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2019 NBA Draft scouting report: Yovel Zoosman

The 6’7 guard is looking to become just the third Israeli player to play in the NBA.

Miami Heat v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.

This installment focuses on Israeli swingman Yovel Zoosman.

After being crowned MVP during the FIBA U20 European Championship last summer, 20 year old Israeli swingman Yovel Zoosman is ready to make the next step towards the NBA by declaring for the 2019 NBA draft.

“I am extremely happy to share that I will be declaring for the 2019 NBA draft in June,” Zoosman said via ESPN. “Until then, I am totally committed and focused on helping my team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, achieve our goal of repeating, and winning the Israeli league championship for the second year in a row. To be considered a potential NBA draft pick is an incredible honor, and hearing my name called on draft night would truly be a dream come true.”

Unlike other international prospects, the soon-to-be 21 year old Zoosman (born on May 12, 1998) — a shooting guard standing at 6’7 with a 7’1 wingspan — had to start from the ground up at one of Europe’s top teams with Maccabi Tel Aviv, a Euroleague team. He initially made his debut during 2015-16 season in very limited minutes before seeing significantly more minutes in the 2017-18 season in the Israeli League.

Heading into the 2018-19 season, Zoosman has seen his role increase again and he featured more prominently in both the Israeli League (starting 21 of 30 games) and in the Euroleague (starting two games and averaging 14 minutes per game in the Euroleague, compared to just eight minutes the season before).

However, despite the increase of minutes, I wouldn’t call Zoosman productive. The stats tell a foreboding story.

Across 63 games in all competitions, Zoosman is averaging 5.2 points per game on 45% shooting from the field on just over four field goals per game, 34.7% from three on just under two attempts per game, 73% from the line on an attempt per game, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, a steal and a turnover in just under 20 minutes per game, per RealGM.

That is so incredibly underwhelming for someone who rank inside the top 60 in both ESPN’s and The Athletic’s mock drafts.

63 games is not a small sample size and, effectively, 20 minutes a game on one of Europe’s better teams — with a meaningful role — is not insignificant either. To average so few points and to have so few’d be expecting something more for someone ranked inside the top 60 (we’ll circle on this later).

When you look at the game log, the picture gets muddier.

On only 12 occasions did Zoosman score 10 or more points and, on 16 occasions, he didn’t score at all. 19 points was his season-high and his next highest outing on the season were a few 15 point games.

I hear the argument of ‘Yeah, but he plays for one of the best teams in Europe and he played in the Euroleague,’ and I hear you, but having watched him play games in both the Israeli League and Euroleague, there’s not a ton of differences in his play between the two in terms of what he’s doing on the court. Yes, he’s scoring a few more points on a few more shots and minutes in the Israeli League compared to what he does in the Euroleague, but how he’s doing it is basically the same. And it’s not like he’s averaging 12 points in the Israeli League and four in Euroleague — it’s seven points in the Israeli League compared to three in Euroleague.

In realty, that’s not a massive difference and the percentages are very similar.

But look, as we all know the numbers on paper don’t always tell the full story...only with Zoosman, they do — he is as underwhelming on the court as his numbers are on paper.

Let’s start with Zoosman’s offense.

It’s not even the fact he averages five points per game, he averages just over four field goals. He just doesn’t get involved very often on offense, and it kind of leads into one of my main issues with Zoosman: he just floats through games at times.

He’ll be on the floor and will be on the floor for stretches and you’d forget he was there at times — he’s just not especially active offensively.

But in addition to that, Zoosman has not been especially diverse as a scorer to this point. He doesn’t involve himself in a ton of pick-and-roll to get downhill, he doesn’t attempt a lot of threes, doesn’t get to the line a ton and doesn’t post-up a ton from what I saw (given his size, that’s disappointing, especially for someone who sees himself as a guard more than a forward).

“I’ve always considered myself more of a guard than a forward, and believe that given my size and length, I can be a successful pick and roll player,” Zoosman told ESPN.

