• Welcome back, Hoop Ballers, to our International Spotlight mini preview feature where we continue to take a look at all the international players around the league and their outlook for the upcoming season.

    Dzanan Musa has been making some noise in the preseason, showing why the Nets had no problem sending Allen Crabbe out of town in a heartbeat. The battle for the starting point guard job in Chicago has been heating up and Tomas Satoransky is poised to guide the young Bulls in a season where they will try to compete for the playoffs. Meanwhile, Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura and Moritz Wagner have all been positive contributors so far in what is going to be a developmental season for the Wizards.

    Now let’s turn the page and move to the Southwest Division where teams like the Mavs and the Spurs are loaded with international guys!

    Dallas Mavericks

    J.J. Barea, G, 35 years old, Puerto Rico

    Barea was once again able to provide deep-league value last year, finishing third in the entire league in assists per 48 minutes (13.5) for the second consecutive season. The wheels fell off eventually as the Puerto Rican suffered a devastating ruptured Achilles after playing in just 38 games. He is back with the Mavs and poised to continue contributing on the floor beyond providing leadership to his young teammates.

    Barea has always been a constant beneficiary of Rick Carlisle’s system that often puts two point guards on the court at the same time, but this year it’s going to be hard to earn minutes after the Mavs signed Delon Wright and Seth Curry, and with Jalen Brunson already on the roster. Now 35 years old and coming off a serious injury, I expect a considerable drop off in his production and he shouldn’t be on your fantasy radar until he proves he is healthy first.

    Ryan Broekhoff, F, 29 years old, Australia

    The 29-year-old sharpshooter didn’t see much action in his rookie season but the Mavs missed out on their top free agent targets during the offseason and decided to guarantee Broekhoff’s deal for next year.

    His work ethic has been deeply appreciated by the Mavs coaching staff and the Aussie will continue to remain a specialist at the end of the bench but we wouldn’t expect to see him earn major rotation minutes. Dallas lacks the necessary depth at the small forward position but simply put, Rick Carlisle will probably go with more ball handlers and Luka Doncic as their small forward instead of playing Broekhoff.

    Luka Doncic, G/F, 20 years old, Slovenia

    Luka had a fantastic rookie season, validating all the hype and delivering some serious numbers (21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.3 triples and 1.1 steals) on his way to claiming Rookie of the Year honors. After a summer in which he got some much-needed rest (Slovenia failed to advance to the FIBA World Cup) and worked on his conditioning and fitness, there is a reasonable expectation that his fantasy game will only become better.

    Poor shooting and plenty of turnovers contributed to him delivering borderline top-100 value last year while the addition of Kristaps Porzingis and more shooting around him is expected to make things easier for him on the offensive side of the ball. It will take a leap of faith to take him in the early rounds of the draft this year but I’ve seen him going even in the second round and I’m optimistic about a potential top-50 return in his sophomore year.

    Maxi Kleber, F/C, 27 years old, Germany

    Kleber has been one of the hidden fantasy gems in deep leagues the last couple years and has solidified himself as a valuable contributor whether he is coming off the bench or not. The Mavs rewarded him with a brand new four-year, $35 million deal proving how much they value the German big and he has entered this year’s training camp competing with Dwight Powell for a starting role next to Kristaps Porzingis.

    How many minutes he gets will determine his ceiling and a top-125 return is not out of question since his stat set offers the ever-valuable cash counters.

    Boban Marjanovic, C, 31 years old, Serbia

    After splitting time with the Clippers and the Sixers last year, the Serbian giant moved to Dallas this summer, replacing Salah Mejri, and he is expected to provide insurance depth in a deep frontcourt. I’m certain that Rick Carlisle will exploit potential matchups with him on the floor but Boban is only a streaming option and he can’t be relied upon for consistent production unless the Mavs are forced to play him due to injuries.

    Kristaps Porzingis, C, 24 years old, Latvia

    Mavs fans are absolutely stoked for the return of KP after a year and a half where the Latvian took the time to recover from a brutal torn ACL that put his career in jeopardy.

    Porzingis has been cleared for basketball related activities since March of last year but the team chose to be extremely careful with him, shutting down any chance of him returning late in the season.

    The “muscle watch” for Kristaps was in full effect this summer as he worked on his conditioning and he will enter the season starting with Luka Doncic in what seems like one of the league’s best young duos.

    The Mavs have added plenty of shooting around him and it’s certain that Rick Carlisle will maximize his basketball potential but fantasy managers have to consider the fact that his load will be managed, potentially limiting his season-long value. KP is a fantasy stud and he will absolutely deliver some monster lines so feel free to draft him in the early rounds, but beware the missed games.

