Down Under is basketball country and Australians far and wide are quickly discovering that the New Orleans Pelicans Didi Louzada is an exciting, young player capable of filling up the box score on any given night.
More than a medium for baller cognoscenti to scratch their burning itch for quality hoops, Australian basketball is nothing to scoff at. The Australian National Basketball League’s (NBL) development over the last few years has culminated with an enjoyable basketball product and a competitive league.
Top prospects LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton making the recent voyage over the Pacific is the catalyst for the Aussie basketball explosion. A conglomeration of top prospects and former NBA/Division I college notables — Andrew Bogut, Bryce Cotton, Aaron Brooks and more — gives American fans a reason to tune into the NBL, but it appears everyone must soon add another name to their must-watch lists: Pelicans’ rookie Didi Louzada is proving himself a worthy component of the wealth of young NBL talent after a handful of preseason performances.
The 35th pick in the 2019 NBA draft, the Brazilian will showcase his skills in the NBL until the Pelicans, holders of his player rights, decide to take the next step and bring him back to the United States. Through four preseason games with the Sydney Kings, Louzada is making a strong case for his NBA readiness, building off of his standout summer league performance. He’s posting averages of 17.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists with a 49.1% field goal percentage, which includes stoking 14 of his 25 three-point attempts (56%). If one were to remove a 4-point on 2-12 shooting line against the New Zealand Breakers from three days ago, Didi’s results thus far with the Kings would appear that much more stellar on paper.
Playing with Franca of the Brazilian NBB, Louzada’s offensive role was mostly as an off-ball floor spacer, given his elite shooting profile. Louzada’s success off of the ball has translated to the NBL as his elite floor spacing has been on full display. Every great shooter knows the best way to break open for threes is to relocate to the line after a drive and kick. Pushing in transition, Didi lays it off to the big man and immediately sprints to the strong corner, freeing himself for an open shot:
Louzada is excellent reading and reacting off of the ball, burning inattentive help defenders for open threes. When Louzada’s teammate drives, the helper expects Didi to be at the wing and positions himself in that passing lane. The tricky Louzada fills the corner behind him, locating the open court and rising up for the triple:
Defenses fear Louzada’s shooting — he’s drained 14 threes in four games — so helpers sell out hard on Louzada to thwart his three-point attempts. When defenders fly at him, Louzada has the shooting gravity and the burst to force closeouts and decimate them on his way to easy rim attempts:
While Louzada’s decision making and overall chops as a playmaker are developing, he has some passing vision. Though he created quite a bit on the ball in the NBL, he will play off of the ball in the NBA one day and his passing is best optimized here. Playing next to Zion Williamson, who should possess some of the most rim gravity in the NBA, Louzada will see constant closeouts and teams have to respect his shooting. When teams run him off of the line, he has enough vision to add playmaking value in advantage situations.
The Perth defense flies at Louzada, who takes a patient dribble inside the arc before swinging to the open corner, creating a great shot:
Here’s a good encapsulation of where Louzada’s passing is at this stage of his career. He attacks the closeout and breaks free in the middle, hanging in the air and laying off to an open teammate who fumbles his pass. Louzada should have let the ball go before he leaped, but drawing two defenders and passing for a layup is a positive sign for a 20 year old:
Most of Louzada’s on-ball passing creation is fairly rudimentary at this point and comes as a byproduct of his downhill gravity. Though these plays aren’t flashy, it’s important to see Louzada making good decisions and making simple plays as a passer, like this drive and kick when the help slides down:
It’s clear Louzada’s facilitating is still raw on many of his plays, as his timing and technique is rough, even though the pure vision is there. The change of pace after the pick and roll to slice middle is great, as is the recognition to pocket pass to the open roller. The pass it as least a second late, though; Louzada needs to fire this pass right as he crosses the free throw line at the moment the window opens:
Louzada’s decision making gaffes do lead to turnovers, usually as a result of a lack of control. He barrels downhill with force but loses control, coughing up the ball as a result of this poor decision:
In the above clip, notice how Louzada tries a euro-step before losing the ball. Louzada turns to the euro often as a counterpunch to his blitzes to the basket, changing up his timing to throw off defenders. Here, Louzada wields the euro to draw the big and open up a passing lane, laying off to the dunker spot when two defenders commit:
In the open floor, Louzada is rapid and doesn’t hesitate to push when he collects the ball in transition. In the blink of an eye, he’s behind the defense and dunking:
Against NBL competition, Louzada’s on ball creation has been impressive. He’s overwhelming defenders with his athleticism, but he has shown some skill flashes as well. A quick hesitation cross gives Louzada a window to accelerate and he floors it to the rim for an open layup:
Many NBL opponents can’t contain Louzada athletically; with his improved handle, his drives have been effective. These flashes of handling ability, backing up his defender in his penetration, are key for his projection as an ancillary wing piece in the NBA:
Louzada bamboozles two defenders with an in and out dribble, parting them and knifing into the hole. There’s that euro-step again, creating a wide open layup, despite the miss:
More than a stationary shooter, Louzada’s shot versatility is another asset in his shooting repertoire. He’s not a violent space creator, but Louzada has enough wiggle to get his pull-up jumpers off:
Defensively, Louzada’s feet and agility are top tier. He’s one of the best I have ever seen at defending screens, both on and off of the ball. Watch how fluid Louzada’s feet dance around the court, effortlessly swinging his hips and containing the ball, vaporizing screens:
It is important to remember the level of competition whenever one is evaluating players of any level. While the NBL is a good domestic league with legitimate talent, it isn’t the NBA. However, Louzada played as well as anyone could ask for in the NBL thus far. First with his play in Brazil, then in Vegas and now in Sydney, Louzada has proved himself an NBA talent at every stop. It’s only a matter of time before he’s suiting up in New Orleans.