Credit: BasketNews illustration
Credit BasketNews illustration

This week included Thanksgiving Day, so the number of games was a little bit diminished, but still, plenty of takeaways were available regarding Euro-NBA players, especially the Turkish talents. 

Alperen Sengun has already started to deliver his special abilities, such as sending his regards to Rockets' legend Hakeem Olajuwon with similar tricks on the court.

Cedi Osman is getting adapted to his new role in Cavs and producing very nice offensive displays. Evan Fournier, on the other hand, is showing some French flair. 

Another week where we received the news of an ex-NBA player declaring his retirement. This time it was Beno Udrih. The Slovenian guards' brilliant NBA career that lasted over 800 games was highlighted by becoming the NBA champions two times with San Antonio Spurs.

In the meantime, another Slovenian, Goran Dragic, is announced to take a leave of absence for personal reasons, with the full support of the Toronto Raptors.

The Giannis' love for Oreo dunks, the partial recovery of Doncic, and here is the weekly NBA Europe review.

Sengun is Filling Up the Hype 

After losing games for an entire month, Houston Rockets remembered to win games again last week, while their rookie center Alperen Sengun is beginning to deliver what he was expected to provide: some hope.

The Turkish center is currently on 9 pts, 5.3 rebs, 2.5 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.7 blocks averages, which puts him in the top 6 list of the NBA rookies in the efficiency index.

No 16 Pick of 2021 Draft has already recorded two double-doubles in his short NBA career and eleven 10+ scoring games.

Finally, his 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists effort helped the Rockets to finish the 15-game losing run and, surprisingly, bring Chicago Bulls down. 

Getting beyond the scoring numbers, their quality and variety were also impressive. Against the Bulls, he sent two 3 pointers from the wing, which exemplifies his rising capacity to stretch the defenses to the outer perimeter.

Last season in Turkey, he made only 27% behind the arc. In his first NBA season, he is currently at 40%.

Against the Celtics, he showed his skills as a PnR rolling player; he can score from mid-range, attack the rim, make effective rotations with balanced footwork. 

Another aspect to emphasize is his superior passing skills. His 13 assists provided last week aside (7 in the game against Celtics), the relative importance of Sengun in the team is reflected in the assist rates: 21.4% is the 4th best figure among all the rookies after Josh Giddey, Cade Cunningham, Davion Mitchell)

Perhaps more importantly, Sengun is 3rd among all the centers in the NBA after Nikola Jokic (34%) and Julius Randle (24%) in this category. The kid is no joke. 

As a frequent shot-taker on the floor, Sengun's usage rate climbed to 23%(per Cleaning the Glass), the fourth among all the rookies involved. With Jalen Green's injury, that could get even higher.

That high usage also brings high-frequency post-up turnovers (35%, 4th among the league).

But he is also very often fouled, and that is very important to bring his team on the free-throw line, considering the fact that Houston is behind the 3rd worst team in the offensive ratings.

In the game against the Bulls, Nikola Vucevic reached 5 fouls already at the beginning of the 4th quarter.

He committed three of them while trying to contain Alperen Sengun. With Sengun's presence, Houston is on the Top10 list in the rate of free throws per field goal attempt. 

New Role and Rising Prominence of Cedi Osman

Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to keep their winning record just on par with .500, and Cedi Osman is trying his best to give noteworthy contributions.

Against Phoenix Suns, he played a special game where not only did he reach a milestone with 1000 successful field goals, but he also delivered 23 points with 5-7 three-point shooting.

More importantly, all these provided valuable offensive support as Cleveland chased Phoenix almost the whole night. With the help of Cedi's clutch three and assist for another three from Markkanen, Cavs erased the 15 points 4th quarter deficit to bring the score level.

Despite all, the Suns survived to reach their 14th straight win while Ricky Rubio's 3 free-throw misses were surely detrimental.

But his coach JB Bickerstaff is pretty happy to see Cedi Osman getting used to his simplified role as a solid bench contributor. 

Osman's leading this young Cavs team is something nice to watch since his points per shooting attempt rose to 126.5 per 100 possessions, a career-high.

That also matches with a sparkling 44% 3FG shooting (without the garbage time) and 62% effective field goal accuracy; levels that are uncharted territory for him.

When we look at the Top 10 players in the 3 point %, who at least made 5 attempts per game, Cedi Osman is a member of that sharpshooting club. 

That is a timely improvement due to the latest adversity that Cavs found themselves in: Collin Sexton is out for the season with a torn meniscus and some other players need to step up offensively to make up for the void.

Since then, Cedi averaged 14.7 points 4 rebounds, two 20+ games, and two other 10+ games. 

All these offensively positive contributions made him pretty crucial for Cleveland as his presence on the court makes a +8.2 difference per possession: that is the second-biggest margin for the team. (First is Darius Garland: +11.6)

Defensively, he appears to be a liability due to constraints with respect to NBA physicality, but his cunning defensive moves also started to make a difference lately.

