September 21, 2019, 9:18 am
Happy weekend Hoop Ballers and welcome back to our International Spotlight weekly feature with another NBA season rapidly approaching. After a busy offseason that resulted in major roster movement around the league, over the next few weeks we will be taking a look at all the international players and their outlook for the upcoming season from a basketball and fantasy perspective.
The FIBA World Cup ended last week with Spain claiming the gold metal and the United States disappointing after capturing just seventh place. There were a few standouts in the tournament as it’s more than ever evident how the global aspect of the game of basketball is becoming more and more an integral piece of the success of many NBA teams.
Here is a closer look into the Atlantic Division:
Enes Kanter, C, 27 years old, Turkey
Kanter is coming off a rollercoaster season that saw him start the year with the Knicks before getting benched for tanking reasons, leading to his buyout and his subsequent successful stint with the Blazers. The Celtics lost Al Horford and seem invested in Kanter, as the Turkish big is now stepping into a starting role with no other big in place to challenge him for heavy minutes. A double-double average is not out of question while Kanter has also been reportedly working on his 3-point shooting during the offseason, something that could add extra value to his fantasy game while helping to compensate for the lack of defensive stats. With the possibility of him finishing in the top-75, Kanter looks like a safe pick in the middle rounds.
Daniel Theis, PF/C, 27 years old, Germany
The undrafted German had a solid sophomore year coming off the bench and averaging 5.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.0 assist, 0.4 triples, 0.3 steals and 0.6 blocks in just 13.8 mpg. Theis is a great glue guy and even though he should see a slight bump in minutes due to the departure of Al Horford, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris, it’s hard to envision him playing more than 20 minutes per night and becoming a fantasy-relevant guy in most leagues. Still, managers in deeper leagues should absolutely have him on their radar.
Vincent Poirier, C, 25 years old, France
The Celtics have consistently turned to European talent abroad for help in the last few years and they successfully added the EuroLeague’s top rebounder in their effort to mitigate the damage caused by the departure of Al Horford. The French center is a big body that dominates around the rim with his exceptional athleticism while he has excelled in the pick-and-roll action either as a finisher or as an underrated passer who can command attention and draw multiple defenders on him.
While I can see him being able to execute DHO actions for the Celtics, I am skeptical on whether his lack of speed will allow him to earn significant minutes as he doesn’t have the balance and quickness to adequately rotate in switches and often finds himself at the wrong place. Still, he should have value as a drop-back big who protects the paint even though he is not an elite blocker and he fouls too often due to the fact that he is not very mobile. The backup center position is open in Boston and Poirier will have to compete with Robert Williams and Daniel Theis and it’s likely that he sees playing time in specific matchups where the Celtics will be needing his size.
Rodions Kurucs, SF, 21 years old, Latvia
Kurucs was a rookie revelation last year, claiming the starting power forward position for the Nets after impressing the coaching staff with his energy and versatility on both ends of the floor. The Latvian possesses the instincts and the basketball IQ to be a part of a successful program and he ended up averaging 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 0.9 triples, 0.7 steals and 0.4 blocks in 20.5 minutes per game. He struggled in the playoffs where his weaknesses, especially shooting, were exposed but he has tremendous work ethic and completed a solid summer league.
The Nets overhauled their roster this offseason but KD is likely to miss the entire season and Kurucs remains the favorite to start at the power forward position. His percentages have always been good and he is a nice source of money counter stats so if his shooting improves he could potentially crack the top-150.
Dzanan Musa, SG/SF, 20 years old, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Musa had an underwhelming rookie year where he spent most of his time in the G League, averaging 19.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists with the Long Island Nets. He came into Summer League poised to prove that he is ready to compete for rotation minutes and the results were extremely positive as he looked to enjoy the physical contact, especially coming off screens, while making some key defensive plays as well.
The Bosnian guard doesn’t project to earn major minutes this year but he could push himself into consideration for some backup action and he should be viewed strictly as a triple and scoring specialist at the moment. He arrived to the Nets as a player used to dominating the ball while playing big minutes as the go-to guy, something that he was not ready to do in a tougher and more athletic league like the NBA, but it seems that he has slowly adapted, learning how to play within the system.
New York Knicks
Frank Ntilikina, PG, 21 years old, France
The French youngster had another disappointing season in New York as David Fizdale tried to convert him into a shooting guard while injuries, the lack of consistent minutes and a plan in general crushed his confidence. Fortunately, his participation in the World Cup did wonders for him as he excelled within a system and showed how he can be an effective player on both ends of the floor, becoming a lockdown defender and making his open shots from behind the arc.
Ntilikina will still have to compete with Dennis Smith and Elfrid Payton for any minutes in the backcourt and he finds himself caught in an organizational battle as he was Phil Jackson’s pick and the new regime keeps showing a complete lack of trust to him. I would buy some stock in dynasty leagues but I don’t see Franky D having an impact in standard leagues until a much-needed change of environment happens.
