July 19, 2019, 5:36 pm
Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our offseason International Spotlight feature where we will be taking a look at how international players performed in NBA Summer League action.
With a plethora of guys from all over the world participating, let alone the fact that team Croatia and team China were first-time additions, I decided to break down this feature in two parts. This week we are going to examine how some 2nd and 3rd year international players performed, together with some former draft picks, while this year’s rookie class will be under the scope next Friday.
Many of the top rookies sat out during this summer league for various reasons but there were still a lot of international guys that showed up and either put their name in the map or simply enjoyed a few competitive games while working on areas that need improvement.
As for the games, I really don’t like calling out winners and losers in the summer tournaments but I always have an eye on players who enhance their skills and show growth in areas where they tend to struggle and a few of them actually impressed in Las Vegas. Here is the full breakdown:
Dzanan Musa, Brooklyn Nets, SG
11.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 0.7 steals on 33 percent shooting in 6 games and 21.5 minutes per contest
Musa came into Summer League poised to prove that he is ready to compete for rotation minutes after a rookie year where he spent most of his time in the G League, averaging 19.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists with the Long Island Nets.
The results were extremely positive as he looked to enjoy the physical contact, especially coming off screens, while making some key defensive plays as well. Musa doesn’t project to earn major minutes this year but he could push himself into consideration for some backup action and he should be viewed strictly as a triple and scoring specialist at the moment.
The Bosnian guard arrived to the Nets as a player used to dominating the ball while playing big minutes as the go-to guy, something that he was not ready to do in a tougher and more athletic league like the NBA, but it seems that he has slowly adapted and is learning how to play within the system.
Rodions Kurucs, Brooklyn Nets, SF/PF
9.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.8 blocks on 46 percent shooting in 6 games and 24.5 minutes per contest
Kurucs’ performance in Vegas this year confirmed what we already know about him after a successful rookie season: he is obviously good enough to be a rotation piece for any NBA team.
The Nets overhauled their roster this offseason but Kurucs remains the favorite to start at the power forward position so there is reason for optimism.
His percentages have always been good and he is a nice source of triples and rebounds so if his defensive stats increase, he could potentially crack the top-150 next year. And as I mentioned in my breakdown during last season, this is not a stretch, as the Latvian possesses the instincts and the basketball IQ to be a part of a successful program.
Kostas Antetokounmpo, Dallas Mavs, PF/C
5.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.6 blocks on 39 percent shooting in 5 games and 13.4 minutes per contest.
Kostas played a lot of five and started for all the Mavs’ games but he failed to show significant improvement, struggling with his shot, failing to spread the floor and turning the ball over too much. His 13.4 minutes were simply a result of his poor play as he still lacks the skills to properly use his athletic frame in order to develop his defensive potential. He is only 22 years old and you can tell that his body and game are taking small steps but I’m not very high on his ability to become a contributor anytime soon.
Svi Mykhailiuk, Detroit Pistons, SG
11.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.0 steal on 38 percent shooting in 5 games and 28.0 minutes per contest
For the second summer in a row Svi was one of the best scorers of the tournament, spreading the floor, attacking the basket and being all over the place on both ends of the court.
What really impressed Summer League attendees was his vision and passing. Mykhailiuk averaged 4.2 dimes in 5 games and showcased another aspect of his game.
The Pistons are desperate for some wing help and Svi will still have to compete with Luke Lennard and rookie Sekou Doumbouya. I could see him surpassing Langston Galloway in the rotation and gaining deep-league value as a scoring specialist but his percentages limit his fantasy value.
Isaiah Hartenstein, Houston Rockets, PF/C
16.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.7 blocks on 47 percent shooting in 3 games and 24.3 minutes per contest
Hartenstein put on a show in Las Vegas this year in registering a couple double-doubles, but his run was cut short as he was taken off the court on a wheelchair due to a sprained ankle.
The Rio Grande Valley Vipers went on to win the G-League championship last season and the German big was awarded Finals MVP honors while he registered 19.4 points, 14.9 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in 26 games so it seems that he is taking steps forward.
The Rockets signed Tyson Chandler last week but Hartenstein has made a case for himself to be a part of the rotation next year and I like his chances as he is able to protect the rim and occasionally stretch the floor.
Yuta Watanabe, Memphis Grizzlies, PF
13.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 50 percent shooting in 2 games and 23.0 minutes per contest
Watanabe is no longer the sole recipient of Japanese media attention in the NBA (hello Rui Hachimura!) but the 6’9” forward looked more comfortable than ever before.
His versatility was apparent as he was able to score from all over the court in just a couple games, while his body frame was considerably bigger, without losing any of his speed and athleticism.
The lack of defensive stats hurts his value but Memphis is going into a rebuilding year and there will be plenty of opportunities for all the youngsters on their roster. Watanabe is one of my favorite targets in deep dynasty leagues as he has the skills to be a modern stretch forward even though he lacks elite quickness and athleticism.
Josh Okogie, Minnesota Timberwolves, SG
10.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.6 steals and 1.0 block on 30 percent shooting in 5 games and 20.4 minutes per contest
After a promising rookie season Okogie entered this offseason with a focus on expanding his offensive game and making himself an option on both ends of the floor. Although his defense has never been in question, the lack of offense is hard to overcome and the young guard struggled with shot creation and shot making, shooting just 30 percent from the field. The Wolves are committed to his development and are poised to help him take the necessary step but I’m starting to wonder whether Okogie’s offensive production has a ceiling.
