Who’s Hot

Josh Giddey (02, 6-8. G, Adelaide 36ers)

The Australian prospect has drawn a great deal of interest, and that was the case even before the season started. Which makes sense considering 6-foot-8 point guards with elite court vision don’t come too often. Watching him shine in the NBL, one can understand why scouts are extremely high on him, but he’s clearly an unfinished product.

As a 6-8 point guard, Giddey is more of a facilitator than a scorer. He is actually too unselfish at times and can become too focused on passing instead of searching for his shot. His court vision though is special. He can pass with either hand and knows how to get all of his teammates involved, and at the same time he is starting to look more for his shot.

He is shooting just 40.8% from the floor (30.2% on 3s) and under 70% on free throws with shaky shooting mechanics, which makes him reluctant to shoot the ball, a la Ben Simmons. There will certainly be teams that feel they can work with him and reconstruct his shot. But for now, it remains a real concern regarding his NBA scoring ability and long term potential. With that being  said, at some point Giddey’s all around skill set and potential as a facilitator at the next level is just too good to pass up.

Alperen Sengun (02′, 6-10, C, Besiktas)

Almost 6 months into the season, one thing is for certain: Alperen Sengun is no fluke. Having played almost 30 games, the Turkish teenager is averaging almost 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in one of the stronger Leagues in Europe. He is one of the most productive bigs in Europe and actually one of the most productive teenagers in European Basketball in years.

Sengun might not pass the eye test at first and he sure has some clear limitations because of his average athleticism. But everything changes when he walks on the floor. Sengun is a great roller in Pick and Roll situations, has a very good Post Up game with great footwork, is a beast on the offensive boards and draws fouls like a magnet. All the while shooting almost 80% from the free throw line. Post Up bigs seem like an afterthought in this era, but Sengun is way more than that and despite his limitations, he is too productive to be ignored. Even if he plays for a young team that has made it obvious that it wants to showcase him.

Filip Petrusev (00′, 6-11, C, Mega Soccerbet)

The moment that Filip Petrusev decided to leave Gonzaga and join Mega Soccerbet, everyone knew what would follow. Several months later, Petrusev has been as dominant as everyone expected him to be, shining brighter than any other player in Mega in the past, which says a lot considering that the list of former players includes Jokic, Zubac and Bitadze.

It’s understandable that a lot of scouts are cautious with Petrusev because he plays for a team that wants to showcase the abilities of its top draft eligible players. Still, it’s more than obvious that Petrusev has been great all season long, having the chance to show his great feel for the game, touch around the basket, shooting range (that extends all the way to the 3-point line this season) and a much better motor than he showed at Gonzaga.

Juhann Begarin (02′, 6-5, PG/SG, Paris)

A combo guard with NBA athleticism, Juhann Begarin is still a better athlete than a basketball player, but he is getting there, having two-way potential. Playing in the French 2nd Division, he is having a productive season as he is being used on and off the ball, since he spends a lot of time as a shooting guard.

Begarin has made strides since last season. He has improved as a shooter in Spot Up situations (but he still needs to work on his Jump Shot), he knows how to use his athleticism in ISO situations, he loves to go hard to the basket and finish plays and has shown glimpses in Pull Up situations while he is a great on ball defender. He still has a long ways to go as a playmaker though in about every situation (reading the game, Pick and Roll) and must improve his assist/turnover ratio.

Rokas Jokubaitis (00′, 6-3, PG, Zalgiris)

The lefty guard has been part of the rotation in Zalgiris from the beginning of the season, looking very comfortable in his role. Playing for a blue collar team, Jokubatitis has earned every minute of his playing time, looking once again like an NBA prospect.

The Lithuanian prospect is a creative point guard with good size and length, who can play the Pick and Roll, has nice court vision and is not afraid to attack the basket. What’s encouraging though is that his Spot Up shooting looks improved (despite being in a small sample size) which can be the difference maker for his stock.

Roko Prkacin (02′, 6-9, SF/PF, Cibona)

A heavily scouted prospect, Roko Prkacin has been solid (though not spectacular) and productive all year long, being one of the main guys in Cibona, including some great games against quality opponents.

Prkacin is built like a tank. He is a combo forward with decent (but not elite) athleticism who attacks the basket, has a great feel for the game and is a natural born leader. His inconsistent jumpshot though and the thought that he might be a tweener, in a negative way, are the major concerns.

