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2019 NBA Draft scouting report: Joshua Obiesie

The young German has showed some flashes in a short amount of games played this season.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Clippers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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 edition focuses on German guard Joshua Obiesie.

The nation of Germany, in NBA circles, will always be remembered for producing one of the greatest scorers the game has ever seen in the form of the, now retired, Dirk Nowitzki.

Drafted in 1998, Dirk has obviously gone on to have a Hall of Fame career that has seen him win an NBA title in 2011 — among many other accolades in his NBA career — but the nation of Germany has been providing the NBA with solid talent in recent years in addition to Nowitzki.

Former Hawks point guard — and current OKC Thunder guard — Dennis Schröder is an obvious mention and takes the mantle of best German player currently in the NBA but he’s not the only German who is finding success in the NBA. Daniel Theis of the Boston Celtics has established himself as a contributor off of the Celtics’ bench, Maxi Kleber has featured often for the Dallas Mavericks and there’s a number of young German players waiting in the wings such as Isaiah Hartenstein (who is German/American) of the Houston Rockets as well as the Los Angeles Lakers duo of Moritz Wagner and Isaac Bonga — both drafted in 2018.

The impressive young crop of German players emerging continues into this draft with 18 year old Joshua Obiesie.

Obiesie is (listed as) a 6’6 guard (listed at 190 pounds) who has split time at point guard, shooting guard and even small forward for Wurzburg in Germany and the G-BBL this season.

Though, despite that, Obiesie sees himself more as a ‘guard’ but leaning more to point guard.

“Point guard, one-two combo guard but more of a point guard,” said Obiesie to Jonathan Givony of ESPN at the Nike Hoops Summit.

Obiesie joined Wurzburg heading into December, which is quite a late addition — this was his first year amongst the pros compared to the younger ranks.

As a result, Obiesie has only played 20 games this season but has featured recently as part of Wurzburg’s run to the FIBA Europe Cup Final (trailing 1-0 in the Final, Game 2 to be played on May 1st).

His stats on the season aren’t going to wow you.

In 20 games played and across all competitions, Obiesie is averaging 7.7 points per game on 44% shooting from the field, 28% from three, 73% from the free throw line on 2.5 attempts per game, 2.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 turnovers in an average of 16 minutes per game.

In saying that, I think his recent stats from the FIBA Europe Cup (accounting for nine of Obiesie’s 20 games on the season) are a bit more reflective of his season and his growth than his stats in the G-BBL — 8.5 points per game on 46% shooting from the field on an average of six attempts per game, 40% from three on 2.4 attempts per game, 58% from the line (he’s better than that percentage would show) on 2.6 attempts, three rebounds, two assists and 1.8 turnovers a game in 17 minutes of action.

Disclaimer before we dive in, I’ve watched a number of full length games of Obiesie and I’m not claiming to be an expert, just highlighting what I see. We’re going to go through a good bit of film, and you can make your own evaluation at the end — I’m just going to highlight what I see.

For reference, Obiesie wears number 3 and boasts the mushroom-like haircut (which was great to distinguish him from others, since the numbers on the back of the Wurzburg jerseys can be hard to read at times).

Obiesie has come off of the bench for every game this season bar one, but when he does enter he doesn’t try to make up for lost time. I found him to be an unselfish player, often turning down shots that most wouldn’t hold against him if he decided to take it.

On this play, Obiesie could’ve easily taken this three-pointer but elects to make the extra pass, setting up his teammate for a three-pointer:

Here, Obiesie catches the ball, drives towards the rim, draws the defense and finds his teammate behind him for the assist at the rim:

Obiesie could’ve easily gone to his right-hand to attempt a runner but chose to pass instead. Now, to be fair, Obiesie (from what I saw) doesn’t like to use his weak right-hand (a lefty by nature) too much but still could’ve attempted something here if he wanted.

On this possession, Obiesie, again, could’ve attempted the perimeter shot but elects to fake, drives and passes to a teammate who can’t hit his shot attempt after the drive:

Let’s look at some more passing from Obiesie.

In the pick-and-roll/coming off of screens, Obiesie is a willing passer, looking to pass more than look for his own offense. Obieise has showed some solid playmaking instincts, often making good passes and also the right passes.

