By Panos Katsiroumpas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re talking about a quality player who, for the last few years, has played under the instructions of the excellent coach Trinchieri, for the team that has been boosting the value of players through its playing style and its system. Strelnieks is a quality player who can contribute a lot to Olympiacos. Nikos Zisis, who has spent the last two years with him on the German team, has already spoken to Eurohoops and has revealed the areas in which the Latvian is excellent and in which he can contribute to his new team. But before we get into the analysis of his features, let’s take a look at his course in European basketball.
The who’s who
The Latvian guard was born in September of 1989 and he spent the first years of his career in his home country and the best Latvian team, Ventspils.
After playing there for four years, he moved to Spartak Saint Petersburg, with whom he reached the Final Four of the Eurocup.
After two successful years in Saint Petersburg, he headed to neighboring Ukraine and Kiev’s Budivelnyk, a team that gave him the opportunity to get a first taste of the EuroLeague, since that year the Ukrainians made their first and only appearance in the top competition in European basketball.
The political unrest that had started to break out in Ukraine forced him to look for another team and that was no other than the German Brose Basket, or like most of us know it, Bamberg. Under the instructions of coach Trinchieri he elevated his game and he got to the point of rightly being considered one of the better guards at the top level. His successful three-year stint at Bamberg brought him to Olympiacos, for whom he’ll be playing for the next two years at least.
He’s been playing with his country’s national team since he was very young and in fact has won the bronze medal in the Under-18 European Championship in Spain in 2007. He has played with the national team in all recent EuroBaskets in which Latvia has taken part.
First of all, it’s very important to know what kind of player we’re dealing with. I had the fortune (since I analyze several EuroLeague games aside from Greek teams and Bamberg was one of my favorite teams to watch) of watching Strelnieks in more than 50 games over the last two years. That is a number that’s enough to watch a player in almost any kind of situation at the highest level, so I have a pretty clear view regarding his value and quality.
Strelnieks is a player who can play in the 1 position, as well as in the 2 position.
He’s a constant threat in set play, something that was supported to a great extent by Bamberg’s way of playing too. The numerous screens, whether on the ball or away from it, and the constant movement of players in spaces, gave the Latvian guard the chance to unfold every aspect of his talent on the court.
He’s mainly a player you can rely on in set play, since he can do well a lot of different things. He’s an excellent creator in the pick-and-roll, he can read the defense very well and make great use of his teammates. Above all, though, he’s an excellent shooter who cannot in any way be allowed to execute. In fact, Olympiacos paid for this last season, with Strelnieks executing them to give his team the win, in the game that took place in Germany.
After the general characteristics, let us slowly focus our attention on the Latvian guard’s competitive features one by one.
It’s the most powerful weapon in his arsenal. He’s a real killer who, in the season that just ended, was almost 46% from behind the three-point line. What’s amazing is that he can execute in every way and this makes him very unpredictable, especially when we’re talking about Olympiacos, who play the pick-and-roll a lot.
The Latvian can shoot either on the screen, or from mid- or short-range if he doesn’t get the chance for a long-range shot first. He moves very well in the pick-and-roll and he can shoot the ball after a dribble with ease.
Aggressiveness – drives
Even though he doesn’t have a very strong body and he’s not especially athletic, he’s not at all afraid of attacking. In the pick-and-roll game he mostly likes to look for the shot, whether from long-range if the defense plays under him or doesn’t follow up on the screen, or from mid-range if the defender prefers to block the lane to his key.
But if he finds an open lane then he won’t hesitate to attack, aiming to either finish the play, or look for a split out pass for his teammates. His favorite lane is clearly the right one, to drive as well as to take a shot, but because the opponents’ scouting read him, he started to work hard on executing from the left lane as well. He’s not as efficient but he can definitely do damage if finds the space.
This is perhaps the weak point in his offensive game. He can definitely score in this way too, but he’s much better at taking advantage of situations with the ball in his hands or in the pick-and-roll, or execute as a spot shooter. He’s not that fast or explosive to play an isolation game, although his execution is so good that, even under difficult circumstances, it can be successful.
Excellent. Last season he was Bamberg’s best passer in the pick-and-roll game, which is very useful since, aside from Spanoulis, Olympiacos don’t have another player who will be able to create consistently in the pick-and-roll. The Latvian can do this well, but he’ll definitely need to have the ball in his hands more. In any case, his presence can provide some latitude to Vassilis Spanoulis, whom we might see in other roles as well – roles that have more to do with execution – in the coming season. It is very clear, though, that both of them can coexist in the same line-up.
We can say that the choice of Strelnieks is an excellent choice because Olympiacos will clearly benefit in terms of creation and execution. He might not have the ability of other players in the isolation game, but he has other competitive features that can contribute a lot to Olympiacos, considering the way the team plays. Of course, Strelnieks is a player who comes to the fore through the team’s game and its game plan, so a big responsibility will fall on the coaching staff and the way they will use him.
What Olympiacos clearly need to do is to not hesitate or be afraid to give him the ball. The Latvian wants the ball, wants to control the game, and in this way he plays better too. If he’s going to be used as a player who will just wait for the ball in the corner, then Olympiacos have acquired a player who will use only 50% of his quality and skills. Of course, it’s still too early to be looking at these things and judging them. The only thing that is certain is that this choice is really good.