The European professional basketball season has officially started over the last couple of weeks, with national leagues beginning. Euroleague will starts October 15th, so it’s time to make an overview on the top international prospects potentially available for the next NBA draft. We have intentionally left out the players that are too young to declare this year or most likely won’t declare until 2017 (i.e. Hartenstein, Ntikilina, Zubac, Slavica, Arapovic).
Dragan Bender (’97, 7-0, PF, Croatia, Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Dragan Bender is definitely the frontrunner of the international crop available for the next NBA draft. His performance was decent at last Eurocamp considering his age, as he exploded the second day showing nice potential, with speed and scoring ability. We haven’t had the opportunity to watch him play at U19 WC due to the shameful argument related to the sponsorship (he’s under contract with adidas, Croatian NT wears Jordan Brand), but the hype is already sky high. After a year spent on loan in the Israel second division, he will play with Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, testing his skills at the highest European level. He has a rare combination of height, skills, mobility and athleticism, which makes him intriguing, similar to Kristaps Porzignis. Furthermore his style makes him more suitable for the NBA game than Dario Saric. It’s difficult to think he would be a lottery pick, unless his performance suffers.
Furkan Korkmaz (’97, 6-7, SG, Turkey, Efes Pielsen)
Consider 2014/2015 as the breakout season for Furkan Korkmaz, who played consistent minutes in Euroleague with Efes Pielsen, and shined in both the U19 world cup and in the U18 European championships, also being included in Turkish senior national team in Eurobasket. As a pure talent who can legitimately be considered as the heir to Hedo Turkoglu, a skilled backcourt player with tremendous size and balance. What impresses the most about him is his feel for the game and maturity compared to his age, showing a good offensive repertoire, both behind the three point line and in the painted area. He has flashes of high level athleticism, but at this point his body isn’t mature enough where he is able to make those types of plays consistently in the half court or in traffic. He also will likely have an important role this season with Efes, with consistent minutes in Euroleague, making him a legit lottery prospect.
Jonathan Jeanne (’97, 7-1, C France, Le Mans)
Jeanne is a player who would probably be best served staying in Europe for a few more seasons. Playing in French juniors this season, he’s still just a baby and needs a lot of time before he can be expected to contribute at the NBA level. Although one drawback of playing and developing in France is that the countries strength and conditioning is considered one of the worst. Like Ajinca and Gobert before him, strength is one of the key elements to his game transitioning to the NBA. He shows high level size, fluidity and athleticism at the center position, making him an intriguing prospect who teams may look to cherry pick from a draft’s future lottery with a mid to late first round selection. He has stated he will wait another season before tempting his fate in the draft, but when the time comes, teams may show enough interest to persuade him to jump.
Guerschon Yabusele (’95, 6-8, PF, France, Rouen)
Yabusele was definitely the breakout performer at the last Eurocamp, where he was playing with the France U20 national team. He confirmed that impression during the U20 European championships in Italy, even if he suffered of a muscular injury limiting his playing time. He has a huge body and amazing physical strength and explosiveness, which compensates for lack of height for his role. His hands are soft showing also great mobility and footwork. This year he’ll play in Rouen, where he averaged 4 pts and 4.6 rebounds in the first games of French ProA.
Zhou Qi (’96, 7-2, C, China, Xinjiang)
Coming off a career best performance helping China win the FIBA Asia 2015, Zhou Qi will have high expectations from around the world going into this years CBA season. He showed his talent and ability going up against former NBA players Hamed Haddadi and Andray Blatche, blocking their shots with ease, and leading his team to easy victories. No NBA team can ignore Zhou Qi anymore as he shows tremendous upside and talent rarely seen in Asia. At 7’2 with a 7’6 wingspan combined with good lateral movement and instincts as a shot blocker he is a nightmare for opponents at the rim. On the offensive end he’s shown a lot of versatility with good shooting touch and ability to put it on the floor and passing ability, he could be a quality 2-way player in the NBA one day. He has really proven himself in international competition and was a key factor in China’s undefeated championship run earning him a place in the All-Star 5 of the tournament. With his Xinjiang team re-signing Andray Blatche, adding Euro League star Andrew Goudelock, and numerous Chinese player signings, they go into the season with hopes of winning the championship. Zhou Qi will be a core piece of that team and will look to take on more responsibility this season. Having led the CBA with 3.3 blocks in 29 minutes last season, that number will only increase as he looks to take on more minutes. Also expect his other numbers to go up although he is not the primary option offensively. Shooting am incredible 70% from the floor shows how efficient he is without forcing bad shots. He might have disappointed NBA Personnel during the NIKE Summit, but after the FIBA Asia performance he has put himself onto the radar as a legitimate first round prospect even with questions about his age. -Lukas Peng
Egmen Guven (’96, 6-10, PF, Turkey, Pinar Karsiyaka)
After being nominated MVP of 2014 U18 championships, Guven started his first season with Pinar Karsiyaka strong, a team that ended up in winning the Turkish league. Nevertheless the team from Izimir appeared to hide his talent, benching him for the majority of the season. This summer Guven was craving minutes on the court, and he shined during the U19 world cup in Crete, confirming the impression given in 2014. As a 6-10 big man he has amazing passing skills from the post and mobility. He lacks elite athleticism, but with his skills and solid technical background he could become an effective post weapon if he develops his body. In addition, thanks to his mobility, he’s a good fit for the modern game, based on P&R. Hopefully he’ll have more playing time this season, in domestic and in Euroleague, necessary to gain experience and prove his potential.