Usman Garuba (02′, 6-8, F/C, Real Madrid)

It’s doubtful if there has been a player in this year’s class more heavily scouted than Usman Garuba. Being in the spotlight since 2018, Garuba has been on just about everyone’s notepad since he dominated players one year older than him in FIBA’s youth tournaments. His transition to the senior level has always been a question mark mainly because of his underdeveloped offensive skill set. Watching him this season, anyone can understand why some have their doubts.

Playing for one of the most established teams in European basketball, a team that is actually struggling this year because of injuries, Garuba has had more downs than ups. The Spanish prospect has been used mostly as a power forward next to former NBAer Walter Tavares, which has exposed his limitations on the offensive end of the floor, since he can’t space the floor and mostly scores on put backs, Pick and Rolls or cuts to the basket. On the flip side though, his defensive versatility and potential and ability to guard multiple positions has always been his true calling card and is a skill that has translated at senior level.

With all that said, Garuba is still a player to keep an eye on. A hyperactive big, full of energy, who can defend, run the floor like crazy and make at least one “how did he do that” play in every game.

Ariel Hukporti (02′, 7-1, C, Nevezis)

Having one of the most intimidating physical imposing profiles for a teenager, Ariel Hukporti definitely passes the eye test. His numbers in low level Lithuanian League though are just alright (roughly 10 points and 7 rebounds in 22 minutes), mainly because of one major red flag: He is shooting just 39.8% from the field and 47% in the paint, which is not exactly what you would expect from a player with his size and athletic ability.

With all that said, the lefty forward/center is still really young and this is just his first season with a consistent role at a good level. Hukporti is big, long and a very good athlete, a strong dunker, who has shown potential in Pick and Roll situations and is also a good rebounder and a rim protector. His potential is undeniable and it has to be noted most of the time bigs mature at a slower rate than perimeter players.

Carlos Alocen (00′, 6-5, PG, Real Madrid)

Being part of Real Madrid senior squad is no easy task and Carlos Alocen has learned this the hard way. After being “thrown to the wolves”, Alocen has had his moments thus far, but generally has been inconsistent, since it has been an up and down season for the Spanish club.

Still, the Spanish prospect remains an interesting prospect. He has great size for his position, he is a true point guard who can play the Pick and Roll at a high level, he is a very good passer and an active defender. His shooting remains his biggest flaw and limits him for now, but if he manages to improve in that area he can take his game on an other level.

Ismael Kamagate (01′, 6-11, C, Paris Basketball)

Raw but full of potential, Ismael Kamagate is having a solid season in French 2nd League, in his just second season with consistent playing time.
Kamagate is huge. Has great size,  an amazing wingspan and is an above average athlete. He is fairly limited on the offensive end, viewed mostly as a rim runner and a lob target, since his Post Up game is pretty average, while also being a rim protector and a very good rebounder, things that could convince a team to pick him late in the second round in this year’s draft.

Nikita Mikhailovsky (00′, 6-7, SF, Avtodor)

Inconsistency remains the biggest problem for the Russian prospect, but the truth is that he is having a very solid season in a competitive VTB League. And he certainly looks a lot better than he did a year ago, when some thought he had hit a plateau.

Shooting has always been the most translatable skill for Mikhailovsky at the next level. What’s encouraging though is that this season he has been used more as a facilitator. The results are still mixed in that regard, but Mikhailovsky has shown real promise in FIBA’s Youth Tournaments as a secondary creator and if he manages to add that skill to his arsenal and become something more than just a shooter, he could become a really interesting prospect.

Vrenz Bleijenbergh (00′, 6-10, F, Antwerp)

After two underwhelming seasons, Vrenz Bleijenbergh looks like he has figured things out. Considered one of the most skilled players of his generation in Europe, the combo forward from Belgium has shown flashes of his talent, looking comfortable on the floor as a Spot Up shooter with secondary playmaker responsibilities.

Bleijenbergh is definitely one of the most interesting prospects of his class. A 6-10 wing, who can put the ball on the floor, looking comfortable in Pick and Roll situations as the ball handler and can shoot from the perimeter. If he manages to put all the pieces together – which is something that he hasn’t done yet – he could become a really special player.

Malcolm Cazalon (01′, 6-6, SG/SF, Mega Soccerbet)

After a catastrophic season in Belgium, Cazalon is showing signs of life playing for a team that for years now has been a factory that produces future NBAers, having an OK season.

