Player of the Month
Clint Capela (6’10”, PF, 1994, Switzerland, Chalon)
Capela has become the hottest International name since 2014 began, with his draft stock rising exponentially. Over the past 5 games he has averaged 12.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in French ProA, with a season high of 21 points and 9 rebounds in the last game against Roanne. Capela is an elite level athlete, even by NBA standards. He is 6’10” with a 7’4” wingspan and excellent leaping ability (33 inch vertical) along with solid speed for a big man. In fact, there are occasions during which he outruns backcourt players during the transition game. Furthermore his quickness makes him really effective in pick and roll situations.
His main shortcoming is his lack of a jump shot, both from a range and mechanics standpoint. His offensive opportunities are based on P&R cuts, offensive rebounds or in transition, where he often finishes with powerful dunks (40% of his baskets). He could be seen as a long-term project, as he has a lot of work to do in order to build a reliable low post game. He should add at least 20 pounds of muscle in order to better deal with contact. His footwork also is in need of improvement.
Regardless, his ceiling is considerable and he has shown some intriguing glimpses playing on the Swiss national team, displaying a soft hook shot with both hands. On defense, he’s already a factor, especially as a help-defender where he exploits his length and explosiveness to contest shots. Still, he’s not yet able to contest traditional big men in low post, often being outmuscled. If he makes some of these technical improvements, we could see him in the first round of this year's draft. Capela is also a likely participant in the Nike Hoop Summit.
Bogdan Bogdanovic (6’6”, PG/SG, 1992, Serbia, Partizan Belgrade)
Bogdanovic has been constantly improving. He is seen as the “glue guy” for Partizan’s offensive system due to his versatility, physical power and passing ability. With the injury of Leo Westermann he made another step forward, carrying on his shoulders most of the offensive burden of his team. He’s averaging 19.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists in Euroleague top 16, with a high of 27 points against CSKA Moscow. He also had a great performance in ABA league against Cibona, where he had 32 points and 5 assists. During the past month, he has shown improvement on his jumper, particularly off of the dribble. Look for him to be a possibility as a mid-to-late second round pick.
Dario Saric (6’10”, PF, 1994, Croatia, Cibona)
The pros and cons of Saric are well known among scouts. His versatility and skills are limited by the lack of speed and a defined role. His evolution as an NBA player depends on the development of a consistent shot, particularly from three-point range. Over the past 5 games, his shooting seems to have taken a significant step forward. Saric averaged almost 21 points per game over this period. Even so, his long-range shot remains inconsistent, plus there are still questions about his translation as a “point forward”.
Jusuf Nurkic (6’10”, C, 1994, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cedevita Zagreb)
Nurkic is likely to declare for the 2014 NBA draft, as his status as a possible late first rounder is gaining steam among scouts and insiders. There are some attitude concerns; he tends to lose control arguing with referees and opponents. This has at times cut into his minutes. What is really intriguing is his mix of physical and technical potential. There are few big men with his combination of size, skill, strength and mobility. When you combine this with his basketball IQ, one can see the upside in this young prospect. He has also been performing well, averaging 11.5 ppg and 5.4 rpg in only 16 mpg.
Rasmus Larsen (7’0”, C, 1994, Denmark, Manresa)
His performance in the first round of ACB is now a distant memory. Since then, he has trailed off significantly. The Danish prospect has shown definite frustration during this lapse, as well. Talent wise, he is one of the top young players in Europe, though the consistency of his effort is rather disappointing. Watching him last January in Manresa, after a couple of actions during which he showed his considerable skillset, Larsen pretty much disappeared. At this point in time, it is difficult to consider him a legitimate NBA prospect. He’s averaging 7 points and 5 rebounds in ACB, but the numbers have been dropping.
Alessandro Gentile (6’6”, SF, 1992, Italy, AJ Milano)
Despite improving his shooting percentage from 3-point range (31% thus far in Legabasket), Gentile is still not major long-range threat. His shot selection and mechanics both leave room for concern. This past summer he played well in a structured context, with Italian senior national team. This was probably due to the chemistry created by coach Simone Pianigiani. Through the first part of this season, however, he has played mostly in ISO situations, exploiting his physical strength to create space for a shot. This reflects on his 2-point percentage, which has dropped to below 50%. Furthermore, attitude issues are still a red flag. Gentile still loses his temper quite often, as well as showing bad body language with referees and opponents. He is averaging 10.2 ppg and 3.5 rpg in Italian first division, with 10.8 ppg and 2.3 rpg in the Euroleague.
Mario Hezonja (6’6”, SG, 1995, Croatia, Barcelona)
Hezonja is without a doubt the best international prospect in terms of the 2015 NBA draft. However, he is right now probably going through the most difficult time in his young career. He is only averaging 9 mpg for Barcelona in the ACB, without any real consistency in terms of playing time. On a team with older and more established wings, space for him is limited, often coming during garbage time. This is not at all an ideal situation for a player in desperate need of facing higher-level competition. One way to solve this issue would be sending him to another ACB team on loan. They have done this with Marcus Eriksson, who has been able to log valuable minutes. Doing the same with Hezonja would really help him development his shot selection and overall game comprehension.
Under the Radar
Kristaps Porzingis (7’0”, PF, 1995, Latvia, Cajasol Seville)
Porzingis had a breakout season last year, when he was included on the NIJT L’Hospitalet All-Tournament team and received similar honors at the European U18 Championships for Latvia (with 11.6 ppg and 10 rpg during the U18). This season, he has been playing on a regular basis with Cajasol’s senior team and is in their rotation (almost 15 mpg). He is a legitimate 7-footer with a great combination of explosiveness and mobility. He has great ball skills for his size and prefers to play on the wing. His ability to put the ball on the floor makes a mismatch with players his own size and on top of that, he has range on his shot. There is room for improvement on the offensive end, where he could stand to rely some reliable post moves. On the defensive end, he has great timing as a shot blocker. The next step is bulking up in order to battle on the boards. Right now older, stronger opponents still outmuscle him. With the height of a center (if not the strength quite yet), and almost guard like movement, some scouts see a taller Andrei Kirilenko as a possible comparison. He is averaging 5.1 points and only 2.4 rebounds thus far in ACB, though expect him to be an international frontrunner for 2015 NBA draft.
Ilimane Diop (6’11”, C, 1995, Spain, Laboral Kutxa Vitoria)
For the season, he is averaging 4 ppg and 2 rpg in 8 mpg in ACB, with 2.4 ppg and 2.4 rpg in Euroleague. He is showing improvement and when called to play more against Euroleague power Olympiacos, he finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds in 19 minutes. His trademarks are a massive wingspan and great mobility for his height. Also possesses above average footwork for his size, along with noticeable agility. This makes him really effective in the pick and roll, as he is able to exploit the defense with his speed after the screen. Beyond this, he still is a project offensively. His shot is still inconsistent and he definitely needs more strength, awareness in the post. Defensively he stands out as an already apt intimidator due to his length as a shot blocker, particularly in the middle of a zone. Diop is definitely one of the most intriguing international prospects in terms of the next few drafts. With the injury of Lamont Hamilton, who shall be sidelined for 4-6 weeks, this will give him even more of a chance to get consistent playing time. Great time to monitor this young big man.