Shot Creator, Tall Passer

Dzanan Musa Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Starting the season opener against Olympiacos in Greece as a 16-year-old, Dzanan Musa became the ninth-youngest player in Euroleague history to make his debut.

The Bosnian teenager was not a rotation player throughout his first season with Croatian club Cedevita Zagreb but earned some quality time against high profile competition here and there, including three appearances with more than 10 minutes against Euroleague opponents.

Musa ended up logging 360 minutes in the pros, while spending some time with Cedevita’s junior squad as well in the Adidas Next Generation tournament of Zagreb, where he earned All-Tournament Team honors.

After leading Bosnia & Herzegovina to a title in the European Championships U16 last summer, there was some expectation Musa could carry his team within reach of similar glory at the FIBA World Championships U17 in Zaragoza this year but things didn’t work out as well, as the Bosnians placed ninth.

Musa led the tournament in scoring, averaging a jaw-dropping 41.9 points per 40 minutes — though a closer look reveals he shot 57.4% on non-competitive games against the Dominic Republic, South Korea and Chinese Taipei but just 34.7% in three outings against stronger opponents in France, Australia and China.

PICK & ROLL SHOT CREATION

Musa’s top skill is shot creation for himself out of middle high pick-and-roll, which he got to do quite a bit running offense for the Bosnian National Team.

He is left hand dominant and strongly prefers driving to his left. Musa flashed some patience waiting for paths to the basket to clear up when opponents hedged but mostly operated as a one-speed aggressor. His first step is very effective playing downhill off a ball-screen, allowing him to get into the lane with a good deal of momentum.

Musa lacks lift elevating out of one foot to attack length protecting the front of the basket with explosiveness and body control to hang in the air and score around it, as even his touch on finishes at rim level are only so-so at this point of his development.

He has also not yet developed into a scoring threat from the in-between area, either through running floaters or stopping on a dime to pull-up from mid-range, though it’s important to contextualize that he didn’t have a lot of space to operate, as Bosnia & Herzegovina hits just 29% of its three-point shots and didn’t have a big man or a weak-side cutter who presented a threat to play above the rim as a target for lobs.

According to FIBA.com, Musa converted just 40.4% of his 42 two-point shots in the three competitive games against France, Australia and China in Zaragoza.

He proved himself an expert foul drawer, though. Musa has a well-distributed 202-pound frame in the context of his six-foot-eight height and broad shoulders that suggest he should get thicker if he continues to hit the gym. But even as he is now, Musa already uses his body extremely well to create contact of these straight line drives against his age group, earning 18.6 free throws per 40 minutes at the FIBA World Championships U17.

He is not as aggressive a dribble driver when kept from going left, often opting for rhythm pull-up jumpers from long range as the opponent overplays his left hand or goes under the ball-screen. Though he is left hand dominant, Musa jump-shoots (and takes foul shots) right handed. He is a capable shot maker when he gets to slow-dribble into this shot, even from beyond the arc. Creating most of his own looks in Zaragoza, he nailed 33.3% of his 48 three-point shots, enough for him to be considered a legit threat on such attempts, especially considering his percentage was brought down by suspect shot selection, which is expected to clean up as he matures.

Though he’s flashed appealing court vision in transition and facing the defense from the top of the key (often matched up against wing defenders shorter than him), Musa did not show to be a particularly advanced passer out of dribble penetration against a set defense. Considering how ball dominant he was in that setting, 3.7 assists per 40 minutes is an unimpressive figure and 4.2 turnover per 40 minutes is a concerning one.

OTHER AREAS OF OFFENSE

Musa wasn’t as prolific a shot creator on isolations. Without the aid of a screen, he was hit-and-miss in terms of getting by his man on straight line drives, struggling against France but doing well in the fourth quarter against China. He did, however, show some shiftiness when he got his opponent out on an island, able to dribble behind the back, between the legs or into a well-coordinated spin move in a pinch to go side-to-side and penetrate the lane via forward momentum.

Musa used his size advantage to post up semi-regularly. Sometimes he didn’t play with enough physicality to force his way into position but didn’t necessarily shy away from contact either and officials awarded him a bunch of foul shots as he fought for his spot. When he got the ball with his back to the basket, Musa didn’t showcase a wide range of moves but was willing to lower his shoulders and back his way into short-range hooks, preferring to turnaround to his left but proving able to finish with either hand.

He did very little as a weak-side guy with the Bosnian National Team but that was his primary role in his 33 appearances with Cedevita’s senior squad in the Euroleague, the Adriatic league and the Croatian league last season.

Musa has a fairly quick release off the catch but is merely a capable shot maker from three-point range with grown men closing out to him at this point of his development, nailing just 12 of his 38 such attempts – according to RealGM.

He makes quick decisions attacking closeouts off the catch but, as was the case with his drives out of pick-and-rolls and isolations, lacks explosiveness and polish to finish in a crowd at the basket, though his assist-percentage was more appealing in a limited sample.

DEFENSE

Musa logged 78 minutes in the Euroleague last season and Cedevita’s coach gave some real responsibility during those. He guarded Vassilis Spanoulis in his short five-minute stint in the season opener against Olympiacos, Malcolm Delaney and Elliot Williams – both NBA-caliber guys – in top 16 appearances on the road against Lokomotiv Kuban and Panathinaikos.

Musa put in the effort but was a below average defender, often getting stuck on screens and easily manipulated by veterans who know how to put him on their backs. He lacks length (six-foot-eight wingspan, according to Draft Express) to make plays in the passing lanes but has shown a knack for contributing on the defensive glass, averaging 6.4 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes last season.

His effort in Zaragoza wasn’t as satisfying, though. Musa often got in a soft stance, lost track of his man, closed out off balance and gave up a clean path to be attacked off the dribble. He continued to struggle navigating through screens and was hit-and-miss in terms of staying in front in isolation but was also an elite defensive rebounder for a wing against his age group as well, collecting on average 7.9 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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