June 21, 2018, 7:00 pm
Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our International Spotlight weekly feature where we will be taking a look into all the international players that are eligible for the 2018 NBA Draft that takes place in New York on Thursday. You can check our previous in-depth scouting reports on most of these players in our previous installments. Be sure to check them all out:
Top Tier: The Locks to be Drafted
(Real Madrid, Liga ACB, Spain), 6’8” 220 lbs PG/SG/SF
Add Liga ACB title to the list of trophies Luka Doncic has collected this year after a tremendous run the last few months where he led his teams to the EuroLeague and EuroBasket titles all while being named the EuroLeague’s Regular Season MVP (youngest ever), the EuroLeague’s Final Four MVP (also youngest ever), the ACB’s Regular Season MVP and the ACB’s Best Young Player, at the age of 19 – unprecedented achievements by any other European player in the last 30 years.
Doncic is a cerebral player with an exceptional feel for the game that every coach wants to have on the court in order to win games and this was again apparent in the Spanish league finals. Real Madrid had to climb the wall after losing Game 1 of the Finals in Madrid and heading into Vitoria for Games 3 and 4 tied at one win apiece. In Game 3, the most important game in a best-of-five series, Luka flirted with a double-double with 20 points (10-for-11 free throws) and nine rebounds while efficiently executing the team’s offense in the last three minutes. He made a ridiculous fadeaway floater 3-pointer in Game 4 at the final minute of the game after Baskonia made their last push, ending their hopes for a game 5 and making sure he got on a plane to be in New York tomorrow.
As we mentioned before, this year’s class is full of capable big men but since 2000 there have only been two bigs that had more than 30 percent usage in the NBA Finals, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan, both winning multiple Finals MVP trophies. If I were a GM selecting at the top of the draft I would pick DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley or Jaren Jackson only if I believed that they have the potential to get into the discussion with those Hall-of-Famers. Otherwise, I would simply bet on the 6’8”, 220 pound basketball genius with great vision, pure basketball instincts, great footwork and a ton of skills that have been evident in more than 200 games where the kid proved to be clutch and rose to the occasion each time his team had a need for a big play.
Projection: Top-5 pick
It’s almost inconceivable to me at this point that Luka could fall outside the top-3 and it’s good to see Atlanta reportedly jumping on the bandwagon.
(Pau-Lacq-Orthez, LNB Pro A France) 6’3” 180 lbs G
Based on his buzz at the moment, keep a close eye on 20-year-old French point guard Elie Okobo who has seen his draft stock rise significantly the last few weeks. A very quick guard with a tight handle and a fluid athlete who plays above the rim regularly, he was the only French player in Pro A, a league typically dominated by Americans, that led his team in scoring. He is already very high on the boards of a few teams due to his dynamic scoring ability and pick-and-roll playmaking and he could come out as the best point guard out of this draft class. Scouts are split on where he should go as he could have a higher chance at getting selected in the first round if he’s stashed for a year, but he’s said publicly he wants to come over this season.
Projection: Anywhere from 20s to early second round
(KK Cedevit, Adriatic League ABA), 6’9” 195 lbs SG/SF
Musa, a skilled offensive talent that has shown the ability to score in a variety of ways, became only the sixth scorer in Adriatic League history to average more than 20 points per 40 minutes as a teenager. The others were Nikola Jokic, Goran Dragic, Dario Saric, Jusuf Nurkic and Ante Zizic. He has worked out with the Pacers, Nuggets, Spurs, Jazz and Blazers and teams really like his level of confidence. Musa intends to come over to the NBA next season and his shooting ability and talent level as a scorer make him an interesting long-term piece. While he is an intense competitor but it’s highly unlikely that he is ready to step on an NBA court due to his lack of strength and undisciplined style of play on both ends of the floor.
Projection: First round and likely in the 20-30 range but don’t be surprised if a team reaches for him or if he slips further down.
Second Tier: Likely to be Selected
(Barcelona, Liga ACB, Spain) 6’10” 190 lbs SF/PF
A 6’10” combo forward who was once projected to go in the first round, he saw his draft stock drop significantly due to injuries and a lack of playing time with EuroLeague powerhouse Barcelona this year. 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 this year’s draft class, but it’s hard to evaluate him considering his lack of playing time in Europe. Kurucs’ camp was able to get his buyout significantly lowered, allowing a team to bring him over next season, and he had a nice showing in his pro day at Los Angeles so it’s quite certain that teams are taking a closer look at him.
