Credit: BasketNews illustration
Credit BasketNews illustration

After spending seven seasons with Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, Jan Vesely decided to change jersey, moving to FC Barcelona. The 32-year-old Czech international signed a three-year contract with the Catalan club.

2-pointers this season

55%
20,2
Points made: 20,2
Accuracy: 54,8%
Place in standings: 4
Record max: 27
Record min: 9
Most made 2FGs: Brandon Davies

On this occasion, BasketNews evaluates Vesely's transfer to the Spanish powerhouse by giving a grade from A (being the best) to F (the worst) and discusses whether it's a good and impactful signing for Barca.

A counterbalance move

After an underwhelming season for the Blaugrana, Juan Carlos Navarro, the basketball section general director, promised "exciting additions to form a team that will be prepared to win everything". And the first of them arrived a few hours after those words.

Although another Copa del Rey has been added to the club's trophy case, dropping both the EuroLeague semifinal and the Spanish league finals to Real Madrid was a very hard blow.

Through all those defeats, the determining factor and the common denominator has been Madrid's overwhelming dominance of the inside game, manifesting in an unstoppable Walter Tavares.

With Sertac Sanli being injured in some games, Barcelona could not stop their opponents, neither with Brandon Davies nor with Rolands Smits, due to all of them being physically inferior. 

In terms of size, athleticism, and physicality, the signing of Vesely should be a great leap for Sarunas Jasikevicius' team, even though the Czech is past his prime.

In 2021-22, Vesely was the fourth-most valuable player in the EuroLeague, with an average of 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, and led the Turks in their Turkish league battles against Anadolu Efes, being chosen as the Finals MVP (16.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 23 in PIR).

When injuries have spared him, Vesely has been one of Europe's most decisive players: EuroLeague champion in 2017, EuroLeague MVP in 2019, and three times a member of the All-competition First Team (2017, 2018, and 2019).

Czech-mates

Jan Vesely

Jan  Vesely
Team: Fenerbahce Istanbul
Position: C
Age: 32
Height: 211 cm
Weight: 109 kg
Birth place: Ostrava, Czech Republic

In signing with Barcelona, Jan Vesely also signed up for a reunion with his teammate on the Czech Republic national team, Tomas Satoransky. However, the two have another thing in common - their NBA tenure. 

After shining with Partizan Belgrade, the big man from Ostrava spent three seasons in the NBA, where he did not perform as expected. He didn't leave his mark with either Washington or Denver, amassing 162 games over three seasons.

Vesely came to Turkey in 2014 when Satoransky's first stint with Barca had started. The 30-year-old point guard joined the Wizards, Vesely's first NBA team, in 2016 and stayed overseas for six campaigns. 

One element that could facilitate the two Czech players is Satoransky's court vision and Vesely's finishing ability. The former Fenerbahce player is a real threat close to the basket since only a few players have the athletic ability to finish plays as effectively as he does.

Although Vesely doesn't stand out for his footwork or for generating his own shot based on his post-up game, his offensive influence doesn't end near the basket.

The Czech has been developing his mid-range shot for years, an addition to his game that he has been perfecting and is becoming more comfortable. His success from middle range is considerable, albeit far from impressive, and in any case, reminiscent of Brandon Davies' effectiveness.

The difference is that Vesely is more of a spot shooter than his predecessor, which means that most of his mid-range shots come off his teammates' assists. 

Satoransky, as the team's starting point guard, will have a say in that respect.

Can he replace Davies?

One of the pertinent questions in Vesely's case is whether he is the ideal replacement for Brandon Davies. Given that replacing Davies with a player who offers the same as the American big man is impossible, his successor was the most suitable player in the European market.

The ability that both have shown to defend perimeter players will probably help Saras keep the same type of defense that worked with Davies on the court, switching whenever there's a pick.

Offensively, apart from their mid-range prowess, both can distribute the ball from the short roll. Vesely tends to look for a cut from a teammate or for a mid-range shot.

This past season, he averaged 2.5 assists per game, being the second inside player in the EuroLeague to reach those numbers (behind Luke Sikma, who had 3.5 assists per contest).

