September 7, 2018, 6:20 pm
Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our International Spotlight weekly feature where, in the next few weeks, we will be taking a look at all the international players around the league and their outlook for the upcoming season.
Manu Ginobili decided to call it a career this offseason but the global aspect of the game is becoming an increasingly integral part of the success the NBA has in recent years. During last season’s NBA postseason there was a record 62 foreign-born players from 33 countries chasing a championship ring while all 16 teams competing in the playoffs had at least one international player, with the Jazz and the Sixers leading the way with seven foreign-born players each.
Here is a closer look into the Atlantic Division.
Daniel Theis, PF/C, 26 years old, Germany
The undrafted German big came out of nowhere last year and managed to rank among the league leaders for first-year players in a number of categories such as rebounds and field goal percentage, even though he was playing just 15 minutes per contest before going down with a torn meniscus. Theis’ recovery is progressing well as he recently begun cutting and one-on-one but although he was hoping to start participating in basketball activities at some point in September he is still not ready for training camp and the Celtics will obviously be very cautious with him.
He is a great glue guy as a strong rebounder with a knack for second chance opportunities and best suited as a complementary piece in a dynamic offense, which the Celtics have. Unfortunately he will now have to compete with both Aron Baynes and rookie Robert Williams for backup center minutes and he isn’t expected to have any fantasy impact, especially at the beginning of the year as a result of the injury.
Guerschon Yabusele, PF, 22 years old, France
Yabusele came out of the Las Vegas Summer League claiming his time was beneficial and positive, specifically emphasizing the opportunity to play both the 4 and the 5 position. The young forward looked more comfortable and as he is entering his second season with the Celtics it looks like he is still adjusting to the complicated offensive system of Brad Stevens. The team is trying to develop him into a playmaking big just like Al Horford and he still needs to shed some weight but his role is a complete unknown at this point. With Gordon Hayward returning to action there won’t be many minutes available to him at the power forward position unless the Celtics make a trade.
Dzanan Musa, SG/SF, 19 years old, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Rodions Kurucs, SF, 20 years old, Latvia
The Nets made it clear that they want long, versatile wings on their roster and that’s exactly what they got in Musa, a highly confident scoring wing who can shoot from outside or finish with either hand at the rim, and Kurucs, a forward with above average ball handling skills and a nice touch around the rim. Neither of these guys can help on defense though, as their fundamentals still need a lot of work.
Brooklyn has tried to increase their pace and shoot as many threes as possible over the past few years so I expect Musa to be able to help with that immediately as their offense will give him the chance to fire away from the 3-point line. He was one of the best guys on the board available at the end of the first round and the reason he fell was because teams thought he wasn’t ready to make the jump to the NBA this year so he will be eager to prove many people wrong. Kurucs on the other hand should spend most of his time in the G-League.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Mario Hezonja, SF/PF, 23 years old, Croatia
It took a while but Hezonja finally showed what he is capable of in the absence of Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier in the second half of the season last year when he was a top-75 fantasy asset in 9-cat formats. The Knicks are high on him and he has the potential to be a mid-round asset this year if he can settle into a sizable role which looks very possible in what appears to be a rebuilding season for New York.
Enes Kanter, C, 26 years old, Turkey
Kanter provided great offense with the Knicks last season, averaging 14.1 points and 11.0 rebounds in only 25.8 minutes per game. He is a known commodity at this point and his inability to play defense or shoot from deep limits the amount of minutes he can play against modern pace and space teams but what’s more alarming this season is the presence of Mitchell Robinson, the player who helped his stock the most in Summer League.
The rookie averaged 4.0 blocks per game, the most ever recorded in Summer League, and added 13.0 points and 10.2 rebounds in 24.7 minutes per game while shooting 66.7 percent from the field. He will be a popular late-round sleeper pick for his ability to rack up big man stats in limited minutes and David Fizdale will likely give him playing time, potentially limiting Kanter’s value, in a season where the Knicks are not expected to compete for the playoffs while Kristaps Porzingis is recovering from a torn ACL.
Frank Ntilikina, PG, 20 years old, France
The French youngster is entering a crucial year where he will have to prove whether or not he is a full-time starting-caliber point guard. His Summer League presence was a mixed bag as he only played in the Knicks’ first two games after sustaining a groin injury which isn’t considered serious although health has been an issue in his short career. Fizdale plans to keep Ntilikina at the point guard position and has been adamant about challenging him to play more selfishly on the offensive end of the floor.
He will still have to compete with Trey Burke and Emmanuel Mudiay for the starting job but he finds himself caught in an organizational battle as he was Phil Jackson’s pick and the new regime brought in Burke who had an impressive end of the season. Training camp should give us a better understanding of the point guard situation in New York but he’s worth the gamble just for his strong defensive stats.
