May 18, 2018, 2:17 pm
Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our International Spotlight weekly feature where we will be taking a look into this year’s international rookie class.
With the international game and its players becoming such a large part of the NBA, the time has come to introduce you to the global prospects for the 2018 NBA Draft. This will be the first of a series of installments where I will break down the top prospects with in-depth scouting reports.
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(Real Madrid, Liga ACB Spain), 6’8″ 220 lb. SG/SF
The Suns now officially have the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft and both DeAndre Ayton and Luka Doncic look like the perfect fit for different reasons. While Ayton has the highest upside and is the safest prospect in the draft who projects to be a good compliment to Josh Jackson, Doncic is the cerebral player that the Suns have been missing for years. A playmaking wing with the ability to initiate the offense and execute with a high level of decision-making is not someone that many NBA teams have on their rosters. At 6’8” he is a matchup nightmare who can see passing lanes while demanding respect on the perimeter with a reliable 3-point shot.
New head coach Igor Kokoskov led him and Goran Dragic to the 2017 EuroBasket title last year and they have a great relationship which could simplify Doncic’s transition to the NBA. Kokoskov, under the Slovenian national team, played mostly small ball with Dragic and Doncic scoring a lot of points in transition and spreading the floor while former NBAer Anthony Randolph was the rim protector.
For anyone looking to get another look at Luka Doncic I strongly recommend watching this year’s EuroLeague final four that takes place in Belgrade starting today as the young Slovenian looks poised for another great tournament.
Projection: Top-3 pick
(KK Cedevit, Adriatic League ABA), 6’9” 195 lb. SG/SF
Musa is a scoring wing who struggles with his decision-making and has trouble competing against bigger and more physical opponents. He has been surprisingly consistent for a 19-year-old this season and he is a solid shooter with NBA range but he struggles to contribute when his shot isn’t falling and his defense is questionable at best. His long, thin and sort of unusual body frame is a concern for some scouts, however this is an area where he could see improvement by working with the staff of an NBA team. A top offensive option for one of the best teams in the Adriatic League, he was named the ABA League’s Top Prospect while also being voted to the All-League First team.
Finding himself in the right situation could be a key to his development as he could either develop into an efficient scorer for a championship contender or struggle to translate his game due to his lack of strength and explosive athletic ability.
Projection: Mid-to-late first round
(Pau-Lacq-Orthez, LNB Pro A France) 6’3” 180 lb. G
Okobo is an explosive left-handed combo guard with great size and length for the position who can play within a system and become a potential starter in the NBA. A late bloomer who can score with multiple ways, he is already extremely familiar with the pick-and-roll and he can get to the rim and finish at a high rate with a smooth touch. His shooting numbers are inconsistent and he is still learning how to be effective on both sides of the floor while developing the instincts that will allow him to play off-ball as well. He had a great statistical season in France this year playing approximately 26 minutes per game and he looks ready to make the jump to the NBA where his jump shot will determine whether he can stay on the floor.
Projection: Late first to early second round
(Kansas) 6’8” 205 lb. SG
Svi impressed scouts with his size and shooting ability at the Nike Hoop Summit while just 16 years old but his decision to commit to Kansas has taken a toll on his draft stock even though he earned valuable experience after playing all four years at the college level.
He has evolved into a knock-down shooter, hitting nearly 40 percent of his shots from 3-point range as a senior, and while there are some limitations to his game as he’s pretty one dimensional, his size and ability to make plays at the rim, while not being a defensive liability, have all improved his stock in the last couple months. Svi shot the lights out during Day 1 of the NBA combine and he was hands down one of the top performers in the five-on-five scrimmages proving that his time has probably come.
Projection: Late first to early second round
(Fraport Skyliners Bundesliga, German Pro B) 6’9″ 203 lb. G
The German prospect is one of the most intriguing international players of this draft class but he is more of a stash option rather than a ready product. His playmaking ability combined with defensive versatility, length and upside are hard to argue against but he is still very raw and he hasn’t proven himself at the highest level of competition, splitting time between their senior and junior teams. His lack of strength is not surprising and he is not the most explosive athlete, but he is a player with a ton of high-level role player potential. Bonga is an extremely gifted passer at such a young age, especially in transition, where the floor is open for him. He uses his height to read defenses and is also proficient at driving and kicking. Among the youngest players projected to be drafted in 2018, he doesn’t turn 19 until late November.
