Pablo Laso fell in love with the floor spacing potential Ioannis Bourousis brought to the table a little too much, especially late in the season, and as a result Salah Mejri logged just 667 minutes all year. And that’s because Marcus Slaughter struggled with some injuries, if not that number would be even lower. Mejri played so well in the Spanish league finals that he maybe should have been a rotation player all season rather than just an emergency option.
The Tunisian center is an excellent pick-and-roll scorer. His 245 pounds are well distributed in his seven-foot-one frame but Mejri is nonetheless a big body, one perimeter players struggle navigating around. He is, therefore, a good screener, dives very naturally down the middle of the lane and has soft hands to catch the ball on the move. Mejri leaps off the ground quite well despite his size and can play above the rim. He finished his 38 attempts at the basket in 249 Euroleague minutes at a 68.4% clip.
Mejri also makes an impact on the glass. He is a difficult body to box out due to his size and general activity, ranking second in the Spanish league in offensive rebounding rate among centers and top 20 in the Euroleague.
Catch-and-scoring off pick-and-rolls, weakside cuts and putbacks is his purpose on offense at the highest level of European ball as he is a limited player on all other areas.
He has shown a mechanical post game without much touch to finish at rim level in his previous stops and flashed a capable standstill set shot with very slow release if left completely open, but missed 11 of his 20 two-point attempts away from the rim in the Euroleague. And he hit just 55% of his 71 free throw attempts. He can get down the floor in transition but doesn’t look very natural sprinting on fastbreaks.
Real Madrid scored at a better per-possession rate without him on the floor in both leagues.
The pick-and-roll and playing above the rim are also where Mejri excels on defense. He doesn’t look particularly comfortable defending in space but did a very adequate job defending the ball screen action by sliding back, guarding it flat and leveraging his size to patrol the lane. He is no Marcus Slaughter switching on perimeter players but proved himself quite capable of keeping pace with them as they drove at him and challenging the shot at the rim.
Mejri also has terrific timing rotating off the weak side to protect the basket and can get of the ground in a pinch in comparison to the average center in the European game. He led both the Euroleague and the Spanish league in block rate. He was an average defensive rebounder, controlling over 21% of opponents’ misses in both leagues. Real Madrid allowed 7.5 points per 100 possessions fewer with Mejri on the floor in the Euroleague.
Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.