In the last seven games, he made at least one steal, including that double-team surprise against Robin Lopez and a good read to intervene the pass for JaVale McGee in the past week. 

Some French Flair with Fournier

The New York Knicks quickly recovered in their playoff contention to finish the week with two wins against the Lakers and the Hawks, while Evan Fournier dropped 26 and 20 points, respectively.

Despite the loss against the high-flying Suns, this was Evan Fournier's best week this season.

In the process, Fournier averaged 19.0 points while hitting 13 of these 22 attempts from 3-point range, and for the first time since last March, he made at least five three-pointers in consecutive games.

It looks like the French guard stands firm to prove that every cent of that four-year- 78 million $ contract signed off-season was worth it. 

Earlier, the Knicks coach Thibodeau predicted that Fournier being a complementary part of the team, and the best is yet to come from him. Well said, coach.

Fournier's sharpened role supports the high gravities of Kemba Walker and Julius Randle, and he is wisely sneaking into the soft spots of the defense while others are focusing on bigger guns. 

As it stands, Randle made 38 assists for Fournier (the most in any passing network of the Knicks), and 31 of them are for 3-pointers.

Only Draymond Green-Stephen Curry is as equally powerful as this duo's passing traffic when it comes to 3-pointers. We can also add the 13 assists that Kemba Walker made to Fournier, 6 of them for threes.

Currently, Evan Fournier's is 40% from 3FG and his frequency to send behind the arc is 56%, figures that are more or less the same as last season.

However, his catch-n-shoot threes are becoming much more frequent.

Last season, it was 46% with catch-n-shoots with 1.8 attempts per game, and currently, he is already hitting 44% per 2.3 attempts, among the Top 15 players in the NBA for this category. Like coach Thibedau said, perhaps the best is yet to come. 

Giannis' Love for Oreo Dunks and Just the Regular Ones 

Milwaukee put things on the right track with seven-straight wins, four of them last week, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is just a happy man.

This is not only because he led his team to a win against Detroit with the seventh 30+ points game of the season or two more double-double games against a Jokic-less Nuggets and Pacers with 24 points & 14 rebounds and 26 points & 13 rebounds in back-to-back games.

He was just responding to the addition of DeMarcus Cousins very positively, four-time All-Star Center joining the Bucks to fill the roster as a third option in the paint.

Brook Lopez has been injured since the first game of the season, and the Giannis-Portis duo was the duo to play in that center rotation. Finally, Giannis can slide into his power forward role back again.

Giannis' assist rate has kept rising lately; 30% per NBA advanced stats. Accordingly, he is listed as having the 3rd highest rate of assists among all the forwards in the league, just behind Luka Doncic (NBA.com lists him as forward-guard) and Draymond Green, and one spot higher than Lebron James.

But perhaps as an equally important aspect, Giannis' defensive impact is more heavily felt this season, especially in the last two weeks.

The Bucks is still 8th place on the defensive efficiency list (per Cleaning the Glass) but the best defensive team in the last two weeks, getting ahead of season leader of the category, Golden State Warriors. 

With Giannis playing on the court, the Bucks defending the rim shots 9.4% better and the 3-pointers 5.2%.

Overall, that translates into a +18.6 difference per 100 possession created by only the defense of Giannis. He might not be scary when he is dunking the Oreos in the milk, though, a great discovery at the age of 26, as he puts it.

Doncic-Porzingis Duo Efforts Fall Short 

In the meantime, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis reunited again, thanks to Doncic's injury comeback after 8 days. And together, they did not disappoint the Clippers despite the Paul George 3-pointer that forced the game into overtime. 

Once again, Doncic showed his magical skills in a game he had committed three fouls already in the first half.

He scored 15 of 26 points in the third quarter, bringing Dallas back into the game. He also provided four assists when Tyron Lue chose to double team him, which the Clippers coach lamented afterward.

Those traps worked for Porzingis as well, who scored the late decisive points to get a win and reached the 30 points mark once again. That 20+ points game scoring series for the Latvian came to an end against the Wizards, though. 

His presence on the court was felt in a lower level of intensity towards the end of the game as he took 12 shots in total, missing all his last 6 in the second half, and looked discouraged at times. 

Doncic's problems with this ankle are not totally recovered, as he admitted playing despite the pain in the Clippers game. Against the Wizards, he came to the bench hobbling at the end of the 1st quarter but continued as if it was nothing. 

#LukaMagic ended up with 33 points, 4 rebounds, and 10 assists (8 of them in the first half), but this time, they could not anchor the Mavericks in front of their fans for the first time in 15 days.

He missed one very long-range step-back three over Daniel Gafford with 6.5 left on the clock and could not make that fall this time. 

Still, Doncic remains the only player in the NBA to have 25+ points, 8+ assists, and 8+ rebounds averages in NBA.

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2022-01-10
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