David Pick - Teil 34

It's a pretty weird oxymoron that two of the best teams outside the NBA - CSKA Moscow and Anadolu Efes, both the reigning Champions and recent Finalist, have German big men, but the Deutschland National Team is struggling to make a significant splash in international competition or climb the FIBA ranks as a basketball nation.

So, who are these Twins Towers and what's their production look like this season? That, and so much more, in our BIG Magazine column below. 

1. Tibor Pleiss (30, 2.21m): 8.6PPG, 4.3RPG, 63% 2PT, 92% FT

2. Johannes Voigtmann (27, 2.11m): 7.6PPG, 5.7RPG, 41% 3PT, 57% FT

Pleiss and Voigtmann have a couple of things in common. They're both HUGE. Both German, and both spent three seasons molding themselves in to talented and skilled players in the Spanish manufactory at Caja Laboral Vitoria AKA Laboral Kutxa Vitoria AKA Baskonia Vitoria Gasteiz AKA Kirolbet Baskonia Vitoria - seriously, what the hell is going on with all the name changes?!

While Pleiss made the jump from Baskonia to Barcelona to the NBA, and then took the long route back to the top (Galatasaray & Valencia) before landing with Anadolu Efes, Voigtmann went straight from losing with Baskonia vs CSKA in the playoffs, to signing with the Euroleague champs. There were rumors of him returning to Germany (Bayern Munich?), but he signed in the Red Square. It’s been a bumpy ride thus far.

A lot of people believed last season was the worst ever for Pleiss. He was extremely awful in the Euroleague finals vs CSKA and it was believed that 1. Efes wouldn't keep him going forward 2. Long gone are the days of giant bugs like Pleiss.

However, he's been one the pillars of Ergin Ataman's success this season. Pleiss is a great POINT-PER-MINUTES asset, has soft hands around the rim, and he is an elite FT shooter. Really, you don't want to send him to the line in crunch time (24-26 FT for 92% this season). Pleiss is a great compliment to Bryant Dunston off the bench and he has certainly earned his contract this season.

Notable Facts: 13PTS in 10MIN vs Barcelona; 16PTS in 14MIN vs ALBA Berlin; 11PTS in 14MIN vs ASVEL; 14PTS and 12REB on 6-6FG and 2-2FT vs MILANO; 20PTS and 10REB vs Khimki Moscow.

On the flip side, it hasn't been smooth for Voigtmann. A lot of that has to do with the injury of Will Clyburn, who would've helped remove some of the pressure from Johannes. Add to that how bad Kosta Koufas is, and Kyle Hines’ inability to shoot, a lot of those necessities fall on the shoulders of Voigtmann.

Notable Facts: 12 games of five or fewer points; three scoreless games; 10 games of 10 or more points.

I'm not sure why, but Voigtmann's stats have been in decline since his rookie season in Spain. Consistently, every season, his PTS, REB, FG% and also his 3PT% with Baskonia had dropped. The other weird stat is his numbers from there to Russia have also gone down. Now how does that make sense? If we compare the ACB to VTB League, remove the top teams in CSKA & Khimki, the ACB is MUCH BETTER. Lokomotiv & Unicks are good, but can lose vs Valencia, Malaga, Terefine etc.

Why has Voigtmann, who is used to the tough physicality of the ACB, reached a point where he looks to avoid any kind of contact at all? The stats speak for themselves: Voigtmann goes to the FT line 21 times in almost 600 minutes (!) - that's the equivalent of a single free throw each 35 minutes. But that's not all, he is also shooting just 57%, compared to Pleiss 92%.

With CSKA minus Clyburn, I understand there's a shooter's void to fill, somewhat - because even Will was never regarded as a “shooter” - but why has Voigtmann attempted 87 3s vs 59 2s, and in 18 of 24 Euroleague games shot MORE 3s than 2s total? It's not enough for Dimitris Itoudis going forward. It's evident with the Russian's record. They're just not as good as last season.

3. Secretly, I was always a low key fan of Robin Benzing. A dude standing 2.08 who can put the ball on the floor and stretch - I like those guys. But at the same time, I often felt he lacks a feel for the game and isn’t aggressive. He is a soft-bully = someone so gifted with outstanding physical attributes who doesn't really understand how good he can be and settles for mediocrity.

This isn't Robin's first trip outside the BBL. In fact, it's his 4th. The NBA? That ship has sailed. I promise you he is better than a lot of guys in the NBA, and better than other Euros that have been to the U.S. But he was never able to connect all the pieces to the puzzle.

