Tibor Pleiss had a very productive 2013-2014 season with Laboral Kutxa Baskonia and scored a transfer to Barcelona last summer, but things didn’t go as well there. There was hope head-coach Xavi Pascual would do for his defense what he did for Ante Tomic, but that didn’t happen.
Pleiss was asked to guard pick-and-rolls above the foul line and was quite bad at it. Despite his size (seven-foot-two, 242 pounds), Pleiss was ineffective on defense and fouled a lot – averaging 7.2 fouls per 48 minutes – according to RealGM. The combination of the two led to him averaging just 13.7 minutes per game last season.
Pleiss’ top skill is his scoring out of the pick-and-roll. He is a good screener who consistently looks to draw contact, moves very fluidly in space for someone his size, has good hands to catch the ball on the move and can play above the rim as a target for lobs, which sucks in attention and can potentially open up shots for others around the perimeter.
Because Pleiss has good agility for someone his size, his last two coaches have tried stretching him a bit on defense and that hasn’t worked. Sergio Scariolo had him hedging-and-recovering on pick-and-rolls and Pascual had him going above the foul line constantly. We have two seasons of evidence now that Pleiss is simply not suited to guard in space, as he struggles changing directions and fouls a ton.
According to gigabasket, Barcelona allowed 102 points per 100 possessions with Pleiss in the lineup in the Euroelague, while it held opponents to 100.75 points per 100 possessions with Tomic in the game. According to RealGM, the exact same thing happened in the Spanish league as well.
It seems evident at this point that Pleiss is better suited to guard pick-and-rolls flat, dropping back inside lane to protect the front of the rim by using his size. Somebody who is seven-foot-two should be able to luck into more than just 39 blocks in 71 appearances (his totals last season) if he gets to stay close to the basket more.
Pleiss got a steady dose of post-up touches in his last season with Baskonia but those went away completely last season. His usage went down from 26.3% in 2013-2014 to 18.1% in 2014-2015.
His footwork is only so-so but he has proven able to establish good position in the block and has pretty good touch on short turnaround hooks with either hand. According to Synergy Sports, he finished his few touches last season at a 58% clip. That said, Pleiss struggles when doubled hard and his 18% turnover rate is sky high in the context of his usage rate.
Pleiss is a very solid defensive rebounder, collecting at least 24% of opponents’ misses in three of the last four seasons. He has a massive rebounding area but also looks to box out consistently and has decent quickness pursuing the ball off the rim.
Pleiss is not, however, much of an asset in the other glass, despite a long wingspan that should help him rebound outside of his area. He simply doesn’t play with the sort of activity required to make an impact in that department.
Generally speaking, Pleiss also doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of skill. He is not a passer out of the low post, out of the short roll or helping facilitate offense from the elbows – assisting on just 3.6% of Barcelona’s scores when he was on the floor.
And he is not any sort of a threat jump-shooting; playing out of the pick-and-pop or spotting up on the weak-side – missing 22 of his 33 mid-range jump-shots in the Euroleague last season and 47 out of 73 against that same level of competition the season before.
Pleiss projects as an emergency option in the NBA. He’s about to turn 26, and should probably be viewed as a finished product at this point.
The Jazz are committed to Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert long-term. They played together some last season, with Gobert developing some great passing out of the short roll and Favors hitting 163 jump-shots, but the expectation is Quin Snyder would prefer having a floor spacer (Trey Lyles or Trevor Booker) paired with one of the two at center for 30 minutes a game.
Pleiss is likely to play whenever Favors or Gobert are forced to miss time, and he is probably not a fit long-term for what Snyder is looking to install on offense (a version of what the Hawks do) due to his lack of a polished skill-set.
Eventually, Pleiss will make it in the NBA (but probably not) if he ever gets to a coach that plays him in a Tyson Chandler role. But as we’ve seen throughout Chandler’s career and with all the subsequent Chandler prototypes, that’s not as simple as it seems.
Editor’s Note: 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