Let’s look at some film. Zoosman, for reference, wears number 50.

From what I saw, Zoosman relies on points at the rim, as well as adding a three-pointer here and there for his offense — there’s your average of five points right there: a bucket and a three-pointer.

Anyways, here in transition, Zoosman receives the pass and finishes at the rim:

Despite his size and length, Zoosman doesn’t dunk a ton. He’s not massively athletic to begin with but he’s a bit more finessed, finishing with his left hand underneath the rim:

On the drive, Zoosman does a great job using his elite length to protect the ball over his head as he drives to the rim and draws the foul and free throws:

But as much as getting to the rim/in the paint is important for Zoosman’s offense, he’s not elite at it — not only does he just miss shots but he seems to commit either offensive fouls or turnovers.

On the drive, Zoosman has the ball poked away and it leads to a turnover:

Here, Zoosman commits the offensive foul on the drive as he slaps the arm of the defender away:

On this possession, Zoosman does well to squeeze through the double, gets to the rim but misses the layup, his shot deterred by the rim protector:

Same game, Zoosman attempts to score inside off of the drive — does well driving into the space — but misses with his left hand:

It seemed as though Zoosman either score at the rim or behind the arc, but again, he only averaged just under two three-point attempts a game.

He shot 34% from three but missed most of the ones I saw him attempt.

Here was one he did hit from the wing, coming from an out-of-bounds play, freed up by a screen:

But the majority of the threes I saw Zoosman take ended up missing, such as this attempt:

And on this one, missing the open three:

Here’s a good example of Zoosman shooting over a defender — again, he has good size and great length — but misses the three:

Let’s move on to a better aspect of Zoosman’s game — his passing/playmaking. We’ll summarize the offensive stuff later.

He doesn’t average a lot of assists (just 1.7 per game) but his passing ability, his vision and feel for the game are quite decent.

Here, Zoosman receives the ball, on the move, attracts the help and makes a great pass no-look pass to his teammate for the assist at the rim:

From the wing, Zoosman drives toward the baseline, spins back inside and drops a dime to his teammate for the assist at the rim:

Again on the drive, Zoosman isn’t able to get by his man and passes to the shooter for the three-pointer:

Zoosman, again, shows his quick wits and awareness around him with this first-time pass leading to an open three-pointer:

One of the rare instances of a little pick-and-roll action, Zoosman whizzes a pass inside to the roller who is all alone for the assist:

Zoosman doesn’t average a lot of turnovers but does obviously commit a few such as this one where he finds himself on a different wavelength to his teammates:

Let’s move on to defense.

The first thing I will say is Zoosman is a willing defender, often picking up his man beyond half-court, but energy isn’t everything when it comes to defensive aptitude.

This can be both a good thing and a bad thing because Zoosman isn’t always able to stick with drives, as the offensive player drives by and gets a decent shot away despite the presence of Zoosman:

Zoosman struggles at times to guard on drives, and his length can’t always recover the lost ground.

Here, he’s driven by, tries to recover, commits the foul and concedes the basket:

Here, Zoosman is beaten on the drive and the help defense has to come over and bail him out:

On the drive, Zoosman is gotten the better of but is fortunate that the shot is missed:

On this possession, Zoosman is left for dead as his man skips by and lifts his runner home at the end of the shotclock:

There are times when Zoosman can recover, blocking this shot on the recovery:

You’d look at that clip and get excited, ‘Ooh, look at that length’ but Zoosman only averages 0.2 blocks, is beaten too often off of the dribble and he can’t always recover and redeem himself with his length.

There are other situations where Zoosman is able to use his length to help his side defensively.

