Following an impressive showing at the 2018 Division B European U18 Championship (13.5 PPG, 8.0 REB, 6.0 AST), Vrenz Bleijenbergh was offered a scholarship by the Arizona Wildcats and was thrust into the conversation of 2000-born European prospects with potential EuroLeague and/or NBA futures. With his extraordinary combination of length and skill, the 19-year-old led Belgium to a bronze medal and got on the radar of multiple NBA front offices. Bleijenbergh tested the 2019 NBA Draft waters under the representation and advisement of Yannick Kizito of Wasserman, but withdrew ahead of the deadline as he was unable to accept any of his workout invitations because his team was still competing in the playoffs. Since the beginning of the current season, the Belgian is a key contributor to the rotation of the Antwerp Giants, where he regularly matches up against quality European competition in the Basketball Champions League. Due to his outstanding playmaking ability, Bleijenbergh can take on the role as a floor general and adds a different element to last year’s runner-up in the Belgian Pro Basketball League and BCL Final Four participant.
Tale of the Tape
Handle, Vision, Feel
Standing at 6’10’’ with ball skills and coordination, Bleijenbergh presents a multitude of challenges for opposing defenses. Thanks to his ability to handle the ball and see the floor, the Bleijenbergh spends most of his time on the perimeter and essentially operates as a point forward for the Antwerp Giants. Bleijenbergh is a reliable option for the coaching staff to initiate the team’s half-court offense, having good feel and remaining calm under pressure. While many young bigs can be exposed down the stretch of close games or struggle when facing varying defensive looks, Bleijenbergh has proven capable of thriving in crunch time situations and punishing blitzes/double teams. He has struggled with consistency as a shooter, but has shown growth and confidence with off-movement and stepback attempts from deep.
In the clip below, we highlight Bleijenbergh’s versatile offensive skill set.
Of his offensive abilities, shooting consistency is Bleijenbergh’s most volatile swing skill. Over the past two years, to his credit, he has slightly raised the release point of his jump shot. This was a much needed tweak to his shooting mechanics from a shot functionality/projectability perspective, but certainly still needs further adjustment and has yet to pay dividends in his shooting efficiency. If Bleijenbergh can further elevate his release point and subsequently acclimate to the new shooting form and show capable of knocking down three-pointers on a more consistent basis, it’d go a long way in rounding out his offensive repertoire by forcing defenses to play him tighter and respect his jump shot.
Bleijenbergh’s skill as a point forward floor general shines as a pick-and-roll handler. A large volume of his offensive output is derived from ball screen actions, where Bleijenberg uses his outlier height/handle combination to navigate the ball-screen while seeing the entire court. This unique vision, unimpeded by switch/hedge/ice defensive reactions, enables Bleijenbergh to identify unorthodox passing lanes and accurately zip passes over the outstretched arms of defenders. He consistently keeps his head up, reads the floor, and makes good decisions as a pick-and-roll facilitator. He has a great understanding of how to utilize space/separation created by a solid ball-screen, despite the lack of a consistent knock-down jumper from deep. Just a sliver of an opening is enough for for Bleijenbergh gain an advantage and make the defense pay.
In the clip below, we highlight Bleijenbergh’s pick-and-roll feel.
Over the course of his first 14 games of 2019-20 BSL and BCL seasons, Bleijenbergh’s passing has been outstanding as an offensive catalyst off the bench for the Giants, posting a 25.28 AST% on a 1.33 AST/TO ratio. This is a great improvement from last season, when Bleijenbergh seemed a bit skittish as a creator in his spot-minutes. Bleijenbergh’s passing/handling skill set at his size makes for an intriguing, unique prospect archetype.
Vrenz Bleijenbergh is in a nice development situation in Antwerp. Despite struggling offensively in limited minutes last season, he is earning key rotation minutes this year and is being given a longer leash, entrusted with the task of orchestrating the offense off the bench for a team in contention for the Belgian national title that makes noise in European competition on a regular basis. The organization has high hopes for the 19 year old, as they inked him to a long-term deal that runs through 2023. The agreement includes a buyout option that allows for early termination contingent upon receipt of an NBA contract offer.
In today’s game where skilled wings with length and switchability are much sought-after, Bleijenbergh’s profile could be very enticing to NBA teams. Bleijienbergh showed some solid defensive feel and versatility for his age last season, and his skill/coordination at his size points toward potential offensive upside. He could stand to add some strength to his thin frame, improve his explosive burst as a slasher/driver to fuel self-creation and taper down his overreliance on ball-screens to get into the paint, and shore up his three-point shooting consistency. Improving in these areas would go a long way in boosting his stock as a potentially draftable prospect.
Bleijenbergh likely will declare for the draft again, and if he can show tangible strides in the aforementioned improvement areas, it’s possible that an NBA organization selects him and secures his draft rights as a late 2nd Round draft-and-stash flier. If selected, dependent on the selecting team’s roster construction and situation, it’s likely that Bleijenbergh spends a bit more time in Europe to work on his body before exercising his buyout and making the jump to the NBA.
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