Theo Maledon (6-5, 2001, PG, France, ASVEL)
France has the tradition producing NBA point guards and Theo Maledon looks like he is the next in line. Although he is not as highly acclaimed as Hayes and Avdijia, Maledon is actually more ready than the other two, since he already is receiving consistent playing time at the senior level with encouraging results. The French project is not flashy. He plays the game at his own pace, can control the tempo and generally looks like he makes the right decisions. With a resilient approach on both ends of the floor and an above average wingspan of 6-8, he can really be a good two-way player at the next level. He is already well above average on Pick and Roll situations, a great passer and a good enough shooter to spread the floor and at the same time is a consistent on the ball defender. He lacks elite explosiveness, has problems creating his shot and at times makes you want to see more from him, but he is just 18 years old.
Killian Hayes (6-5, 2001, PG/SG, France, Cholet)
The French prospect is an early bloomer who took everyone by storm two years ago and since then there is a lot of hype around him. And rightfully so. The lefty combo guard is one of the best athletes of his generation in Europe, but he can’t be considered explosive by NBA standards. He has a quick enough first step to give him an advantage, can change speeds with ease and he is a good leaper. What makes him stand out though is his ability to make decisions on the fly. He can shoot off the bounce and has the ability to see the floor, his passing instincts (altough flashy at times) and defensive upside make him as intriging as anyone. His incosistent shot from the perimeter could limit him some at the next level, but his mechanics suggest that this problems is fixable.
Deni Avdija (6-9, 2001, SF, Israel, Maccabi)
Probably the most skilled international prospect of this age group. Deni Avdija is the definition of a point forward. His court vision is uncanny, with Luka Doncic being the only player the last couple of years at this size with a better ability to see the floor, which speaks volumes. That’s the main reason that there are already have been some comparisons between the two players, but the similarites end there. Avdija is very interesting. He can shoot, he can play the Pick and Roll and has demolished players a year older than him in FIBA Tournaments. But to compare him with the best international prospect of the last 20 years (or maybe ever) wouldn’t be fair for him. He is far from a finished project, with his athleticism, ball handling with his weak (left) hand and finish around the basket needing a lot of polishing. But he definetly is a player to keep an eye on.
Amar Sylla (6-9, 2001, PF, Cameroon, Real Madrid)
The Real Madrid prospect is still raw, but he is a player with an intriguing upside. Already a great athlete, with Stretch-4 potential, Amar Sylla looks like the prototypical big of the future. The lefty forward can rebound the ball, play the Pick and Roll and hold his ground when he defends perimeter player on switches. Al those things apply when his motor is there. But the truth is that his motor isn’t always there, with inconsistency being probably his biggest area of concern. Sylla should be able to dominate all the time against his age group. Instead, there are times that he seems to lack concentration and falls in love with his shot, eliminating the things that make him special. If he manages to fix these issues, he can become an interesting player.
Malcolm Cazalon (6-5, 2001, SG, France, Bourg)
The third member of the amazing French backourt along with Hayes and Maledon is no third wheel. Cazalon is one of the most explosive athletes of his generation in Europe, if not the most explosive. He has an excellent, lean body, an amazing wingspan (measured at almost 7 feet) and is a fluid athlete who can play above the rim and score at will. His basketball I.Q. isn’t at the level of his two peers and is the one that plays more on insinct, which leads to insosistency and questionable decision making. But the talent is there.
Tom Digbeu (6-5, 2001, SG/SF, France, Barcelona)
If Cazalon isn’t the best athlete of his generaton in Europe, then probably Tom Digbeu is. The son of former basketball player Alain Digbeu plays with a lot of energy and can become an high level player thanks to his ability to play in transition and do a little bit of everything. The truth though is that he hasn’t improved as much as you would expect. He likes to have the ball in his hands and go all the way to the basket, but he suffers from tunnel vision and at the same time his shooting needs a lot of work. Digbeu has a lot of work to do and must improve in just about everything, but his ceiling is as high as anyone’s in the 2001 class.
Franz Wagner (6-7, 2001, SG/SF, Germany, Alba Berlin)
The brother of Moritz Wagner has all the necessary tools to become a good 3-and-D player in the future. Already a member of the rotation of a respected club in Europe (Alba Berlin), Franz Wagner has already competed at a high level. His shooting release is slow but effective and he can attack closeouts, although he is limited to straight line drives for now. The key for him to improve his stock is to convince everyone that he can be at least a consistent defender on the perimeter. If he manages to do that, then he can develop into a quality role player.
Aleksej Pokusevski (6-11, 2001, SF/PF, Serbia, Olympiacos)
The Serbian prospect will become 18 years old on 26 December, so he is practically a 2002 player, which is one of the most intriguing things with him. What’s even more intriguing is that his skillset is that of a perimeter player, since he has been used as a wing player and a faciliator in his team (Olympiacos). Pokusevski is far from ready. His motor comes and goes, he really needs to bulk up his body and can be considered an average athlete at best for now. But his feel for the game, his shooting and ability to protect the rim have turned a lot of heads in his direction.