He averages a steal a game and his length playing a key role in that, such as in his possession here as he uses his length to disrupt the pass, leading to a steal and eventually a bucket:

Here is a great defensive play, as he uses his length to get a hand in on the ball in transition, poking the ball out of bounds and allowing his team to get set up again:

Again, Zoosman’s length causes disruption, getting a hand on this pass, fortunately for the offensive player the deflection takes it to its intended recipient anyways, but you get a sense of how long he really is:

Zoosman’s length is going to draw a lot of attention from NBA teams but the reality is, though he’s a willing defender, he’s not an elite defender. I wouldn’t even call him a good defender. He’s a decent defender, which is a small step above average.

The other issue is that he sees himself as a guard but the reality is he’s probably going to struggle to stay in front of NBA guards and he’s probably going to be shifted by small forwards. His size would make for an interesting small-ball four, where he may stand a bit more of a chance defending his own man.

Again, I wouldn’t call Zoosman a bad defender but just because he’s got a 7’1 wingspan doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good defender — the one it definitely means is that he has long arms.

Let’s try bring this home, because this is a tough one...

Offensively, I have no idea what to make. In some ways, it feels like Zoosman doesn’t have a diverse offensive game. His percentages are good on paper — 45% from the field is nice and 34% from three isn’t bad, but the field goal attempts are so low it’s hard to put a ton of stock into those percentages.

When it comes to these scouting reports, I feel I usually have a good feel for a player after I’m finished watching extensive film — I don’t know everything but I feel I certainly have a good grasp. I don’t use highlights as part of film research because they only really show the ‘positive’ and they don’t tell the full story, but in this case I had to look at some highlights in addition just to see if Zoosman was able to score in other ways other than at the rim or from behind the arc because not once did I see any post-action, mid-range or even extensive pick-and-roll play in the extensive amount of film I watched of him — I had to watch more footage because I hadn’t seen enough, which is something I’ve never had to do. And so much of that is not to do with his role but to do with the fact that Zoosman just doesn’t take a lot of shots in games.

He’s not a selfish player and that has its benefits (usually it’s a good thing to be unselfish) but in this case it can almost be a detriment — he doesn’t look to get involved a ton and maybe he should.

There were seven games this season where Zoosman didn’t attempt a single field goal at all, and in 40 games, he attempted less than five field goals. Forty. In 40 out of his 63 games played this season, Zoosman attempted less than five shots — that is jarring.

Yes, to be fair, a lot of the games where he attempted less than five shots came in Euroleague, where he averaged less minutes and he came off the bench for the most part. After totting up these games, it turns out 25 of them came in the Euroleague, which is obviously more than half but it still means there were 15 games — where Zoosman plays a larger role for Tel Aviv (more minutes and usually a starting role) — he’s still attempting very few shots.

I’m slightly torn in my evaluation because, in one sense, I want to say he’s not especially advanced offensively in terms of his diversity and his ability — which I think is fair — and on the other hand, there’s such a small sample size to work with that it’s hard to make a conclusion.

But I also don’t think it’s unfair to say that’s on Zoosman too, at least to some degree.

He can’t complain of a lack of role or minutes because he gets both of those with Tel Aviv. He does just float through games at times, doesn’t look for the ball a ton and there are times where he’s just out there to make up the numbers and make the odd jog or cut across the lane. And it’s not because he’s not talented but because he isn’t assertive enough — unselfish to a detriment. He’s got ability. Heck, he plays a meaningful role for one of Europe’s star teams at 20 years old — that’s impressive. Maccabi Tel Aviv are a big club.

From a playmaking point of view, he’s got a good feel for the game, he’s smart and he knows how to make a pass.

Defensively, I think Zoosman is given more credit (at least in some circles) as a defender than he probably should — a lot of it is to do with the fact he has a 7’1 wingspan — but he’s a decent defender and he obviously has that great length which he does put to good use but his defending off of the dribble can be problematic.

On film, he appears to view himself more as a guard but teams in the NBA probably aren’t deploying him primarily as a guard — he’s going to be roasted alive if they do, he will not be able to stay in front of NBA guards. As a forward defensively, I still have concerns but he’d certainly fare better at that position and he’ll certainly be useful in that he’s interchangeable, he can switch and his length in help situations could be really useful if he’s with a team that puts him in the right spots defensively.

