ANGT Munich: Real Madrid – BIGS (Part I)

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Usmán Garuba

Per game statistics: 16.5 points (76% 2FG, 40% 3FG, 7 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1 block, 0.8 turnovers.

Usmán Garuba came into Munich with lofty expectations after having dominated at every single international event in the past few years, wearing either the Real Madrid or the Spanish National Team jersey. He went on to fulfil said expectations and thoroughly dominated every single game, making his presence felt powerfully and consistently.

Garuba is simply physically overwhelming at this level. Despite not having prototypical size for a 5 or even a 4 at the highest levels, Garuba has the strength, length, foot speed and mobility to be unstoppable at the junior stage. He is almost like a hurricane in the paint: he runs harder than everybody else, jumps higher and outworks every opponent on every possession. His motor never stops, and that seems clearly translatable to the next level: he simply overwhelms opponents with an extremely high level of intensity that keeps on going.

Outside of that, Garuba looks broadly the same as he always did. He has good touch inside for a variety of finishes. While still not looking orthodox or very polished, he is more than able to generate buckets at this level driving or with his back to the basket, and shot an outrageous 76% from two-point range in the tournament. He has great passing instincts, and although the execution remains one of his areas of improvement, he averaged 3.8 assists per game in under 20 minutes — clearly a great mark for a big man. He is shooting with confidence from the perimeter —a key skill for him going forward— but the results have been mixed this weekend in Munich, as he made 40% of his shots from deep but only took 5 of them. Defensively, he can protect the rim and get in a stance and wall off quicker players on the perimeter at a high level, and even drew the Deni Avdija assignment for roughly half of the game and performed well. However, the biggest question mark with him going forward is probably whether either or both of these things will hold up against higher level competition.

All in all, this was a great showing from Garuba, who took home MVP honours and looked dominant every time he hit the court. He looks ready to play at a much higher level already, and it is possible that Real Madrid will bring him in as a first team player next season if any of their big men depart.

Amar Sylla

Per game statistics: 14.5 points (68% 2FG), 7.8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1.5 turnovers.

Amar Sylla had the breakdown tournament everyone had been waiting for here in Munich. The Senegalese big man, perhaps a better NBA prospect that teammate Garuba, had more flashes of brilliance here —and showed them more consistently— than ever before. Sylla has excellent size, length and athleticism for an NBA big man, and he is able to impact the game as soon as he steps on the court. His physical attributes allow him to space the floor vertically, with his length and leaping ability providing Real Madrid passers with an excellent lob target with a huge catching radius. He also has great touch around the rim and from the midrange, sinking all 12 of his free throws —a testament to his excellent work ethic given his improvement in this area since his arrival in Madrid— and shooting 68% from two point range.

Defensively is where Sylla might have the highest potential. He is an excellent rim protector who averaged 3 blocks per game here in Munich, and looked fearsome both in help side defense and in one-on-one situations. He is also able to get down in a stance and defend smaller players, which bodes well for him considering the switcher defences that are very much en vogue in the NBA an the Euroleague these days. He even stripped a guard before completing a 360º dunk during the game against ALBA Berlin, in one of the highlight plays of the tournament. He still needs more polish as he can get blown by when he relaxes his stance, but the potential is clear.

Sylla will need to continue working on his skillset, as his dribbling and shooting look excellent but are not quite at the requisite level for him to be a consistent threat on the ball — indeed, Sylla only attempted one shot from deep during the whole ANGT qualifier in Munich However, his foundation is extremely intriguing, and he profiles as a two-way threat once his body fills out and he is able to withstand more physicality on both ends of the floor. It would not be surprising to see Sylla eventually jump to the highest levels in the short term, as his physical profile combined with his mental approach to the game and his intriguing skillset are likely enough to give him a ticket to the NBA at some point soon.

Golden Dike

Per game statistics: 9.3 points (60% 2FG), 7 rebounds, 1 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 0 blocks.

The official starting center for Real Madrid alongside Usmán Garuba, Golden Dike played his role very effectively in Munich, despite showing what his current areas of improvement are. Dike has decent size at 6’8 and very good strength and coordination. He is able to withstand contact quite effectively on both ends, although he tends to pick his spots questionably on offense leading to some bad shots. He has very good, nimble feet for his size, and Real Madrid even had him hedging hard on pick and rolls and then recovering, which Dike was able to do against basically any opponent here. His large body, willingness to mix it up and agility will likely make him a good rebounder at the next level as well. He isn’t very explosive, though, and struggles elevating both for finishes on offense and for blocks on defense — indeed, he had 0 blocks during the 4-game Munich qualifier, which is rare for a 6’8 center at this level.

For Dike, the area of improvement is essentially his touch and his awareness. He shows some nice flashes every now and again with some interesting spin moves in the post, but his timing can be off as he will run straight into the help defense. He moves well without the ball and usually gets his guards good passing lanes, but his lack of explosion and awareness hurts him here too as many times he doesn’t even manage to get a good shot off, instead pivoting into defenders trying to carve out space but forcing a tough shot or getting called for travels, contributing to him averaging more turnovers (1.5) than assists (1) here in Munich. He does have some decent tools, but he will need to polish his skill level and his tactical awareness in order to be a more productive player.

Rubén López de la Torre

Per game statistics: 8.8 points (75% FG, 14.3% 3pt), 3.8 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.8 turnovers, 0 blocks.

An extremely productive player at the U16 level, Rubén López de la Torre is currently undergoing a transition from playing inside to playing on the perimeter, and said transition is very clearly a work in progress at this stage. He remains a productive player at this level, as his strength, touch and offensive awareness allow him to finish effectively around the rim. He is an extremely productive post up player who feasted when guarded by smaller wings, and Real Madrid was very willing to feed him in the block when their main guys were on the bench — which was plenty of minutes in Munich as most games were decided by halftime.

However, he didn’t show much in the ways of perimeter skill. He barely dribbled the ball facing the rim and Real Madrid did not have him running a single pick and roll. Although he shot the ball when open, he did not do so effectively and he seems to be quite far from contributing from deep — an absolute necessity if he is to be a wing player. Ultimate, his progress in these two areas will likely determine his ceiling as a player, as his multitude of other strengths (discipline, touch, awareness, IQ) will not be as exploitable inside the paint amongst the professional level big men.

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