September 28, 2018, 6:40 pm
Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our International Spotlight mini preview feature where we take a look at all the international players around the league and their outlook for the upcoming season. We previously examined the Atlantic, the Central and the Southeast Division with an emphasis on the opportunities that will arise for some international guys due to a combination of change in scenery and the introduction of a new coaching staff. As training camps are under their way it appears that there are plenty of open starting jobs for teams like the Knicks and the Hornets and some of the guys we discussed, like Mario Hezonja and Willy Hernangomez, will be making a strong push for them.
But let’s shift the focus into a stacked Southwast Division this week loaded with 21 international players in their rosters.
Kostas Antetokounmpo, F, 20 years old, Greece
Giannis’ little brother was able to show more than simply the defensive upside that led the Mavs taking him with the very last pick of the NBA Draft. The former Dayton Flyers forward averaged almost 1.5 steals and blocks in Summer League but most importantly he showed off his ability to run the pick-and-roll to perfection as a roller who can easily score around the basket. The Mavs rewarded him immediately with a two-way contract after the team’s final game in Vegas and the younger Antetokounmpo will be a part of the team’s G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. His fantasy impact is low for this year but his long-term upside is intriguing. Even though Kostas is still a raw prospect, he has the necessary physical tools and the appropriate work ethic, plus a chance to grow his game within one of the top development programs around the league.
J.J. Barea, G, 34 years old, Puerto Rico
Barea has been a constant beneficiary of Rick Carlisle’s system that puts plenty of ball handlers on the court at the same time. The presence of a strong cutter and alley-oop finisher like DeAndre Jordan will help him maintain some of that value even though the emphasis will obviously be in putting the ball into Dennis Smith’s and Luka Doncic’s hands. He was third in the entire league in assists per 48 minutes last year (13.0) and as long as his minutes remain in the low twenties and he doesn’t sustain any major injuries he will have value as a specialist in deeper leagues or as a streaming option in regular formats.
Ryan Broekhoff, F, 28 years old, Australia
Broekhoff is an excellent addition to a Mavs team that has one of the best international scouting departments in the entire league. The 27-year-old sharpshooter has spent the past five seasons in Europe and at 6’7” he possesses great size and length. It allows him to interchange between forward positions, providing the Mavs with added depth on the wing. He averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.1 steals on 53/49/89 splits in 32 games with PBC Lokomotiv Kuban in Russia last season and he should only be viewed as a deep league specialist.
Luka Doncic, G/F, 19 years old, Slovenia
A lot has been written and said already about European sensation Luka Doncic and his future in the NBA but for me it simply comes down to one thing. 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. At 6’8” he is built for the NBA while a playmaking wing with the ability to initiate the offense, shoot behind the arc and execute with a high level of decision-making is not someone that many NBA teams have on their rosters. Rick Carlisle sure looks like he understands how to use him and reports out of Dallas confirmed that the rookie will be in the starting unit. Luka has far superior talent and more experience than your average rookie and a summer in which he got plenty of rest will help him enter the year on a high note. His ADP in Yahoo is 98 and I would be fine selecting him a round or two earlier than that but watch out for owners who will potentially take a chance on him way earlier.
Maxi Kleber, F/C, 26 years old, Germany
Kleber was a pleasant surprise last year as he proved to be more athletic and talented than anybody envisioned but he will not fill up the stat sheet and his usage is just 12.6 percent. Even in December where he averaged over 25 minutes a game, he scored just 7.7 points per game while grabbing 5.3 boards. While his ceiling was just making the team and sitting at the end of the bench, he found himself as a regular part of the rotation but the Mavs now have DJ in the middle while Dirk will be coming off the bench. Kleber will compete with Dwight Powell for backup minutes and he has a nice combination of stats but he should only be a consideration in deeper leagues.
Salah Mejri, C, 32 years old, Tunisia
An injury insurance big man with no upside who hasn’t been able to get consistent minutes due to the lack of talent and injuries. He can always deliver some rebounds and blocks but his time in the league might be running out.