I had my doubts about Adam Mokoka’s ceiling in the NBA due to his offense maybe not being as as far as maybe it should to be for someone who’s almost 21 years old, and if I’m putting Mokoka into that boat, then Zoosman has to go with him.

I know Zoosman plays for a better team and the competition he faces, certainly in Euroleague at the very least, is greater than what Mokoka faces in the Adriatic League, but from what he has shown he’s behind Mokoka offensively, and Zoosman turns 21 in two days. I’m worried about his offensive ceiling — what could he contribute offensively for an NBA team?

Zoosman has a better feel for the game than Mokoka and is a better passer but he’s not as good defensively — he doesn’t move as well as Mokoka and he doesn’t stick with slashers as well. Zoosman just isn’t as good defensively as Mokoka, whom I would call a good defender.

I understand comparing Mokoka to Zoosman has its flaws. I get it, the roles are different.

Mega Bemax need Mokoka to be assertive on offense — he’s a big part of what they do, compared to Tel Aviv who aren’t relying on Zoosman as much as Bemax rely on Mokoka. But, again, it’s not as though Zoosman isn’t getting opportunities — he’s been starting, he’s been playing meaningful minutes but he hasn’t shown a ton with what he’s gotten. At this stage, Mokoka has shown more on the court than Zoosman — he’s a better player right now. The counter-argument for Zoosman is who he had done it against.

Candidly, I just don’t know what Zoosman’s ceiling is in the NBA.

In one sense his ceiling is unknown because he’s shown so little that thus far, that you have to imagine there’s more to come. There can only be more, it’s impossible for there to be less. But how much more?

In another sense, my expectations of his offensive ceiling are so low because with the meaningful role he has been given this year he’s not done much with it and I’m not sure, if his role changed tomorrow, he’d be ready to step up into it and fill a scoring need.

I don’t think he is offensively refined, he doesn’t have an elite offensive skill, his first step isn’t explosive, he doesn’t use his size to his advantage, he doesn’t get on the boards as much as you’d like for someone 6’7. I don’t see him being a great scorer, I don’t see him being an elite ball-handler and I don’t see him being an elite defender. If there was an area where he’s likely to succeed, it would be defensively.

“...From a very young age, my father, who was my first basketball coach, taught me to take pride in my defense, which I do to this day,” said Zoosman to ESPN.

If I had to place a ceiling on him, he’s the fifth-best starter on an NBA team or he’s a glue guy off of the bench — the guy who can do a little bit of everything (get a bucket, make a pass, defend) and not a lot of anything (elite scoring, primary ball-handler or an elite defender). I know that’s pretty damning but I’m not seeing it.

There’s such a huge element of the unknown with Zoosman. And it’s this, as well as the adoration with his size, length and his basketball IQ that are going to draw attention come draft time, and there’s probably going to be a team that takes a chance on him. And it could be a home-run, it could be a great pick. I would not fault a team for believing there’s a lot to tap into with Zoosman with his development. That’s fair, in fact, there could only be more to come. The question, again, is how much more?

The likelihood is that you’re stashing Zoosman for a year if you’re drafting him, but if he has a similar season to this year, are you bringing him over? Unless there’s a bumper increase in his activity in the role he’s given — even if he has the same role as he did this season — I would have my doubts?

If he is drafted, NBA Summer League would help give a clearer picture. He would be a man amongst boys — while Zoosman has played with pros, a lot of the people he’s facing are just coming out of college — and it’d be interesting to see how he would get on.

For the Atlanta Hawks at 41 and 44, it is probably not worth selecting Yovel Zoosman. If there was a situation where the Hawks trade down into the 50’s, it might be worth exploring. I’m personally not a fan at all but Travis Schlenk might be...