Gran Canaria center and Philadelphia 76ers draft-and-stash Anzejs Pasecniks came into the 2017-2018 season ready to have an expanded role, and so far he’s done well with his new opportunity.
The Latvian was pegged to get an increase in playing time with the departure of former Alabama center Richard Hendrix, and this week, the 21-year old made his mark with a 19-point, 6-rebound effort in Gran Canaria’s Eurocup loss to Tofas Bursa.
Pasecniks was drafted in the first round because of his potential as an offensive facilitator at the five. He showed good screen-setting capability despite a lack of strength last year, and is a crafty, two-handed finisher off the catch. This year, he’s showing progression with that skill set. He’s getting better at recognizing the defense laid out in front of him, and making better decisions regarding slipping and attacking the basket:
The pick-and-roll skills are nice, but the real improvements we’re seeing from Pasecniks so far are coming with the ball in his hands. Granca coach Luis Casimiro is giving Pasecniks chances to put the ball on the deck, which gives him the opportunity to display a handle we hadn’t really seen previously. The actions are pretty simple at this point, but adding a face-up game is certainly a way to give him more offensive value. At a lanky 7-foot-2, Pasecniks should have an easy time getting a step on defenders with his long strides, as he did to Kenny Kadji here:
Pasecniks also appears to be progressing further as a shooter. He hit 8-of-18 attempts from 3 last season, but his shooting stroke looked promising. He took just one three against Bursa, but it hinted at an improvement in the quickness of his shot.
Pasecniks is a low-ceiling, high-floor offensive contributor, who the 76ers are banking on to become a defensive nightmare of a role player with his strong pick-and-roll finishing and ability to step out to the 3-point line. Adding some ball skills would certainly help fill that game out, and it appears that Gran Canaria wants him to develop these. He’s been given a more featured role within their offense, and his continued production over the season is something 76ers fans should keep an eye on. So far, things are looking pretty good for their first round investment.
Elsewhere in Europe!
Thomas Robinson might be back in the NBA sooner than you would think. After playing for six NBA teams in five seasons, the fifth overall pick from the 2012 NBA Draft signed with Khimki Moscow. Through two games, he looks closer to the player the Kings drafted than the player who bounced from Portland to Philadelphia to Brooklyn to Los Angeles over the past three years. So far Robinson is averaging 17.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game, and he’s shooting 65.2 percent from the field. His relentless nose for the ball off the glass has translated well to Europe, and he seems to have natural chemistry with Khimki’s primary ball-handlers, Alexey Shved and Stefan Markovic.
It’s two games, but so far, Robinson looks like an All-Euroleague caliber player. His energy and touch have given teams fits under the basket. If this is what Euroleague Robinson is going to look like every week, he should be ready to head back stateside with another NBA contract in July of 2018.
After fighting through injury in his Euroleague debut, Norris Cole found his footing in a big way during Maccabi Tel Aviv’s surprise win over Baskonia. The two-time NBA champion powered the victory, scoring 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting and adding 3 rebounds and 5 assists. With Pierre Jackson struggling, Cole took over primary scoring duties, and was simply unconscious in isolation during a hot spell at the beginning of the third quarter.
There was question to what kind of player Cole would be with Maccabi – we haven’t seen him in a setting where he’s playing a big role within his NBA career. But that answer, based on Thursday’s game, is “And-1 mixtape.” Cole was putting guys on skates, setting up lobs, and bending the defense to allow his teammates to have free shots at the rim. If he can keep this up, he gives Maccabi two skilled scorers alongside Jackson, and Maccabi’s apparent rebound season can stay on schedule.