• Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our weekly feature where we break down the game of international prospects from around the league!

    The departure of James Harden from the Thunder in 2012 is still haunting a franchise that hasn’t really been able to recover and find a reliable replacement for the Beard. Oklahoma came into the 2013 draft with three picks, their own at No. 29 and two more, No. 12 and No. 32 from the trade with the Rockets.

    After covering their need for a big man with Steven Adams, the Thunder was also looking for some perimeter defense and more shooting. Andre Roberson was picked at No. 26 (in a cash swap for No.29) and, since it’s hard to find someone who can make an immediate impact in the early second round, the team took a flier on Alex Abrines.

    A pure shooter who was under contract with European powerhouse Barcelona B.C. and had no problem being stashed in Europe. Alejandro (or Alex) grew up playing professionally for a local Spanish team (Unicaja Malaga) and quickly made a name for himself after scoring 31 points in an ACB game at just the age of 18 and guiding the Spanish U20 national team to the bronze medal at the European Championship in Slovenia.

    After three seasons with a team like Barcelona B.C., which is consistently one of the top clubs in Spain and Europe housing several top international players, he didn’t actually turn out to be the scorer that everyone thought he could become.

    The Thunder, desperate to cover for the loss of KD, offered him a pretty lucrative deal ($17million over 3 years) in order to make the jump to the NBA. The amount of guaranteed money they offered to a 22-year-old rookie shows how heavily invested the team was into him but after a stellar rookie season, Abrines has actually regressed losing minutes to rookie Terrance Ferguson this year.

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    Need for spacing in Thunder’s offense

    Billy Donovan is one of the game’s best when it comes to individual development but he doesn’t want to put his players in a box, calling plays and telling them exactly where to be at any time. For example, he doesn’t love ball screens late in the clock because of the tendency for the defense to switch, giving instead the ball to Russell Westbrook and letting him attack even if that means passing up on favorable mismatches.

    Look at this possession where Abrines has a ludicrous height advantage over J.J. Barea, yet Westbrook first won’t give him the ball in the post and then he won’t be patient enough to wait until he comes out of a double screen, opting instead for a missed 21-foot pull-up jump shot.

    Donovan has traditionally played two non-shooters in many of his lineups, whether they included Steven Adams and Andre Roberson or forward Jerami Grant or whichever other duos he’s elected to pair causing some apparent lane clogging. But when Abrines is on the court, the opposing team needs to account for him rather than ignore him like they do with Roberson.

    This also allows fewer double team opportunities on Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. In this play, Abrines is stationed at the corner with his feet set and after an excellent screen by Steven Adams, PG attacks the rim but Marcus Georges-Hunt fakes the help as he knows that he can’t leave his man wide open.

    Even though Abrines presence hasn’t yet led to much offensive production from him, it has made the Thunder more efficient. The more shooting you have on the court, the more spacing you have. At the same time, you can space your guys all the way out, but if your shooting guard can’t shoot, it doesn’t make a difference where you put them because the well-coached teams won’t guard him.

    Abrines hasn’t hit more than 40 percent from deep in two seasons in the NBA but he is at 43.7 percent from the corners making him a lethal option that defenses have to respect.

    Charismatic shooter but limited scorer

    The Spaniard is one of the purest shooters among European players with fluid mechanics, quick release and deep range. He possesses an excellent off-ball game, exploiting screens and cuts while also using pull-up jumpers and pump fakes in order to require attention. He’s not only a very good open-shot shooter but has also proven able to make shots on the move coming off side screens, setting his feet quickly and letting it fly.

    During his time in the Euroleague, he made a name for himself by hitting off-balance shots from all over the floor but with most of the attention going to the big three this year, the majority of his shots are relatively open and the direct result of an extra pass.

    While his shooting efficiency is undisputed, Abrines doesn’t attack the rim nearly enough, he lacks a reliable mid range game and has poor footwork which translates to him not always running the floor and getting easy buckets. He doesn’t have any sort of explosiveness or advanced moves to get separation on straight isolations and therefore he fails to get to the fouling line often (only 0.7 free throws per contest), even though he shoots an elite 86 percent from the charity line.