Here, Obiesie comes down the floor handling the ball, uses the screen and finds the open shooter for a good look at a three-point attempt:

Coming off of the screen, Obiesie displays good awareness/vision and executes the left-handed pass to the weak-side shooter, who misses the good look from three:

Here, Obiesie comes off of the screen, draws the defense near the rim, makes the drop-pass to his teammate (who has to work somewhat to collect the pass) for the assist at the rim:

Obiesie would make up with a better drop-pass later that game, leading to a basket, plus the foul:

Again, coming off of the screen, Obiesie finds the corner shooter, setting up a good looking corner three that is missed:

Operating in the pick-and-roll is probably where Obiesie is best from a playmaking point of view but it doesn’t take long watching him to understand that he’s just a decent passer in general and he just has a nice feel for the game.

We’ll look at this more later, but Obiesie enjoys operating in transition, using such opportunities not only to score but to create for teammates too, as he does on this possession as he grabs the rebound off of a miss, pushes in transition and finds the shooter in the corner for three:

There are times where Obiesie has been a step ahead of his teammates around him — on this possession, he grabs the offensive rebound, brings the ball out and needs to motion to his teammate to continue his run to the corner, where Obiesie finds him with a behind-the-back pass:

You’ve probably got somewhat of a sense for Obiesie’s awareness at this stage — it’s good, the kid knows where his teammates are and can pick them out.

Just another example of that, he displays his awareness of his surroundings — and just makes the right play — as he finds the corner shooter for a three-point attempt in a fastbreak situation and on a drive to the rim off of the catch:

Whether it’s the fancy (like this overhead pass to the weak-side for an assist):

Or ludicrously saving a pass and, somehow, getting it inside to teammate, leading to a foul and free throws:

(How the hell did he manage to get that pass inside??)

Or just a nicely executed pass with his weak-hand, which he doesn’t do a ton of with his weak-hand:

Of course, there are turnovers to be expected when it comes to facilitation, let’s talk about a few of them.

Sometimes Obiesie can get trapped like a deer in headlights, as he drives inside on this possession, gets caught in a crowd, tries to make the pass through the crowd but his pass is intercepted:

Again, he drives inside — gets toward the baseline this time — but is met with a crowd and his low pass is unable to be secured and it’s taken away:

Overall, Obiesie has a good feel for the game. He’s got solid awareness of where his teammates are on the court, the ability to make the pass he sees but also just making the correct pass. I wouldn’t describe his playmaking as ‘elite’ right now but there’s a lot to tap into — good basketball IQ can be difficult to come by.

Let’s move on to Obiesie’s scoring.

I’ll start by saying, from what I saw, his scoring aptitude is probably behind his passing right now — I wouldn’t call his offensive skill-set advanced. He can’t really create much for himself offensively, relying on screens to free up space for himself and working from there.

Obiesie doesn’t get to the rim excessively, even in pick-and-roll situations, but on this possession, he uses the screen from the wing, drives inside and hits the left-handed runner:

Obiesie does find some success drawing fouls on some of these drives, such as exploiting this mismatch leading to free throws:

Here, he drives into the space after receiving the pass from the ball-side and draws the foul:

But you can see a general lack of a quick first-step or explosiveness and when it comes down to it Obiesie just struggles at the rim, particularly, at times, when it comes to finishing through contact.

Here, Obiesie drives from the three-point line, gets a good screen and tries to finish over and around the outstretched defense but can’t finish:

Here, Obiesie makes a cut, receives the ball, continues his dart inside but can’t finish through the contact:

There’s probably a foul in there, to be fair, but it was a consistent theme when watching Obiesie — he’s just not great, right now, at finishing at the rim in half-court situations. In time, I’m sure he could be, but will need to improve his overall strength and just his general craftiness at the rim — he just didn’t seem to have a ton of creativity around the rim to finish or evade defenders’ contests.

But, to be fair, Obiesie doesn’t force a ton that isn’t there or out of his comfort zone, so he’s not attempting drive-after-drive.

Though Obiesie doesn’t really excel at finishing at the rim in the half-court, in the full-court it’s a different story.

Obiesie enjoys operating in transition — we’ve looked at how he is able to make plays for others in transition but he’s able to do bits for himself too.

Here, Obiesie grabs the rebound off of the miss, pushes in transition and takes it all of the way and finishes at the rim:

In transition off of the turnover, Obiesie sets off, receives the pass and gets to the rim and finishes, plus the foul:

He also very keen to get down the court when he isn’t handling the ball, jetting away before receiving the pass and finishing with the dunk:

This can be dangerous, because as keen as he is to set off, Obiesie does so sometimes before his team secures possession of the ball. It works out for him on this occasion — as he draws a foul after receiving the long pass — but you can see how this could backfire:

Once he gets up to speed, Obiesie can do damage — in more ways than one — attacking the rim but in the half-court it’s a struggle.

