May 17, 2019, 6:42 pm
Welcome back, Hoop Ballers, to our offseason International Spotlight weekly feature! I’m pretty sure you are enjoying the NBA playoffs as we are heading toward the final stage of the basketball season and the NBA Finals.
Not much is happening fantasy-wise this time of the year so this is the perfect opportunity to take time and examine some under-the-radar international prospects that are on NBA rosters. Most of the guys we are going to take a look into this week played sparingly this year and the tape is limited on them so I haven’t been able to do a complete breakdown of their game due to the lack of exposure at the highest level.
For the regulars at Hoop Ball, my goal with our International Spotlight feature has always been to provide you with as much information as possible in your effort to evaluate talent and jump way ahead of the curve on potential international fantasy studs like Pascal Siakam.
Without further ado, here are some deep league options you should keep in your watchlist:
Tyler Dorsey, Memphis Grizzlies, G, 23 years old, Greece
2018-19 averages in 21 games with the Grizzlies | 9.8 PTS | 1.6 3PM | 3.3 REB | 1.9 AST | 0.3 STL | 0.0 BLK | 0.8 TOV | .429 FG% | .629 FT%
Dorsey finished his rookie season (2017-18) with the Hawks on a high note, playing approximately 20 minutes in the final 45 games of the season with averages of 8.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists. He spent the entire summer in the gym working on his game by perfecting his footwork and improving his defense and playmaking skills while. With Isaiah Taylor and Malcolm Delaney out of town, there seemed to be a path to him for minutes as the backup point guard.
Unfortunately, Dorsey never clicked with Hawks’ new coach Lloyd Pierce and quickly fell out of favor in a basketball situation where little to no defense was being played.
The trade to the Grizzlies rejuvenated his season and he showed great promise in 11 starts with the Grizzlies, with the team taking a leap of faith and using him mostly as a shooting guard. He had a career night in Orlando at the end of March, solidifying himself as a solid 3-point shooter who isn’t afraid to attack the basket.
Still, his percentages have been brutal in 104 NBA games played so far. He is shooting below average from the free throw line and he is most likely not a true point guard, meaning he may struggle to find a place as a rotation piece with an NBA team in the next couple years. He has a one-year qualifying offer remaining on his rookie contract as a restricted free agent but there is much uncertainty regarding whether or not he will be back since the Grizzlies seem poised to select Ja Morant and hand him the keys of the franchise.
Dorsey will try to earn a spot with a Greek national team that is badly in need of shooters and he might be able to raise his stock even more if he has a successful offseason.
Guerschon Yabusele, Boston Celtics, F/C, 23 years old, France
2018-19 averages: Games Played: 41 | 2.3 PTS | 0.2 3PM | 1.3 REB | 0.4 AST | 0.2 STL | 0.2 BLK | 0.4 TOV | .455 FG% | .682 FT%
Not much changed for the French forward, who spent most of the year practicing with the Celtics while playing just one game with the Maine Red Claws of the G-League. His stats were almost identical to his sophomore year but the roster construction in Boston and the high expectations never really left any room for him, resulting in his minutes coming mostly into garbage time.
It’s really difficult to tell, with such a small sample size, how much he has actually developed, but the Celtics seem to be content with his progress and treated him as a ready-to-play project this season, even avoiding sending him to G League where he would have benefited from more time practicing his 3-point shot.
Here is a nice ATO play by Brad Stevens with Daniel Theis faking the screen before quickly running to the rim and forcing the Warriors to double-team him as Yabusele stays at the corner and drains the open triple.
Yabusele can score around the basket, using his size and solid footwork, while he showed some positive signs as a weak-side rim protector. The main area of concern is defensive rebounding. His Defensive Rebound Percentage (an estimate of the percentage of available defensive rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor) was 12.8 percent this year, far below the league average for a power forward (18.4 percent).
The Celtics picked up their third-year option on Yabusele last October, so his $3.1 million contract is guaranteed for next season despite what has been an extremely limited role. He is clearly overpaid but that option was picked more for salary matching trade purposes than anything else and Danny Ainge could very well package him as part of a bigger deal this offseason.
Yabusele is looking at a busy summer where he will compete for a roster spot with the French National team that is set to play at the FIBA World Tournament in China and I’m curious to see whether he can have an important role against teams that play a more physical type of basketball at a slower pace. If he makes the final cuts he’ll return to China, where he played with Shanghai on a one-year deal before coming to Boston and had a successful stint with 20.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game in 43 games.
Kostas Antetokounmpo, Dallas Mavs, F, 21 years old, Greece
2018-19 averages: Games Played: 2 | 1.0 PTS | 0.0 3PM | 0.5 REB | 0.0 AST | 1.0 STL | 0.0 BLK | 0.5 TOV | .000 FG% | .500 FT%
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s little brother failed to see the court in his rookie season even though the Mavs were mostly tanking at the end of the year and there were minutes available for guys like Salah Mejri and Ryan Broekhoff. A hip injury limited him in March and Kostas seems at least a year away from getting consistent NBA minutes but his time in G-League was actually impressive as he averaged 0.9 steals and 1.4 blocks while hitting 10-of-41 triples behind the arc.
I’m pretty positive that Kostas is not the next Giannis but he could very well blossom into a bench big who has speed and athleticism and can stretch the floor. The Mavs are looking to have the maximum possible cap space in order to target big-name free agents like Nikola Vucevic and Kemba Walker, as well as re-signing Kristaps Porzingis, and they would have to make a decision regarding his future as he was signed only to a two-way contract this season.
