an active help defender that would help his team get numerous steals.  He quickly jumped a pass to get his first steal, and e also would poke balls away to force other turnovers.  In addition, he also managed to deflect a pass to a teammate to help his team get another steal as well.  Plus, he also would tend to make sound rotations, as he would contest shots in the paint to force misses.  After biting on a pump fake late in the game, he quickly got back on his feet to actively contest a corner three to force a miss.  However, Garuba struggled a bit to defend out on the perimeter.  Sometimes, he would get beat off the dribble, which would put his team in scramble situations that would lead them to allow scores.  Another time, he rotated to commit a reach-in foul on a roll to the rim.  On a separate play when defending in the post, he bit on a pump fake, and ending fouling his man while also allowing the score on that possession.

In general, Usman Garuba had a solid showing to help lead Real Madrid to a blowout victory over Zaragoza.  It was given that his team was expected to win, and they did so, handily.  Still, he played well on both ends of the floor, and he was a key contributor in this game.  He made shots around the basket, rebounded and defended well, kept the ball moving, and he provided a very active, energetic presence for his team.  He is a talented prospect who could end up being one of the best to come out of the 2021 draft, and he is a likely lottery pick that could end up being a solid role player in the NBA.

Real Madrid’s Carlos Alocen had some good moments in his team’s win over Zaragoza.  He is a tall, playmaking guard that plays with a creative flair.  He is a solid passer that can get assists in style, and he also is a crafty scorer that can make shots in a variety of ways.  On the other hand, he also committed a slew of turnovers in this game, and he also struggled defensively, as his lack of elite physical tools made it difficult for him to guard people on the defensive end.

He did a good job of knocking down jumpers in this game.  Alocen excelled at making open, spot-up threes off the catch, and he has a quick release that enables him to get his shot off quickly.  He also can draw fouls when taking the ball to the rim, and he also scored late on a nice change of pace drive after using a stutter step, hesitation move to get a crafty score around the basket.  However, sometimes he can tend to rush his shots when looking to score off the dribble, which can lead to some misses.

Alocen also displayed decent playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that would make timely passes to find open shooters, and he also would throw crisp interior passes to find teammates off of rolls and cuts to set up scores for them.  He is a solid facilitator that passes well off the dribble, and he will continually look for his teammates to get them the basketball.  However, he would also tend to commit careless, ball-handling turnovers.  Sometimes, he would struggle to handle the ball in traffic, but he also was called for traveling in the backcourt after having forgotten to dribble after getting the ball from the in-bounder.  Later on, he also threw an inaccurate pass on a drive and kick play that sailed out of bounds. Also, Alocen was able to chip in to get a couple of defensive boards, and on one rebound, he pushed the ball up the court to find an open shooter in transition.

However, he will need to improve his defense.  For the positives, Alocen was able to get a nice steal, as he made a nice read on the ball and leapt up to intercept the pass to pick it off.  He also managed to stay in front of his man to force his man to miss a mid-range shot, and he would also fight hard through screens to try to stay with opposing ball handlers.  On the other hand, he really struggled to defend in the post, as taller, stronger opponents would outmuscle him to get scores.  He also would tend to get beat off of drives and cuts as he does not possess great lateral quickness, and there was another play where he over-helped in the paint and didn’t contest a three-point shot, which led him to allow his man to score on that jump shot.

Overall, Carlos Alocen is a smart, skilled playmaker that can shoot and pass the basketball, but he will need to improve his ability to rebound and defend in games.  Right now, he may project to go in the mid to late second round range for the 2021 draft, but if he can continue to hone his game and progress as an overall player, he could end up being an effective rotation player in the NBA.

Zaragoza’s Vit Krejci played late in the first quarter, but he played all too briefly, as his playing time got cut short as a result of suffering a devastating knee injury in this game.  On this play, the very athletic swingman raced up the floor with the ball, as he drove speedily up court, and he took off from just inside the free throw line, but missed on a high-flying, two-handed dunk. 