Projection: Mid second round but he could go higher
(Orlandina Basket, Serie A, Italy) 6’9” 220 lbs SF
Considered a potential first round pick until early 2017, Kulboka had an up and down 2017-18 campaign in Italy but was still named the Best Young Player of the Basketball Champions League (the second-best tournament in Europe after the EuroLeague). The Lithuanian prospect had a great weekend in Treviso at the NBA Global Camp and although he is extremely talented and can shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor (possessing a high release), he still remains very thin and just completed his first season playing at a high level. His combination of size and scoring ability is something that teams are always looking for but he is not very athletic, lacks speed and is inconsistent while his passing and defense are somewhat still underdeveloped. He worked out for the Nuggets, Lakers and Pacers in recent weeks and is considered to be in the top-5 of European players staying in the draft.
Projection: Mid to late second round
The College kids: International players who played NCAA
(Georgia Tech, Nigeria) 6’4” 210 lbs SG/SF
Okogie is a prototypical 3-and-D player coming off a tremendous career year at Georgia Tech where he averaged 18.2 points, 6.3 rebounds (despite standing at just 6’4”) and 2.5 assists as a sophomore, shooting 38 percent from the 3-point line while getting consistently to the line (at least six free throw attempts per game in both seasons at GT). He was one of the biggest winners of the NBA Combine and was measured with a 7’0” wingspan and barely over five percent body fat. An elite athlete, both vertically and laterally, he can play either as a small forward or a shooting guard since his athleticism allows him to match up with players bigger and stronger than him. An underrated playmaker in my opinion, most teams are probably unsure about how much his game will translate to the next level but he might really be the steal of the draft.
Projection: Late first to early second round
(Michigan, Germany) 6’11” 240 lbs PF
Wagner posted per-40-minute stats of 22.4 points, 10.9 boards and 1.5 steals while shooting 39.2 percent from distance this year and after just two seasons at Michigan it remains to be seen as to where he will land in the draft. While his skillset is not a perfect fit in the modern NBA on the defensive end since he is neither a great athlete by NBA standards nor insanely long, there are positives to what the 20-year-old from Germany can bring. And there is a path to NBA playing time as an offense-first spark plug from the bench if he’s able to consistently stretch the floor, but his defense and rebounding must improve in order to give his offense a chance to shine.
Projection: Late first round but don’t be shocked if he slips and ends up undrafted.
(Kansas, Ukraine) 6’8” 211 lbs SG
The 20-year-old senior is in the conversation for the best shooter in the draft. He arrived at Kansas as a 3-Star recruit who was ranked as the 239th best player in the Class of 2014 but he worked on his game and left as both an integral part of a Final 4 run and the KU single-season record holder in 3-point makes at 115. His upside is affected by a lack of potential development and not much versatility as it’s hard to believe that he will actually add a great deal to his game. Svi put an impressive showing during Day 1 of the NBA combine and had a few very nice workouts in the last couple weeks and even though I’m not very high on reports coming out of these workouts the Ukrainian sharpshooter has definitely helped his draft stock. He is not a two-way player but will likely be a target for teams looking to add shooting.
Projection: Anywhere in the second round
(Dayton, Greece) 6’10” 195 lbs PF
Giannis’ little brother Kostas is a raw talent that 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. His season at Dayton was unimpressive as he showed a lack of feel for the game, or in the words of the great Fran Fraschilla, he is “two years away from being two years away.” The 6’10” Greek forward mysteriously elected to cancel all of his remaining scheduled private NBA workouts after working out for the Hornets a couple weeks ago and that could have happened because he either received a promise or his injured groin really bothered him. I’m expecting someone to take a flier on him even though he is a prospect but GMs could definitely not afford to miss out on another Antetokounmpo and the kid really has the tools to develop into a defensive presence.
Projection: Anywhere in the second round
(Arizona, Serbia) 7’0” 240 lbs C
In his fourth year with Arizona, the Serbian big averaged 12.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.4 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game, playing next to potential No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton. He shot an impressive 56.9 percent from the field and made the second team All-Pac-12 but that might not be enough to secure him a place among the 60 players that get drafted on Thursday. Ristic had a few workouts with NBA teams, including the Lakers, Kings and Suns. He is a strong body and has the size to carve out space on the low block, but he doesn’t rebound particularly well and is not a shot blocker, so if he hopes to make an NBA roster he must show teams that he can knock down open jump shots. If he isn’t selected, his alternative choice would be to come back to Europe and play professionally.