Let’s move onto shooting.

Obiesie doesn’t jack up a ton of shots in general and this obviously includes jump shots.

He is capable of hitting shots from the outside but is better as a catch-and-shoot guy rather than coming off of the dribble — he does it, but it’s not something, at least, I saw him do a ton and if he did, it was coming off of the pick-and-roll. He is certainly not a pull-up shooter and it’s not so much down to ability to do it as well as the fact that he just doesn’t really do it.

His percentages on the season from three tell a bit of skewed story.

He’s shooting 16% from three in the G-BBL on 1.6 attempts per game (I don’t think he’s that bad) and he’s shooting 40% in the FIBA Europe Cup on 2.4 attempts per game (I don’t think he’s that good). I honestly believe he’s somewhere in between, leaning a little more toward his Europe Cup numbers than his G-BBL numbers.

We’ll look at a few three-pointers, just to get a visual eye in.

Catch-and-shoot is where I genuinely believe Obiesie is best as a shooter right now:

Here was an interesting play — Obiesie grabs the rebound, pushes in transition, makes the right play, gets it back again and hits the three-pointer:

Again, Obiesie can hit off of the dribble but it’s, pretty much, all coming off of the pick-and-roll:

Let’s move on to the last aspect to look at with Obiesie’s offense — his movement.

One of Obiesie’s better traits on the offensive end is his willingness to move off of the ball and catch the defense napping — he is constantly moving without the ball and it opens up opportunities.

Here, Obiesie makes the cut after an offensive rebound off of his own miss from three but can’t finish at the rim through the traffic:

On this possession, Obiesie makes the cut from the wing, receives the ball and hits the jumpshot just inside the free throw line:

Off of his own three-point miss, he catches the defense napping, makes the run inside, receives the ball and draws the foul and free throws at the rim:

Sometimes this constant movement can be a bit of a detriment. On a few occasions, Obiesie is guilty of moving to the wrong spots, such as this possession here where he ends up bringing the help towards his teammate with the ball when he should probably stay in the corner to space the floor and keep as many defenders away from the rim as possible, rather than bring them toward the rim with him:

Again, Obiesie’s movement causes trouble for his teammate with the ball, as his cut down the lane brings a second defender over to his teammate and the double-team is easily created and the offensive threat is ended:

Finally, let’s talk about Obiesie’s defense...he has his moments defensively — good and bad.

He’s got decent size at 6’6 and his length appears decent too (there’s no official measurement of his wingspan, at least that I could find) and he’s able to use this disrupt on occasion.

Here, Obiesie is able to deflect this pass out of bounds:

On this possession, he turns defense to offense as he pokes the ball away for the steal and takes it home for the dunk:

Plays like weren’t too frequent but it’s encouraging to see that the potential is there to make on-ball defensive plays like that.

I found Obiesie to be a bit up and down when it came to general on-ball defending.

He seemed to struggle when faced in the post, where he was slightly overwhelmed on this play, leading to a foul:

In transition, he’s blown by near the rim for bucket and the foul:

You’d like to see a bit more resistance in that situation.

In the same game though, he shows flashes of his ability on-ball as he moves well on this drive and forces a bad shot:

His on-ball defense can be up and down but what particularly impressed me Obiesie defensively were his instincts off of the ball as a help defender — most of the time, he just knows where to be.

This was partly due to Wurzburg’s defensive scheme (they did enjoy the odd bit of zone) but Obiesie has a nose of where to be and is able to contribute once he rotates over.

Here, Obiesie rotates well as the help defender, forcing the pass at the rim:

On this pass toward the low-post, Obiesie rotates over to double and helps force the turnover:

On this possession, Obiesie does a good job rotating to the open man as the opposition swivels the ball around and he rotates to the open shooter and forces the next pass:

On the pass inside, Obiesie again recognises and does a good job rotating to help, contesting well on this shot attempt and helping the miss:

Generally speaking, Obiesie contests shots fairly well.

Here, he contests the perimeter shot in the corner and helps force the miss:

Here, he recovers from the screen to get over to the shooter and contest the outside shot:

Generally speaking, Obiesie does show good fight when it comes to getting over screens.

