As you know, the Spurs are quite fond of using the draft-and-stash method. Considering they often have full rosters and low picks, it's hard to fault them for allowing their young prospects to take their time to develop in Europe. While the strategy doesn't produce short-term results, it allows the team to cultivate an asset, while other teams draft for immediate fit, and take players that often don't even make it past training camp.
The Spurs have various prospects plying their trade overseas, some with great upside and others who might not ever make it to the NBA. Somewhere in the middle is Adam Hanga.
Who is Adam Hanga, again?
The Spurs selected Hanga with the 59th pick of the 2011 draft. There are no revelations that low in the draft, but the fact that the Spurs selected a 21-year-old Hungarian player, that up until that point had only suited up for Albacomp of the low level Hungarian league, caught some people by surprise. Immediately after being drafted, Hanga joined Manresa, a peripheral team on the competitive Spanish league. Hanga adjusted well in his first season, averaging 7.8 points and almost three boards and two assists in 21.4 minutes per game.
In his second season in Spain, Hanga made the leap from role player to up-and-coming star, improving all of his numbers on a team that came to rely on his offense. Those 11.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists drew the attention of Spanish league powerhouse Laboral Kutxa, the team that developed Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Tiago Splitter. They signed Hanga for a fraction of his buyout clause when Manresa was facing relegation.
The problem was that Hanga is a small forward, and Laboral Kutxa was already loaded at the three. With the shooting guard position similarly well-stocked and Spanish national team player Fernando San Emeterio already the starter and Nocioni able to slide down when needed, finding minutes for Hanga was a tough task for former Spanish national team coach Sergio Scariolo. Hanga missed the first two months of the season because of knee surgery, but has managed to carve out a limited but consistent role for himself.
How is he doing now?
Hanga is coming off the bench for Laboral Kutxa, mainly as their back up small forward behind San Emeterio. His role has been significantly reduced from the days of being a featured player with Manresa. He is averaging under 20 minutes in both domestic competition and Euroleague play, and is more of a role player who is occasionally relied upon to create but is primarily tasked with doing the little things.
Hanga has done a good job adjusting to his new role, playing with a ton of energy when he is on the court and using his quick first step to slash to the basket after ball screens or kick outs. He moves well without the ball, which makes him a threat to cut to the rim, where his explosiveness comes in handy. His body control leaves a bit to be desired and his wiry frame doesn't allow him to absorb a lot of contact and hit contested layups. But he is fearless going to the rim and regularly throws his body around looking for foul calls.
What is undoubtedly damning for Hanga's NBA prospects at this point is his inability to consistently hit three pointers. Hanga is by no means a terrible shooter -- he averages 32% from outside for his career in the Spanish league and has shot 35% the past two seasons. But he simply hasn't shown the type of marksmanship that will keep opponent defenses honest in the NBA.
Defensively, Hanga is very intriguing. He is used to zoning up away from the ball, and usually makes the right rotations. He is a very good team defender and his upside as a help defender is high. But it's harder to predict how good he can be on the ball in the NBA. He is basically built like Kevin Martin, meaning he is tall but skinny, so bigger forwards could overpower him despite the toughness he shows on switches. He is generally very good on the ball but can be a little too aggressive closing out, resulting in blow bys. Overall, Hanga seems to be an above average defender in Europe and, worst case scenario, will at least be passable in the NBA.
Will he make the leap soon?
So far, Hanga has progressed as he was expected to. He has been climbing the ladder, going from the Hungarian league to a modest ACB team and now a top 16 Euroleague team that will likely make the playoffs in the domestic league. He's handled both expanded and reduced roles well and, at 24, he is entering his prime. The Spurs will have four wings under contract next season so if he is brought over, he wouldn't have pressure to produce immediately. And since he is not a star and his current team didn't have to overextend itself financially to acquire him, they might be amenable to a buy out.
And yet watching Hanga play, it's hard to shake off the feeling that he might benefit from another year in Spain. Laboral Kutxa might not make it to the Euroleague group stage next season, which means it might look to lower its payroll by letting San Emeterio or Nocioni go. Another year developing abroad and with a slightly increased role could polish the rough corners of Hanga's game while allowing the Spurs to use every last dollar to retain or replace Diaw and Mills.
I think Hanga is ready to make the jump, as long as he is not asked to produce immediately. Using the bi-annual exception to sign him to a contract similar to De Colo's might get the Spurs the chance to assess just how good Hanga can be for cheap while getting the fifth wing they always seem to lack. But I can't blame them if they decide to wait a bit longer and see if they can get more of a finished product for the post-Duncan future.
Everybody loves GIFs
I thought I'd include a couple of GIFs highlighting Hanga's best offensive attributes: slashing after spotting up and cutting without the ball.
Slashing after a close out
Hanga is explosive enough to go all the way to the rim but also smart enough to take what the defense gives him. In this play, he gets past his defender and as he sees the big man staying close to the rim, he goes for a nifty floater.
In this one, he makes his way to the middle of the paint and after drawing the defense's attention, finds a cutter from the corner.
Moving without the ball
This secondary break alley-oop highlights both Hanga's athleticism and his great timing. Nocioni seems stuck and Laboral Kutxa seems doomed to reset. But Hanga makes a decisive cut and, after a great feed, lays it in.
Since this is a missed lay up, you might wonder why I included it. Mostly because once again, Hanga's BBIQ is on full display. After that side pick-and-roll, it was obvious his man was going to overload the strong side to help. So instead of standing in the corner, Hanga cuts and receives the ball. He couldn't finish that one but the way he makes himself available reminds me of Marco Belinelli.
25 word updates on other prospects
DeShaun Thomas' Nanterre were eliminated from Eurocup play and have dropped their last two games on the French league. Their playoff chances are in danger.
Ryan Richards' Ikaros are still in a precarious position in the Greek league. His play continues to be inconsistent. He needs a change of scenery.
Davis Bertans is slightly less injured now. We will finally have a chance to see how good he actually is. This is obviously very encouraging.
Livio Jean-Charles is out for the season so no news on that front. Hopefully he works on his three point shot. We'll keep you posted.