Ignas Brazdeikis, SF, 20 years old, Lithuania
Brazdeikis was one of the winners of Summer League in Las Vegas, showcasing an odd mix of skill and aggression. The key for him is clearly the long-range efficiency and even though he surprised many people by shooting the lights out in Las Vegas (51 percent), I highly doubt he maintains his strong percentages in the regular season. The Lithuanian swingman is not an athlete but he plays with a lot of fire and toughness, something that will likely make him a favorite of David Fizdale in New York and I expect him to see minutes as soon as the Knicks decide to throw another season in the toilet.
Joel Embiid, C, 25 years old, Cameroon
Embiid has solidified himself as a first-round pick after a very impressive season in which he posted 27.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.9 blocks and 1.2 triples while shooting a career-best 48.4 percent from the field and 80.4 from the free throw line in 64 games. Durability is still an issue obviously and the addition of Al Horford will likely help ease the big man’s load which could be bad news for fantasy leagues. In the era of load management Embiid looks to be the poster boy of the trend to give nights off to franchise players and it’s almost certain that the Sixers won’t take any chances with their center so plan accordingly if you invest in him in the first round.
Furkan Korkmaz, SG, 22 years old, Turkey
Korkmaz became a part of the rotation last year playing in 48 games and posting career-highs of 5.8 points, 2.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.0 triples in 14.1 minutes per game. The Turkish guard expressed his dissatisfaction, aiming for a more prominent role, completely ignoring the fact that he is a defensive liability. There was talk about him moving back to Europe but the Sixers decided to bring him back and he will have to battle James Ennis and Zhaire Smith for backup minutes. A scoring specialist, he had a nice tournament with his national team in China and it’s likely that he makes some noise if and when the Sixers look to him for some shooting in their backcourt.
Jonah Bolden, PF/C, 23 years old, Australia
The Sixers were really high on Bolden and they ended up trading away Richaun Holmes in order to sign him to a four-year deal last season. He has shown the ability to produce defensive stats (0.4 steals and 0.9 blocks) while also stretching the floor (0.8 triples per game), but he is not an elite rebounder and he struggled with fouling in his rookie season.
The Sixers lacked the necessary depth and were forced to play him a lot last year but the additions/re-signing of Al Horford, Kyle O’ Quinn and Mike Scott leaves him in a tough position where he will have to fight for minutes. The team plans to play Horford as the backup center which means that Bolden should probably try to develop him shot and gain momentum as a modern power forward.
Raul Neto, PG, 27 years old, Brazil
Neto managed to find a role with the Jazz the last couple seasons as an insurance third-string point guard and he is expected to assume a similar role in Philadelphia, competing with Trey Burke for the backup minutes behind Ben Simmons. No fantasy value here.
OG Anunoby, SF, 22 years old, Great Britain
Anunoby took a step back last year as he struggled with injuries and off-court issues but he looks to be a clear beneficiary of a Raptors squad that is moving to a new era after the departure of Kawhi Leonard. He is likely to start at small forward and he is a legitimate 3-and-D guy but he hasn’t showed any consistency in his NBA career so far which puts a big question mark next to him as far as his fantasy value goes.
I’m confident in Nick Nurse figuring out the right way to use him and I can’t rule out a potential breakout year from him if he shows up mentally and physically prepared for that in the training camp. The hope is that he will jump to 25-29 minutes per night, helping increase his overall stats while free throw shooting and 3-point percentage are the main areas of concern.
Serge Ibaka, PF/C, 30 years old, Democratic Republic of Congo
One of the biggest changes Nick Nurse implemented within the Raptors last year was Ibaka’s shift to playing full-time center, a move that transformed the team on both ends of the floor. Ibaka proved to be more active in the paint, averaging 8.1 rebounds, while finding success filling the lane as a modern center, gravitating toward the basket and creating multiple chances for layups, uncontested dunks and short jumpers. The Raptors are expected to continue using him off the bench but Marc Gasol seems likely to have his load managed and I see him as another boring yet safe option almost certain to return top-100 value for the season.
Marc Gasol, C, 34 years old, Spain
Gasol is coming off a tremendous year where he won the NBA Championship with the Raptors and the World Cup with Spain but the truth of the matter is that he played over 100 games in the last 12 months and I’m worried about his ability to continue performing at a high level. The Spaniard averaged just 9.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.9 blocks and 0.8 triples after he was shipped to Toronto but with Kawhi gone he might be asked to do more on the offensive side of the ball. I can see the Raptors managing his minutes and his long-term status with the team is unclear but he is still one of the top centers in the game when healthy.
Pascal Siakam, PF/C, 25 years old, Cameroon
Siakam came almost out of nowhere last year, producing career-highs with 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.7 blocks and 1.0 threes on 55 percent from the field and 79 percent at the line. He has improved at an exponential rate every year going back to his senior year in high school in Texas through his freshman and sophomore years in college, a direct result of his tremendous work ethic.
The departure of Kawhi will probably affect Siakam as defenses will focus more on him but he has proved that he has the skills and the mental toughness to overcome any burden while the Raptors have had tremendous results developing their young players. It’s likely that Siakam has another level that he can take his game to and entering the prime of his career he should be in consideration for the early rounds of fantasy drafts.
Thank you for reading this article and please check us back again next week as we examine the international players in the Central Division. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @philysstar and stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.