This year’s International class is probably one of the weirdest in recent memory. Although it includes a once in a generation talent and some players that have been scouted heavily since a very young age, there is a considerable drop off in talent after one, mainly because a lot prospects decided to withdraw at the last minute, making next year’s international class a lot deeper. The truth is that after last year’s weak class, that saw just 10 international players getting drafted, it’s likely to see a similarly low output and possibly less internationals players picked in this year’s NBA Draft. With that said, here is the list of Top 10 International prospects for this year’s NBA Draft.
1. Luka Doncic (99′, 6-8, SG/SF, Slovenia, Real Madrid)
He has been the center of attention since Day 1 of the 2017/18 season. Luka Doncic knew from the beginning of the season that everyone had their eyes on him and didn’t once stop to catch his breath. Instead, he had a memorable season where he became the youngest player ever to earn EuroLeague MVP, EuroLeague Final Four MVP and ACB MVP honors! Those awards were just the tip of the iceberg for the Slovenian prospect, who impressed scouts all season long with his mature game, amazing court vision, scoring ability and fearless play. Of course he is not perfect and there are some question marks regarding his athleticism, ability to be effective against elite athletes and defensive limitations, but there is no doubt that Doncic is the best prospect Europe has ever produced.
2. Elie Okobo (97′, 6-2, PG, France, Pau Ortez)
The definition of a late bloomer. Okobo was considered a second rounder at best when the season started. As the season progressed though the same happened with his game and now there is a chance for him to hear his name in the first round! The French prospect is a really intriguing prospect. He is a very good athlete who can create for himself and his teammates, has good passing instincts and has the body and the motor to become a two-way player. He definitely is still a work in progress, but his upside makes him interesting.
3. Dzanan Musa (99′, SG/SF, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cedevita)
Outside of Doncic, Musa is by far the most productive player of his generation and probably one of the best players Europe has ever seen at junior level. He is a great scorer, with scouts always wondering whether his game would translate to the next level. The truth is that the Bosnian prospect has really showed that he can be productive at any level. At just 18 years old, he had a great season at the senior level with Cedevita, earning “EuroCup Rising Star” and “Aba League Top Prospect” honors. Musa was always a scorer and he will always be a scorer, but this year showed that he can do other stuff on the floor when he is motivated. He is still incosistent at times, needs to work on his shot selection and work on his body, but the talent is there and that’s more than obvious.
4. Issuf Sanon (99′, 6-4, PG/SG, Ukraine, Petrol Olimpija)
Most scouts didn’t even know who Issuf Sanon was until a year ago. That changed in FIBA’s U18 2017 Euroropen Championship, where the Ukranian prospect blew everyone away with his fearless game and wild playing style. Sanon doesn’t back down to anyone, loves every challenge that comes in front of him and plays with his foot on the gas all the time. His electrifying nature and ability to score in bunches makes him really interesting for NBA teams. If he is able to adjust to the point guard position, cut down on turnovers and improve as a shooter, he can become a good NBA player.
5. Rodions Kurucs (98′, 6-9, SF, Latvia, Barcelona)
It has been a disastrous season for Rodions Kurucs, who never managed to crack the rotation of Barcelona. The Latvian prospect couldn’t even find consistent playing time with Barcelona’s second team for reasons unknown. With that said, he still remains a player the scouts have an eye on. His combination of size, versatility, length and scoring ability seem to fit perfectly in modern basketball and there are probably a lot of teams intrigued by him. The truth is that Kurucs hasn’t really been tested at the senior level and he has a bad injury history, but he can be a high risk/high reward player for a team in the second round.
6. Isaac Bonga (99′, 6-9, PG/SG, Germany, Fraport Frankfurt)
Another player of this year’s International class that has been heavily scouted from young age. Isaac Bonga show comparisons to even Giannis Antetokounmpo come way to early for him, but the dust settled down kind of abruptly. The German prospect seems like he is punished because he is actually playing and the scouts can watch his flaws, which is kind of unfair. Bonga is a really long point guard, who will probably become a nice point forward in the future. He is way too willing to pass at times, he is a bad shooter, he looks passive, doesn’t take over games and looks like he leaves a lot to be desired. That doesn’t change the fact though that he is a versatile player with playmaking ability who can fill up the stat sheet and has all the tools to become a great defender. And it’s all these things that make him so intriguing.
7. Arnoldas Kulboka (98′, 6-11, SF, Lithuania, Capo D’Orlando)
Kulboka finally had the chance to play at the senior level with the competitive Italian League, taking full advantage of the opportunity. The Lithuanian prospect was named “Best Young Player of the Season” in Basketball Champions League and had some really good games along the way. His calling card is still his shooting, but this year looked more willing to mix it up, even playing as a Stretch-4 thanks to the fact that he gained almost 15 pounds during the season. Kulboka was always on the radar of NBA teams and the fact that he kept his name in the draft probably says a lot.
8. Billy Preston (97′, 6-10, PF, USA, Igokea)
Since he played 3 games in Bosnia with Igokea after leaving Kansas, Billy Preston is considered an International player. The former 5 star recruit practically lost a whole year because of everything that happened after the single car accident he had at the beginning of the season on KU campus. Preston probably hopes that his showing in the workouts he had with almost half the NBA teams and his performances at High-School and in KU practices – where he showed that he can shoot fairly well from the perimeter, rebound at a good level and finish strong around the basket – will be enough to hear his name called.
9. Tryggvi Hlinason (97′, 7-1, C, Iceland, Valencia)
Tryggvi Hlinason has one of the most unique stories anyone has ever heard. Started playing organized basketball at 16 years old, the center from Iceland managed to make a lot of noise last summer when he had a strong showing at FIBA’s U20 European Championship. His perfomances lead Valencia to offer him a contract, only to leave him on the bench for a full year, since he was far from ready to play at EuroLeague level. Interestingly enough, Hlinason decided to keep his name in the draft, hoping that his combination of size, athleticism and fast learning will be enough to get picked in the second round. It remains to be seen if this was the right call.
10. Cyrille Eliezer-Vanerot (96′, 6-8, SF, France, Paris-Levallois Basket)
Cyrille Eliezer-Vanerot was included in this list instead of Marc Garcia or Aleksa Ilic, winning his competition at… the buzzer. The truth is that it is really difficult to imagine the French prospect getting picked in this year’s draft after the season he had. That doesn’t mean though that this is not possible to happen. Eliezer-Vanerot is a great defender with amazing wingspan (measured at 7-foot-2) that checks a lot of boxes in the “3-and-D” category. He can’t really create his own shot and his 3-point percentage made a huge dive this season and those are probably the reasons his stock has fallen. With that said, it’s still possible for a team pick him late in the second round.