While many young NBA Draft prospects have struggled to make any sort of impact in the Euroleague this season, Marko Arapovic of Cedevita has had no such issue. The Croatian power forward hasn’t been a power player for Cedevita every week, but he’s been fairly effective overall with averages of 7.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and an assist per game. Despite this, Arapovic has gotten very little push as a potential draft entrant this year. While many of the international players who are expected to be selected are there because of their oozing potential, Arapovic’s actual production seems to get passed over.
Arapovic’s been a solid secondary option for Cedevita from the power forward position. The Croatian side has several quality playmakers in shooting guard Jacob Pullen, forward James White and center Miro Bilan, and Arapovic has done a great job playing off of those players and exploiting mismatches. That’s exactly what Arapovic did this weekend, too, exploding for 16 points on 7-9 shooting in Cedevita’s 84-80 victory over Anadolu Efes.
Arapovic’s performance showcased several aspects of his game that make him an interesting pro prospect despite flawed athleticism and quickness. Most notably was Arapovic’s flashy passing ability, which he used to create a secondary assist on a fast break:
Arapovic’s court vision is impressive for a 19-year-old big, and he’s able to make split-second decisions with the ball to hit cutters. Arapovic catches the ball from Nemanja Gordic and, without even looking for White, fires a pinpoint touch pass through a defender to him to set up the Luka Babic basket. Arapovic was also able to do this for his lone assist in the game in the fourth quarter, hitting Babic on a backdoor cut that led to an and-one.
One of the major complaints about Arapovic in regards to the NBA has been his strength and footwork. Arapovic isn’t a very bulky forward, standing at just 6-9 and 220 pounds, but his skill set predisposes him for the four spot, meaning he’s going to have to get stronger to be able to survive, particularly on defense. One way Arapovic has been compensating for this has been his footwork, which has improved this season, particularly in screen setting.
Jayson Granger and Derrick Brown get tangled up here on this play, where Arapovic creates a seal on a nice screen to spring sharpshooter Fran Pilepic for a 3-pointer:
Screen setting has been something Arapovic gets tasked with a lot this season, and he’s been effective at running pick-and-rolls with Pullen. Improving his strength and footwork will help Arapovic become better as a pick-and-roll forward, something that will play well to his overall offensive skill set.
Arapovic missed both of his 3s in this game, and 3-point shooting is something that he’s still inconsistent with even though he has decent form and had a little hot streak through the Euroleague regular season. However, he didn’t need to hit from the perimeter because he went 7-7 on his other shots. With Bryant Dunston falling slowly out of the rotation, Efes doesn’t have the size to be able to compete with Arapovic and Bilan, and the Cedevita bigs made Efes pay with seven offensive rebounds.
Arapovic converted off of all three offensive boards, and he showed his solid instincts and positioning to throw down two dunks in traffic:
Arapovic is a surprisingly strong offensive rebounder for his size, and on days where his 3-point shot isn’t falling, he can float along the baseline and crash the offensive glass with reasonable success.
Arapovic is still a project in terms of NBA skill set. He still has a long way to go to be even a good Euroleague defender, his shooting touch needs continued development and there are major questions about whether he can compete in the NBA athletically. However, as this weekend showed, he is able to produce offensively on the highest international stage, and he’s a major player for a team that’s right in the thick of the competition to move on to the Euroleague Playoffs. While he’s not getting much press right now from NBA scouts, he’s absolutely a player deserving of a late-2nd round draft-and-stash in 2016, and could potentially be a late-1st rounder in 2017 if he chooses to delay his entry one year.