Alexandar Vezenkov (’95, 6-9, PF, Bulgaria, FC Barcelona)
After a couple of seasons as a dominator in the Greek first division Vezenkov moved to a powerhouse, before trying to go overseas. The rise in the level of competition faced has impacted the effectiveness of the Bulgarian talent, who’s going to face a crucial season for his NBA chances. With his game style really similar to Mirza Teletovic, he’s a mature, polished player, ideal for a structured context in the late second round.
Moussa Diagne (’94, 6-10, C, Senegal, FC Barcelona)
Moussa Diagne flirted with being a second round pick during last season, playing solid minutes with Fuenlabrada before pulling out before the deadline. This year he becomes automatically eligible, after the transfer to the powerhouse of FC Barcelona. This might limit his minutes on the court, but it will increase the level of competition faced, especially at the Euroleague level and during training. For a player who bases his game on his amazing mobility and physical skills, working on his fundamentals with elite coaches and teammates, especially on his role (i.e. Ante Tomic) will be fundamental.
Timothe Luwawu (’95, 6-7, SG, France, Mega Vizura)
Luwawu moved from the French second division team of Antibes to a solid ABA league team, which will help him to showcase his skills and to face a higher level of competition. As a 6-7 SG, he has perfect size for the role at the elite level, even if he still has to work on his upper body to better withstand contact. He has a quick first step and a solid handle which allows him to create from off the dribble with a great variety of finishes. He’s a good spot up shooter, a versatile potential 3-and-D player, even if he has to improve his mechanics, giving a better spin to the trajectory of his shot. He averaged 17 pts and 4 rbs in the first games of the season in ABA league.
Diego Flaccadori (’96, 6-4 , PG, Italy, Trento)
After a solid summer with Italian youth national teams and his great performance at the 2015 adidas Eurocamp, Flaccadori starts this season as a realistic candidate for a second round pick. He will have the opportunity to play almost 20 minutes per game as a backup point guard in one of the emerging teams of Italian basketball. His performances will be under scrutiny of several NBA scouts, who have expressed interests on him, as a legit NBA prospect thanks to his combination of skills, size and wingspan. He averaged 3 points in 14 minutes over the first games of 2015/2016 season.
Rade Zagorac (’95, 6-8, SG, Serbia, Mega Vizura)
Rade Zagorac has been really consistent during last season, both in ABA League and during U20 European championship, elevating his status as a legit NBA prospect. His combination of size and skills, with the ability to change speed and direction to create the space for the shot compensate the lack of explosiveness and quickness. He broke his arm in the first game of the season and he’ll likely miss next three months.
Juan Hernangomez (’95, 6-9, SF/PF, Spain, Estudiantes)
Juancho Hernangome might be the only Spanish name to be called in the following couple of years, despite some names having received greater hype in recent years. As a 6-9 PF, he’s currently in the transition process to SF, having the necessary mobility and shooting skills, but still lacks the handle to create from off the dribble as a backcourt player. He’s really quick running the floor, making him very effective in transition, also showing tremendous instincts as an offensive rebounder thanks to his instincts and sense of position. He has to work on his body since he lacks the strength and the post game necessary to play in the paint. He had 3 pts and 7 rebounds in his first game of the season in ACB league.