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Marc Garcia struggles in U18 European Championships

Most people are familiar with Marc Garcia through name recognition only. His name appears on DraftExpress’s 2015 mock draft at 15th overall, in-between Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Myles Turner. Chad Ford was a bit less high on Garcia, placing him at 23rd, calling him “the best international prospect outside of Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja.” I was lower yet on Garcia after watching some of his U18 tape from last year, where he played as an underage player, wondering if I thought he had enough athleticism to hang.

Garcia returned to the U18 European Championships this year as the most high-profile prospect in the field, looking to lead Spain to their first gold in the tournament since 2011 after their bronze medal finish last season. It’s clear that he’s the first option on this team, but unfortunately Garcia hasn’t been up to the task.

Spain has gone 2-3 in the first five games that they’ve played. Garcia has taken the third most field-goal attempts in the tournament, but isn’t doing enough with his opportunity. He’s averaging 14.4 points per game on an abysmal 27 percent from the field, including 25 percent from the three-point line. Worse yet, he’s not really contributing to the box score in any other way, as he’s only garnering about 1.8 rebounds and under one assist per contest while turning the ball over 2.8 times per game.

While some of this is obviously just being snakebitten — he’s missing open three-point jumpers despite having a fluid stroke, quick release, and high arcing shot with good rotation on the ball — it’s absolutely fair to conclude that he hasn’t taken well to being a primary option in this setting. He forces the action far too often, and ends up taking highly questionable shots during the process. In a lot of ways it’s hard to separate the negative parts of his game from the positive ones, so let’s just take a look at what Garcia is doing in Turkey.

The first thing that one sees about Garcia is how excellent he is when moving off the ball, particularly running off of screens. He takes sharp angles, brushes up right against the screeners shoulder, and gets excellent space between he and his defender. Typically upon receiving the ball off of a screen, he looks to attack as opposed to shoot. When looking to shoot from distance, he looks much more comfortable in spot-up catch-and-shoot scenarios than he does running off of screens. In fact, his feet are almost never set into a triple threat position whenever he receives the ball. Here’s an example of his attack-oriented nature when coming off of a screen.

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Here, Garcia curls off of a double screen to receive the ball at the top of the key. He obviously doesn’t have the space to shoot the ball here, but with the way his feet are set there is not even a threat of a shot. Garcia doesn’t possess the best first step in the world, so the defender recovers. Instead of flaring to the top of the key if he was not going to shoot the ball, Garcia would have been better off continuing his curl in order to take advantage of the momentum he already had going to the rim.

However, one thing that little play did show off is his ball-handling ability and wiggle in his midrange game. Garcia has very fluid hips and excellent shiftiness for a player with somewhat limited athleticism. This allows him to create space for himself and get his shot in midrange, which seems to be his favored region of the floor. I’m worried about whether or not his first step is quick enough to get into the paint against longer NBA defenders, but here it’s good enough. That shiftiness also allows him to get to the rim and use his body to shield the ball from defenders. Here’s an example of that:

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Here, Garcia slashes in a straight line towards the rim. Realizing that he’s going to be going up against the type of defender that could easily block his shot from behind, he blows by him, then cuts across his path in order to put his body in between the defender and the ball. By the doing that, he cuts off the defender’s angle to protect the rim, and gets an easier look at the rim.

As mentioned earlier, the mechanics of his shot are also sound. Here’s an example:

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While he probably should have been squared up to shoot immediately on the catch, once he does get his feet squared he shows off a perfectly balanced base, which is where most of the power in his shot emanates from. He doesn’t have a ton of lift in his shot and his release point could stand to be higher, but it’s a quick, fluid trigger that with growth would translate well to the NBA. Speaking of the NBA, it’s also worth mentioning that Garcia takes almost all of his three-pointers from beyond NBA distance as is, meaning that transition shouldn’t be a problem.

It’s also worth noting that he gets to the foul line a lot, and converts when he gets there. He’s averaging 6.8 free throws per contest, which leads the competition. A lot of these free throws have come from his desire to consistently attack from the wing, while others from defenders’ needs to grab him as he moves off ball. Getting to the line tends to be a translatable skill, so Garcia at least has that going for him.

It’s clear that Garcia has excellent scoring instincts. He knows where he wants to get with the ball, and works hard to put himself into position to score. It’s just the rest of his game that I worry about.

