Nationality: Argentina | DOB: 01.08.1999 | Point Guard | 6’2″ – 179lbs | Team: KK Borac – (Serbia – ABA Liga)
20-21 season: 17.5pts, 7.4ass, 7.3rbs, 1.8stl at BK Inter Bratislava – Extraliga / Slovakia
21-22 season: 9.6pts, 5.0ass, 4.4rbs, 0.6stl at KK Borac – ABA Liga (5 games)
Flair. If you’ve ever watched Lautaro Tomás López at the FIBA U17 and U19 World Cups, that’s the word that best defines him. Dribbling with his head up and owning the rock and the tempo, extremely crafty and equipped with a terrific first step. Lautaro was simply too good to be ignored by the big European clubs and he got his big-time move to Spain with the ACB powerhouse Baskonia aged 18. He spent two years with their farm team, but apart from a single appearance in the Euroleague, López never really made into the first team. A long roster with seasoned pros, knee injuries and not having an EU passport were largely to blame. Then, Lautaro made the improbable jump to the BK Inter Bratislava in the summer of 2020 and absolutely killed it in the Slovakian Extraliga, a competition a bit below par in terms of athletic level and quality, but which has worked wonders to rebuild his confidence and swag. At the end of last season López hit the road again and moved to the ABA Liga with KK Borac. In Serbia he’s wasted no time to show his playmaking talents once again
Lautaro stands at 6’2 and possesses a lengthy frame that makes him suitable to defend two-guards and small wings. He has grown his upper-body mass and muscle of late, but his lean body-type still needs more workouts and weight to hustle full-time with bigger players as well as to improve his overall fitness and strength. López doesn’t really play above the hoop either, and the lack of elite athleticism shows up against explosive matchups. His notable wingspan helps his defensive stance and recovery, though, and allows him to contest shots, disrupt plays and effectively anticipate passing lanes.
BANKABLE SKILL/ROLE: Primary Ball-Handler/Floor General
Continuing with the tradition of some of the best Argentinian Point Guards, Lautaro López is a smooth and smart ball-handler that plays with poise while demanding, manipulating and rejecting high-ball screens at will. He’s got pure feel at his fingertips, uses his hips to hide the ball and create momentum, and loves to keep the defender guessing. Hesitations and change of pace dribbles are constant weapons in his repertoire. With the rock in his hands, López’s mixture of balance and crossover game allows him to exploit PNR situations downhill on both sides of the pick, as well as to create angles to throw himself into with long steps and tight bounce. Defenders need to be aware of his pace, head-fakes, in-and-out and back dribbles, and plenty of intuitive reads. Anything works for Lautaro to leave his man behind or go around him.
Despite all his skill and scoring ability in half-court sets, Lautaro usually focuses on creating advantages and passing windows for his teammates by putting pressure on the defense. The Argentinean Guard consistently shows a knack for the jump pass and high IQ in different scenarios, whether he hits the roller or the pop out man off the screen, gets into the lane to pick up shooters and drop dimes, or acts as instinctive stationary passer that reverses the ball or finds the cutter. Naturally López’s playmaking volume (37.5% plays are as PNR ball-handler according to InStat) multiplies needless TOs. With a 1.25 A/TO ratio so far this season, cutting those down remains the main challenge for him to grow further as facilitator and offensive dynamo. On top of his on-ball gravity, Lautaro finds other ways to keep the flow with out of bounds plays and also in fastbreak and early offense thanks to his straight-line speed, court vision and all sorts of spectacular pitch-ahead passes.
SELF CREATION AND SHOOTING
In terms of self-creation, Lautaro’s craftiness is again key to trap matchups, squeeze through picks, split the blitz coverage, and draw contact and FTs in ISO situations with his acceleration, spin moves and first step. Fancy a mismatch? López is your guy going at the big man on an island. He has more problems absorbing contact and finishing at the rim against the crowd, though, as his lack of pop off one foot may prove too much of an issue against larger opposition. Still, Lautaro has learned to use his body and arms to shield the basketball to some extent, and he has improved his touch in the paint with full extension and high layups, especially with his offhand. His floater has a way to go until it develops into a consistent weapon, however (22.5% on floaters last two seasons by InStat).
Powered by his increase in playing time and high volume of attempts in Slovakia (5.8/game), shooting the basketball has been another area of substantial progress for Lautaro in the last fifteen months. In short he has become a much more confident shooter that finds the target mostly off the dribble, although he still goes for looks off the catch. Making an exciting 40% from three with some impressive moments in the ABA Liga, López is not scared of the midrange either, as he works with the screen, step-backs and bits of footwork to gain enough separation for the pull-up. In addition, Lautaro’s one-motion stroke seems quicker than ever before, his feet turned to the basket, keeping the shooting elbow lined up as he uses his legs to create rhythm and transfer energy to the upper body. Obviously there are variables that can hamper the shot, especially when he goes for unbalanced and tough pull ups. But on the whole his shooting mechanics are sound, and Lopez has extended his efficiency to the charity stripe with 78.3% clip over 4.6 attempts per night.
Even though he’s still somewhat of a lightweight, Lautaro López has shown improved toughness and intriguing versatility on his own end during his time in Serbia. Interestingly enough, you can see him going at PGs in the ABA Liga, holding his own against wings like Malcom Cazalon and even switching against Forwards/Centers and defending in front if needed. In addition he’s extremely useful in zone schemes and an excellent rebounder for his position, always ready for the grab-and-go move. López has built up his defensive impact on the back of his quick hands, long frame and awareness. This significant upgrade was first seen in Bratislava, where despite being expected to fully lead the offense at all times, Lautaro was superb at anticipating plays and using his wingspan to keep his man in check. The Argentinean is maturing step by step into a reliable perimeter defender that displays willingness to navigate screens and chase matchups, showing also a feel for help defense and rotations. Another selling point for López is his well-known ability to turn steals and deflections into easy buckets, and lately he has impressed in transition defense, being quick to scan the floor without dwelling on mistakes or missed FGs while running back. Regardless of his new mindset, there are still things to work on for Lautaro, especially in terms of raw strength, foot speed and hip-turn in space. On that note, it’s just natural to envision him playing alongside an athletic mobile 5 that bails him out in case he gets stuck in PNR coverages or flat-footed on the perimeter.
The season has started relatively well for KK Borac (2-4 with Lautaro missing their last outing against Partizan) and López has performed as floor general leading the team in minutes played. He has put the work on defense and even adjusted to play off-the-ball in two or three-guard lineups alongside Hunter Hale and Ilija Dokovic. Is this a way forward? I certainly like the idea of exploring his defensive value and maximizing his shooting and floor-spacing options, but ultimately it makes little sense to significantly reduce López´s usage and spark off the bounce. His coach, former Serbian international PG Marko Marinović, understands this and trusts him not just as playmaker but even as a clutch time option. You can safely say Lautaro has earned that role and ascendency against the unpredictability of his game and the physical profile that knocked him down in the past. It’s been impressive how Lopez has found himself travelling through the heart of Europe. And the road won’t stop any time soon. On the contrary, the grind has just started and if things go according to plan, we have an Argentinean international in the making for the years to come. Moreover, as soon as Lautaro grabs an EU passport, the doors to the most competitive leagues in the old continent will be open.
Watch this space and switch on your TV/computer when the ABA Liga is on. You may catch Lautaro López up and down the court, dealing with defenders in his hip-pocket and putting them in jail. Or perhaps you’ll find him feeding teammates off the screen and breaking some ankles on his way to the rack. Anyhow, it’ll be worthwhile.