    Houston Rockets

    Clint Capela, C, 25 years old, Switzerland

    Capela was one of the beneficiaries of the addition of a second ball-handler to the Rockets lineup last year, posting career-highs in points and rebounds while returning borderline top-25 value for managers in standard 9-cat leagues. Still, the tape was not very good as he often struggled with smaller opponents and looked fatigued at the end of games, leading the Rockets to exploring his trade value during the offseason.

    The arrival of Russell Westbrook to Houston this summer has a lot of people in the fantasy community worried and it’s reasonable to expect that his numbers, just like everyone else’s on the Rockets except from James Harden, take a hit.

    Capela played four games with his national team in the first round of the EuroBasket 2021 pre-qualifiers this summer and posted the usual double-doubles while struggling badly from the free throw line and there is no doubt that you should see him as a punt free throw guy.

    Houston added more backup insurance by signing Tyson Chandler and bringing back Nene but none of these presents a threat to Capela’s minutes and it’s likely that he still delivers top-50 value.

    Isiah Hartenstein, C, 21 years old, Germany

    The Rio Grande Valley Vipers went on to win the G-League championship last year and the German big was awarded Finals MVP honors while registering 19.4 points, 14.9 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in 26 games for the season so there is little doubt that the kid is taking steps forward.

    Hartenstein put on a show in Las Vegas this summer with a couple double-doubles, but his run was cut short as he was taken off the court in a wheelchair due to a sprained ankle. Hartenstein has made a case for himself to be a part of the rotation but it’s unlikely he gets much playing as the Rockets continue to rely on veterans who can get the job done. His stat set is very intriguing as he has shown the ability to protect the rim and stretch the floor so he’s someone that I’m keeping an eye on in dynasty leagues.

    Nene, C, 37 years old, Brazil

    Nene has been used by the Rockets as leverage in the last couple seasons in order to manufacture contracts that are attractive to trade for and they took this strategy to another level this summer, forcing the NBA and the Players’ Association to intervene.

    Prior to free agency, the 37-year-old veteran declined his $3.8-million player option for the 2019-20 season, a surprising move as he was unlikely to recoup that on the market, but the belief was that he was going to retire. When it was announced that he was returning for his 18th NBA season, it was widely assumed that it would be for the $2.6-million veteran minimum but instead, Nene signed a two-year deal with a minimum base salary that contains likely incentives that can increase his salary to $10 million in both seasons, thus producing a gem for teams willing to shed salary this year.

    The signing of Tyson Chandler validates the fact that the Rockets don’t see him as a rotation piece anymore so he shouldn’t be on your radar in any fantasy leagues.

    Thabo Sefolosha, SF, 35 years old, Switzerland

    Sefolosha was another veteran addition to the Rockets this summer in their effort to provide more depth to a relatively thin bench. He has always been a defensive specialist with the ability to hit his triples and he is looking at a similar role in Houston. A deep-league option for sure but keep an eye on him in case injuries pile up on the Rockets at some point during the season.

    Memphis Grizzlies

    Bruno Caboclo, SF, 24 years old, Brazil

    With Bruno, it seems that we have finally reached the point where the Brazilian forward is ready to become a regular contributor after notoriously being “2 years away from being 2 years away.” Caboclo ended last season strong, averaging 11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 triples, 1.9 assists, 0.9 blocks and 0.5 steals over the season’s last 14 games, returning top-100 value for that span.

    He had a busy summer playing in Vegas and joining Brazil in the FIBA World Cup in China. There is optimism that Bruno will get the minutes necessary to make him a consideration even in standard leagues at some point as the Grizzlies are going all-in with the youth movement and they have been experimenting with him as the backup center as well.

    Memphis will likely take the year to evaluate guys like Caboclo and even though I’m not drafting him in standard leagues, he is a player I’ll have on my watchlist from Day 1.

    Marko Guduric, G/F, 24 years old, Serbia

    Serbian sharpshooter Marko Guduric will compete for wing minutes on a young rebuilding Grizzlies squad that will look to develop all their talent in the upcoming years. He is not the most athletic body and he struggles against quicker opponents but he has ideal size for the position at 6’6” and is a crafty, left-handed shooter with high basketball IQ that plays within the system.

    He is coming off a couple very successful seasons with EuroLeague powerhouse Fenerbahce of the Turkish league where he shot 47.7 percent from 3-point range in 2018-19 and won the 2019 Turkish League 3-point shootout. Another deep-league option that could present value as a scoring specialist with good percentages, he belongs to a group of players that I’m monitoring in Memphis this year.

