By Niki Bakouli/ email@example.com
How can an independent scout enlighten the world about the NBA draft? It’s a question we asked in Istanbul to the guy behind the hugely successful “Draft express”. Jonathan Givony traveled all the the way to Turkey in order to attend Euroleague Final Four and Nike junior tournament and we had the chance to have a nice, very long chat with him. This is the first part and it’s focused on this year’s draft and European players who can make an impact next season in the NBA.
-What a player needs in order to have a career at the NBA?
“To play in the NBA you have to have a certain physical caliber, in terms of size, body and athleticism. That’s the minimum. In terms of skills, there are many different types of players in the NBA. Some of them are shooters, some of them are defenders, some of them are ball-handlers, some of them are all around players. There are versatile players. It depends on a team what they are looking for”.
-It’s like you are looking for a certain piece, which can complete a certain puzzle?
“We try to look and analyze every detail of their profile. Talk about what they have already improved on, what they can improve on, what they should improve on”.
-On youtube there are a lot of videos with you talking about Jeremy Lin, two years ago..
“If your question is if I expected Jeremy Lin, I have to say… no. Absolutely not. He surprised everybody. If I would have known this, I would have gone on the highest building in New York and scream to everybody that he is going to do it, but Ι had no idea”.
-Why he didn’t make an impact at Warriors and Rockets?
“The NBA is the league of opportunity, there are a lot of really good players in every team and sometimes players just don’t get the minutes to show what they can do. Also, sometimes they are not ready, entering the league, to play. But they keep working and they getting better. I think he was talented coming in to the Golden State, but he became much much better,cause he worked. He extended everybody’s expectations of him and that tells something about his character. He had an impact, but not for a long period of time, cause he got injured. So, now he has to keep evolving, he has to improve his shooting for sure and he is not a great defender. He has a lot of things he can improve on”.
-Can you tell us two-three names we are going to see them playing at the NBA, really soon –but we don’t know them yet?
“Everybody is looking for Evan Fournier (photo), right now. He is probably going to be a first round pick in this year’s draft. Everybody is looking at him obviously. It’s not a very strong draft for European players. Everybody is also looking at Alejandro Abrines, in Malaga. He is a big time prospect, Dmitry Kulagin is someone people looking at, (Dario) Saric we all saw at Nike’s Juniors Tournament. I’ve seen improvement. He is dominating the game, this year”
-And who from those European guys who were already draft picks can survive at the NBA?
“Valanciunas is going to make a huge impact on NBA, because of his intensity. There is no question about it. He plays harder than any guy I have seen at his age level. I have no doubt about he is going to be successful in the NBA. Kyle Singler, of Real Madrid, belongs to Detroit. Its most players dream, especially American players, is to play in the NBA. So, I will be surprised if he says no. But he is going to ask for a good amount of money, cause he is already a well paid player in Europe. It depends on how much they want him, I guess”.
-Did Pekovic surprised you, this year?
“I’ve always liked Nicola Pekovic. It was nice to see how much he has improved this year, he really make a big difference for them, and I think playing with Ricky Rubio helps also, cause you have got to give Pekovic the ball! About Rubio had a great first year. He was one of the best stories in the NBA season. Too bad he got injured, but I’ m sure he will come back ready. He is one of the most fun players to watch that we have”.
-And why you had a “Linsanity” and not a “Rubio-sanity”?
“I think in America there was definitely a Rubio-sanity. Everybody went crazy about him. He started really good, then he got down a little bit which is normal for a rookie player, but people were talking about him a lot this year”.
-Do you see Alexei Shved at the NBA?
“Sure, he would love to play in the NBA. He is so talented. A big guard who can do everything on the court. He is a great ball handler, passer, he is a very athletic guy. He is like… a Russian Rubio, a little bit. It is easy for him. Everything is so easy”.
-You wrote on Twitter too many good things about Kaimakoglou. What’s the deal?
“I didn’t know who he was, when he was 22. He makes a lot of money here, in Panathinaikos. He is a great player, he does everything. A role player who rebounds, can pass, plays smart, with good shoot, plays for the team, huge energy. We need players like him at the NBA, for sure, but it’s not so easy to get up one day and go to the NBA at the age of 27. But if he was interested, I am sure someone would look at him”.
-Now are you gonna have a new report on him, at draftexpress.com?
“No, cause he is not in the draft, so I cannot. Everybody sticks to what they do best. And we cover the NBA Draft. But, he is perfect and I will tell everybody that”.
-Let’s… work on Olympiacos’ case…
“The whole season was a big surprise for them. They have talent, they got the chance to win the championship and become the best team in Europe, which is amazing! The NBA had a lockout and Law and Dorsey were sitting at home and they wanted to play. They had good offers in Europe, so they decided to come and play. I don’t know if would have come if it wasn’t for the lockout. But they did and they worked for them. I saw Dorsey at the hotel, in Istanbul and he seems like he is having a great time here. I think he will try to come back to the NBA, though”.
-Papanikolaou is a draft-eligible prospect…
“Papanikolaou doesn’t feet the typical profile of what they look for. In terms of offensive stability. I like all the little things he does, he is an excellent defender, a team player, with a lot of energy, I don’t know though, if he going to be a liability offensively in the NBA. That’s a question”.
We had this conversation, the morning of this year’s Euroleague Final and during this game, Jonathan Givony wrote on Twitter “Kostas Papanikοlaou with a Euroleague career high 18 points. Timing could not be any better. Also did a great job on Kirilenko defensively” and “In the past it felt like Kostas Papanikοlaou was not all that interested in scoring. Clearly that’s not the case anymore. Huge 3-pointer there”, before he tweeted “we’ll have an updated scouting report on Papanikolaou in the next few days. Has some interesting tools for a NBA SF, especially defensively”, something they did. Together with a new report for Shved, for whom he wrote on Twitter, few days ago “Most active pursuers for Alexey Shved’s services: Minnesota, Memphis, OKC. Asking price: 3 years, 10 mil USD. CSKA doesn’t expect him back”.