    Look at him missing everything as he is unable to create some separation while attacking a smaller Darren Collison. Yet, he is long enough to score with the easy tip-in afterwards.

    What further limits his ability as a scorer is the lack of pick-and-roll action in a Thunder scheme that relies heavily on ISO situations for the Big 3. Abrines is basically being used as a decoy most of the time he is on the floor and only a change of scenery could reveal whether he is able to handle a bigger offensive load.

    Defensive liability

    The Thunder obviously knew what they were getting in Abrines as, his contributions through blocks, steals and defensive rebounds, have always been below average. The Spaniard has remained a steady shooter for the Thunder but his defensive flaws have become more apparent, to the point that Billy Donovan has elected to play Terrance Ferguson ahead of him, as the rookie offers significantly more defensively.

    Abrines lacks strength in his 190-pound frame to contain dribble penetration through contact and he doesn’t have the length to contest shots from mid-range or at the rim particularly effectively. Simply put, he is one of the worst defenders in the league and opponents immediately attack him when he steps on the court.

    Rick Carlisle puts the ball in Wesley Matthew’s hands as soon as Abrines enters the game and the veteran has no problem scoring on him with a couple savvy moves as the Spaniard looks helpless.

    Numbers sometimes lie and while he has an eye-popping 89.4 defensive rating this year, on two-pointers, Abrines’ opponents hit an astonishing 57.5 percent of their shots while on triples, he allows 42.7 percent.

    Lack of supreme athleticism and injury prone

    Even though Abrines’ wingspan and height are great for his position and while his athleticism is reasonable, he doesn’t have the lift or quickness to create many shots and often gets overpowered by opponents. His frame is still skinny and the lack of strength, length and athleticism is apparent at all times. As a result, Abrines struggles to stop the ball and to close out on shooters. To make matters even worse he frequently fouls 3-point jump shooters because he is late to contest.

    He has also been plagued by miscellaneous injuries in the last couple seasons in his hip, groin and knee further validating how his body is not yet ready for the physical level required at the NBA level.

    Thunder surprisingly better with him on the floor

    Abrines’ style of play reminds many scouts of another Rudy Fernandez with a sweeter looking stroke and a bigger frame but the lack of strength hasn’t help him make that leap yet. Thunder are 8.9 points per 100 possessions better when he’s on the floor while they make more shots, more threes and find more efficient opportunities.

    His ability to stretch the floor, his skill level and his understanding of how to play the game make for an excellent rotation guy but there is still much to be wanted. Donovan clearly believes in him and he recently talked about how important he thinks it is for Alex to continue to grow and develop defensively, as the Thunder has invested a lot of money in him and hope he can become a valuable piece of their core moving forward.

    Hope you enjoyed reading this article and don’t forget to let us know about your favorite international prospect that you would want to learn more about. Make sure you follow all of our breaking news and rumors on our brand new account @HoopBallFantasy .

    Stats are courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of January 26.

Fantasy News

  • Jimmy Butler
    SG, Miami Heat

    Jimmy Butler averaged 20.2 points, 0.5 3s, 6.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.5 blocks on .454 shooting in 54 games for 24/13 value in 8/9-cat leagues on a per-game basis.

    Butler had some owners scared as he missed the beginning of the season due to the birth of his child, but it wouldn't mean much in the long run. He's a proven early-round asset and the 13th value was around where we had him. The 3-pointers went away, but he made up for it in defense and efficiency.

  • Bam Adebayo
    C, Miami Heat

    Bam Adebayo averaged 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.3 blocks on .567 shooting in 65 games for 31/40 value in 8/9-cat leagues on a per-game basis.

    Adebayo blossomed into the All-Star we pegged him as here at Hoop Ball.. The double-double machine was efficient from all areas of the floor and ran point for the Heat the majority of the time, especially on his own defensive rebounds as shown by his 5.1 dimes per-game. Adebayo's only 22 years old and posted top-40 value during his first year as a starter. The ceiling is the heavens.

  • Derrick Jones Jr.
    SF, Miami Heat

    Derrick Jones averaged 8.9 points, 0.7 3s, 4.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.7 blocks on .514 shooting in 51 games for 155/114 value in 8/9-cat leagues on a per-game basis.