    Jonas Valanciunas, C, 27 years old, Lithuania

    The trade of JV to the Grizzlies last year was something that his fantasy owners were desperately praying for after an underwhelming start of the season where he came off the bench in Nick Nurse’s system in Toronto before dislocating his thumb and opting for surgery. Valanciunas capitalized on the opportunity and averaged 19.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.6 blocks in 19 games before a Grade 2 right ankle sprain ended his run.

    While this happened with Jaren Jackson Jr. sidelined and the Grizzlies struggling to find healthy bodies at the end of the year, his usage will likely remain high on a team where he projects to be a primary offensive option. A top-50 season is definitely on the horizon and even though the youth movement is on in Memphis, the Grizzlies happily gave him a three-year, $45 million deal and they want him to be the leader for their young studs.

    New Orleans Pelicans

    Nicolo Melli, PF/C, 28 years old, Italy

    The Pelicans completely revamped their roster this offseason and they also added the 28-year-old Italian power forward who has been a jack-of-all-trades for EuroLeague powerhouse Fenerbahce in recent years, helping them reach back-to-back EuroLeague Final Fours.

    He suffered a setback in the summer playing with his national team and had to go under the knife but his recovery had been quick and he has looked in shape so far in a couple preseason games with the Pelicans.

    Melli isn’t a flashy creator but he is a sneaky athlete who can stretch the floor and make contributions on both ends due to his high basketball IQ. He is big enough to defend the paint and looks to be an ideal fit playing next to Zion Williamson while, if the Pelicans indeed decide to play at a fast pace, he will surprise many people with his ability to finish in transition.

    Melli has been one of my favorite guys playing in the EuroLeague the last few years and I expect him to even have some fantasy appeal if he’s able to solidify himself in the rotation with backup PF/C minutes.

    San Antonio Spurs

    Marco Belinelli, SG, 33 years old, Italy

    The Italian sharpshooter offered some much-needed scoring off the bench for the Spurs last season, playing in 79 games and averaging 10.5 points and 1.9 triples in a depleted backcourt. The return of Dejounte Murray, the addition of DeMarre Carroll and the need to play Lonnie Walker IV might push him further down in the rotation.

    The Spurs aren’t getting any younger and this might be the season that they are finally pushed outside of the playoff picture so I’m not very confident in Belinelli’s outlook this year.

    Chimezie Metu, PF/C, 22 years old, Nigeria

    Metu is an intriguing prospect for the Spurs and someone that I had the chance to monitor closely in the FIBA World Cup in China this summer where he showed some signs of life after a miserable rookie season where he struggled, playing mostly in the G-League. His numbers were okay with the Austin Stars of the G-League – 14.0 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 0.7 steals – but the tape was brutal as he looked like someone who is not a good defender and can’t shoot while turning the ball over too much (3.0 per game).

    The Nigerian forward has the size and the lateral agility for defending a wide range of offensive players, from large wings to centers, while he possesses the quickness and explosiveness necessary to stop penetration and protect the rim, but he isn’t an engaged and disciplined defender on or off the ball. With Drew Eubanks the only other reserve center in the Spurs’ roster I can see Metu getting an opportunity at some point during the season but he needs to prove that he belongs first.

    Jakob Poeltl, C, 22 years old, Austria

    Poeltl finally enters a season where he is projected to be the uncontested starter for an NBA franchise but his minutes will determine his fantasy ceiling. The Austrian big is a prefect match for the “Spurs way” with his disciplined game and above-average IQ and I’m looking forward to seeing him take the next step in his development.

    He still doesn’t have a go-to post up move and the lack of a transition game for the Spurs doesn’t help his cause as he is one of the best big men at running the court, while he doesn’t really fit the modern state of basketball with big men who are able to stretch the floor, so his upside is limited. Add to this his below-average free throw shooting and Poeltl should be treated as a blocks and rebounds specialist only.

    Luka Samanic, F, 19 years old, Croatia

    Samanic impressed NBA teams with his ball-handling and playmaking ability and he was able to validate these skills in the Summer League as one of the youngest guys to play in Las Vegas. His offensive game is skilled enough to stay on the floor and become a threat but the lack of strength is the main issue and the Spurs will likely take the time with him. I don’t expect him to see the floor too much this year but he should be stashed in deep dynasty leagues.

    Thank you for following our international preview of the season and please check us back again next week as we examine the foreign players in the Northwest 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.

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