There have been top heavy classes in the past. There have been deep classes. This year’s class is definitely interesting. It’s actually deeper than most people think, lacks star power, since the most intriguing player is also the one with the most question marks. With that said, there are actually a dozen international players who have legitimate chance to hear their name coming draft day, which says a lot considering the fact that it is a really a loaded draft class.
1. Ousmane Dieng (2003, 6-10, G/F, New Zealand Breakers)
There aren’t many international prospects over the last few years that have had a bigger roller coaster ride than Ousmane Dieng had this season. The French prospect was considered a lottery level talent before the season even started.Two months into the season though, it became doubtful that he could even declare for this year’s NBA Draft. His play was lackluster to say the least. But then something changed in the middle of the season. Dieng adapted. His role expanded, and he began to flourish, looking like a first rounder – and even a late lottery pick to some scouts.
Dieng is a unique player. A 6-10 wing, who started his career as a point guard, but somehow didn’t lose any of his coordination after a late growth spurt. He has all the necessary tools to become a new era playmaking wing, a player who could play 1-4 (when his body fills out) and can facilitate Pick and Rolls, can create his own shot and help with his versatility on defense. With that said, he is far from a finished prospect on both ends of the floor, he is really inconsistent and at times he lacks confidence. For him to reach his potential, there are some key things that are needed: A structured environment with playing time and patience.
2. Nikola Jovic (2003, 6-10, F, Mega Mozzart)
The Serbian prospect is probably the most heavily scouted player of this class, thanks to his performances in FIBA’s and Adidas Next Generation junior tournaments. Everyone expected him to have a big role for Mega Mozzart this season, since he was the best prospect on a team that traditionally promotes its top prospects in any way possible during their draft season. Truth to be told, he actually justified the hype, having a solid season as a teenager at a solid level league.
Jovic is an all around combo forward with great size and sneaky athleticism. He has 3-level scoring potential (he is not there yet), he likes to play through contact and wants to punish mismatches in the post. But what makes him stand out is his passing instincts and his ability to read plays at an advanced level for his age. There are question marks about Jovic. He might be a tweener in a bad way on defense. He is more of a streaky shooter for now, but he is still intriguing.
3. Ismael Kamagate (2001, 6-11, C, Paris Basketball)
It took Ismael Kamagate almost 3 years, but he finally looks like the player everyone envisioned him to be when he was first introduced to the public (scouting) eye. The French prospect had to overcome some hurdles, since at the beginning of his career he was by far a better athlete than a basketball player. This season he managed to put everything together playing in the French League and he established himself as the best big of this International class.
Kamagate is a typical long, athletic center. A rim runner who loves to play the Pick and Roll (although he doesn’t always set great screens), wants to dunk everything and he is a playmaker’s dream in alley oops, While he has shown some flashes as a mid-range shooter, It’s what can do on the defensive end that really makes him intriguing, since he already is a good rim protector thanks to his size, athleticism and length and has shown some promise when guarding the perimeter. Kamagate is still pretty raw on the offensive end and his lack of experience shows on the defensive end. Nevertheless, he has established himself as the best big in this year’s International class.
4. Khalifa Diop (2002, 6-11, C, Gran Canaria)
The center from Senegal didn’t exactly have a breakout season as many would have hoped. However, he still had some good moments and a steady role in a competitive League (ACB), playing within his role.
Diop is a mobile big, with an NBA body. He runs the floor well and he can be used in Pick and Roll situations with good results, while he has solid footwork in the post and crashes the offensive boards. Defensively, he looked better in drop or hedge coverages in Pick and Rolls. Diop isn’t an elite athlete, he is still raw offensively and is just a decent rim protector with average lateral quickness. But his strengths will possibly help him get drafted in the second round.
5. Hugo Besson (2001, 6-5, G, New Zealand Breakers)
The French prospect followed the recent’ trend regarding NBA prospects deciding to play in NBL for the New Zealand Breakers. It’s safe to say that it looks like he made the right decision, since he was able to demonstrate his talents, having a solid season in a League with a good level of competitiveness .
Besson is a microwave type scorer. A combo guard with the ability to score in a variety of ways, being at his best with the ball in his hands. His fearless approach is one that stands out. He hasn’t found a shot he doesn’t like, while at the same time he has shown some flashes as a secondary creator. He is kind of undersized to play as a shooting guard on the next level and he is not a true point guard. He should improve as a shooter in Spot Up situations. But the talent is there.
6. Karlo Matkovic (2001, 6-10, C, Mega Mozzart)
The Croatian prospect had a breakout season with Mega Mozzart, puting his name in the conversation for the second round this season. And rightfully so, since he was the second most productive big of this year’s International class after Kamagate. There was never really much hype surrounding him, but the truth is that he had turned some heads since last season – when he was backing up Filip Petrusev and Marko Simonovic – before he exploded this season.
