Thoughts on Ziga Samar in the Fuenlabrada-Joventut Game

February 5th, 2022

By Alan Lu

Today, I decided to take the time to watch Fuenlabrada’s 6-5 point guard, Ziga Samar from Slovenia, who has been playing very well in the Spanish ACB League this season.  I took the time to watch him play against Joventut, who featured another prospect in Joel Parra who also has played fairly well this year.  I was able to watch Samar play in a January 28th game, with thanks to YouTube via Baloncesto Internacional, and it was split up into two parts.  Samar ended up turning in a very good game, and it was also an opportunity to watch Fuenlabrada’s prodigious, 6-9 big man, Bassala Bagayoko play.  Here are my thoughts on how Samar on other various prospects fared in this game.

Fuenlabrada’s 6-5 guard, Ziga Samar has been turning heads with his strong play in the Spanish ACB League this year.
Alba Pacheco, Paco Largo/Baloncesto Fuenlabrada, via Onda Fuenlabrada)

Ziga Samar turned in a good showing in his team’s loss to Joventut.  He is a tall, ball-handling guard that is playing very well this year, especially on offense.  He is a gifted shooter and he is a cerebral passer that will probe the defenses to rack up assists.  He also competes very hard on the defensive end, and he had some really good moments at times, though he was up and down on that side of the ball overall.

Samar shot the ball very well, especially from downtown.  He was able to drive off of a screen, and then cross back over to his left to knock down an open, pull-up three effortlessly early on.  He also showed a knack for moving off the ball to get it, and he would then score on quick threes off the catch.  He moves well off the ball, and he is a very good shooter that would make his opponents pay for leaving him open.  He also pulled up to take a mid-range jumper outside the left elbow, but he ended up missing that time.

He also did a decent job of scoring off the dribble.  Samar drove hard to the hoop, and he used a pump fake and then leaned in to score on a step-through move in traffic.  Another time, he drove to his left off of a screen, but he missed an open layup short due to rushing.  Samar was also quite adept at drawing fouls when handling the basketball to get to the free throw line.

Also, Samar showed good playmaking skills in this game.  He is a patient player that will change speeds and make good reads to throw timely passes off the dribble to set up scores for his teammates.  He can make an assortment of passes off the dribble, and he also can throw long passes to find them on the move.  On the other hand, he also made a couple of plays though that led his team to commit turnovers.  On one play, he drove wildly to the hoop and threw a rushed, inaccurate pass that ended up going out of bounds.  When driving to his left, he had a ball stolen away late in this game.

He also showed a solid ability to chase down balls to help his team get defensive rebounds.  Samar was able to save a ball to help his team get a defensive board, and he also pushed the ball quickly up the floor off another.  Samar also played adequate defense in this game.  He is a feisty, high-motor guard that was able to make a slew of good hustle plays to get steals and blocks for his team.  Samar showed nice recovery speed, timing, and instincts when he rotated to block a shot inside to a teammate.  He also is a pesky guard that would rotate to poke balls away and get his hands on passes to get plenty of steals and deflections due to possessing a tremendous motor, along with having decent mobility and quickness.  He would sometimes be able to fight through screens to stay with his man, and he was also able to rotate to contest a shot in the post to force a miss another time.  On the other hand, he tended to struggle to fight through screens when defending pick and roll ball handlers, and sometimes he would take bad angles that would lead his team to allow scores.  He also would take bad gambles, as he would commit reach-in fouls and bite on pump fakes when defending opposing ball handlers.  Other times, he can wander too far and lose track of his man, which can lead him to allow scores on off-ball motion plays.

Overall, Ziga Samar is a talented playmaking combo guard that can comfortably run the point, and he is a good shooter and facilitator that reliably runs the team well.  He looks to be an above average athlete, although it’s uncertain if he’d be able to handle much more athletic defenders in the NBA, and he may end up being slotted to be a secondary ball mover at that level.  He’ll need to add strength and work on his on-ball defense, but he is having a very good season this year.  Currently, he may project to be a second round prospect, and he could end up being a solid role player similar to former Los Angeles Lakers’ guard, Sasha Vujacic in the NBA.

Joventut’s 6-7 forward, Joel Parra had a decent showing in his team’s win over Fuenlabrada.  Though he didn’t take many shots, he shot the ball very efficiently, and he made team plays to help his when he was on the floor.

Parra thrived at scoring on hustle plays.  He ran the floor and caught a long pass to score on a powerful dunk, and he was able to throw down a surprisingly athletic jam midway through this match.  He also ran the floor and took advantage of a napping defender to catch a long pass and score on a tough, reverse layup on the break.  Plus, he also was able to make an open, corner three off the catch to show his ability to knock down spot-up jumpers.  On the other hand, he didn’t often look to score when his team would be in the half-court, and he would go for stretches without touching the ball despite getting plenty of playing time in this game.

He also showed fairly average playmaking skills in this game.  Parra showed that he can throw crisp, accurate interior passes, and he also can pass out of the post to get his teammates the basketball.  On another play though, he telegraphed a loopy entry pass that ended up getting picked off by a defender.

Though Parra didn’t grab many boards in this game, he was able to leap up to get a pair of defensive boards, and he also was able to leap up to tip a ball to himself to get a tough board in traffic once.  On another play though, he didn’t even make a play on the ball for a defensive rebounding attempt late in this game, and he ended up allowing a quicker, more athletic opponent to get the board in his area.  He also played adequate defense in this game.  Though he’s not an overwhelming athlete, Parra is a high-motor forward that would use apply pressure to defend opposing ball handlers, as he was able to force a ball-handling turnover, and he also forced a pass another time.  He also would manage to stay in front of his man on drives and contest shots to force a couple of misses.  He also used his length to contest a three to get a stop another time.  On the downside, he would tend to struggle to defend screens, which would lead him to be late to get to his man.  He also would struggle to keep up with opposing ball handlers, and he tended to foul jump shooters, and he once fouled a three-point shooter to allow a score and an extra free throw.  Another time, he was caught ball watching, and he then got beat on a cut on a misdirection play to allow a score.

