Roko Ukic Needs the NBA

For the past couple of weeks a lot of people are talking about Roko Ukic and his chances of playing in the NBA. I’ll introduce him to those of you who still don’t know this young Croatian player.

Ukic started playing in KK Split and was drafted #45 by the Toronto Raptors in 2005. He signed with TAU Vitoria (in the Spanish ACB league) two seasons ago, and last year he went to FC Barcelona where he’s playing in the ACB Finals right now. He’s a point guard who’s 6’5″, has long arms and could defend 2’s.

In a NBAdraft.net interview, Tim Shea (Director of International Scouting for the Charlotte Bobcats) said about Roko Ukic: “Perhaps he’s learned all he can learn from European style basketball.” I agree with him. I have a lot of doubts about Ukic developing as a better player in Europe because his style is far from what European coaches at the highest level are looking for in a PG. Think about guys like Papaloukas (CSKA) or Diamantidis (Panathinaikos) – they are great defensive players and they score when their teams need them to. They read the plays, and they do whatever their teams need.

Ukic, on the other hand, just can’t stop being the offensive focus when he’s on the court. He is more a one-on-one or two-on-two player than a five-on-five player. Nowadays, on the top Euroleague teams, that’s something nobody wants. It’s not that he hasn’t got the talent needed to play, to score, to be a go-to guy … it’s just that everybody is looking for another style of player.

And of course, the doubts about Ukic’s defensive skills are not helping. In my opinion he still doesn’t understand that he needs to play defence (I’m not saying great D, just average D) to be the starting point guard on teams like TAU, Barcelona, CSKA or Panathinaikos. I think this is because of his superiority on the offensive side of the court.

Let me tell you, Ukic can score or assist a teammate whenever he wants to. He’s extremely fast running while dribbling. He’s also got a good instinct for grabbing defensive rebounds, which makes him capable of going coast-to-coast to score or make “the pass.” He’s great running pick-and-roll situations, his first step is nice, and his dribbling skills are above average. He’ll need to improve his shooting in the NBA (although you’ll see nice shots in the video clip) as well as his defence, but I think he’ll only realize that when he starts facing NBA defences. Will Roko Ukic be able to improve that side of his game? I know that if he could, it would be in the NBA and not in Europe.

Raul Jimenez coaches in a Spanish professional league. Click here to read his blog.

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8 thoughts on “Roko Ukic Needs the NBA

  1. Good writeup man. I’ve heard from various people in the Raptors organization that he keeps getting buried on benches in Europe, and I guess this really brings things to light. I dunno how he can fit in this Raptors team, as they have the biggest problem on the defensive end. I have some shades of seeing Carlos Arroyo (Orlando years) in him, in that he does a lot of good on the Offense side, but not so much on the Defense, which could cost the team a lot some nights. Might be a viable 3rd string on our squad, or possibly be worked in as a temp SG.

  2. Thanks for the article Raul! I don’t get to follow the Euro leagues nearly as close as I’d like so getting your thoughts on a player that the Raptors have the rights to made for a great read.

    While reading this I got a picture in my mind of a hybrid of Sasha Pavlovic and Carlos Arroyo – not an enticing picture for me as a Raptors fan. While the kid may have some talent we already have more refined players like this (Juan Dixon jumps to mind) and a better option already signed for next season in Luke Jackson.

    Plus, wasn’t this draft pick part of the Rob Babcock era? I don’t see BC having any loyalty to a pick Babcock made…

  3. As unappealing as the player comparisons are, let’s see what Roko can do in North America. He’s played in the highest level of European pro ball the past couple of years, he’s 23 and 6’5″. He’s got potential and size to eventually replace Dixon.

    OT: I know the media (Doug Smith) are looking down on Luke Jackson, but I think he’s got a chance to surprise people. He’s got the talent (former lottery pick). He just needs to regain his stride after major surgery, and he started to get that chance at the end of last year.

  4. Roko will make JC expandable. I love JC and don’t want him to leave, but for the raps to get the pieces they need someone has to go. Roko can be that viable bkup PG who can play SG if need be.

  5. hahaha are you kidding me, we are deffinetely not going to give calderon (probably an all star this year) away for this roko guy. We will be giving away most of our team before we let jose go.

    That was a funny one though, obvisouly you dont know what your talking about though, so its all good

  6. easy jordan, read the dates. that message about giving up jose was posted in the summer of 2007. I don’t think anyone would even consider letting Jose go now

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