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June 25, 2009, 03:17 AM ET
Euroleague Translations

by Kevin Pelton

While I covered the NCAA guards in tomorrow’s draft this morning and will be wrapping up with frontcourt players tomorrow, pre-draft analysis isn’t complete without looking across the pond at the European prospects in the draft, as well as Brandon Jennings, whose only meaningful statistics come from Euroleague. Because the level of competition is uneven at the national league level, I only can do translations for players who played in the Euroleague, which knocks out several second-round prospects as well as Jonas Jerebko, who strictly played in Italy. Still, we can find out some more about a handful of players, including Jennings and Ricky Rubio.

Note that in contrast to the NCAA translations, which are truly more projections because they automatically include a year of development, Euroleague translations are based on players going both directions across the Atlantic and at all ages. It is more accurate to think of them as what the player would have done in the NBA this past season, the adjust for development from there. As a result, instead of using collegians as comparisons, we’ll be looking at past NBA players.

Ricky Rubio, DKV Joventut
Age: 18.5 | Translated Stats: .449 Win% | .402 TS% | 14.8 Usage | 12.4 Reb% | 5.40 Pass Rating

Because of injuries and his team’s early elimination, Rubio played just 66 minutes over five Euroleague games this season, so his stats are relatively meaningless. (They’re also quite entertaining. They project Rubio to have more fouls than points.) However, we can glean more value by looking at Rubio’s 2007-08 performance in the EuroCup. The EuroCup translations are a little less reliable because fewer players have come to the NBA from the less prestigious second continental competition, but EuroCup stats did a reasonably solid job of projecting the performance of Rubio’s teammate Rudy Fernandez and Marc Gasol this past year. Here’s what those numbers look like:

Age: 17.5 | Translated Stats: .461 Win% | .517 TS% | 13.1 Usage | 9.1 Reb% | 3.74 Pass Rating

Those numbers are a bit less extreme across the board. Because Rubio was so young, we can’t do comparisons by age. I looked instead at the players of any age with the most similar stat lines, which reveals how unorthodox Rubio’s game truly is.

Gary Payton (1990-91, 93.0); Nate McMillan (1989-90, 92.8); Charlie Ward (1998-99, 91.9); Brevin Knight (2002-03, 91.6); Clinton Wheeler (1987-88, 91.6)

I’ve used Jason Kidd as a subjective comparison, as well as Rajon Rondo, but young GP actually works pretty well. Three of McMillan’s seasons actually show up in the top 10. Here’s the thing: Payton was 22 at the time, McMillan anywhere from 22 through 25. Rubio’s translated numbers are similar before the age of 18. If you believe in the importance of age in a prospect’s development–and I firmly do–the argument that Rubio has more upside than anyone in this draft is a reasonable one. He figures to become an elite passer, one of the league’s great ballhawks (his translated steal rate would rank him third in the league behind Chris Paul and Knight) and a terrific rebounder for a point guard. If he develops any semblance of a scoring threat, Rubio will be a perennial All-Star. If I had the No. 1 pick, I would seriously consider Rubio, and I would take him over anyone in the draft besides Griffin.

Brandon Jennings, Lottomatica Rome
Age: 19.6 | Translated Stats: .310 Win% | .441 TS% | 18.0 Usage | 5.1 Reb% | 1.02 Pass Rating

Comps: Tony Parker (93.6); Sebastian Telfair (91.8); J.R. Smith (90.7)

Jennings’ list of comps is definitely much better than his translated stats, and part of the reason the scores are so low is that few players have sported such a low winning percentage over a full season. Jennings wasn’t especially effective in any area in the Euroleague. How much of that was the adjustment to an entirely different style of basketball and culture? Impossible to say. In this case, I’m not sure how much we can take from the numbers. The two best comps, Parker and Telfair, portend wildly different futures for Jennings, and he could go down either path or fall somewhere in between.

Omri Casspi, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Age: 20.8 | Translated Stats: .413 Win% | .534 TS% | 19.6 Usage | 11.3 Reb% | 0.03 Pass Rating

Comps: Tim Thomas (98.0); Dirk Nowitzki (97.0); Marvin Williams (96.6) Rudy Gay (96.5); Joe Johnson (96.1)

Young wings with size and the ability to shoot usually end up faring pretty well, as Casspi’s comps indicate. Based on them, he looks like a steal late in the first round. Casspi’s translated numbers were at replacement level last season with the chance to get better in the hurry. He should be able to contribute offensively right away, with translated 39.8 percent three-point shooting and solid ability to get to the free throw line.

Sergio Llull, Real Madrid
Age: 21.4 | Translated Stats: .407 Win% | .566 TS% | 13.4 Usage | 3.9 Reb% | 4.31 Pass Rating

Comps: Deron Williams (92.6); Delonte West (92.5); Daniel Gibson (92.4); Tony Parker (90.6); Ray Allen (90.1)

A likely second-round pick, Llull also looks like a potential steal. He’s got a diverse offensive game with the ability to really shoot it (95.5 percent from the free throw line; 33.6 percent on threes, albeit at an extraordinarily high volume) and very competent ballhandling skills. That draws comparisons to some elite players. The question mark with Llull, and what holds down his translated winning percentage, is the other end of the court. He’s a complete non-factor on the glass, gets few steals and fouls at an astronomical rate–a translated 5.1 per 40 minutes. (Actually, all of these guys foul a great deal, though Rubio in particular has more of an excuse because of all the good he’s doing defensively in the process of drawing those fouls.) Surely, someone will take the gamble that Llull can figure things out and live up to his offensive potential.

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