Benzing played for ACB's Zaragoza for three seasons. Last season with Besiktas he was coached by ultra-aggressive Dusko Ivanovic and posted career-highs in international competition, averaging 12.1PPG on almost 40% 3PT shooting in the FIBA BCL. His current ACB stent has been a long ride of ups and downs. At 31-years-old Benzing is who he is, which is a solid role player who at times can become an X-Factor, depending whether his shots fall, because he tends to have confidence slips if he doesn't score.

He might want to try the French market going forward, specifically - Dijon. He killed the French club TWICE this season in BCL. In Game1: 20PTS in 26MIN. In Game2: 32PTS, and a total of 12-31 3PT attempts. He's also had good showings in the ACB with 18PTS in 23MIN vs Gran Canaria, 20PTS in 26MIN against Real Betis, and 15PTS in 24MIN vs Barcelona.

But also, Benzing tallied six games of scoring five or fewer points for a series of "no-shows". For Benzing, a well-paid import that is supposed to be a difference maker on the floor - these are the reasons that he was never able to latch on to the HIGHER level non-German club.

4. The last German guard to make an impact overseas was vet PG Heiko Schaffartzik. After a long era with Ratiopharm Ulm, 24-year-old Ismet Akpinar took his talents to Turkey. While I'm almost 100% he isn't getting all his money at Besiktas Istanbul, the opportunity to grow is very good. Akpinar has been stable, but also showed there's potential to become great.

His elite games were 15PTS vs Fenerbahce; 21PTS in 41MIN against Anadolu, 18PTS in 21 MIN vs his homeland rival Telekom Bonn & 13PTS in 13MIN vs PAOK Thessaloniki. But here are red flags: In 40% of his FIBA games this season, he recorded five or fewer points.

While his 3PT% is good (in 40s); and his FT% even better at 85% connecting on a total of 64-70; Ismet has some trouble finishing through traffic, finishing with contact, and being aggressive in the paint. His 2PT% are evidence that he must improve his shot selection and body control as he attacks the rim, totaling 35/88 for 39% from within the arc-paint area. That is a really bad stat..

5. There hasn't been a player to fall off the radar faster than Maik Zirbes. In the 2015-16 season at Red Star Belgrade he was balling, averaging 12PTS and 6REB in the Euroleague. He was mentioned in the same breath for the All-1st Team.

Surprisingly, he never lived out the 1st year of his 3-year contract. Maik did very poorly and couldn't make the adjustments to the high-tempo, up and down speed in the Israeli League; and the pressure at Maccabi itched his nerves. It's one thing to be a star for a Cinderella team where no one expects you to win and you're always the underdog. It's a totally different world playing for Maccabi. The pressure to win each game is unimaginable. Maccabi can be on a 10-game win streak and lose one - the emotions and pressure around becomes as if they just lost 10 in a row.

His career should've gone elsewhere. Maik returned home to the loving arms of Bayern Munich and then back to Crvena Zvezda, but he failed to redeem himself. Before Zirbes left Belgrade for Maccabi, he was the ultimate Iron Man, posting good numbers and scoring in double-figures in the Euroleague. The next time he was there in 2018-19, he barely cracked 6.5PTS and 3.6RPG, shooting a terrible 37.5% from the free throw line.

So it's been basically downhill for Zirbes since signing the lucrative deal with Maccabi. Munich was out of Euroleague, so he'd fallen from a top big in Euroleague to 5.9PPG in EuroCup. Then back to Belgrade, and a weird move to China where he actually did fairly well. That style might fit him more - again, no pressure, China has some really big and slow big men, only two imports per team and one plays an entire quarter; so he had plenty of opportunities to dominate en route to 19.8PTS and 15.5RPG contest over 31 games.

But China doesn't really make an impression on European front office officials. Zirbes had returned to the old continent and had signed with Cedevita Zagreb of all clubs. His production and performances were awful and he was a key contributor that led to his coach Rimac Slaven to get fired. Zirbes was a big addition to the Croatia-Slovenian club, but his performances on the floor left no room for confusion - he was no longer the same animal.

Zibes already hit 30-years of age. His stats in EuroCup are career-lows of 4.2PPG and 3.9RPG in just 15 minutes. He isn't even used much because he is a liability on defense: Over 10 EuroCup games this season, Maik failed to register even a single double-digit scoring performance. He averages 1.7 turnovers per game, which equals 17 total vs 0 assists. Yes, that is not a typo. While big like Nikola Jokic, Kyle Hines, Tibor Pleiss, Othello Hunter and even Gregg Monroe can all pass from the high post and kick out to shooters, Zirbes collected ZERO dimes in the entire 2019-20 campaign.

The big Q now that remains is ... where to next?


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