As the FIBA U16 tournament continues, Spain won a nailbiter over Slovenia, which featured one of the top matchups in the entire tournament: Gildas Gimenez vs Ian Lazarevski. Gildas is not a dominant scorer, but wins possessions with putbacks, creating second chance points, finding others as a connecting piece, and with effectiveness in transition. As of writing this, he has scored double digits in every game so far in the U16 Euros.
On top of the scoring, his defense is arguably the best of any individual player in the entire tournament, especially if bigs are excluded because of their dominance at this age towering over their peers. Because of this, watching Gildas go against Lazarevski, one of the most impressive players in the tournament as a 6’6 combo guard, was a big test for both players. Using film, let’s dive into what makes Gimenez such a good defender, and who won the matchup.
The first thing that pops when watching Gimenez is how physical, relentless, and technically sound he is on the defensive end. He plays off-ball defense like a cornerback in football, being able to take away every cut and movement, even through screens. This makes it harder for ball-handlers to get him the ball, which in turn often killed the Slovenia offensive flow in this game. When he is defending on-ball, he makes it hard for scorers to not only get to their spots, but also makes them uncomfortable in even trying moves to beat him, which makes him one of the top wing stoppers at his age. Take this play for example, where Lazarevski can’t even get to the 3 point line, and his teammates have to play a full 4-on-4 because of this ball denial. Gimenez stays in front of his man movement-for-movement, which is the makings of an outstanding defender as he matures.
It’s not just 30+ feet from the basket he can do this either. Watch the smoothness of Gimenez cutting off the pass entirely, forcing a much more difficult shot to end the possession. He also fights through the screen and overall the whole possession to avoid a switch, which was a key part of this bad possession for Slovenia.
Another example of how Gimenez’s off-ball defense is so consequential is this transition play, where he reads a potential pass right before the decision is made, which Lazarevski sees, so he tries to beat Gimenez by cutting towards the rim. However, the timing of this move defensively was perfect, which in turn caused a turnover in quick offense. Lazarevski had to use lots of movement to get away from Gimenez all game, and because of that it becomes apparent that his first instinct after a certain point was to move away from the ball instead of going to it because of the defensive dominance by Gildas.
Here are the other defensive plays that stood out from Gildas Gimenez, with all of them on Slovenian star Ian Lazarevski. You’ll see a consistent amount of both off-ball denial, on-ball defense that smothers Lazarevski forcing the ball away from him and into bad shots, intelligent defensive decisions, fighting through screens, not giving up on plays, a transition block, and defense on an inbound that ultimately ran crucial time off the clock at the end of the game because of his disruptive defense.
To round out his defense, it should be noted that the defensive plays clipped were any play that was not neutral or inconsequential (i.e: transition defense where Gimenez is not in a meaningful spot on the floor, or the ball in the half-court does not end up anywhere near Gimenez with him playing a neutral defensive spot). Thus, Gimenez’s defense was just about perfect in the quarter finals in an event lots of NBA and high-level scouts were watching.
Moving back away from defense and into his scoring, his athleticism pops offensively. At 16, being this explosive gives promising signs for him to NBA scouts as he likely grows another small amount from his current 6’6 frame at 16 years old. Giminez needs to improve his jumper, given a low release point, but the touch has been promising so far, shooting 22/28 on free throws (78.6%) in the tournament through the quarter finals. However, the sheer force with Gimenez as an athlete at his age is rare, and could potentially make him stand out among his European peers.
Moving to Ian Lazarevski, it should be noted that while this was his worst game of the tournament (6 points on 1-5 shooting, 6 assists to 7 turnovers with 9 rebounds and 1 steal), it is easy to differentiate what was a bad game here and that he is not a bad player. He still found ways to impact the game positively, which emphasizes a principle that should be adopted by all scouts: how does a player impact a game when their main trait is not successful? In this case, Lazarevski struggled to create shots and score, but still found other ways to make his teammates better. Being 16, the 6:7 assist:turnover ratio can be more easily excused than say, a sophomore in college.
Within the first minute of the game, Lazarevski shows a tendency that no scout wants to see, which is getting turned around on this drive, then jumping past a fake. While the offense didn’t score, the lack of discipline was not uncommon in this game, which combines a defensive patience and discipline issue with a negative tendency in being turned around on-ball.
While not clipped, it should also be noted that despite the low scoring numbers, Lazarevski is still determined at all times to get to the rim, or at least to the free throw line. He went 4-6 from the line, and bullied his way through traffic in both quick and slow offense, which is a translatable skill as he matures.
Anytime a player has 6 assists, even if it comes with 7 turnovers, the passing will likely pop throughout the game. Lazarevski figured out the defense later in the game, making him more easily able to make quick reads to cutters, which helped keep the game close or in Slovenia’s control. Both of these came in the third quarter, which is when it clicked for him that when Gimenez was not pressing, he was still easily able to see the floor and take advantage of the space given to him. The second play pops because of how he deceives Gimenez away from intercepting the pass, while also timing the bounce pass to his roller past the help defender in quick offense.
Overall, Gildas Gimenez’s stock is rising in this tournament, as is Ian Lazarevski. Scouts that are watching this tournament closely should be able to see that Gimenez’s defense can be something that helps contribute to winning basketball, with this game being such an intense matchup that could give early signs of translating to the playoffs. As for Lazarevski, how he responds to this road bump both in the long-term and against Serbia Saturday will be telling in his approach to the game and mental toughness at a young age. Lazarevski is a skilled guard for beyond his years as a combo guard, so reckless games where defenses give 100+% intensity and effort every single play, and match minute-for-minute with their best defenders is likely new to him at this stage. Again, how Lazarevski responds to being hounded will be a telling sign in his upside, and something to monitor each year after a poor performance against a top defender. Lazarevski has all the makings to be a premier combo guard with first round upside as early as the 2026 NBA Draft.