Here, he fights through — on multiple efforts — to get back to his man and denies the shot attempt, forcing the pass and it eventually ends up in a turnover:

It doesn’t always work out though as Obiesie fights through the screen, gets back in front of his man but a lapse in concentration of where his man is allows him to get in position and it leads to a score:

Alright, let’s try bring this home.

At 18 years old (19 by the draft) Obiesie is a really interesting prospect.

He shows decent athleticism (not above the rim but you couldn’t say he’s not athletic), he’s got good size at 6’6 though he could stand to add some muscle but this will come in time. But given his size and his ball-handling abilities, his potential versatility is interesting — he could be deployed at the one, the two or the three.

Offensively, he’s not exactly advanced yet. If he’s not in the pick-and-roll or coming off of a screen, he’s a bit limited — he can’t create a ton of offense for himself in the half-court. His lack of explosive burst/first step and lack of strength make it tough for him in the half-court when it comes to getting to the rim and then finishing at the rim, which is why he is reliant on screens to free up space for him/get downhill. When he does get to the rim, Obiesie doesn’t like to use his right hand a ton — certainly an area where he could improve upon, as well as his general craftiness at the rim.

It’s a better story in transition, where Obiesie seems to enjoy himself both in terms of scoring and setting up teammates too. Once he gets up to speed in the full-court, he seems to have a better time getting to the rim and finishing — it’s just what he prefers

“It depends if I have the ball in my hands or get a back-door (cut),” said Obiesie via Draft Express about how playing up-tempo suits his game. “Depends if I get a quick shot, get a quick look for the big, it’s good. If I don’t, it’s kind of difficult (in the half-court) sometimes but still workable.”

His movement off of the ball is fun to watch and he gets himself into promising positions with his clever cuts and constant movement off of the ball. Though, there’s an argument that defenders at the next level won’t be caught napping as often.

Shooting the ball from long distance, again, he’s better in catch-and-shoot situations but he can hit some coming off of screens. His percentages on the season are weird but he’s somewhere in between 16% and 40% from three.

Obiesie is an unselfish player and though he’s a little limited offensively, he doesn’t really try anything that’s too out of his depth. He looks to set up his teammates more than he looks for his own offense. Again, he’s best in the pick-and-roll when setting up his teammates but he’s just got a good feel for the game, is aware of his surroundings and has the ability to make the pass he sees.

Defensively, there’s some interesting upside. His understanding of when to help seems solid at this stage but he has his moments when it comes to on-ball defense — sometimes he’s good to stay with the drive and sometimes he’s blown by. He also has some lapses in concentration too which presents opportunities for opponents.

On his list of areas where he needs to improve, he has basically everything that we’ve already talked about (I found that interview with Draft Express after watching the film, which helped affirm some beliefs I had when watching him admit to areas where he wanted to improve).

“Keep working hard, keep working on my right hand, keep working on my defense, keep working on my physical, get quicker too — I’m pretty quick but I can get quicker,” said Obiesie via Draft Express of the improvements he wants to make.

As for what he sees in himself right now?

“Just attack. Finding the right man, finding the right guy who’s hot, shooting the ball pretty well, speeding it up in transition and just shooting off of the catch or off of the dribble in pick-and-roll. I think that’s the good stuff I can do.”

Right now, for the team that drafts him, I think they’d be better off maybe stashing him for a year perhaps before bringing him over — or at least be prepared for him to be on frequent G League duty. I would certainly say he’s more of a project than a player that could come in and be a part of an NBA rotation on day one — though, with how quickly he’s developed this season in Germany, it wouldn’t be fair to rule that one out entirely. If he’s drafted, Summer League would obviously provide a much clearer picture as to how he may stand at the next level.

I’ve seen some mock drafts list Obiesie in the top 60 — even inside the top 50 — and some that don’t include him at all. There’s definitely something here and it wouldn’t surprise me if someone took a gamble on him in the late 40’s.

The Hawks are slotted to have the 35th, 41st and 44th overall selections in the 2019 draft (at least, as of writing) and that might be a little too high to select Obiesie but, should an opportunity come to move down or acquire another pick in the 50’s, it might be worth exploring. He would fit into the three-point mantra Lloyd Pierce has going on with the Hawks and his off-ball movement would be a really interesting option in the offense. And he likes to play fast, which the Hawks like to as well.

We shall see...