Kevin Pelton, SUPERSONICS.COM
| July 12, 2006
With 2005 second-round pick MickaŽl Gelabale
coming to terms with the Seattle SuperSonics Wednesday, now the important questions are how much Gelabale can contribute to the Sonics and how quickly he can do so.
"He must learn to play in the NBA like every young player," says Sonics European Scout Lojze Milosavljevic. "The coach will probably find some minutes for him - some games more, some games less - but I think he's ready to come especially because he's a great athlete. He's a good shooter off the dribble, he's improved his defense. I think he's ready."
"He must learn to play in the NBA like every young player. I think he's ready to come especially because he's a great athlete."
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty
Unlike many European players drafted into the NBA - including the Sonics last two first-round picks, fellow Frenchman Johan Petro
and Senegal native Mouhamed Sene
- Gelabale is relatively polished. Already 23, Gelabale has played two seasons in key roles for Real Madrid in the Euroleague and the Spanish League - which Real Madrid won in 2004-05 thanks in part to a 3-pointer from Gelabale in the final minute of the championship game that sparked a 9-0 run.
During his first season with Real Madrid, Gelabale was a pleasant surprise, averaging 8.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 60.7% from the field. ESPN Insider's John Hollinger uses the performance of players who have gone from Euroleague to the NBA (or vice versa) in the past to translate Euroleague performance to the NBA. In Pro Basketball Forecast 2005-06, Hollinger reported that Gelabale's season was equivalent to a 12.09 PER - similar to the mark posted the season before by swingman Maurice Evans, who has been a quality reserve the last two seasons for Sacramento and Detroit.
Last season, Gelabale averaged 7.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in Euroleague play but could not maintain his high-percentage shooting, slipping to 46.7% from the field. He did display improved 3-point range, hitting 39.5% of his triples. Gelabale's playing time slid as the season went on because Real Madrid was unhappy when it became clear Gelabale would head to the NBA at season's end.
Gelabale also has high-level international experience with the French National Team. In his international debut, Gelabale helped the French take bronze in last year's European Championships and earn a spot in this summer's upcoming World Championship in Japan. In seven games, Gelabale averaged 8.0 points and 3.1 rebounds, shooting 63.9% from the field. Gelabale was the French's fourth-leading scorer, trailing only NBA regulars Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and MickaŽl Pietrus.
The statistics and scouting reports are consistent on Gelabale's offensive game. A heady player, he does not have a quick trigger when it comes to shooting the ball. In this regard, Gelabale is not unlike Diaw, who was criticized at times while playing for the Atlanta Hawks for being too unselfish before blossoming on a more talented Phoenix Suns team last season. When he does shoot, Gelabale has historically been accurate.
"He enjoys a reliable mid-range jumper, and he has shown some flashes of an intriguing slashing game," says Luis FernŠndez, director of international scouting for DraftExpress.com and based in Spain. "He can also produce in the post with turnaround jumpers over smaller defenders, although he lacks some strength at this point. He likes to finish strong dunking the ball, he runs the court extremely well."
(Gelabale is regarded as an outstanding dunker. For visual confirmation, check out ACB.com's video of the 2004 Showtime de MŠlaga dunk contest.)
The consensus is that Gelabale's strength lies at the defensive end of the floor, though opinions vary on just how good Gelabale could be as a perimeter defender.
"He's athletic, long and I believe quite smart," says Fernandez. "However, I don't think he will become a stopper, particularly if you think about these super-quick shooting guards. I'm not sure he has that degree of lateral movement and, particularly, aggressiveness to become such a defender."
Petro, like Gelabale a native of Guadalupe in the West Indies, is good friends with the newest Sonics player and is more optimistic about his defensive potential.
"If you want to stop someone, you can put Gelabale in there and you know he's not going to put in 20 points a night or 40 like Kobe Bryant," says Petro.
"If you say in your mind you want to stop someone, he can do it, so I'm not worried about what he can do defensively. We've got a lot of good offensive players. We need to play better D next year, so I think it's a good thing to bring this guy in next year."
"He's very good," adds Paccelis "Patch" Morlende, a 2003 second-round pick of the Sonics who is also from France and played against Gelabale in the Spanish League last season. "He's got the long arms. He's a very smart player. He's young, but he's very smart."
Gelabale has primarily played small forward overseas, but at a listed 213 pounds as of last year's draft, he may need to bulk up to play the position in the NBA. At shooting guard, Gelabale's size is ideal, and it's possible he could figure into the Sonics rotation as a rookie behind starting two guard Ray Allen.
Already, Gelabale's presence has influenced the Sonics in their decision to eschew taking a swingman with their first-round pick this June. Instead, the Sonics drafted 7-foot center Sene.
"We were offered first-round picks for MickaŽl this year," explained Sonics Director of Basketball Operations Dave Pendergraft on Draft night. "We felt like if we took one of these swing guys and we had MickaŽl, it was just too much duplication."