I recently watched Armel Traore and ADA Blois Basket face off against Monaco from November, and came away impressed with his defensive rotations, box outs, feel for the game on both ends, and athletic finishing combined with long arms to help him finish difficult shots in traffic. Let’s take a look at a play-by-play of the game, showing all of these areas.
First, Traore defends former NBA guard Elie Okobo on the drive, then showcases his explosion with a transition dunk. With ideal small forward size at 6’8, Traore is versatile defensively, being able to defend in the paint as well as on isolation drives against guards, and can turn it into offense on the other end in quick offense.
Yet another example of athleticism, Traore makes another explosive play in transition, this time over a defender.
This might be my favorite play of all the videos that will be shown here. This starts out with an intelligent fake on the hand-off, which opens up the shooter. He immediately follows the shot and turns that into a strong box out, which plays to his favor and allows for him to explode from a standstill for an easy putback dunk.
Next, while nothing spectacular or flashy, this rotation to pick up the roll-man in the hole of the defense into the ‘next pass’ spot is a fundamental defensive rotation that is taught to basketball players at a young age. This play highlights defensive fundamentals, and is something that was a common theme all game.
Again we see Traore rotate into the help spot on the roller, leaving the corner safely. Combined with an errant pass, Traore being at the right spot at the right time is the difference between a fumbled pass and a turnover.
While Traore gets boxed out by the smaller Terry Tarpey, Traore uses his athleticism to go high while his man boxing him out is low, which allows for him to utilize his strong feel for the game to make the right next play. Immediately upon securing the rebound, Traore’s head is looking for the cutter, which the defense misses entirely, leading to a free layup. Plays like this are winning plays that NBA teams always desire in an era of pursuing versatile players that have a strong feel for the game.
On this last play, Traore’s strength to hold off the bigger post player, both on the entry from being moved any further, and on the catch into the move, are an impressive use of functional strength. He then uses his length and wisely puts his hands up in a position that is hard to be called a foul on, while also making himself as big as possible to correctly defend this play, thus leading to a block.
Overall, Traore’s feel for the game, physical tools, defense, and versatility were on display in this game as he finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block on 6-10 shooting with 0 turnovers, highlighting a generally mistake-free game. Maintaining a positive assist-to-turnover ratio will be key for Traore, as he looks at entering the draft either in 2024 as an early entrant, or in 2025 when he is auto-eligible.