However, he landed awkwardly as he fell and his knee buckled, and he rolled on the ground writhing in pain.  He couldn’t get up on his own, and had to be carted off on a stretcher afterwards, and from how it looks, it appears that it may be a serious knee injury that could both derail his 2020 draft chances and also could potentially cut his season short.  There was an update on the situation from Lukas Kuba’s tweet, Krejci torn an ACL in his left knee and will the remainder of the 2020-21 season. At the time of this writing, Vit Krejci was ranked as the 94th best prospect on our site for the 2020 NBA Draft. We wish Vit Krejci well, and we wish him a speedy recovery, and hope he returns to full form when he comes back.

Part 2:

I also took the time to watch Usman Garuba play for Real Madrid in a September 27th game against Joventut, as I saw this with thanks to YouTube via Muhannad TV.  He had played quite well in the previous game against Zaragoza, and this was an opportunity to see him play in a live match.  Other prospects that played in this game were Carlos Alocen for Real Madrid, and Nenad Dimitrijevic, Arturs Zagars, and Joel Barra for Joventut.  Here are my thoughts on how Garuba and the others fared on this day.

Usman Garuba had his ups and downs in his team’s blowout win over Joventut.  He struggled to make an impact offensively, but he played solid defense, and he made several stellar plays to help his team on that end of the floor.

He played fairly good defense in this game, and he played terrific defense in the second quarter.  Garuba is an active, rangy defender that can make numerous plays on the ball.  He intercepted an errant pass to get a steal, and he also poked a ball away when guarding an opposing ball handler out on the perimeter to get another, as he showed good length, anticipation skills, and instincts to do so.  Plus, Garuba also leapt up to block a shot at the rim to a teammate due to possessing solid athleticism and timing.  He also was able to contest a three to force a miss, and his length and activity would make it difficult for opponents to get their shots off. 

However, he also struggled to defend in one-on-one situations at times.  Sometimes he would commit touch fouls when defending in the post, other times he would struggle to guard opponents off the dribble when guarding out on the perimeter.  Another time, he over-hedged when defending out on a screen, but he didn’t get back to the roll man in time, which caused him to allow a dunk.

He also was able to collect several boards in this game, and he would go in to get tough rebounds in traffic.  However on one play, he overpursued a rebound on the defensive end and ended up being out of position to defend on a put back, as his team allowed a score that time.

On offense, Garuba had trouble getting going or establishing a feel for that end of the floor.  He missed a wide open corner three early on, and he didn’t take another shot in this game.  He drew a foul after holding the ball once.  Garuba did show the ability to throw accurate passes, as he can throw outlet pass as well as pass out of the post, and he also would set screens for his teammates.

Overall, Usman Garuba had some good moments in this game, but he struggled to make plays consistently overall in his team’s win over Joventut.  He didn’t really have to do that much in this game though, as his teammates really excelled at making shots and passes to rack up points on the board, and they also played very good defense to shut down the opposing team.  Garuba is an athletic, energetic big man that is a solid defender, but he will need to expand his skill set and be more assertive offensively.  If he can make strides to improve offensively and be more consistent in making an impact on that side of the ball, that could unlock some untapped potential, which could allow Garuba to elevate his game and take it further to a whole another level.  Right now, he projects to be a likely candidate to go at least in the mid first round range for the 2021 draft.

Real Madrid’s Carlos Alocen didn’t play nearly as much as he did against Zaragoza, but he was quite effective in the limited minutes that he played in this game against Joventut.  He particularly excelled on offense, and he did a very good job of making shots efficiently within the touches he received on that side of the ball.

He was able to utilize a jab step to drive to his left to score on a quick floater.  Plus, Alocen was also able to make an open, spot-up three off the catch.  Adding to that, he also he managed to pick up an assist due to possessing solid passing skills.  However, there was one play where he handled the ball in one place for too long, and he ended up dribbling the ball off of his own foot that led to a turnover.

He still needs to improve his defense.  On one play, he fought too hard and aggressively through a screen, but he ended up being caught out of position on a dribble handoff and trailed his man, which forced a teammate to rotate to commit a foul.  On a separate play, he didn’t contest a three, which led his team to give up the basket.

Overall, Alocen is a skilled playmaker that can make shots and facilitate for his team, and he is a crafty player that played well on offense in this game.  He will need to improve his defense and show that he can consistently create his own shot in games.  Right now, he may project to be a second round pick in the 2021 draft.

Joventut’s Arturs Zagars had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Real Madrid.  He showed some scoring and playmaking skills when he was on the floor.  Though he didn’t grab many rebounds and struggled defensively, his performance in this game could allow him to see more minutes at the point this season.

