Profiling Spurs' Bertans, Lorbek, Hanga


Draft Night 2011 was a big night for the San Antonio Spurs.

It signaled they are in a rebuilding mode of sorts after years of conservative moves while keeping the core rotation players intact they went and traded George Hill for the rights to Kawhi Leonard, Davis Bertans and Erazem Lorbek.

The Spurs also ended up taking Cory Joseph, point guard from Texas, and Adam Hanga a shooting guard from Hungary. The American players acquired on draft night are for the most part known quantities.

What is almost always a mystery to American basketball fans is the ability of the Euro players the team picked up on draft night. Prior to the draft, fans hear comparisons made by analysts of these Euro prospects to established NBA players.

In 2003 you heard things about Darko Milicic like ” He’s Dirk Nowitski with an attitude’.” I don’t think anyone of us can forget the Nikoloz Tskitishvili debacle that ended with him in 2008 being cast by ESPN’s Adam Reisinger as the worst NBA draft lottery pick ever selected at 5th overall.

Thankfully for Spurs fans, the Spurs have never made a huge gaffe like that. I’d argue they have never missed when drafting an international prospect ever. These three Euro players – Bertans, Lorbek, and Hanga – are all very well respected prospects, or in the case of Lorbek being too old to be a prospect, a respected player in the Euroleagues.

Here is a run down of what they bring to the table as players, and what potential growth they have in the future.

Davis Bertans: 6’10”, 210 lbs., 18-years old, F/C Latvia

He looks to be fairly athletic but not overly so. Has great shooting range and if his interview with FIBA is any indicator towards what his character is,he has a great attitude. The consensus on him is he will need a few more years of maturing both physically and in basketball ability overseas before coming to the NBA.

Here’s DraftExpress on his pre-draft workouts:

Atkinson ran Bertans, his brother Dairis Bertans and Janis Strelnieks through drills exhibiting Bertans’ impressive size, skill-level and athleticism. He looked very agile running the court for a 6-10 player and showed a very smooth jumper. He also dunked with ease, his wrist appearing well above the rim when he flushed the ball.

Alas, he did play and he looked rather pedestrian in the five-on-five setting. He finished with 7 points on a paltry 3/13 shooting display that included a missed dunk and having gotten blocked twice. He also had a couple unsightly turnovers. ”

He looks to be a very talented but inconsistent 18 year old. Like a lot of young players are.

Erazem Lorbek: 6’11”, 242 lbs., 27-years old, PF/C Slovenia

Erazem has a complete offensive game. He has a post game, can put the ball on the floor and hit a shot from anywhere on the court. He has a classic Euro big man skill set. The knock on him is his foot speed. Will he be able to get by better athletes in the NBA? Can he be an adequete defender?

From DraftExpress:

”Erazem Lorbek is a super-skilled player who, offensively, can do it all. It’s very hard to find 6-10 men like him with such a repertoire of abilities and solid fundamentals. Where do we start? Lorbek can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court on a good percentage. Unlike the majority of power forwards, he has a reliable jump shot off the dribble. You can see him often put the ball on the floor and take it to the basket. If his matchup overreacts, he’ll step back and make him pay with a midrange fade away jumper. Speaking of dribbling, Lorbek has nice handles with both hands. He can use them in transition, as he runs the court decently. Also when penetrating, where he can beat his opponent by faking his shot. One of Erazem’s most positive attributes is his post game. He has good footwork and knows how to use his body to take full advantage of his skills. A very nice soft touch around the basket completes the package. Lorbek sees the court very well, and always passes to the right man. He can attract defenses and then find the open man with a nice dish. He’s a better passer facing the basket then from the post. The pick and roll comes naturally to him. He usually makes the right decision. Fully understands the game. He has great basketball IQ. A clutch player and loves big games, so you won’t see him afraid of taking responsibilities. He’s very competitive.”

His weaknesses described here:

”Lorbek’s main limitation to play successfully in the NBA is his foot speed, really poor even for a player that tall. As good as he is, he will have trouble scoring against athletic matchups. Defensively it gets even worse. Given the amount of quick power forwards in the NBA, his effectiveness is at best doubtful.”

Lorbek could help the Spurs right away given his age and the fact Antonio McDyess retired. But his European contract precludes the Spurs from bringing him over until at least next season. He is the by far the most ready to play in the NBA and make an impact out of any of the Euros the Spurs picked up this year. Expect him to be the first of the three to see the court with the Spurs.

Adam Hanga: 6’7”, 200 lbs., 22-years old, SG/SF Hungary

Hanga is an athletic, high-flying wing player who is most likely to be the player NBA analysts shake their heads at and say, ”The Spurs did it again with a unknown Euro guy” in three years. He far out-classes most players on the Euro level athletically. The knock on him is he needs to add a bit of strength before coming to the NBA.

From DraftExpress:

”Standing a shade under 6’7 with a below average 6-7 ½ wingspan, Hanga has good height for a perimeter player at the NBA level, and matches it with impressive athleticism for a European prospect. He has very good straight-line speed, a quick first step, and adequate leaping ability.

Hanga’s physical tools made him a dominant figure in the Hungarian League, where he essentially gave Albacomp an additional import-level talent. Seldom facing an athlete up to his standards in domestic play, Hanga was at his best around the basket and out in transition since he could get to the rim essentially whenever he wanted to and turn on the jets and win a footrace in the open floor virtually at will. On top of that, he shows very nice touch in the paint, even knocking down an occasional high-arcing floater with the defense collapses around him.

Defensively, Hanga has the quickness to be able to capably defend his position at the NBA-level, but hasn’t faced off against too many NBA-caliber scorers in his career. His size and rangy stride makes him a factor in the passing lanes, and he shows very solid lateral quickness. If he continues improving his frame, he could have all the makings of a highly versatile defender down the road,…”

As reported by Project Spurs’ Paul Garcia, via a Hungarian website, Hanga recently came into San Antonio to have dinner with Tony Parker seemingly as part of easing his future transition to the NBA. The Spurs must be pretty high on Hanga if they are already starting to grease the wheels for him when he comes to the Spurs.

Given the scouting report on him, it’s apparent why. To get a player with this level of physical talent is an outright steal at the 59th pick. He is the most intriguing player out of the bunch in my opinion and could end up being the best Euro player the Spurs acquired in this draft.

What do you have to say Spurs fans? Share your thoughts on the three newest members of the Spurs.

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Michael is the founder and editor of He has a long history in journalism, sports and online media. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others.