Projection: Expected to go undrafted
Draft and stash candidates
(Olimpija Ljubljana, Slovenia) 6’3” 190 lbs PG/SG
An athletic combo guard who broke out at the U-18 EuroBasket in Slovakia last year, he turned out to be one of the NBA Global Camp’s main attractions and finished second in scoring with 19 points in two games. He is a fearless attacking guard that can flat-out score but has little discipline in his game and is often criticized for his selfish play and the lack of passing. Unsurprisingly, he led the camp in turnovers while his defensive effort was up and down since he can make the difference when locked in. He is one of the youngest prospects in the draft (currently 18.6 years old) and he looks like a great draft-and-stash option, while there are some rumors about already having a promise from a team in the second round.
Projection: Anywhere in the second round
(Valencia, Liga ACB Spain) 7’1″ 255 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 improvements 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 it was thought that he might withdraw this year and try to give it another chance in 2019.
Despite his dominating performance at the U-20s and his progression with the men’s team, his development has undergone a learning curve during this season. His lack of playing time in Spain hasn’t boosted his draft status, but his performances with the Icelandic national teams provide enough support.
Projection: Anywhere in the second round
(Fraport Skyliners Bundesliga, German Pro B) 6’9″ 203 lbs G
Bonga has an interesting foundational skillset thanks to his playmaking ability, positional size, defensive flashes and potential jump shot and he is a great stash candidate thanks to his youth, size, and all-around toolkit. 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 and I expect him to either remain on Europe for another year or spend time in the G-League, depending on where he gets drafted.
Projection: Anywhere in the second round
The Dark Horses
(Vytautas Prienai–Birštonas, LKL Lithuania) 6’5” 216 lbs SG
Playing hoops in Lithuania, where he has been solid in showing that he can score the ball (shooting 40 percent from the 3-point line), it’s really 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.
(Marshall, Bosnia & Herzegovina) 6’9” 220 lbs PF
Penava stayed in the draft and caught many by surprise but he’s adequate offensively and on the boards and an excellent shot blocker. Scouts have been impressed with his unique length and ability to score and block shots and he might have a chance to either get drafted or earn himself a two-way contract.
(Mega Bemax, Adriatic League, ABA, Bosnia & Herzegovina) 6’8” 209 lbs PF
An athletic, energetic combo forward that rebounds quite well for a player his size, he could potentially project into a defensive specialist role in the NBA. He struggles offensively and cannot create his own shot, but he could develop into a stretch-4 if his outside shot becomes consistent. He has been playing for Mega Bemax in the Adriatic League; a team controlled by European super-agent Miško Ražnatović who has been extremely successful in recent years in getting his clients to the NBA (Ivica Zubac, Nikola Jokic and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot among them) so I really can’t eliminate the possibility of him getting drafted.
(Florida, Israel) 6’5” 205 lbs SG/SF
A member of the Israeli youth national teams, he moved to the US in 2011 and began his college career at Arizona State but left for Rice after his freshman season where he was named first-team All-Conference USA and second-team NABC All-District 11. After graduating from Rice in 2017 with one season of NCAA eligibility remaining he transferred to Florida where he tallied 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds over 30.6 minutes per game, finishing out his college basketball career. He is a solid shooter with some 3-and-D potential and he will use private workouts, potential Summer League participation and two-way contracts to prove that he belongs in the majors.
(Louisville, Egypt) 7’0” 215 lbs C
A 7-footer who averaged a pedestrian 6.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game his senior season at Louisville, he really doesn’t stretch the floor and is just a solid rim protector. He is trying to become just the third Egyptian-born player to play in the NBA.
(Real Betis Energia Plus, Spain) 6’6”183 lbs SG
Another athletic, skilled swingman that pretty much dominated at the European youth levels and was viewed as a potential first-round prospect, he has struggled to translate his game to the pro-level. Possessing solid range, he can finish through contact but he lacks strength, explosiveness and above all, consistency.
(Oklahoma State, Spain) 6’11 225 lbs C
An athletic big man who lacks an offensive game and projects to be a defensive specialist, he has played internationally for Spain at the U-18 level and should pursue an international career.
(Paris-Levallois Basket, France) 6’8” 228 lbs SF
A versatile defender who can switch effectively and guard multiple positions, he has an impressive body (a 7’2” wingspan) and can somehow shoot from deep.
(Xavier, Turkey) 6’9” 245 lbs PF
Enes Kanter’s little brother played his first three collegiate seasons at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and represented the school at the NCAA Tournament in Oklahoma City before moving to Xavier (Ohio), where he averaged 10.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, helping the Musketeers to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in March. He is projected to go undrafted but he should get an opportunity to showcase himself during Summer League.
Thank you for reading this article and please make sure you check us back again next week as I will be evaluating the situation where most of these prospects land.
Make sure you check Hoop Ball’s Mock Draft Volume 2 here.