Joel Embiid, C, 24 years old, Cameroon
Embiid is going to sneak into the first round of a lot of drafts after a very impressive season in which he averaged 22.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.0 triples in a career-best 63 games. However, we still don’t know if his body can hold up for over 70 games a season while his impact on percentages is fairly neutral (career 47.8 from the field and 77.4 from the free throw line) and he is easily one of the most turnover-prone big man (3.7 per game). Beyond the potential health risks, proceed with caution if that category is one you care about.
Dario Saric, PF, 24 years old, Croatia
The Croatian forward outperformed last year’s expectations by returning top-80 value and a strong top-55 finish. A historically streaky shooter, Saric transformed into one of the most efficient 3-point makers at his position, hitting 39.3 percent from deep, while growing as a scorer and using his strength to carve out space and score in the paint. The Sixers brought in Wilson Chandler but his role shouldn’t be affected and he is now an integral part of Brett Brown’s system that should compete for the top seed in the East.
Furkan Korkmaz, SG, 21 years old, Turkey
The former 26th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft played really well in Las Vegas, averaging 16.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 25 minutes per while the Sixers traded away the two guys who he would’ve competed with for minutes (Justin Anderson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot). On paper, there might finally be a path for him getting some minutes, as the team also lost Marco Belinelli in free agency and is in need of a scorer who can come off the bench, but the rumor is that Jamal Crawford will sign with the Sixers once they are able to part ways with Jerryd Bayless.
Jonah Bolden, PF/C, 22 years old, Australia
A subpar Summer League by the Aussie had many wondering if he would end up playing in Philadelphia this year but the Sixers are really high on him and they ended up trading away Richaun Holmes in order to sign him to a four-year deal. He has shown the ability to be a solid defender but he really didn’t put up great numbers in Europe last season and finding minutes in Philadelphia is still going to be tough with veterans Amir Johnson and Mike Muscala ahead of him in the depth chart.
Serge Ibaka, PF/C, 28 years old, Democratic Republic of Congo
Ibaka played in a solid 76 games last season (given his injury history) and returned top-75 value in 9-cat leagues, but a move to the bench is in play with Kawhi Leonard joining the Raptors. Even though Ibaka isn’t the shot blocker that he once was in Oklahoma City, he still does a great job at protecting the rim but he functions better as a center and has struggled playing alongside Jonas Valanciunas.
The Raptors will have to make a decision about whether to start him or OG Anunoby next to Kawhi and the truth of the matter is that Ibaka could help space the floor and eat up the departed Jakob Poeltl’s minutes in the second unit. He seems likely to take a step back in fantasy but not everything is negative about a potential role change for Ibaka as the minutes will still be there.
Jonas Valanciunas, C, 26 years old, Lithuania
Nick Nurse, the Raptors’ new head coach, was the driving force in expanding JV’s game last season by spending time working with the big man who took strides in shooting, playmaking and mobility. It’s no secret that Dwane Casey never trusted Valanciunas with big minutes but perhaps that changes under Nurse and he could push towards 30 minutes per game. He also should benefit from the defensive presence of Kawhi and I expect him to be a rock solid middle-round play with potential to sneak up into comfortable middle-round territory.
Pascal Siakam, PF/C, 24 years old, Cameroon
Siakam 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. Even though his limitations are obvious, he appears to have the mental toughness and the proper attitude it takes to have long term success in the NBA.
The Raptors have allowed their young players to develop and Dwayne Casey crafted a role for his young forward last season by letting him be a point-forward who challenges defenses. Siakam responded and has been excellent at finding the open man after DHO’s or pick-and-rolls, averaging a career-high 1.8 assists per contest last year while the departure of Jakob Poeltl only helps. He is in line for consistent minutes and the future looks bright while he should absolutely be in your radar in dynasty leagues as he is an injury or a trade away from becoming a starter in the league.
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.
September 21, 2018, 10:29 pmGorgui Dieng - C - Minnesota Timberwolves
ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported that league sources indicate that the Timberwolves prefer to package Jimmy Butler with Gorgui Dieng and the $48 million he’s owed over the next three years.
Dieng was routinely pulling in top-60 value in 9-cat before Taj Gibson vame to town so a trade to a better situation might do him some good. We’re sure there will be a lot more updates on the Jimmy Butler situation so stay tuned.
September 21, 2018, 9:12 pmTyler Ulis - G - Golden State Warriors
The Golden State Warriors have signed Tyler Ulis to an Exhibit 10 deal according to Anthony Slater at The Althletic.
