After introducing and analyzing some of Europe’s more promising big guys, it’s time for a look at Aleksa Avramovic (SG), Drew Crawford (Wing) and J.J. O’Brien (Wing).
Aleksa Avramovic (’94) – Openjobmetis Varese
Aleksa Avramovic is 24 years old, member of the Serbian national team and an integral part of Varese’s roster in the Italian Serie A. But blink one or two times and you suddenly see a 31 year old shooting guard with French roots playing for Real Madrid. If you’re looking for the next Fabien Causeur, just look at Aleksa Avramovic. He basically is Fabien Causeur, although the latter is definitely (much) better at this point. Both are SG’s who relentlessely attack the rim with their left hand – almost every possession. Finishes with the right hand? Optional! An occassional three pointer here and there? Necessary! Watch those clips and decide: Aleksa Avramovic or Fabien Causeur?
Maybe Aleksa Avramovic isn’t Fabien Causeur right now, but he could very well be a copy of him in two or three years. Avramovic bursts with energy, but lacks polish, something Causeur has maybe more than any other guy in Europe – just looking at left handed finishes. Avramovic doesn’t have those ‘skill finishes’ yet. Or more accurate: not enough of them. He’s not great in static pick and roll actions, gambles on defense and his three point shot needs time to develop. But give him a summer or two and a workout or two with his French counterpart and the results would be a joy to watch. They don’t share the same agent, they don’t play on the same team and they are not born in the same country. Maybe they don’t have much in common, but one thing’s for sure: Their game is almost identical.
Drew Crawford (’90) – Vanoli Cremona
If there isn’t a bidding war in the summer for Drew Crawford then some teams are clearly missing out on the progress the american native has made in his now three and a half years in Europe. Crawford, a 28-year old wing dressing up for Vanoli Cremona is playing some of his best basketball in his career, recently earning him MVP honours in the Italian Cup where he averaged 19.6 points over three games. Crawford is your prototypical wing, a jack of all trades with his great size and athleticism, versatility on both(!) ends and a reliable three point stroke, something he had to prove over the years.
Besides his lethal spot-up shooting, Crawford can go to the rim, draw fouls, post you up, run the pick and roll, pull up from 15 feet or simply get buckets in transition. Maybe his passing out of the pick and roll is not elite and he could be better at going by athletic dudes in isolation situations but that’s really nitpicking. Crawford could (and should) end up on a Euroleague team that is looking for versatility and scoring on the wing, something that he’s capable to deliver. If you remember Crawford for his Ludwigsburg days, where he couldn’t shoot – that time is over. He’s shooting 41.9% from downtown on almost 5 attempts per game – a stellar mark for a guy who’s capable of so much more. Whoever gets him after this season should feel fortunate.
J.J. O’Brien (’92) – BC Astana
If you’re searching for a two-way wing with glue-guy attributes, J.J. O’Brien might be your man. In all fairness, he might be even more than that. O’Brien, currently 26 years old, spent three years in the G League before he took the route overseas. After a successful season in Bosna he’s now part of an overachieving BC Astana team, that owns the fifth place in the VTB league. With averages of 15.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game he stuffs the stat sheet in every way possible and while Anthony Clemmons might get the spotlight, O’Brien has been equally great all season long. Next to Clemmons, Michael Jenkins and Kenneth Horton, who all take a fair amount of jumpshots a game, O’Brien brings a much needed inside force and a refreshing ‘drive-first’ mentality to the roster. The things that stand out about him the most are his toughness going to the rim and his versatility. On offense he really likes to get into the paint and draw contact.
He regularly posts up smaller guys, runs occasional pick and rolls, nails spot-up shots and finds teammates for open shots. Long story short: He’s doing a little bit of everything. The same on defense: While he’s mostly playing and defending the three spot, he can switch onto Power Forwards as well as bigger guards and hold his own. He could be better manoeuvring around screens, but that goes without saying if you’re ~2.01m and chasing around smaller guys.
O’Brien looks and plays a little bit like a taller and heavier Trent Lockett and while Trent Lockett is part of a Eurocup contender, O’Brien might take the next step this offseason. As already mentioned he likes to draw contact while attacking the rim, earning him numerous trips to the free throw line (4.2 FTA per game). He’s active in transition and can push it by himself after grabbing the board. He could trade some of his two’s for some additional three point attempts (only 1.8 per game), but he’s doing just fine regardless. O’Brien might never be the number one guy on offense for a good team, but he’s great as a guy who picks his spot every now and then.