The Euroleague Final Four wrapped up in Prague last Sunday (April 30, 2006) with CSKA Moscow taking the crown with a 73-69 victory over Maccabi Elite. Now that the Euro season is over, many of the Euro players will be focusing on the upcoming World Championships, including Roko Ukic and Uros Slokar. Although neither of the Raps second round picks from the '05 Draft played in the Euro League Final, Tau Ceramica, featuring Ukic, did manage to make the semi's where they lost to Maccabi.
So without further ado, here's the latest on the boys on the other side of the Atlantic.
Roko's Euro League season was very up and down, and the Euro League tournament was no different. In the early rounds Roko saw very little action, and in two match-ups vs. Panathinaikos (both wins) he played 19 total minutes and did not manage a single point. Considering such a lack-luster performance in the early rounds it was a pleasant surprise to see Roko get some important minutes in the later games. Although the season ended with the L in the semi-final game, he managed 8 points and 2 assists in 19 minutes of game time. Although not spectacular numbers you have to love the fact that Roko did get some time in a high pressure game and performed adequately. In the game prior to the semi Roko also got some burn (15 minutes) and managed a more impressive 9 points, 2 boards, 3 assists and a steal. Considering Roko is a 6'5" PG it is nice to see him use that height to get on the glass.
What was more impressive about Roko's play was his defense. Something we all know this years version of the Raps was lacking. In fact DraftExpress gave Roko high praise on his D and actually had very positive things to say about Roko in their Euro League recaps.
Ukic looks like he could be a steal for the Raps one year after he slipped in the draft and was selected in the second round. What will be very interesting to see is how Colangelo plans on using Ukic and whether he fits into the long-term plans of the new regime. There has been very little discussion or investigation into how Colangelo views Ukic or Uros, so this summer could be telling. I am highly skeptical that we will see Roko on next year's squad. As things stand today it looks like Darrick Martin will be back in dual capacity as coach/player, Andre Barrett gets the training camp invite, Calderon is locked-up, and there is of course the Mike James issue. It does not look like there is a place for Ukic as of yet and one can only hope that Ukic has a solid performance at the World's and is invited and plays well on the Raps summer league team. Roko has an opt-out of his contract after next season making his Raptors debut in the 07-08 season more likely once Martin becomes a full-time coach and Barrett plays his way out of town.
Season stats: 4.4 ppg 42.0% fg 18.9% 3pt 70.5% ft 1.2 rpg 1.8 apg 0.8 to
For the 58th pick in the 2005 draft if you are the Toronto Raptors you are extremely content with Uros Slokar to date. Although his Benetton Treviso team choked in the Top 16 tournament and Uros did not see much action (over the 5 games he averaged only 6 minutes, 2.2 ppg and 1.1 rpg) Uros did have a solid season, highlighted by his February 2, 2006 match-up against AEK Athens.
As we reported during out summer league recaps, Uros had some nice games in Minnesota and it would be great to see some improvement this summer. If one considers the type of game Uros currently plays and that the Raps may decide to run even more this coming season, Uros could be a nice addition to the bench. Slokar is an agile big man who can run the court and can score from 20 feet in. Although he could stand to put on some weight and is not the defensive force or bulky body that Bosh needs, he does have some skill and when given minutes in Europe he has made the most of them.
If you look at the Raps bigs to date, one can't help but wonder if Uros shouldn't get a serious look for next season. I can think of one guy who he could probably replace right away, that man being Hoffa. Both players like to play facing the basket and have decent range. The biggest difference? Uros has solid fundamentals and is known for his solid basketball IQ (he also shot 60% from the floor this season). Uros plays tougher than he is and although he will never be the best athlete out there he is a multi-dimensional PF. When it boils right down to it he would not have huge shoes to fill should he be asked to play the role that Hoffa was supposed to play when he was drafted at the eight spot. That's right, 50 spots higher. Uros could easily set picks, would not be under nearly as much pressure as number 55 to perform, and I would argue could get the 6 points and 6 rebounds we demand from Hoffa more consistently. Even if Uros fails to make the big squad this year he would be a GREAT candidate for the D league, getting used to North American ball and getting more consistent playing-time to develop his skills.
Again another player to watch over the summer as Colangelo attempts to shape the 06-07 Raps.
Season Stats: 4.9 ppg 60.4% fg 46.6% 3pt 57.5% ft 3.0 rpg 0.3 apg 0.9 stls.