November 29, 2020, 1:20 am
Welcome back HoopBallers, I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving and I’m pretty sure most of you are getting excited for upcoming fantasy drafts as we rapidly approach the new season.
This week we will be taking a look into all the international players that were selected on Draft Night last week as well as some undrafted guys that were able to immediately secure training camp or two-way deals.
There is a lot of uncertainty on the fantasy front this year as the pandemic is likely to affect the NBA season one way or another, just like it has done with all sports globally. Moreover, international rookies did not have the chance to play in summer leagues and they will be arriving to US with little exposure to the style of basketball on this side of the ocean so expectations should be lowered.
Contrary to previous years, I really can’t see many NBA teams rushing to play their rookies once the season starts and outside of a couple prospects, I’m highly skeptical of their ability to become relevant in standard leagues. On the other hand, the possibility of the pandemic decimating NBA rosters at some point during the season is also in play and teams could be forced to call up their rookies on a nightly basis.
Regardless, the 2020 international rookie class seems to be relatively strong, with all of the selections have the ability to carve out a career in the NBA for years to come, and this week my goal is to give you an idea about what to expect from them.
19 years old, PG/SG, 6’5”, 195 lbs, France – No. 7 by the Pistons
Hayes landed with the Pistons in what seems to be a best-case scenario as Detroit has been desperate for a ball-dominant guard that can run the point. Dwane Casey has a proven track record of developing young players, with Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby getting to know his tough love before being given the green light on both ends of the floor. The French guard might even start at the point from day one even though I expect the Pistons to take it slow with him just like they did last year with Sekou Doumbouya. Detroit has finally embraced the need for a full rebuild and I expect them to be one of the worst, if not the worst team in the NBA and Casey will make sure that this remains a learning process.
Hayes has some obvious holes in his game and his athleticism, his shooting and his toughness will be put in question immediately while turnovers and defense will determine his playing time. With the Pistons potentially looking to move away from Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin, I can see him having standard-league value at some point later in the season.
Preseason ADP: 129
Fantasy impact: Conservatively high, likely to get overdrafted but I expect a slow start
19 years old, SG/SF, 6’9” 225 lbs, Israel – No. 9 by the Wizards
Avdija was projected to go as high as the No. 1 but he eventually slipped to No. 9 and that actually might be a good thing for him as he is not expected to be a contributor right off the bat. The Wizards are loaded and look to enter into the season healthy which could limit Avdija’s opportunities early on. He is a versatile player with good size who can play as a guard or forward and he likes to attack the basket even though he is not the best athlete.
The Israeli forward is really good at the open floor and I could see him fitting nicely into the style of basketball the Wizards play but the team really can’t afford to have another mediocre defender on the floor so it’s likely that he uses this year in order to bulk up.
Preseason ADP: 579
Fantasy impact: Solid upside; unlikely to hold standard league value this year
19 years old, SF/PF, 7’0”, 200 lbs, Serbia – No. 17 by the Wolves (traded to the Thunder)
One of the most fascinating prospects of the 2020 NBA Draft, Pokusevski landed with the Thunder who really went after him and had to trade up in order to get him. He brings a massive 7’3” wingspan and plays more like a guard rather than a power forward or center because of his ball-handling and shooting ability, but Pokusevski is a lanky kid that desperately needs to develop his frame in order to play in the NBA. He is reportedly moving to Oklahoma and will be on the Thunder’s roster this year but I expect him to remain in the G League and it’s likely that we are a couple years away from seeing him becoming relevant.
A lot of analysts have been talking about how Giannis Antetokounmpo also came to the NBA after playing in Divison II of Greece but Pokusevski was having a hard time staying on the floor and even though he is a smart kid he needs to prove that he can stay healthy and sustain the level of toughness required at this level.
Preseason ADP: 641
Fantasy impact: High upside but don’t expect him to be a contributor this year
20 years old, SG/SF, 6’7”, 185 lbs, Argentina – No. 23 by the Knicks (traded to Wolves)
The Wolves took a chance with Argentinian playmaking forward, who is expected to remain in Spain for the 2020-21 season. He has shown signs of defensive toughness, intangibles and playmaking ability, resembling a bigger Manu Ginobili, and he has terrific size for the NBA level. The expectation is that he will get even more playing time this year, allowing him to be ready once he moves to the NBA.
Preseason ADP: 640
Projection: Moderate upside; long-term option only in dynasty leagues
19 years old, PG, 6’5”, 180 lbs, France – No. 34 by the Sixers (traded to the Thunder)
Maledon is a traditional point guard who shows great maturity for his age; he plays the pick-and-roll at a high level, he has adept court vision and passing instincts and he is a great on-ball defender. He had a down season before the pandemic hit which caused his draft stock to fall even though he was considered to be a first-round project. The Thunder were able to acquire his rights and he will have the opportunity to develop in an ideal environment for a franchise that is looking to grow organically.
Maledon is not an elite athlete and hasn’t shot the ball really well from deep, even though that might have to do with a recent shoulder injury, but he has proven that he is able to successfully run a team so he should be on your radar.