Known mostly as a scorer with a shaky jumper who does most of his damage in transition thanks to his elite athleticism, the lefty wing has shown improvement as a shooter in Spot Up situations, shooting above 40% in 3’s. The sample size is still pretty small, since he takes just 2.5 3’s per game, but if he manages to keep this up, then it is reasonable to think that a team could be intrigued. Considering the fact that this year’s class is really strong though, he probably will have to wait for another year before he declares for the NBA Draft, hoping that in one year – including a strong 2021/22 season – things will look better for him.

Gabriele Procida (02′, 6-5, SG, Cantu)

Having consistent playing time at the senior level for the first time in his career, the Italian prospect has a good season playing in a competitive League, showing some promise as 3 – and – D wing.

Procida is an athletic and long wing, who does more of his damage in Spot Up and Catch and Drive situations, while he is moving very good without the ball in his hands. Playmaking isn’t there yet and he can turnover prone, but he sure has potential.

Mert Akay (00′, 6-6, PG, Dynamic BG Beograd)

A true floor general, Mert Akay has been thriving this season, being one of the most productive players of this year’s class. It’s not easy to find 20 year old point guards with his size who average almost 15 points and 10 assists a game, looking like a walking triple-double, even in a low level League like Serbian League, The fact that he is doing all these in Serbia though is the main reason he is still flying under the radar.

Akay is an old school playmaker. He is great in Pick and Roll situations, he loves to run on the open floor (which of course can be said for just about every teenager) and knows how to take advantage of his size. But he does all these in a low level League and he still shoots below 30% on 3’s, which makes it difficult for him to get noticed.

Who’s Cold

Mojave King (02′, 6-5, SG, Cairns Taipans)

Being viewed as a player with NBA potential, Mojave King has been underwhelming this season. Playing for a team with many veterans, King has been a part of the rotation, but he hasn’t really had the chance to show what he do on the floor, struggling for the most part this season.

King is a guard with good size, a strong frame and nice length. But his limited role and the fact he is shooting just 27.9% from the 3-point line – when shooting is supposed to be his calling card – don’t really help his stock. If he continues like this, it will probably be better for him to wait a year before declaring for the NBA Draft.

Amar Sylla (01′, 6-9, F, Oostende)

2020/21 has been a disappointing season for Amar Sylla. The combo forward from Senegal has been just OK in a Belgium League with average competition, a League that generally can help players with Sylla’s skillset to flourish and showcase their skills. It’s safe to say though that this is not the case for him.

Sylla is being used a lot as a Power forward and being asked to space the floor, move without the ball and play some Pick and Roll as the screener. The fact that he shoots just 12% from the 3-point line (FIBA’s 3-point line) surely doesn’t help his cause, despite some promise in Pick and Roll situations. Sylla is still raw on the offensive end and lacks fundamentals. He is a great athlete, he has great potential on defense and has some good flashes on offense. But as things stand now, his stock has plummeted.

Tom Digbeu (01′, 6-6, G, Prienai)

After a great start, Tom Digbeu kind of crashed to Earth as the season progressed, having many ups and downs, which has basically always been the problem with him. The French prospect can be the best player on the floor at one moment and look completely lost a few minutes later, which can be frustrating, although it should always be kept in mind that he is just 20 years old.

Digbeu is an ambidextrous wing with great size and athleticism. He can become a “Jack of all trades” wing, an all around player who can score, pass, rebound and play defense. He has all the tools to become a very good player. He just needs to find a way to put it all together with consistency.

Arturs Zagars (00′, 6-3, PG, Joventut)

Coming off of an injury plagued season, Zagars was out of the rotation on his team. And when things seemed to be finally getting better – since he was about to go on loan – a new injury sidelined him, making things even worse.

The Latvian prospect has been on the NBA radar for at least two years, considered by scouts as the best point guard of his generation in Europe. A true Pick and Roll maestro, with a fearless approach, who can score, drive, pass and do just about everything. But after a second consecutive underwhelming season for a variety of reasons, his stock has never been lower.

Giorgos Kalaitzakis (99′, 6-7, G, Panathinaikos)

Struggling and searching for playing time. The phrase sums up the season thus far for Giorgos Kalaitzakis, who after a good season in Lithuania with Nevezis where he played on loan for Panathinaikos, returned to Greece and hasn’t been able to find consistent playing time.

The Clock is ticking for the Greek prospect, who once was considered one of the most intriguing guards of his generation in Europe, but the fact that he has practically only one full season under his belt (last season with Nevezis, which was cut short because of COVID-19) doesn’t work in his favor.

Kalaitzakis has an interesting skillset. He is long, he can play all perimeter positions, he can score off the dribble, he can create for his teammates and has the tools to become a good defender.


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