Zagars showed a decent ability to score off the dribble.  He would drive the ball hard to the rim, and he did a good job of drawing and making free throws to help his team on offense.  He did tend to miss on floaters though, but he is an agile guard that can quickly get past his man to draw fouls on defenders.

He also made a quick three-point shot off the catch.  However, he struggled to make threes consistently, but he showed the willingness to take them from beyond the arc in this game.

He also displayed solid playmaking skills.  He made good passes off the dribble, and he would throw crisp interior passes to find teammates on the move to set up scores for them.  Zagars also did a good job of controlling the ball, and he did not commit a single turnover in this game.

Though he didn’t grab many rebounds, Zagars was able to collect one defensive board against Real Madrid.  However, he will need to improve his defense.  Zagars had trouble defending quicker opponents out on the perimeter, as he would frequently get beat off the dribble, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores, and he ended up fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

In summary, Arturs Zagars is an agile, skilled playmaker that provided some good minutes for his team off the bench.  This game could serve as a building block for him on the season, and if he can continue to play well this season, he could perhaps end up being a second round pick in the 2021 draft.

Joventut guard, Nenad Dimitrijevic had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Real Madrid.  He showed off versatile scoring skills early on, but he struggled to make shots consistently, and also was turnover prone in this game.

He showed a decent ability to score off the dribble in this game.  He would tend to go to his left to score on quick drives to the hoop, and Dimitrijevic was able to score on a quick layup, as well as on a tough, fadeaway floater.  However, missed on a contested floater another time.

He also was able to make a pull-up, mid-range jumper.  However, Dimitrijevic had trouble knocking down three-point shots in this game, as he had trouble getting a feel for his shot from beyond the arc.

In addition, Dimitrijevic was quite turnover prone in this game.  For the positives, he showed a willingness to pass the basketball, and he can pass off the dribble to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  However, he threw a couple of inaccurate passes that went astray, and he also had a ball poked away on a drive due to doing too much that time on offense.

He also didn’t grab any rebounds in this game.  Defensively, Dimitrijevic looked to be about average.  He intercepted a pass to get a steal, and he would try to fight through screens to stay with his man.  He also was able to contest a couple of threes to force misses.  However, he had trouble guarding quicker players as he would tend to get beat off the dribble, which would lead his team to commit fouls.  On another play, he didn’t rotate or contest a three-point shot in time, which led him to allow the basket to his opponent.

All in all, Nenad Dimitrijevic showed some offensive skills, but he struggled to consistently make plays throughout the game.  He had trouble knocking down jumpers, and he committed too many turnovers on offense.  Right now, he is a borderline second round candidate for the 2020 draft, but he will need to perform better than how he did in this game in order to solidify his spot to be selected in this year’s draft.

Other Notes:

Joventut’s 6-8, 2000-born forward, Joel Parra played in this game, but he didn’t really play that well until late in the fourth quarter.  He had trouble knocking down jumpers, and he struggled to score around the basket, especially in traffic.  Parra did dribble in to score on a put back after getting an offensive rebound late in this game, and he also threw an accurate, long outlet pass to set up a score for a teammate on the break.

He rebounded the ball well, but wasn’t too noticeable defensively, excelled that he picked up a couple of fouls, and seemed to possess only average at best mobility in this game.

Overall, Joel Parra didn’t have much of an impact in this game, but he did make a nice pass to notch an assist late in this match against Real Madrid.  He will need to significantly improve his jump shot and defense.  Right now, he might not really be a prospect for the NBA, but his motor and passing ability could allow him to carve out a length career overseas in basketball.

Also, Real Madrid’s, 6-7, 2002-born forward, Boris Tisma played late in this game.  He didn’t really do much of anything in this game, though.  On offense, he used a pump fake, but had a ball poked away on a drive out of bounds to nearly turn the ball over.  On defense, he bit on a pump fake, and then committed a foul on a drive after having landed on his opponent.  If anything, he is a tall swingman that looked to be an above average athlete.  Tisma will need to find a place where he can play more, as he may currently be a non-prospect for the NBA for the time being, but if he can get consistent playing time somewhere and play well at that level, he could perhaps put himself on the draft radar sometime in the future.

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