Preseason ADP: 601
Fantasy impact: Conservatively moderate; specialist value and could earn playing time immediately
20 years old, SG/SF, 6’6” 198 lbs, Czech Republic – No. 37 by the Wizards (traded to the Thunder)
One of the risers of this draft class, Krejci is an all-around energetic point forward with solid athleticism who hustles on both sides of the floor. He lacks experience and shooting is questionable but he is excellent in the open floor, his footwork is already developed and he is a willing defender that uses his basketball IQ.
Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury at the beginning of this season that will keep him sidelined for months and the Thunder are treating him as a draft-and-stash option. Oklahoma City’s proven track record is the only reason to daft him in dynasty leagues.
Preseason ADP: 543
Fantasy impact: N/A
21 years old, PF/C, 6’11”, 220 lbs, Montenegro – No. 44 by the Bulls
An absolute steal at the end of the second round, Simonovic is a mobile and skilled big with good hands who can score and rebound effectively even though he struggles defensively and is not a rim protector. The Montenegrin big has looked really good playing in the Adriatic League and the expectation, according to Arturas Karnisovas, is that he will join the Bulls next year. He is someone that I’m grabbing in a dynasty league this year because of his fantasy-friendly game.
Preseason ADP: 611
Fantasy impact: Legit long-term upside
22 years old, SG/SF, 6’8”, 225 lbs, Nigeria – No. 45 by the Bucks
One of the older prospects in this class, Nwora is the son of Alexander Nwora, who led the Nigerian national team to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics the previous summer. He made a case for himself as the NCAA’s National Player of the Year after becoming the ACC’s Most Improved Player in 2019. A versatile scorer who can score inside and out, Nwora is a big wing who crashes the boards and has showed great progress even though he is not a great athlete. One of the most cerebral players in recent years and a chemistry guy, he is an excellent pick for the Bucks as he projects to be one of the most ready-to-produce rookies.
Preseason ADP: 580
Fantasy impact: Should be treated as a scoring and triples specialist
19 years old, PG, 6’3” 180 lbs, Israel – No. 47 by the Celtics
Madar was another climber in draft boards as one of the younger prospects after being selected as the Most Improved Player of the Israeli league last year. A smart, heady combo guard who has shown the ability to shoot and pass, he is a great on-ball defender and a fierce competitor who will have to compensate for a lack of athleticism with his speed, quickness and decision-making. Madar is under contract for two more seasons, and would require a pricey buyout if he were to come over before it ended, so the Celtics will stash him and bring him over once he is more mature.
Preseason ADP: 579
Fantasy impact: N/A
Undrafted Rookies, Camp Invites
19 years old, SF, 6’8” 223 lbs, Cameroon – On an Exhibit 10 deal with the Heat
Eboua is a raw prospect with a gifted combination of length and athleticism and even though he went undrafted his upside is high, especially on the defensive end of the floor. The Heat have a great developmental program in place and I wasn’t really surprised to see them take a flier with the Cameroonian forward, who will compete for a two-way deal in training camp.
Preseason ADP: N/A
Fantasy impact: Watchlist material
23 years old, PF, 6’9”, 230 lbs, Guinea – On a two-way deal with the Bucks
Diakite, one of the older prospects in the draft, is an athletic big man with an impressive wingspan, an explosive leaper and a rim protector who has great defensive instincts around the basket. He has shown progress as an offensive threat, being able to shoot from behind the arc, but he is a more of a complementary guy who brings energy and hustle to his team every time he steps on the floor. The Bucks nailed this signing as he is another ready-to-produce guy who could provide depth and insurance to a revamped roster that was lacking an energy big last year.
Preseason ADP: 555
Fantasy impact: Watchlist material, could develop into a defensive specialist
22 years old, PF, 6’10”, 230 lbs, France – On a two-way contract with the Grizzlies
This is another deal that I love as Tillie, a modern stretch big with great range and finesse in his game, lands with a team that has a need for his skills. He struggled with knee and ankle injuries in college at Gonzaga but finished his senior year with career-high numbers in almost all categories; yet this was not enough to persuade NBA teams to draft him. He is an athletic big who lacks strength, agility and lateral quickness, making him a complete liability on the defensive side where he is only good as a help defender, but shooting could unlock more playing time for him.
Preseason ADP: N/A
Fantasy impact: Watchlist material; fantasy friendly game
22 years old, PF/C, 7’0”, 228 lbs, Turkey – On an Exhibit 10 deal with the Thunder
Yurtseven is another gifted shooter who doesn’t play like a traditional center and brings a lot of versatility offensively. The Turkish big is fundamentally sound defensively but the lack of strength and physicality will likely hurt him at the next level even though he has shown to be a smart kid. He is already 22 but has a lot of experience at the international level and he is short of a wild card as the combination of height, length and basketball IQ is intriguing.
Preseason ADP: N/A
Fantasy impact: Watchlist material; could have a role on a rebuilding team if he is able to claim a roster spot