In this way, the Czech's style fits in perfectly with Barça's offensive philosophy, as the team does not necessarily need a scoring center but rather one that can locate any favorable mismatches and make the best of them. 

Vesely is also an improvement compared to Davies in the rebounding department. While the American big man and Sertac Sanli averaged a moderate 3.7 and 3.3 rebounds per game, respectively, Vesely grabbed 6.1 per game with Fener. Given Barcelona's need to get the defensive rebound, Vesely's signing will help cover the gap separating them from Real Madrid.

On the other hand, while Davies stood out for being effective on the low post, Vesely, by comparison, is a center with fewer resources down low. Maybe that's one of the reasons why Jasikevicius chose to move for Nikola Kalinic once the Serbian forward became available.

A potential downside

One of the great doubts that have been created around Vesely since the rumors about his future arrival began to spread was his proneness to injuries. His knee issues since 2016 have become chronic, and Vesely is now 32. 

Looking at the player's recent track, it's noticeable that the real problems started after 2018. Until then, Vesely had only missed 13 games over four seasons. But after that, he had to sit out five games in 2018-19, another ten in 2019-20, six in 2020-21, and twelve last year. 

In total, Vesely has played 222 of Fenerbahce's 265 EuroLeague matches. The number corresponds to 83% of his former team's games. In both Partizan and Fenerbahce, the Czech big man played many minutes, always above 20 per game and, usually, as a starter, alternating between '4' and '5'.

This past year, he played an average of 28 minutes per game, a number he's expected to approach at Barca, regardless of whether the club signs another big man. Whatever happens, Vesely will be their main guy.

A (former) defensive scarecrow

But Vesely's influence doesn't end on the offensive end. Thanks to his past as a light forward, he has enough speed and lateral agility to successfully defend most EuroLeague guards.

On the other hand, it's true that the injuries he's had in recent seasons have slightly diminished his physical features. Still, Vesely manages not to suffer too much in the perimeter defense and will only have a hard time containing players who can move quicker than he does, like Mike James or Shane Larkin.

His defensive impact on Fenerbahce was quite apparent, as with him on the court, the Turkish side conceded 107 points for every 100 possessions while giving up 115 when Vesely was on the bench.

During his time with Fenerbahce, Vesely has stood out for being a complete defender and adaptable to different situations. His height and wingspan allow him to scare opponents off, meeting them at the rim or somewhere near. His intelligent positioning helps him cover many passing situations, especially away from the basket.

Conclusion and transfer's grade

Jan Vesely is definitely one of this summer's marquee signings. Barcelona needed a more dominant presence in the paint than Davies, Oriola, and Sanli, and that's what they've got right now.

Vesely might not be at the height of his powers and athleticism, but he's still among the Top 3 big men in Europe, capable of supporting a wide variety of lineups and plays. 

Overall Grade: B

FC Barcelona

Position Player Status
PG Nick Calathes Signed until 2023
PG Rokas Jokubaitis Signed until 2023 +2
PG/SG Nicolas Laprovittola Signed until 2023
PG/SG Tomas Satoransky (story) Signed until 2026
SG Cory Higgins Signed until 2024
SG Kyle Kuric Signed until 2023
SF Alex Abrines Signed until 2026
PF Nikola Mirotic Signed until 2025
PF Sergi Martinez Signed until 2024
C Jan Vesely (story) Signed until 2025
C Sertac Sanli Signed until 2023
C Pierre Oriola Signed until 2024
C James Nnaji Long-term contract
Coach Sarunas Jasikevicius
Expired contract Dante Exum, Nigel Hayes-Davis (will not return), Rolands Smits (will not return), Brandon Davies (will not return)
Rumored to leave Nick Calathes (story), Cory Higgins
Interested Nikola Kalinic (story), Oscar Da Silva (story), Dante Exum
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Jan Vesely

Jan  Vesely
Jan  Vesely
MIN: 28.5
PTS: 13.64 (64.94%)
REB: 6.09
As: 2.5
ST: 1.09
BL: 0.36
TO: 2
GM: 22