Projection: Second round
(Mega Bemax, Adriatic League), 6’11” 245 lb. C
Bitadze is sort of a dark horse in this year’s class as he started his career as a low post player but has shown the ability to become a stretch big. The Georgian center, who was the youngest player in the 2017 EuroBasket, has good size for his position and a solid wingspan with good balance and mobility for his size. He is not a great athlete, but he is sneakily athletic, plays with passion and is not afraid of contact. He has nice footwork in the post that makes that him effective in pick-and-roll situations and by improving his midrange shot he has solidified himself as an actual threat from 15-20 feet which could be very useful at the NBA level even though he is still very inconsistent.
He lacks explosiveness and his body has improved, but he must continue bulking up since bigger and more experienced opponents can make life difficult for him on defense while the lack of defensive versatility will hurt him in the long run.
He played for Mega Bemax in the Adriatic League which is controlled by European super-agent Miško Ražnatović who has been extremely successful in recent years in getting his clients to the NBA. The Serbian team is a consistent source of talent and as many as nine of its players have been selected in the NBA draft since 2014 (Ivica Zubac, Nikola Jokic, Rade Zagorac, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Alpha Kaba among them).
Projection: Second round
Others to Look For
(Valencia, Liga ACB Spain) 7’1″ 255 lb. C
The enormous center had a breakout performance at last summer’s Under-20 European Championship in Greece, averaging 16.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in 33 minutes per game. He only started playing basketball at the age of 16 and he has made rapid improvement since, showing impressive mobility and instincts to go along with his massive frame and a 7’4”wingspan. Still at an early stage of his development, he struggled to earn minutes with one of the best teams in Europe and with limited shooting upside and athletic improvement he might withdraw this year and try to give it another chance in 2019.
(Dayton) 6’10” 195 lb. PF
Giannis’ little brother Kostas is testing the waters this year and I wouldn’t rule out the Bucks drafting him just so that they keep their franchise player happy. Kostas, just like his brother early in his career, needs to work on his body and he is projected to be more of a defensive presence with his ability to switch and protect the rim from the weak side.
(Vytautas Prienai–Birštonas, LKL Lithuania) 6’5” 216 lb. SG
Judging LiAngelo as a prospect is really difficult after spending the last few months playing hoops in Lithuania where he has been solid. Ball is showing that he can score the ball, shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line. In reality it’s hard not to criticize his game as he had the green light to do whatever he wanted on the court, delivering empty stats and meaningless scoring numbers. His game didn’t develop at all overseas as he still can’t really create his own shot and he remains a streaky shooter and an inconsistent defender who doesn’t really do anything at a high level at this point other than score.
(Orlandina Basket, Serie A Italy) 6’9” 220 lb. SF
The Lithuanian prospect is really talented and can shoot the ball but he remains inconsistent after playing his first season at a high level and getting named the Best Young Player of the Basketball Champions League (the second best tournament in Europe after the EuroLeague). The 6’10” combo forward was in the 2017 draft before removing his name from consideration but his combination of size and scoring ability is something that teams are always looking for.
(Barcelona, Liga ACB Spain) 6’10” 220 lb. SF/PF
A 6’10” combo forward who was projected to go in the first round, he has seen his draft stock drop significantly due to injuries and a lack of playing time with EuroLeague powerhouse Barcelona. His combination of size, polished scoring instincts and versatility is attractive in today’s NBA and many scouts still consider him to be the third-best international prospect in the draft.
The importance of the rebranded EuroCamp
In the wake of the FBI investigation that has rocked college basketball, Adidas, a major camp organizer, will take a step back for at least a year and withdraw its support from three influential basketball programs, the EuroCamp (founded in 2003), Adidas Nations and the PATH program.
EuroCamp has been rebranded as the NBA Elite International Camp and it will be held in Treviso, Italy at the beginning of June next month.
Without the restrictions of sneaker affiliations, the camp should now have a much bigger pool of prospects and it won’t be hampered by the politics that prevented high-level European prospects from participating in it. The NBA will also be heavily involved, making sure the camp delivers the information front offices need in their draft decision-making process (medical info, interviews, measurements, athletic testing and scrimmages refereed by NBA-trained officials).
It will take place just days before the early entry withdrawal deadline (June 11th) and a few weeks before the draft and it will most likely influence the draft stock of many prospects, including some of which we previewed in this article.
Thank you for reading this article and please make sure you check us back again next week and throughout the offseason as more player breakdowns are coming up. Stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.