Svi Mykhaiiluk, Detroit Pistons, G, 22 years old, Ukraine
2018-19 averages: Games Played: 42 | 3.2 PTS | 0.7 3PM | 0.8 REB | 0.9 AST | 0.3 STL | 0.0 BLK | 0.5 TOV | .331 FG% | .60 FT%
Svi had an up and down rookie year where he played less than 500 minutes and the mid-season trade was a strong reality check. The Lakers really liked him coming out of four years of college basketball at Kansas and they didn’t hesitate to ink him to a three-year rookie deal even though he was a second-round pick. The truth of the matter is that he looked like one of the most ready-to contribute products ahead of the draft and even though he never impressed with his athleticism or size there is a lot to like in his game.
Svi was magnificent while playing with the South Bay Lakers of the G-League and once scored 47 points, the most points scored by any G League player this season.
He has shown great offensive versatility, he can play off the ball, he has a quick, repeatable stroke and doesn’t need much space to get his shot off. He struggled with consistency in his rookie year, which is something that is expected, but I’m really high on him due to his high basketball IQ.
There are obviously limitations to his game, namely his lack of length, that could hold him back, but the Pistons believe in his ability to potentially develop into a point guard. Look at this defensive possession where the Spurs run a switch on a pick-and-roll in order for DeRozan to muscle his way to the paint against the rookie.
The Haitian forward failed to show significant growth in any area during the 2017-2018 campaign and the Kings gave up on him this year after Harry Giles proved to be healthy and ready to contribute after a year in the shelf. The Blazers took a chance on him just like they did with George Papagiannnis last year but earning more time in Portland never seemed likely to happen with the emergence of Zach Collins and the high expectations of the franchise.
Skal showed some promise as a rim protector and the Kings were really high on him after his sophomore year but his lack of improvement is a major cause for concern moving forward and he might be running out of time. In fact, his entire career seems like a letdown so far.
Labissiere was widely viewed as the frontrunner to be selected first overall in the 2016 draft out of high school but he did not live up to expectations at Kentucky and dropped down to the end of the first round where the Kings selected him as the 28th overall pick.
Labissiere has always had a diverse offense repertoire while he can step out behind the arc and hit the occasional three but he likes to play in the post where his lack of strength has always hurt him. He did gain 20 pounds of muscle during the offseason put he failed to see the court this year so I’m unsure if that can translate to less fouling.
What really intrigued me about Skal is his combination of quickness and length (7’3” wingspan) that allows him to switch onto opposing perimeter players as, on paper, he looks perfectly suited to defend the pick-and-roll and has already looked comfortable in those situations. Look at Russell Westbrook completely sleeping on Labissiere’s length as the Haitian forward disrupts the lazy pass.
Skal possesses an impressive combination of length, speed, awareness and even though he has not been able to put it all together yet I expect him to get plenty more opportunities either with the Blazers or a different franchise.
Yuta Watanabe, Memphis Grizzlies, F, 25 years old, Japan
2018-19 averages: Games Played: 15 | 2.6 PTS | 0.1 3PM | 2.1 REB | 0.5 AST | 0.3 STL | 0.1 BLK | 0.4 TOV | .294 FG% | .700 FT%
Last but not least and probably one of my favorite international guys in the league is Japanese forward who played college basketball for the George Washington Colonials after becoming the first Japan-born student athlete to secure a NCAA Division I basketball scholarship. Watanabe was named the Atlantic-10 Conference’s defensive player of the year in 2018 and went undrafted but after being cut by the Nets, the Grizzlies were smart to add Yuta to their player development plans.
Watanabe has true global influence, and whether it is intentional or not, the Grizzlies are benefitting from his presence and is worth keeping on the roster for his contributions on the court as well as off it. The rookie had a spectacular preseason, highlighted by a game against the Pacers where he took over in overtime and led his team to the win while showing some serious clutch skills.
J.B. Bickerstaff never really gave him an opportunity in what was a lost season for the Grizzlies. Watanabe appeared in 33 games for the Memphis Hustle where he scored 14.2 points to go with 7.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 triples, 1.1 blocks and 0.9 steals. His blue-collar work ethic and desire to improve have already made him a fan favorite while he is a versatile and athletic swingman that held his own on both sides of the floor.
He still needs to strengthen his body and improve his outside shot as he made only 29.4 percent of his shots in 15 games in the NBA. It remains to be seen if the Grizzlies will continue to place him on a two-way contract or if they will convert his deal into an actual roster spot with some guaranteed money attached to it.
NBA Draft Update
The basketball gods were absolutely drunk this year, rewarding the Pelicans and the Grizzlies with the top two picks in the NBA draft that takes place in New York next month.
Back in January, premium subscribers were able to get an idea about the level of international talent that is expected to take part in this year’s upcoming draft. The international scene is traditionally very volatile as young players fail to see heavy minutes at the upper tiers of European competition and top ranked prospects get a lot of hype from scouts and draft experts. As a result, the draft stock of many players is up in the air until the very last moment and teams have to gamble with little known prospects.
There is absolutely no Luka Doncic in the 2019 international draft class while the pool of talent that will be entering the lottery looks to be deeper compared to previous years. So while this year’s class might be lacking a true franchise talent, it possesses more depth and a lot more potential role players who could find themselves contributing in the long run for NBA teams.
Thank you for reading this article and please make sure you tune back next week to learn more about the upcoming Draft’s international rookie class. Stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.
Stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of May 17th.