ESPN’s Marc J. Spears also reported that Ulis chose the Warriors over the Rockets and the Kings. Ulis will get to join the team for training camp and the Exhibit 10 deal offers a little more protection from the Warriors’ end, but it’s hard to see how Ulis will fit in their plans. If he sticks, he won’t have any fantasy value barring an injury, and if he ends up getting waived we’ll have to see if he signs with the Dubbs’ G-League squad or pursues other opportunities.
Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter
September 21, 2018, 8:39 pmEmeka Okafor - C - Philadelphia Sixers
The Philadelphia Sixers have signed Emeka Okafor to a training camp deal one day before the start of camp.
Even if the ancient Okafor manages to stick on the roster, he shouldn’t be anything more than a veteran presence.
September 21, 2018, 7:38 pmBogdan Bogdanovic - G - Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have announced that Bogdan Bogdanovic will have an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee on Monday.
There was no time-table given but these usually have a recovery of 4-to-6 weeks. There should be an update after the surgery on Monday but it looks like Bogi will miss the beginning of the season. As we previously reported, this is the same left knee that he had surgery on earlier this summer to repair a slight medial meniscus tear. Two surgeries in the span of a few months doesn't sound good and this'll be a big red flag come draft time. It's good news for Buddy Hield however.
Source: Marc J Spears on Twitter
September 21, 2018, 7:27 pmJimmy Butler - G - Minnesota Timberwolves
Woj is reporting that despite rebuffs from Minnesota’s front office regarding Jimmy Butler, owner Glen Taylor informed participants of the NBA’s Board of Governors meeting that Butler is indeed available and that they should contact him personally if necessary.
Wow. It looks like things are escalating behind the scenes with Taylor and Thibodeau issuing opposing directives regarding disgruntled Jimmy Butler. It seems like Butler is close to being moved and Thibs could be next to follow him out the door.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
September 21, 2018, 5:36 pmDeAnthony Melton - G - Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns have signed newly obtained De’Anthony Melton to a two-year, $2.3 million rookie deal.
The Suns obtained Melton from the Rockets for Ryan Anderson and Brandon Knight earlier this summer so this signing was always going to happen at some point. With Devin Booker (hand) probably out to start the season and not a whole lot of options to start at point guard, Melton could be a nice surprise. We’ll have to see what the preseason brings.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
September 21, 2018, 5:28 pmAdam Silver - Commissioner - Invalid Team
The NBA’s Board of Governors has approved three changes to the rule book for this season dealing with resetting the shot-clock on an offensive rebound, simplifying the clear path rules and expanding the definition of a “hostile act.”
The first tweak is that the shot-clock will reset reset to 14 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of the usual 24 seconds. The second change is to the clear-path rule- now, it is defined as a personal foul against any offensive player during his team’s transition scoring opportunity so refs won’t have to determine if the defender was in front of the ball or not, or if the defender beat the offensive player to the frontcourt. The last chance will be expanding the definition of a “hostile act” to allow for additional replay for off-ball or other altercations.
Source: NBC Sports
September 21, 2018, 4:54 pmMarkelle Fultz - G - Philadelphia Sixers
Markelle Fultz denied having the “yips” last season and said his struggles shooting the ball were due to his shoulder injury.
This is the opposite of what shooting guru Drew Hanlen said over the summer when he asserted that Fultz had the “yips” and “completely forgot how to shoot.” We’re thinking as a young player, Fultz probably wants to protect his ego and maybe his image- despite recent headway made in the NBA dealing with mental health issues, nobody wants to admit to being psychologically ‘soft.’ At this stage it’s rather irrelevant as to why; we just want to see if Fultz can shoot it or not. Preseason games start soon and we’ll have the popcorn ready.
September 21, 2018, 4:42 pmJimmy Butler - G - Minnesota Timberwolves
According to Jon Krawczynski at The Athletic, Jimmy Butler might not show up to training camp if he isn't traded.
We previously relayed Woj's report that the Wolves were not planning to trade Butler so it looks like both parties are ratcheting up their rhetoric before the season starts. Butler is a notoriously stubborn guy as is coach Thibs so we'll see who wins this head-butting battle. The writing's on the wall for Butler's time in Minnesota, so it's only a matter of when. Tom Thibodeau could be following him out the door as owner Glenn Taylor has been dissatisfied with his old-school tactics.
Source: The Athletic
September 21, 2018, 4:36 pmCarmelo Anthony - F - Houston Rockets
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said he wants wants Carmelo Anthony on the floor when P.J. Tucker is off, and vice versa because he sees them both as power forwards.
It was widely assumed that Melo and Tucker would start together but now it appear to not be the case so maybe James Ennis is the starter at the 3. We’ll have to see how his rotation shakes out and if Melo’s staggered minutes coincide with Chris Paul’s. Either way, Melo looks to have a decreased role on offense as James Harden and Chris Paul control the offense.
Source: Kelly Iko on Twitter