Overall, Joel Parra played fairly well in his team’s win over Fuenlabrada, and he proved to be a decent fifth option for his team on offense.  He didn’t need many touches to be effective, and he played within himself to help his team throughout this contest.  He also made high-motor plays, and he was able to get a couple of scores on fast breaks.  On the other hand, he’s only an average athlete, and he’s unlikely to be much of a shot creator nor an elite defender at the NBA level.  Right now, he is a low volume, 3 and D role player that can also score on off-ball motion plays, but he is unlikely to develop much more than that, he doesn’t appear to have much upside as a prospect for the NBA.  Most likely, he will probably wind up undrafted and stay in the Spanish ACB League and/or overseas for the duration of his professional career.  If he does end up playing in the NBA, he could end up fighting for a spot at the backend of a team’s rotation, as he could project to be a similar player to former veteran swingman, Treveon Graham in the association.

Other Notes:

Fuenlabrada’s 6-9 big man, Bassala Bagayoko is a basketball playing prodigy whose tremendous athleticism and talents on the defensive end combined with already playing in one of the toughest leagues in the world could make him the favorite to be the top pick of the 2025 NBA Draft.

I also was able to watch Fuenlabrada’s prodigious big man, Bassala Bagayoko, who is a 6-9, 15-year old player that is currently playing in the Spanish ACB League.  Last year, he was the youngest player to ever debut in the ACB, which is a very impressive feat in itself, considering that the league he’s playing in is one of the toughest professional leagues in the world.  When I saw him play, he didn’t take any shots despite getting some playing time in both the first and second halves, but he is a very athletic, hyper big man that showed immense amount of potential, especially on the defensive end.

On offense, Bagayoko is an unselfish player that would look to get the ball to his teammates.  On one paly, he sprinted down the court, caught a lob, and he then threw a quick, sharp pass to a corner shooter to help set up a score for him.  He was unselfish to a fault, as he didn’t end up taking any shots in this game, but he generally was able to make good reads and passes in this game. Also, Bagayoko rebounded the ball well in limited minutes.  He was able to box his man out and leap up aggressively to get a defensive board, and he also flew in to get another.

Defense is where he really showed his immense amount of potential in this game.  Though Bagayoko is still learning the game, he showed his tremendous athleticism, as he has very good closeout speed and recovery time, and he can quickly go from end to end to get stops for his team.  He didn’t always pick up the right man, as he is very aggressive in going out to make defensive plays, but he did look to be quite impressive in making them.  Bagayoko was able to quickly rotate to the post and then back out to the perimeter.  He also rotated very quickly to close out a long two and on a corner three to force those misses.  Late in this game, he also talked on defense, and he showed signs of being able to be a defensive leader on that side of the ball in the future.

On the downside, he can tend to be undisciplined right now, but that is expected, as he’s still very young, especially for the Spanish ACB League.  On one play, he struggled to fight through a screen, he then tried to steal a pass and missed, and he ended up committing an aggressive reach-in foul from behind when defending in the post, as it also led him to be called for an unsportsmanlike foul.  He also would tend to over-rotate, which would lead other players to get open.  He also tended to bite on pump fakes, but what was impressive is that he showed that he can still recover to actively contest shots despite biting on pump fakes due to possessing a good second jump to be able to actively close out on shooters.

In looking at his season statistics, Bagayoko has scored at the Spanish ACB League, though he rarely ever shoots the basketball, but he also has made a three-point shot this year.  He is a very athletic, high-motor player that could project to be a tremendously talented center in the future.  Bagayoko has a bright future ahead of him, and he could be a surefire lottery pick in the 2025 NBA Draft one day.  If he is able to reach his full potential, he could end up being a star player similar to current Dallas Mavericks’ center, Kristaps Porzingis in the NBA.

Fuenlabrada’s 6-7, 2004-born swingman, Malique Lewis also played sparingly in his team’s loss to Joventut.  He is an athletic, energetic player that is very active defensively and showed solid defensive potential, and he can ably create his own shot, as he could project into a shooter role on offense. 

Lewis didn’t play much, but he was able to get his shot off, which looked good, even though it missed.  He used a crafty pump fake to get his defender in the air, and he dribbled left to take a long two from the baseline, but it ended up missing.  He also is an unselfish player that will swing the ball to find open shooters.  Also, he was able to sprint and run down a loose ball quickly to get an offensive rebound.

He also played satisfactory defense.  He has good feet to defend opposing ball handlers, and he also was able to hustle quickly back on the defensive end.  He was able to actively hound an opposing ball handler to force his man to pass the ball.  On one play though when guarding former NBA player Brandon Paul, he struggled to fight through a screen, and although his teammate should’ve talked and communicated to him about that, Lewis ended up fouling Paul on a three-point shot off of a pindown that led him to allow the score and an extra free throw late in this contest.

Overall, Malique Lewis is an athletic, energetic swingman that showed good defensive potential, and he also could project into a 3 and D role at the NBA level.  He hasn’t played much at all in the Spanish ACB League, but he could be a prospect to keep an eye on in the future.  From what I’ve seen, Lewis is a talented, young player that has the athletic tools and the ability to be a shutdown defender one day. He’ll need to work on his jump shot and being a more disciplined defender on a consistent basis, but he’s already shown the tools and the ability to defend well, and he could be a prospect to watch sometime down the road.

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