His explosiveness and lift is a definite problem, especially when he attempts to finish around the rim. This, in conjunction with his somewhat short arms, makes it extremely difficult for him to finish at the rim at this stage. Here’s an example:

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Here, he shows off the shiftiness that I talked about earlier in an attempt to get to the rim. Beyond the fact that he ends up ignoring the man wide open in the corner to try to attack two bigger players at the rim, let’s talk about the attempt itself. The problem is that once he decides to attack he doesn’t have the lift to either get up into the shot blocker’s body to force a foul or create space, or to simply finish around the shot blocker. It ends up just being a meek attempt at the rim that is swatted back to start a Greece fast break. Here’s another example:

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This time, Garcia actually makes the right decision going all the way to the rim. However, once he gets there his legs let him down again. The lack of elevation here makes this an easier swat than it needs to be for the defender, who barely jumps before making contact with the ball.

And sometimes, the ability that Garcia has to eke out any sliver of space that he can ends up working against his team. Garcia has very questionable shot selection, and ends up just flinging ugly shots at the rim once his mind is made up to shoot.

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So yeah. I don’t know where “flinging the ball towards the rim with your off hand from your left hip with a guy on your right hip as you’re about to trip over” falls on the spectrum of bad shots, but it has to be up there. These shots are all too common from Garcia. It’s possible that they were his reaction to being the first option on his team, but regardless they did not leave a good impression on those viewing.

Looking beyond his scoring acumen, which is what he’s known for, Garcia doesn’t really bring much else to the table. He’s said to have good passing instincts according to DraftExpress, but I certainly didn’t see them on display here. He barely ever so much as looked to pass. He also rarely crashed the boards for a player his size on the wing, which isn’t great.

Defensively, there are going to be some general problems with Garcia because of his short-ish arms and lack of explosive athleticism. The craftiness that he shows off with the ball doesn’t really translate to the defensive end yet, where he’s often pretty stiff and doesn’t get low into his defensive stance. There might be some potential on this end because he’s ultimately an intelligent player, but in reality I don’t think he can ever become a plus defensive player. The athletic tools and length just aren’t there for the NBA level on that end.

Plus/minus is obviously not a great way to make judgments on players by itself, but in this stat seems to tell a good story of his tournament so far. Garcia has been either the worst or second-worst player for Spain via plus/minus in each of their last three games, registering double-digit negative numbers each time despite losing the first two games by single digits. Simply put, Garcia has hurt Spain more than he’s helped them in this tournament outside of a few outbursts of scoring. And it’s shown both statistically and on tape.

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Overall, there is some potential here for an NBA player, but I don’t think it’s remotely close to being capitalized upon based upon his performance here. And given that he just re-upped with FC Barcelona through 2018, I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of playing to go around for him either. Maybe Garcia thrives when he’s placed in a secondary role, where he doesn’t have to be relied upon to create offense for his team. However, players that tend to thrive like that also tend to have better ancillary skills surrounding their scoring.

After his performance here, I’ll be dropping Garcia off of my big board. This is partially due to the performance itself, and also partially due to the fact that I think he ends up not declaring for the 2015 version of the draft (and I base that off of no outside opinion at all). He’s so young that he still has four more possible drafts to declare for, and I don’t think he’s quite ready yet physically. Plus, a second-round choice will always be there for him because of his jump shot and shot-creation ability in Europe. But ultimately, if he’s struggling with size and length in the U18 championships of Europe, then it’s going to be a problem for him in the NBA. He needs time to mature, get stronger, and increase his athleticism. He’ll obviously do that from the time he turns 19 to the time he turns 22. But there’s still a lot of uncertainty too, and I’m not sure that an NBA team should take the risk on an 18-year-old that looks like this right now in the first round.

There’s a chance he can be a Marco Belinelli-type player in the pros, and a good chance that he can work his way into the first round with improvement. This tournament was an obstacle in his path, not the end of the road. But right now, it just doesn’t seem like Garcia will be ready to come overseas to America any time soon.

(all video taken from FIBA’s YouTube page)

Sam Vecenie

Sam Vecenie is the editor-in-chief of Upside & Motor, as well as an editor at Hardwood Paroxysm. He likes to spend endless hours watching random NCAA game film, and scouring the internet for international basketball. You can find his other work at SBNation's college basketball platform.

  • Joan Torres

    No Comment
    Spain vs Montenegro
    Spain vs Latvia
    Spain vs Italy

    Ranks #4 in Points Per Game (17.1)
    Ranks #1 in Free Throws Made (6.2)
    Ranks #1 in Drawn Fouls (6.8)
    Ranks #1 in Free Throws Attempted (7.2)

    ** Your analysis is the first part of the tournament
    ** Next year Marc Garcia will be playing in a ACB team just 18 years

    BEST REGARDS
    Joan

    • Sam Vecenie

      Absolutely, I noted that my analysis is just the first five games. Garcia can definitely get to the line against younger players, I just don’t love the rest of his game and think he should hold off on declaring for the draft, given that he’s so young.