Player of the Month
Elie Okobo (97′, 6-3, PG, France, Pau Ortez)
To say to someone that Okobo’s stock has been on the rise lately would be an understatement. The French prospect has seen his role expand considerably over the past couple of months and has really snatched the opportunity. His team has given him room for growth and the chance to shine and Okobo has flourished, having some amazing games, especially on the offensive end of the floor. His ability to score has always been his calling guard along with his court vision and he has the chance to show that to everybody at a high level. He is still more of a combo guard and not a point guard and must improve upon his level of his concentration. But he is looking more and more like a bonafide NBA prospect.
Luka Doncic (99′, 6-7, PG/SG, Slovenia, Real Madrid)
The truth is that Luka Doncic had been just solid recently by his standards before he got injured, but that’s the price he has to pay for being considered the best International prospect of the last couple years. The Slovenian prospect has set the bar higher than any other European player, so when he fails to play to that level he gets criticized, and that really isn’t fair. Everybody knows what he can bring to the table and before anyone criticizes him, let’s keep in mind that Doncic has played non-stop since September of 2016 (!) and still has managed to put himself in the conversation for this year’s EuroLeague regular season MVP. Oh, and he’s only 19 years old.
Dzanan Musa (99′, 6-9, SG/SF, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cedevita)
The Bosnian prospect has been steady all season long. After Doncic, he has probably been the most heavily scouted player of his generation in Europe, but that doesn’t seem to bother him. And the fact that he was named Aba League’s Top prospect and was voted to the All-League First team is the proof. His shot wasn’t falling the last couple of games, but he still managed to find ways to be productive and efficient in other aspects of the game. Musa has always been a scorer and always will be a scorer, but the fact that he proved this season that he is willing to do other things on the floor is very promising for his future. If he manages to become a steady shooter, then it’s certain that a lot of teams will show interest in him.
Goga Bitadze (99′, 6-11, C, Georgia, Mega Bemax)
He’s had more ups than downs all season and last month wasn’t different. Goga Bitadge has played very solid all season long. He had a great month with some very good games, showing that he found his rhythm. He even tried to shoot some more 3-point shots, looking willing to expand his range, which is really important nowadays. The Georgian prospect is a mix between an old-school and a new generation center. If he manages to become the latter, then he can have a solid career.
Laurynas Birutis (97′, 7-1, C, Lithuania, Siauliai)
He has been a beast in Lithuanian League all season long. Laurynas Birutis has made some strides in his game this season, taking full advantage of the opportunity. He has been a force in the paint and the last couple of months were probably the best of his career at the senior level. Although it’s difficult not to take in consideration the fact that the level of competition in the Lithuanian League is pretty low, that doesn’t change the fact that Birutis has been very good all season long and he has been even better the last couple of months.
Isaac Bonga (99′, 6-9, PG/SG, Germany, Fraport Frankfurt)
An injury (broken rib) slowed down Isaac Bonga the past couple weeks, but hasn’t really changed the perspective on him. The German prospect is one of the most intriguing International players for this draft, with his play making ability, length and upside already having been mentioned numerous times, although everyone acknowledges that he is still raw. The truth is that before his injury he was having a solid season at a really competitive German League and he was even invited to his senior National team for the World Cup Qualifiers, which shows a lot about the expectations for him. As things stand right now, if he manages to have a nice showing after his return from injury, he can see his stock rising once again.
Arnoldas Kulboka (98′, 6-9, SF, Lithuania, Capo D’Orlando)
Inconsistency remains Kulboka’s biggest problem. The Lithuanian prospect is really talented and can shoot with the best of them. But as long as he remains inconsistent, there will be doubters. Truth to be told, this was actually his first season at a high level and he was forced to play for a team experiencing a lot of ups and downs. At the end of the day, Kulboka has already proved that he is a great shooter and it’s up to him to show something more before the end of the season so that he can improve his stock leading into this year’s draft.
Amine Noua (97′, 6-8, France, ASVEL Basket)
Amine Noua has taken a huge leap this year both in his productivity and game. With his playing time going up considerably, he has more than doubled his numbers in almost every category. More importantly, he has shown a willingness to expand his range, shooting more 3-pointers than ever this season in his effort to become a Stretch-4. With that said, he’s had a lot of his ups and downs this season, with the last couple of months being no different. He is still undersized for a power forward and hasn’t become a consistent threat from the perimeter yet. The tools are there though to help him take the next step in his development.
