For most Jazz fans, the first opportunity that they have to get a look at newly signed 7’2 center Tibor Pleiss is during Eurobasket 2015. Playing with the German squad alongside the likes of Dennis Schroder and Dirk Nowitzki, Tibor Pleiss was looked at as one of the team’s key players that could potentially lead the squad to Eurobasket glory.
Those hopes were initially delayed as Pleiss struggled during his Eurobasket debut against Iceland. Hampered by foul trouble throughout the game, Pleiss put up 4 points and 5 rebounds in only 14 minutes.
In the team’s next game against Serbia, Pleiss was given another opportunity to showcase himself. And that he did, stealing the show with 15 points (on 5-6 shooting), 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. While that performance wasn’t enough to push Germany past Serbia, as they suffered a heart-breaking 68-66 defeat, he displayed the skills that pushed Dennis Lindsey toward bringing him over to the Utah Jazz.
The chief factor that led Pleiss to being Germany’s leading scorer in this game was his mobility and activity. From the opening tipoff to the final buzzer, Pleiss was incredibly active, setting fantastic screens for Dennis Schroder and rolling his way towards the basket. While he didn’t necessarily score off those dives, Pleiss’s sheer size and solid mobility is usually enough to draw the attention of opposing players which would allow the ball-handler to get an easier look around the rim. Watch here as Pleiss was able to draw the defense’s attention with the screen, which gave Schroder an open lane to cut.
At least in the game against Serbia, Pleiss’s main form of offense came as a result of working his way towards the paint, catching an open pass and finishing around the rim. On those plays, Pleiss showed a mix of soft hands and solid footwork, allowing him to quickly catch the ball, position himself around the basket and put in the easy bucket.
Pleiss also contributed on the offensive end through post-ups and offensive boards. Working against current Suns “draft and stash” prospect Bogdan Bogdanovic, Pleiss scored his lone post-up basket of the game via a hook shot from the left block. Pleiss also collected a game-high three offensive rebounds.
While his work on the offensive end was solid, Pleiss’ performance on the defensive end is perhaps more significant. While he won’t be confused with Rudy Gobert anytime soon, Pleiss used the game against Serbia to display that he can be more on the defensive end than just an extremely large body.
Over the course of the game, Pleiss displayed some of the tools that should allow him to fit right in with Quin Snyder’s defensive scheme. A big example of this was a late first quarter play where Pleiss was defending against an intended PnR play. Pleiss switched off from his intended man to a cutting Nemanja Bjelica1, showing an ability to stick close to Bjelica from the start of the drive until Pleiss finished it off with a block. While he probably won’t be able to do the same against more athletic bigs, his persistence and sheer size could allow him to at least make a play.
While his lateral quickness leaves much to be desired, Pleiss did a great job of making his impact known with defending inside the paint. Due to the combination of solid footwork and court awareness, Pleiss was at least able to make plays on guards that cut their way to the paint. The biggest example of this is from the play below, where Pleiss worked as a help-side defender and swatted the ball away from Serbian guard Nemanja Nedovic.
Although he was solid throughout the entire game, there was an extremely important instance where Pleiss struggled to make the play. In the closing moments of the fourth quarter with the game tied, Bjelica caught an inbound pass from the right side of the perimeter. After a Radulija screen took away Germany’s intended defender, Pleiss switched off to guard the Timberwolves forward. However, Pleiss looked a bit lackadaisical as he failed to get in front of Bjelica, which allowed him to get an open look and hit the floater which would ultimately win the game.
In Pleiss’s performance against Serbia, he displayed a number of factors which could allow him to be a solid part of Utah’s 2nd unit. Offensively, his ability as a mobile 7’2 big who can quickly drive to the basket is something most NBA teams aren’t exactly used to defending. That factor could allow the team’s young guards (Neto, Cotton and Burke) to find constant openings that they can use to hit jumpers or drive towards the paint. In addition, his tenacity on the offensive glass and soft touch on post-ups are other factors that could allow him to potentially be a dangerous weapon for the team’s 2nd unit.
However, Pleiss’s work on the defensive end is where he could shine brightest. If he’s able to showcase the court awareness and footwork that he displayed in the Sunday game against Serbia, he could become another dangerous defensive weapon that Quin Snyder can utilize.
The challenges will keep on coming at Pleiss as his German squad will be facing off against Turkey on Tuesday and Italy on Wednesday. Pleiss should be forced to work against the likes of Ersan Ilyasova, Danilo Gallinari and Semih Erdan, who could all provide challenges for the new Jazz center.