Gabriele Procida was born on 1st June 2002 in Como, a city in Lombardia, Italy. He started playing basketball in the town where he lived when he was a child: Lipomo. When he was 12 he received an offer from Cantù to be part of their U13 team. He accepted and he has been with the team ever since. The past few years were very important ones for Procida, who won the 2018 U15 Italian Championship (and was nominated in the tournament’s best five), and took part in the U18 FIBA European Championship 2018. Gabriele debuted in Serie A1 vs Venezia on September 13th 2019 and on that day it began his rise. This summer he signed a four-year contract with Cantù, even if it’s unlikely he will end his contract there. Gabriele’s last big achievement has been the selection in Italy’s Senior National Team. He will participate in the ‘Perm Bubble’, where Italy will try to qualify for the next EuroBasket.
Standing at 6-foot-7 with a high wingspan for his size (to the eye 6-foot-9), Procida is a versatile forward and has one of the most intriguing frames of the entire 2002 generation. His length is really impressive for his role, and this helps him a lot under plenty of game aspects. His legs are very long and they allow him to cover the floor quickly during both transition defense and offense. Procida is a vertical athlete, with impressive explosiveness around the rim. His run and jump ability can’t be matched by many. Has a tremendous leap when jumping off the left foot. His long legs give him a high center of gravity, which hurts him on the balance aspect. Although his change of direction ability is pretty impressive both on and off-ball (this is the main reason why he is a great cutter). Talking about the upper body, this is the part he has to work on the most. Has to add mass on the biceps, even if during the last off-season he made some improvements in this regard. The chest and the shoulders are at a better point (wide if compared to his arm length), obviously he could add some weight also over here, but at the moment the critical part is another one. As I said before, Gabriele gained strength in his body during the off-season to withstand the physicality of the Serie A level, which isn’t the highest in Europe, but still elite. This kind of development makes his stock grow. Willingness to work is there with plenty of potential and room of improvement.
When you watch Procida play, the first thing that jumps out is his self-confidence and efficiency while shooting from beyond the arc. In this season Procida is averaging some crazy numbers from the 3-point line (43%) on a high volume of shots (2.8 attempts per game). His shot has improved a lot in the past 2 years. When he played ANGT in 2018 with Virtus Bologna and U18 European Championship in 2019, his mechanics were totally different for the worse. His shooting release point was inconsistent. His physical improvement played a key role in this regard: a couple of years ago, his shot started from the shoulder to compensate for lack of lower body strength, but now his mechanics are fluid and his release is a beauty to watch. The knees and the elbow point to the basket, and the lower body is perfectly coordinated to the upper one. Although he could refine his shot even more: yes, the release point got higher, but he bends too much his right elbow, due to lack of upper body strength, he loses momentum in this way when he loads the shot.
Procida is an explosive slasher with amazing footwork around the rim, he knows how to use the ‘zero-step’, and jumps off the left foot in such a way. In general he is a two level scorer. He lacks on the mid-range game: he takes a low number of shots from this level (1/7 in 18 games played during this season), but he has room of improvement on this aspect. Also, the low volume of shots taken from those positions are a consequence of the fact that Gabriele attacks very well the basket against close-outs or miss-matches and finishes with the head over the rim most of the times. When he drives to the paint he has to deal with stronger players than him, but I think he handles this situations pretty well, thanks to his length and great coordination both on the ground and in the air. GP drives linearly to the basket often favoring his left hand, shielding the ball with his body, and finishing with soft touch and nice variety of moves at the rim. Another thing I like about him is that on this end of the floor he is very good at taking what the game gives to him, exploiting to the maximum the ‘off-ball’ game.
During an action he changes sides of the floor frequently, moving constantly behind defenders’ backs. In this situation he displays his cutting ability, especially along the baseline, where he becomes a lob target cutting from the weak side with great tempo and body coordination. When he runs in transition he is a serious threat: he covers the floor with speed and spaces on the 3 point line or finishes with the head over the rim, thanks to his explosiveness.
On the offensive board he is a consistent threat, he knows where the ball is gonna bounce and gets there first — especially for long rebounds. He displayed fantastic rebounding instincts when he made a put-back dunk vs Reyer Venezia cutting from the weak side. Impressive.
He is an average passer, unselfish player able to understand game rhythm. Passes the ball mostly with the right hand, even when he should use the left one.
Procida’s downside is the self-creation. I mean, he isn’t able to attack the basket or take an easy shot working with his dribble against a player of the same role/smaller one. His offensive efficiency depends on his teammates’ work in such a way. If he wants to drive to the rim or take a pull-up, he has to play a PnR situation, and not an ISO. Has to work a lot on his ball handling skills.
Procida is versatile when it comes to perimeter defense, as he’s able to switch from 1 to 3. Although he can struggle a bit when he guards smaller and quicker players than him, especially when he defends far away from the basket and he has to cover bigger spaces. He showed plenty of flashes of elite lateral mobility and responsiveness around the perimeter, but the problem is that at a certain point he turns his hips too much while he’s sliding, which opens the lane to the opponent.
Gabriele doesn’t have a strong chest, but he is able to use his body, opposing his upper body force to the opponent. Thanks to a good footwork and hip mobility he’s an outstanding defender in the low post. Everything about his frame would suggest the exact opposite, but sometimes appearance can be deceiving: he showed amazing flashes of post-up defense against Burnell and Stone. In this situation, he compensates lack of mass, with long arms, footwork and effort. He is able to play through contact both in the perimeter and in the paint: he compacts and becomes smaller, showing great defensive stance and pushing his opponent away from the basket.
He shows remarkable defensive instincts, especially off-ball, but it’s still way too inconsistent. I mean, sometimes when he is on the weak side and there’s a PnR situation, he barely tags the roller, or stunts trying to stop the handler driving to the basket; but when he helps he is a pesky defender all around the perimeter. He communicates with his teammates, and in this regard he grew a lot in the last months in self-confidence on the floor.
In terms of defensive rebounding, he’s about average; his length helps him, but the lack of upper body strength hurts him here a lot. When he guards a stronger player, it’s very difficult he is the winner at the end of the battle under the boards.
Last but not least, he is a reliable rim protector during transition defense and fast breaks. Shows timing and skill to avoid the contact with the opponent and uses all his outstanding athleticism and verticality to contest what otherwise would be open layups.
At the end of the day, I think Procida already has a defined role on the offensive end, with specific duties, which is a plus, especially at his age. At the moment he is a fair NBA prospect (last year if somebody would have told me this, I would have called him a madman), because he possesses the must-have archetype in modern basketball: 3-and-D with slasher skills. In the future he will be a safe draft pick: the direction where modern basketball is moving gives him a huge help. At that level teams search a player with his skills to play around the stars and ease their game. Honestly in the up-coming draft class I don’t see many players with Gabriele’s skills and reliability on both ends of the floor, but today it’s too early for him to play in the NBA; he has to play at the top European levels first (Euroleague, Eurocup, BCL). In fact, Gabriele still has to prove his game at a high level: the games he is going to play in a few days for Italy’s national team will be interesting for this reason as well.
I don’t think that staying in Cantù for the next season is the best choice for his development as a player. I’m not saying he has to play in Milan, because he has to play in a team which he would have minutes in, but at the same time guarantees him visibility to NBA scouts. What is sure is that today Gabriele is on the rise. Can’t wait to see what comes next.