Vasileios Charalampopoulos (97′, 6-9, SF/PF, Greece, PAOK)
The clock is ticking for the MVP of FIBA’s U20 Championship. Afte a slow start because of an injury, the Greek prospect managed slowly to find his rhythm. This past month has been really solid, playing at both forward positions but he still looks a little rusty at times. Charalampopoulos has failed to impress the scouts with his improvement this season, but he has almost two months to show everyone that he can become a solid player in the near future. After all, he is still a good scorer, with a great feel for the game and a very high basketball I.Q.
Martynas Echodas (97′, 6-9, PF/C, Lithuania, Lietuvos Ritas)
He has been one of the most efficient bigs all season long and last month was no exception. Martynas Echodas managed to demonstrate once again glimpses of his potential, producing near double-doubles on a consistent basis. His basketball I.Q. and ability to be productive in any situation are his calling cards, but he remains a tweener with mediocre athleticism and no range, areas that limit his NBA potential.
LiAngelo Ball (98′, 6-6, SG, USA, Vytautas)
It’s really difficult to talk about LiAngelo Ball without making any reference to what lead him play in Europe. At the end of the day though, he has to be judged as a prospect. The last two months, Ball has been playing hoops in Lithuania and has been solid. He has shown that he can score the ball , shooting at 40% from the 3-point line, but in reality it’s difficult not to criticize, as he frequently is… he’s trigger happy and plays with complete freedom at a very fast pace in a low level League, which gives him the opportunity to have good, but somewhat meaningless scoring numbers. What’s really worrisome is that he still has the same flaws that he had before going overseas, since he can’t really create his own shot, remains a streaky shooter and an inconsistent defender who doesn’t really do anything at a high level at this point other than shoot the ball.
Vanja Marinkovic (97′, 6-7, SG, Serbia, Partizan)
Coming back from injury, Marinkovic really struggled and couldn’t find any rhythm, having some really bad games. The Serbian prospect started the season strong but as the games were progressing, he slowed down. His ability to shoot from everywhere on the floor still makes him intriguing, but the fact that he wasn’t able to show a lot of improvement in other areas of his game has hurt his stock.
Rodions Kurucs (98′, 6-8, SF, Latvia, Barcelona)
It has been a disastrous season for Rodions Kurucs. The Latvian prospect hasn’t been able to find consistent playing time or a role, because Barcelona has had him going up and down between the first and second team all season long. The same thing happened last month, with Kurucs playing sparingly at best. His talent is undeniable, but since he isn’t playing, scouts can’t really watch him and judge him. It’s really difficult not to think that Kurucs just lost a season of development this year.
Tadas Sedekerskis (98′, 6-9, SF, Lithuania, Nevezis)
He left Baskonia to go on loan in his country to find playing time. The problem is that, thus far, he has failed to impress. In reality, he had some poor performances with a lot of ups and downs. Tadas Sedekerskis is considered one of the best players of his generation in Lithuania with an all around game but he hasn’t really been able to show anything more than just glimpses of his talent until now, which probably makes it difficult for him to declare for this year’s draft.
Abdoulaye N'Doye (98′, 6-7, PG, France, Cholet)
Playing time is inconsistent and the same applies for N’Doye’s productivity this season. The French prospect was supposed to take the leap this year but that hasn’t happened yet. Playing for a struggling team with experienced players in front of him, N’Doye has failed to be anything more than a back up guard with defensive assignments and limited opportunities on offense. He is still just 20 years old with a high ceiling, which intrigues scouts, but if he doesn’t finish strong the season then it’s really difficult to imagine him getting drafted this year.
Kostja Mushidi (98′, 6-5, SG, Germany, Mega Bemax)
The German prospect hasn’t played a game since January because of an injury. The truth is that Mushidi has struggled to stay healthy all year long, which makes it even more difficult to judge him and see if he has improved. If nothing changes, he will really have to impress in NBA work outs if he wants to see his stock rise again.