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2013 FIBA Americas: How Renaldo Balkman has become the leading scorer for Puerto Rico

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With the FIBA Americas tournament underway in Venezuela and with four spots available for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, we’ll look at some offensive and defensive strategies from this tournament. Follow along on ESPN3.

After being the surprise pick of the 2006 NBA Draft, going 20th to the New York Knicks, Renaldo Balkman had a disappointing NBA career, struggling through sevens seasons with the Denver Nuggets and two stints with the Knicks. The 29 year old finds himself playing in the domestic league of his home country of Puerto Rico while entrenching himself as a key member of the national team.

In the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament, Balkman has established himself as a strong offensive player for the Puerto Rican team while leading them to three wins in the first three games. He has averaged 20 points per game on 70% shooting. While the defensive competition has not been the stiffest, Balkman has shown some of the skills that put him on the NBA draft boards in his senior season.

Balkman gets many of his points through his hustle by cutting in the right spots, finding the open passing lanes and chasing down loose balls for offensive rebounds. It’s what many liked about him prior to the NBA Draft and he continues to show this skill today. The following clips show examples of these baskets from the first three games. He showed that one of the positive aspects of his offensive game is the little plays, which many would classify as the ‘dirty plays’. He makes the right cuts, fights for loose balls and makes himself available for dump off passes for layups.

Balkman also showed some competence in the pick and roll, although a majority of this is due to the poor pick and roll defense displayed by the first three opponents. However, Balkman, along with his teammates, showed that they can execute the pick and roll and Balkman has the right instincts on when he should roll to the rim. The defenses Puerto Rico has faced so far have shown they are not the best in rotating with a hard roller to the rim such as Balkman, which often leaves the path to the rim wide open. This allows Balkman to walk down the lane for the easy finish, as the pass to him out of the pick and roll is easily made by the ball handler.

Will these performances in this tournament be enough to get him back to the NBA? The answer likely is no, partly due to his deficiencies also on display in these games. He struggles on defense and in creating his own shot, as shown in the following clips of turnovers and drives that result in tough shot attempts. Balkman is great when aided in getting a shot but is unable to create his own offense, even against the weaker defenses of the FIBA Americas teams.

His hustle and work ethic was enough to get him drafted but it was not enough to keep a player of his size and skill level in the league for long. This is a nice series of performances for Balkman and it will likely continue throughout this tournament, as Puerto Rico hopes to qualify for the Basketball World Cup. His hustle plays will continue to lead to easy baskets while he will be able to work with Carlos Arroyo and other guards in the pick and roll to expose some of the unorganized defenses. However, his weaknesses are on full display as well, so don’t be too quick to call for a return to the NBA.

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Written by Joshua Riddell

September 2, 2013 at 3:45 am

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