    Jones' amazing leaping ability was what made him a household name as he was always astounding in the dunk contests, but he was able to translate the athleticism into some juicy fantasy value this year. He wasn't able to consistently provide value, which is something many Heat forwards struggle to do, but the defensive numbers gave him some nice upside as a flier/waiver wire pick.

  • Kendrick Nunn
    PG, Miami Heat

    Kendrick Nunn averaged 29.8 minutes, 15.6 points, 2.1 3s, 2.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.2 blocks on .448 shooting in 62 games for 127/132 value in 8/9-cat leagues on a per-game basis.

    Nunn came out of no where this year and took over the reins as the Heat's primary scorer when Jimmy Butler missed the first few games due to the birth of his child. There wasn't any draft hype around Nunn in 2018 due to him pleading guilty to a charge of misdemeanor battery while in college, but the Heat signed him a year later to give him a shot. It would pay off on the basketball court as he was able to make a name for himself. Everything broke right for Nunn this season for him to crack top-130 value so it's hard to love the idea of him repeating his 2019-2020 breakout season.

  • Kelly Olynyk
    C, Miami Heat

    Kelly Olynyk averaged 7.7 points, 1.4 3s, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.6 steals and 0.3 blocks on .476 shooting for 192/188 value in 8/9-cat leagues on a per-game basis.

    Olynyk was stuck in another up-and-down season with the carousel of forwards the Heat were playing. There was fatigue at the beginning of the year due to playing in the FIBA World Cup and he was slow to recover from the tiredness and some injuries. He also had to compete with even more bodies this season and the emergence of Bam Adebayo meant even less minutes for Olynyk. His stat set and skills are there, but the opportunity wasn't,

  • Andre Iguodala
    SF, Miami Heat

    Andre Iguodala averaged 4.4 points, 0.6 3s, 3.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.1 blocks on .490 shooting in 14 games for 237/257 value in 8/9-cat leagues on a per-game basis.

    Iguodala's holdout on the Grizzlies caused some controversy, but it worked out for him in the end as Pat Riley saved his season by trading for him and getting him on a contending team. His fantasy value was fringe on the Warriors so it was unlikely he would hold any on the Heat, but his real life impact was the big headline on the day he was traded. Expect to see Iggy play some real playoff minutes guarding the opposing team's best scorers as he can still defend with the best of them.

  • Solomon Hill
    SF, Miami Heat

    Solomon Hill averaged 5.4 points, 1.1 3s, 2.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.2 blocks on .403 shooting for 289/284 value in 8/9-cat leagues on a per-game basis.

    Hill only played in six out of the 11 games for the Heat since being traded in a package with Jae Crowder and was an afterthought in the rotation. The Heat traded for Crowder and Hill was thrown in so it makes sense to see his playing time dip.

  • Kz Okpala
    F, Miami Heat

    Kz Okpala averaged 1.4 points, 1.0 rebounds, 0.2 assists, 0.4 steals and 0.2 blocks on .600 shooting in five games for 438/428 value in 8/9-cat leagues on a per-game basis.

    Okpala spent most of his season in the G-league to develop his skills as the second round pick only played in five games this year.

  • Gabe Vincent
    PG, Miami Heat

    Gabe Vincent averaged 2.0 points, 0.7 3s, 0.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists and 0.2 steals on .211 shooting in six games for 484/474 value in 8/9-cat leagues on a per-game basis.

    Vincent was signed for his sharpshooting skills and although the averages don't show it, he has the ability to hit the deep ball which is why he remains on the Heat roster. He won't get any real minutes unless those ahead of him in the rotation sit or get hurt.

  • Udonis Haslem
    PF, Miami Heat

    Udonis Haslem averaged 1.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in three games of action for 490/484 value in 8/9-cat leagues on a per-game basis.

    The most useful information from this blurb will be the fact that Haslem actually got off the bench for three games this season. Other than that, he was a veteran signing to help mentor the Heat and we wouldn't be surprised if he sticks around the organization even after he retires as a player.

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