New President of Basketball Ops Gersson Rosas is reportedly still trying to make a splash move and it’s not out of question that Okogie gets moved as a part of a larger package aimed to relieve the Wolves from the albatross contract of Andrew Wiggins.
If he survives he could potentially start for Minnesota next year, but Okogie’s lack of consistent shooting might make it hard for him to solidify himself as anything more than a bench option.
Elie Okobo, Phoenix Suns, PG
10.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steal on 42 percent shooting in 4 games and 18.5 minutes per contest
Okobo’s numbers were not impressive but the French guard’s offensive game took a small step forward while running the offense and creating for his teammates. One major difference from last year was that he showed the willingness to attack the basket instead of settling for the long jumper, something that could help his offensive consistency.
The Suns signed Ricky Rubio and shipped De’Anthony Melton to Memphis so the backup job is up for grabs and it will likely be coming down to him and rookie Ty Jerome.
Moritz Wagner, Washington Wizards, PF/C
10.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.8 blocks on 31 percent shooting in 4 games and 17.5 minutes per contest
Wagner didn’t exactly impress in Las Vegas, showing some rust and a lack of game shape but I blame the summer trade that had him move from LA to Washington in recent weeks. The German forward should see plenty of minutes next season as the Wizards didn’t re-sign Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker or Jeff Green and shipped Dwight Howard out of town.
He projects as a scoring big but expectations should be tempered as he struggles with his percentages, he is not an elite rebounder and doesn’t produce defensive stats.
Isaac Bonga, Washington Wizards, G/F
8.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals on 46 percent shooting in 3 games and 20.3 minutes per contest
Bonga demonstrated his ability to get to the rim and showed flashes of becoming a dynamic defensive player. He is another player who should be in your radar in deep leagues this year as he is likely to receive minutes. The German swingman is still a question mark and I’m not so sure he is ready to get rotation minutes but he remains an intriguing project as a point-forward.
Guerschon Yabusele, Boston Celtics, PF
2.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.0 block on 14 percent shooting in 2 games and 16.5 minutes per contest
No other NBA veteran struggled as much as Yabusele did in this Summer League and the Celtics finally cut the cord on the former first-round pick who failed to show any progress. He got outplayed by Robert Williams and Tacko Fall and I don’t see him having a future in the league even though he is still just 23 years old.
Bruno Caboclo, Memphis Grizzlies, SF/PF
11.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.7 blocks on 44 percent shooting in 6 games and 22.5 minutes per contest
With Bruno it seems that we have finally reached the place where the Brazilian forward is ready to contribute after being 2 years away from being 2 years away. He did a little bit of everything in Vegas and proved that he is slowly gaining the confidence and the consistency needed to establish himself as a rotation piece.
The Grizzlies will give him plenty of opportunities this upcoming year and he should be considered as a late-round flier in deeper leagues.
Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors, PF/C
23.0 points, 9.8 rebounds,1.3 assists and 1.3 blocks on 49 percent shootings in 4 games and 31.0 minutes per contest
No other player surprised fans and executives this year other than the Saint Lucian-born forward who spent the last couple years with the Warriors and the Raptors.
Boucher won G-League MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors as a member of Raptors 905 last year and his defensive versatility is intriguing as he has the mobility and comfort level to defend on the perimeter and rotate back to guarding either the four or the five.
The Raptors are entering a transitional period and I’m certain that they will give their young forward some opportunities, while I certainly have my eyes on Boucher since it’s likely that he is Masai Ujiri’s next development project.
On the NBA Radar
Arnoldas Kulboka, F
8.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.0 assist and 0.8 steals on 41 percent shooting in 4 games and 19.3 minutes per contest
Kulboka, last year’s second-round pick by the Hornets, had a nice showing in Las Vegas, pushing himself into consideration for one of the last few remaining spots on Charlotte’s roster. He played in Germany last year, averaging 5.2 points in just 13.2 minutes per game and his development could very well take the next step if he moves over to US. Standing at 6’10”, he has great size and length and can shoot from anywhere on the floor and I don’t a reason why the Hornets wouldn’t want to bring him over.
Vlatko Cancar, Denver Nuggets, F
8.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.5 steals on 36 percent shooting in 4 games and 30.0 minutes per contest
The Slovenian forward showed great promise this year and the Nuggets rewarded him as they reportedly expect to sign him to a standard NBA contract for next season. Denver is loaded at the wing, but Cancar could add a few different elements that are missing from the current roster as he has a strong frame, he is a smart player and brings some much-needed defensive versatility. He is late bloomer that has developed into a capable shooter and even though he will struggle due to the lack of strength, I really like this addition for Denver.
Zhou Qi, Houston Rockets, C
9.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.8 blocks on 37 percent shooting in 5 games and 19.4 minutes per contest
Qi was a Summer League fan favorite a few summers ago and he looked good at times this year again while playing for Team China. He is reportedly looking to play in Europe next year which could help him develop his game even more as with him it’s not about the lack of skills but more about the lack of playing experience at a high level.
Thank you for reading this week’s article and please make sure to check Bruski’s 2019 Free Agency Tracker for all the transactions that have reshaped the league in recent weeks. Stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.