ASVEL got through but is it enough?

kim tillie asvel basket

Now it happened and the French giants beat the vodoo. They are again at the second stage of a prestigious European basketball; first in 3 years. That was long wait for a team that has a history like ASVEL. The process was not easy though.

First, they did a very dangerous job I guess by starting the season with Tony Parker and then Ronny Turiaf. In the long run, these players may have contributed to other players’ improvement and that was important.

The team is quite young with hot prospects like Leo Westermann, Paul Lacombe or Bangaly Fofana. These guys for sure got benefited from that experience. However, when Parker left, the organization of the team had to be rebuilt “through” the domestic and Euro season.

At the beginning of the season the team did not worry about the offense because they knew that Parker can do something if that is really needed. This made the team concentrate more carefully on the defence. That was the key for the Valencia victory in the beginning.

The group D actually had two Last 16 favourites and ASVEL was clearly one of them. However, Lukoil gave them a lesson away and showed that they have difficulty in defence. Actually, that was the real big problem of ASVEL. They have issues with big men and 1-5 pick&rolls. Oostende series was never a worry for the French; the Belguim team changed its coach between the two encounters and that tells a lot about the rivals of ASVEL in that stage. The real difficulty test was the rendezvous at Valencia where the winner was guaranteed a Last 16 ticket. AJ Ogilvy with a season high 16 points and Sergiy Lishchuk with 12 points finished the main job under the rim.

After the departure of Tony Parker and Ronny Turiaf, obviously it was difficult to organise the offence fro m time to time for the much experienced coach Vincent Collet. At the first quarter of the match at Oostende, ASVEL only managed to score 11 points. At the last quarter of the decisive match against Lukoil, the hosts found 9 points only. It is not a secret that the rivals do not have the strongest defences Europeanwise.

It seems like that there are lots of options but Pierre did not decide to whom give the ultimate responsibility. Edwin Jackson is a great shooter and very athletic dribbler but needs consistency in the game. Kim Tillie is a great team player and midrange jump shot option but is not meant to be a heroic leader. Phil Goss is a wonderful 3 pts shooter and a good playmaker but that’s all. There we are left with two players, who were the keys of Last 16 actually. Leo Westerman, resembling the legendary French international point guard Antoine Rigeaudeau according to some of the pundits, and Dijon Thompson, the “Europeanly experienced” ex-UCLA star.

Westermann at this age already has great tactical skills with large wingspan, considerable athleticism and going for the rim specialties. His clever crossovers, seems unreasonably fast regarding his size, disturbed the balance of Lukoil. What he needs is to improve his shooting. The other leader was Dijon Thompson of course. It has been a while since he has first came to Europe with Alba Berlin and definitely, last night was he showed his best since a while. 21 points with 2 important 3 pointers at cruch time is a leaders’ job. Sometimes he exaggerates and the other times, he gets an unlucky injury and that is his question mark: consistency.

May be, the strongest part of ASVEL is rebounding; both defensive and offensive. Hilton Armstrong is a great fighter and Bangaly Fofana is a simply a head ache for defensive rebounders of the other teams. Unfortunately the former does not a tendency to get close to the rim but rather shooting from midrange and the latter is lacking offensive fundamentals.
So after all, we are left with the question: How far ASVEL can go? Well my view is that with this scheme; not far. Last 16 is more cruel and they have to go for two difficult trips to eastern Europe, undefeated Khimki and Ukranian BC Donetsk.

No match is easy against Aris of course. However, there is room for improvement. A rather big man is needed for more post up play because right now, that kind of plays is almost non existent. Moreover, the roles must be clearly defined so that Edwin Jackson or Dijon Thompson can feel comfortable about that. With a certain optimism, the second half defence against Lukoil was really promising.

Of course Bulgarians did not have a variety of offences but still, the concept was right. Furthermore ASVEL team has so young and talented players like Paul Lacombe, Livio Jean Charles, Jamie Skeen or even Theo Leon and those will get much more confidence when the season goes on and team chemistry is settled. Last sentence: At most quarter final playoffs.