Barac impressive in exhibitions against NBA teams
They've measured his progress over the years in Europe, watching him grow physically and as a prospect. They've seen him transform from a skilled but gangly teen into a full-bodied banger.
Now that the Pacers finally have seen Stanko Barac perform against NBA competition, they know their time has been well-spent.
Barac traveled to the U.S. with his Caja Laboral (Spain) team for a pair of exhibition games, Oct. 14 in Memphis and Oct. 16 in San Antonio, and his performance was encouraging.
"Larry (Bird) and I were very pleased with his progress," said General Manager David Morway. "He is very skilled offensively and showed pretty good mobility for his size. He also has a high basketball IQ."
After battling foul trouble against the Grizzlies, the 7-2 Barac had 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots against the Spurs.
"In the San Antonio game he played great … he probably changed eight to 10 shots around the basket," said Director of Scouting Ryan Carr. "I think it was good for him because he has the confidence he can play with those guys, matching up against Tim Duncan and DaJuan Blair and Antonio McDyess and having some success was probably a really good thing for him.
"He's come a long way. He's probably up to about 250 pounds, which is about 20 more than when we drafted him. He's as skilled a center as there is in the world. It doesn't make him the best but he scores with either hand in the post, he can shoot mid-range jumpers well, he's got a great touch, he's got a nice feel for the game. He's really maturing and getting a lot better. He's still only 24 years old and I would say we're really happy with the progress he has made."
The Pacers acquired Barac, a second-round pick, in a draft-night trade with Miami in 2007. He has remained in Europe, competing for his native Croatia in the 2008 Olympics, and has evolved into a top-tier player. After playing behind Tiago Splitter last season with Caja Laboral, Barac is now the starter as Splitter has joined the Spurs.
The opportunity to see Barac play against NBA teams was a major opportunity for the Pacers' scouting staff.
"I think it was really important," said Carr. "We've seen him play in the EuroLeague. This is the first year since we've drafted him that he's a full-time starter and plays a lot of minutes. We're excited about that. He doesn't have to play behind Splitter anymore.
"We've seen him play international competition but to play against NBA players was really important just to get a better sense of what he could do in our rules, in the spacing we play with, which is all so different from the way they play over there. It's a much more physical game over there. It was interesting to see."
Barac committed 11 fouls in the two games, the vast majority on moving screens in pick-and-roll situations, a play that is legal in Europe but not in the NBA. In the two games, he totaled 52 minutes, 23 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, making 10 of 25 shots from the field.
He is under contract in Europe for two more seasons, though there are buyout options in the summer. Barac won't be joining the Pacers right away but his time could be coming in the near future if he continues to progress.
"He's a guy that the public forgets about a little bit or doesn't get to see so they're not really sure what he is. He's kind of like an urban legend," said Carr. "But we track him closely, we see him play numerous times, we have a close relationship with him. If the time comes that it fits the team and his situation, then you have to look at it. He's an asset. We didn't draft him just to draft him, we drafted him because we liked him as a player."
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