Dirk Nowitzki, F, 40 years old, Germany
Entering his 21st season, Dirk has been a nice value pick in the last couple seasons and the bench demotion combined with the talent upgrade makes me feel optimistic about this year too. Nowitzki was able to play in 77 games last year so even though owners might be skeptical due to his age, it’s mostly minor issues that bothered him and unless he has a catastrophic injury he should be good to go for most of the season.
Bruno Caboclo, SF, 23 years old, Brazil
Coboclo was the ultimate swing for the fences type of pick for the Raptors, similar to taking a promising high school player who lacks any real experience or polish but the truth is he never developed as the team had hoped. He has shown a lot of improvement working under Jerry Stackhouse in the G-League, becoming a more consistent 3-point threat and, more recently, redefining himself as a potent defender but he still has a ways to go. The Rockets have smartly brought him in and we will see if they are able to develop him into a rotation player but he’s a fringe NBA player at this point and he shouldn’t be drafted anywhere.
Clint Capela, C, 24 years old, Switzerland
Capela had his coming out party last year as a perfect piece for the Rockets’ up-tempo offense, quickly jumping from sleeper to top-50 asset. What’s even more impressive is how he delivered this kind of value in just 27.5 minutes per game, primarily due to conditioning reasons. The free throw percentage is still ugly (65.2) but this won’t prevent owners from drafting him in the early rounds as he is now a proven commodity.
Isiah Hartenstein, C, 20 years old, Germany
A year of professional experience in the G-League has done wonders for the German big as he looked stronger, more confident and eager to prove himself in Summer League. Hartenstein can shoot the ball well, is a sneaky rim protector, makes his free throws and is a capable ball handler that can pass out of the pick-and-roll action. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported yesterday that Hartenstein has a “decisive lead” over Zhou Qi and Marquese Chriss for the backup center role and this makes sense as Zhou has been out with a sprained ankle while Chriss needs to get accustomed to the Rockets’ system and his role. Owners in deep leagues should keep an eye on him as he might worth a flier if all the pieces come together for him.
Nene, C, 36 years old, Brazil
Nene is at the final stage of his career so it makes sense that the Rockets will probably preserve him throughout the season. The team looks determined to play even more small-ball this year and I don’t see how he fits in this model so leave him in the waiver wire unless Capela gets hurt and he needs to play against traditional centers.
Zhou Qi, C, 22 years old, China
It should not come as a surprise that Zhou has been compared to other Chinese big men like Yao Ming and Yi who have made the leap to the NBA. Unlike those two however, Zhou hasn’t been an outright revelation and he still hasn’t reached the level where he can be consistent throughout an entire game. It’s very fortunate for him that he is on a good team that doesn’t need him right away but I wonder how patient the Rockets will be with him. It’s almost certain at this point that he won’t be transforming into a traditional center. He might be a surprising fit with where the NBA is going today with position-less basketball but you shouldn’t be expecting results anytime soon as he has a lot of work to do both on and off the court.
Omri Casspi, F, 30 years old, Israel
Casspi is coming off a disappointing season with the Warriors where he failed to capitalize on the opportunity to stretch the floor and provide solid backup minutes for the champs. Health has always been an issue for the Israeli forward who is traditionally a slow healer. The Grizzlies brought in Kyle Anderson but he really isn’t a 3-point threat while Chandler Parsons’ availability is a big question mark so Casspi should get the opportunity to play backup small forward and power forward minutes. He is not draftable in standard leagues but owners in deeper formats should keep him in their watch list.
Marc Gasol, C, 34 years old, Spain
The younger of the Gasol brothers is going to be 34 years old this season and finished last year in the top-40 but with a significant decline in shooting percentage and turnovers. This had little to do with his age though as the Grizzlies were playing without Mike Conley for most of the year and the talent around him was subpar forcing him to more (bad) shots and more ball handling duties than he would prefer. He should be solid once again and he is known to be a fierce competitor so feel free to draft him early.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Nikola Mirotic, PF, 27 years old, Spain
Niko turned out to be a perfect fit next to AD for a glorious playoff run. So much so that the Pelicans had no problem letting Boogie walk and bringing in Julius Randle instead. He is still expected to be the starting power forward so I’m definitely not worried for his minutes since other than AD and Randle the Pelicans are not very deep in the frontcourt. His percentages will determine how high his value goes this year but he should be locked somewhere in the middle rounds as he quietly averaged a steal and a block last year.
