By Artau Pascual

ANGT Berlin meets all the requirements to be an event we will remember for a while. Many players who are projected to be the crop of the cream in their age groups were on full display during all four days and demonstrated why they deserve all the attention they have. We enjoyed brilliant individual performances, tight games decided in the last possession and some eye-popping moments. Even the newcomers, Overtime Elite, successfully passed the test and grabbed a cool win against FC Barcelona. We will have plenty of time to focus on different stories, but a fair point to start from is the impressive showing of one of the trendy names in Europe in the last months: Nolan Traore. The Saint-Quentin Point Guard, a 2006-born, 6’4 athletic French player, proved why he’s in the spotlight as of today.

At first glance, it’s easy to find Nolan Traore’s visible strengths. He’s a way above-average athlete for what we can find in the Guard spots in Europe, with the speed, burst and verticality to project himself as a great slasher at higher levels. It’s not only about how good of a driver he is; also, his decision-making when getting to the rim is already quite accurate. Nolan Traore’s game is mostly about running the game in an up-tempo style, making things happen in the first seconds of possession and creating chaos in the opponent's defensive scheme. However, as we have seen in his short stint with Saint-Quentin and during this last ANGT Stage, he has already started to implement in his game some valuable counters for when he has to face new challenges. Except during the last minutes against Real Madrid, when he had run out of gas after handling an impressive amount of usage for a couple of days, he demonstrated some impressive solutions against multiple pick&roll coverages scoring at multiple levels.

FC Barcelona vs. INSEP was mostly a halfcourt game, and it was a really valuable one because both teams had sense of urgency. Both teams limited well each other fastbreak and transitions, since both squads could thrive on the open floor. In this scenario, Nolan Traore had to face multiple coverages, and he answered well against all of them. If the opposing guard decided to go under, he was willing to take and hit the shot. Even if it’s true that at this point, shooting is still a swing skill that will play a key role in determining Nolan’s ceiling, it was pretty clear that (as well as against pros) he doesn’t fear taking those threes. On the other hand, against conventional coverages and switches, Nolan also demonstrated that his speed and feel are at the next level. He didn’t have problems holding slightly his dribble and getting the defender on his back or, when facing a big, changing speeds, directions, and height to create confusion. Even the floater clicked for him and, if needed, he found ways to split the screen taking advantage of his insane acceleration. The 45-point performance counts and is a big reason why the game and his entire event will be one to remember, but the most encouraging part of all the topic is how comfortable he looked playing off ball screens and how capable he was of choosing the pace of every action he was involved in. Even if it’s true that he had a consistent advantage in his matchups because he was the player on the court in every game with the best ability to turn the corner and the fastest-footed Guard in the room, he took advantage of it consistently, and it looked as a fairly translatable for the upcoming levels.

During the rest of the event, Nolan also faced a wide variety of defenders and schemes. Real Madrid tried mostly everything: in addition to some matchups against Hugo González, he started the game facing the best on-ball defender of the team -Gildas Giménez-, then he went against a smart and picky defender such as Asier Miguel and, finally, he also had to face one of the toughest players in the event in Mitar Bosnjakovic. Nolan looked tired during some stretches because of the usage he had to handle, but the results and process looked good against all of those matchups. Gildas made a solid effort, navigating through screens to stay with him, but Nolan felt where he was and left him behind easily. Asier Miguel played leaving a little more distance, and it somehow worked because Nolan’s shooting results cooled down a little. A remarkable part of his production in this game was how well he connected with dynamic screeners who could either pop or dive to the rim, such as Nathan Soliman and Jonas Boulefaa, who benefited from Nolan’s passing under pressure. Nolan did a good job at reading how the defender of the screener opted for aggressive shows against him in the pick&roll defense and found the free man well. Another interesting part of the game, as well as we saw in the other ones, was how INSEP tried to get advantage spots for him off staggers, so he could turn the corner going right in space. It also worked for him since he had already built a previous advantage. 

During the entire event, Nolan Traore displayed multiple skills that translate well to the NBA. It’s not just how fast he is or how much of an above-average athlete he looked like, but also about how well he was able to implement these skills in his game. He could run the tempo of every action, he got the shots he wanted and delivered well against multiple game plans. He felt well in halfcourt offense when the possession arrived in the last seconds, and he also found moments to produce early in transition or using high screens. His feel for the game is already at a good level and, even if he’s not the most creative passer we can think about, he’s functional enough and makes the appropriate reads according to the advantages he creates.