As part of my FIBA rewatches with about a month until most international seasons are underway, I went back and watched Spain vs Argentina in the FIBA U19, which I had missed during the tournament. I wanted to see how Baba Miller, Jordi Rodriguez, and Izan Almansa looked, as well as if Argentina had any prospects worth monitoring (spoiler alert: they do in Santiago Trouet).
The star of the Spanish U19 team, Izan Almansa (pronounced almost like Ethan) is the first player ever to win MVP of the FIBA U17, U18 Euros, and U19s. Almansa was with Overtime Elite last year, and while he didn’t pop as much as others like the Thompson twins there, he still had impressive flashes that have now brought him to the G League Ignite for the upcoming season. Because of this tournament play, Almansa has climbed up boards and this game is a good example of why & how that happened.
Almansa finished this game with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, and 0 turnovers on 5/10 shooting. His push shot/floater is a lethal weapon that teams have to be wary of, both out of the P&R and off flashes. He also had several impressive passes out of post-ups, although only 1 video is shown here, which led to a putback dunk for him. His reach & athleticism is simple, and he can finish through traffic like that play shows. Defensively, while he had a block on a drive that showcased mobility and ability to use his length & athleticism ont he defensive end, he had a couple of poor defensive plays that make me worry his defense is a bit further away than teams may want to see.
In the 3rd clip, Izan defends left of the screen, which is the heart of no man’s land, then rotates late into the drive. As he plants to jump at the rim, his man is already in the air, making the contest too late with minimal impact.
Overall, Almansa was still impressive. He did most of his damage in the first half, but he showcased his modern big man abilities that teams will covet. Look for Almansa to have a unique role with a loaded G League Ignite roster.
After a rocky freshman season at Florida State, Baba Miller had a promising U19 tournament that helped him rebuild his draft stock ahead of his sophomore season. In almost every game he looked overwhelmingly big for his defender, allowing for him to get to spots more easily on drives. In this game, Miller had 18 points and 9 rebounds on 7/9 shooting. While he didn’t create many shots for teammates and did not produce any defensive stats, his defensive deterrence was notable.
In the clips above, it starts with Baba showcasing an improved jumper with a difficult between the legs stepback jump shot. He still has poor indicators as a shooter, but the form looks improved, as does his confidence; this should give NBA teams more confidence that if Baba is willing to work hard on his shot, a team may be able to fix his shot.
The other damage was done primarily as a slasher. He overpowers defenders and uses his long strides to dance around defenses, and closes out his drives with long athleticism to finish well at the rim. As he masters a change of pace, Miller’s slashing could be quickly unlocked. Look for Miller to be a big riser on draft boards this year as a sophomore at Florida State if his feel for the game can consistently win over scouts.
The last Spanish U19 member that stood out to me, Rodriguez has stood out to me as a fun shot creator since last year in the Euro U18s. Rodriguez finished this game with 15 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, and 2 steals on 4/10 shooting, but 5 fouls drawn leading to 9 free throws. While the efficiency didn’t pop, his shot creation ability did with a strong handle that completely deceives the defense, and what has become his patented driving ability to draw an and-1, dating back to last year’s U18s. Rodriguez has ambidextrous driving ability, having more drives left in the U19s than going to his dominant right hand. Jordi needs to add strength to become a better defender, and his shot can be a bit aimed at times. If he can improve those areas, he has a path to becoming an international draft pick in the coming years.
The last player here, Santiago Trouet had some impressive plays against good defense by Izan Almansa. As a 6’9 versatile forward/big, Trouet won scouts over in this tournament with flashes on both ends of the floor. Santiago finished the game with only 7 points on 3/7 shooting with 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 1 block. These two plays alone were strong enough to warrant being highlighted, and with his size and flashes of these two advanced, difficult scoring moves the upside seems high at 19 years old. Trouet is headed to San Diego, where he will play with fellow MavsDraft European darling Dragos Lungu:
With 3 of the 4 players listed playing stateside this year, look for these players to gain traction in a wide open 2024 NBA Draft.