Alexis Ajinca, C, 30 years old, France
Ajinca is still recovering from successful surgery he had at the end of last year on his left patellar tendon and he hasn’t participated in any 5-on-5 work during the Pelicans training camp. Cheick Diallo should have no problem taking the backup center position so feel free to ignore Ajinca until he shows signs of life.
Cheick Diallo, C, 22 years old, Mali
With the need for AD and Boogie to develop immediate chemistry and the Pelicans desperate to make the playoffs, the minutes were not there for the young forward/center at the beginning of last season. Dell Demps traded away Dante Cunningham after DeMarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles injury in January but the Pelicans had already acquired Nikola Mirotic and he proved to be a great fit for their system. Alvin Gentry has emphasized the need to develop Cheick Diallo but with his job on the line it’s obvious that he isn’t willing to experiment with his young big and the same can be expected this year. Diallo will have a shot at the backup center position but the Pelicans are expected to play a lot with Randle in the middle and I don’t see the young Malian getting enough minutes again. He is a hold in dynasty leagues though and owners should stay patient as his upside is worth it.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Marco Belinelli, SG, 32 years old, Italy
The Italian sharpshooter had an impressive run with the Sixers last year posting 13.6 points, 1.6 assists, 1.8 boards, and 2.0 3-pointers on 49.5 percent from the field and 87.0 percent from the line. Philadelphia was desperate for his shooting and he won’t have the same green light in San Antonio under Pop and a more structured system. The retirement of Manu suddenly creates even more minutes in the Spurs’ backcourt and Marco should maintain value as a popular streamer for owners looking for scoring and triples from the waiver wire.
Davis Bertans, F, 25 years old, Latvia
Agile 6’10” guys who are legitimate 3-point snipers are extremely rare to find these days and Bertans is one of those guys that can come into the game off the bench and instantly swing momentum with a few baskets. He is also a willing passer, a smart cutter and an athletic finisher, so his offensive game seems to have enough nuance to complement his shooting. The rest of his defensive attributes aren’t quite refined enough yet, which is why it took a pair of injuries to Kyle Anderson and Kawhi Leonard last year in order for him to get on the floor. With both of these guys out of town Davis looks to be on track for more playing time and hopefully he will be able to build on an expanded opportunity.
Pau Gasol, F/C, 38 years old, Spain
Just like Dirk, the older Gasol brother should be looked at as a glue guy even though he is entering his late 30s. He hit a career low 45.8 percent of his shots mainly due to the disruption the Kawhi fiasco created in the Spurs offense as there was a need for his scoring. The Spurs brought Jakob Poeltl and the two should compete for the starting job but regardless, Pau’s skill set should guarantee a late round selection even if the Spurs opt to occasionally rest him.
Jakob Poeltl, 22 years old, Austria
Watching the Austrian center when he’s on the floor you can easily tell that his best asset isn’t a single physical trait or a special skill but rather his brain. Therefore, his arrival in San Antonio looks like the perfect match. While many question his upside and ability to become a star, coaches will tell you that they fall in love with solid big guys with character and work ethic. Poeltl fits the bill but he still has a way to go in polishing his offensive game. He is your prototypical back to the basket center who doesn’t really have a go-to post up move yet but he has begun to master some up and under moves finishing with both hands.
The biggest thing that stands out of course is his ability to get out in transition. You can easily make the case that no traditional big man with an old-school skill set like Poeltl is truly ready for the NBA’s ever-increasing devotion to faster pace but he runs the floor better than any seven footer in the league and he has surprisingly quick feet for a guy his size. Poeltl makes this team better every time he steps on the court and is someone that fits perfectly the need for a big man who can be a contributor instead of the epicenter. I consider him a strong sleeper this season as he should be able to beat Pau Gasol for the starting job and I’m very confident in Pop’s ability to develop him into a potent double-double threat.
Thank you for checking us out this article and please check us back again next week as we examine the international 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.