Matkovic is an athletic center with a soft touch around the basket. He is a rim runner, he can play the Pick and Roll at a good level, has shown potential as a passer in Short Rolls and he is a rim protector, while at the same time he has shown some glimpses as a shooter from mid-range. Matkovic isn’t the most talented player that has been grown up with Mega Mozzart, but he has some interest and he could be a second rounder
7. Gabriele Procida (2002, 6-6, G/F, Fortitudo Bologna)
The Italian prospect made quite an impression last season, creating some buzz, before deciding to withdraw his name at the last moment. One year later, the buzz is still there, albeit not so… loud as it was last season. This doesn’t change the fact that he still has some fans after a second solid season in a row in the competitive Italian League.
Procida projects to be a 3-and-D wing. An above average athlete with solid length, who can Spot Up and do some Catch and Drive plays, who moves well without the ball and can be a steady defender. He is not an elite athlete and has some problems creating his own shot or engaging in Pick and Roll actions as the ball handler, but not everything is for everyone. Procida could hear his name in the second round.
8. Yannick Nzosa (2003, 7-0, C, Unicaja)
There was some ridiculous hype early on as some projected him in the top 5 for this draft before the season. But he was always clearly too far away to get behind that level of hype. Being one of the youngest players in this year’s draft class (he listed as born in 15 November of 2003) is probably one of the few things that Yannick Nzosa can use to his advantage, since he had an underwhelming season to say the least, struggling to find playing time and a role in his team. There were a lot of scouts waiting to watch him play at the senior level this season, but Nzosa didn’t manage to justify the preseason buzz around him, making it a surprise that he actually kept his name this season.
When it comes to Nzosa, everything has to do with potential. The Congolese prospect is a lefty center with great size, length and athleticism. He is a strong dunker, he can play some Pick and Roll plays, he crashes the boards and has potential as a rim protector. But he is raw, his basketball I.Q needs work and hasn’t really had enough playing time in his career. It’s really difficult to ignore his potential though, despite the red flags surrounding his name. He might be two years away from being ready. But some teams are intrigued by him. He has a chance to get drafted in the second round and either be a Draft and Stash candidate, or spend a lot of time in the G-League, working on his game, since he might be worth the wait.
9. Matteo Spagnolo (2003, 6-4, G, Vanoli Cremona)
The Italian guard is probably ahead of schedule. Regarded as one of the best guards of his generation in Europe, Spagnolo made the big decision last summer, when he chose to play on loan in Cremona, since he realized that there wasn’t any room for him on a loaded Real Madrid. That proved to be a wise decision, since he had all the playing time he could handle playing in the Italian League and he had a solid season, which put him in the conversation for this season’s NBA Draft as a potential Draft and Stash candidate.
Spagnolo is a scoring guard. A playmaker with good size, who can shoot off the dribble, but can also be used off the ball, since he is a good shooter. He still has ways to go as a facilitator and his lack of elite athleticism hurts him on both ends of the floor. However, all these don’t change the fact that he has enough fans around scouts to hear his name called this season.
10. Ziga Samar (2001, 6-6, G, Fuenlabrada)
The Slovenian prospect has been on the NBA Radar for quite some time thanks to his showing in FIBA’s Junior level games. As time has passed, teams seemed to forget about him. This season however changed everything, since he had a more than solid season in arguably the second best International League after the EuroLeague.
Samar is a 6-6 point guard with a high basketball I.Q. A floor general, who can play the Pick and Roll at a very good level and can make difficult passes with his nice court vision, while he keeps his turnovers low. What made the difference this season was the fact that he shot in the high 40% from the 3-point line, when shooting was supposed to be his weakness. If his shooting isn’t a fluke – and it has to be noted that he didn’t really shoot too many threes this season – he could become a really interesting player.
Ibou Diako Badji (2002, 7-1, C, Lleida) is a freak of nature. One of the most intimidating players due to his great length, a 7-1 center with a 7-8 wingspan and freaky athleticism. But he failed to make an impression in Spain’s 2nd Division and looks like he hasn’t added anything new to his game since the days he was a teenager. He could still hear his name though if a team wants to take a gamble on him.
Yoan Makoundou (2000, 6-9, F/C, Cholet) is auto-eligible. The French prospect is an athletic forward/center, who expanded his shooting range this season, going all the way to the 3-point line, albeit in a small sample. He is still raw, but is intriguing with his length and explosiveness.
Gui Santos (2002, 6-6, G/F, Minas) is an all around wing with nice size and length. He had a solid season in the Brazilian League and has some hype around him thanks to his fearless approach to the game on both ends of the floor.
Luke Travers (2001, 6-9, F, Perth) is a jack of all trades kind of player. An all around combo forward with a blue collar mentality, who has also been used as a secondary playmaker, with some versatility on the defensive end, but an average shooter and athlete.
Pavel Savkov (2002, 6-8, G/F, Baskonia) surprised a lot of people by keeping his name in despite having two more years of eligibility. He had a solid season in Spain’s 2nd Division with Baskonia’s second team, showcasing his ability to shoot the ball as a big wing, showing some problems when he had to create for his teammates.