It was well known from the beginning of the season that this year’s International class lacked any prospects of Luka Doncic’s caliber, which was confirmed during the season. Despite there being no Doncic’s this year, in reality this year’s class has more depth than last year’s class. There is a strong possibility that the 2019 NBA Draft will feature more International players than last year, when only 7 International players were picked. Having that in mind, here is the list of Top 10 International prospects for this year’s NBA Draft.
1. Sekou Doumbouya (00, 6-9, SF/PF, France, Limoges)
NBA teams waited patiently for almost two years to have the chance to watch Sekou Doumbouya at a high level, so that they can evaluate him accordingly. They finally had the chance to do so this year, although the truth is that they still didn’t really watch him as much as they would have wanted. An injury at the beginning of the season and some in and outs in the rotation of his team made it difficult for some teams to evaluate him. Here is what we know: The Guinea born Doumbouya is the most talented international player in this year’s NBA Draft. He is still raw and far from ready, but his upside is difficult to ignore. He has all the necessary tools to become a great two-way player in the future, thanks to his athleticism, versatility and defensive potential. If he manages to become a consistent shooter – and his shooting mechanics and workout drills he has taken part suggest that he can become a consistent shooter – there will be a lot of teams that could regret passing on him in this year’s NBA Draft. he is probably more dependant on a good fit than your average prospect. It remains to be seen whether the teams at the lottery will be hesitant to select a player with an enormous upside (on paper) because they might be afraid that he won’t meet the high expectations that everybody has on him for years.
2. Goga Bitadze (99′, 6-11, C, Georgia, Buducnost/Mega Bemax)
There isn’t a single international player who managed to improve his stock this season more than Goga Bitadze. In last year’s NBA Draft, the Georgian center was considered a late first rounder to early second rounder. Following a great season at the highest level in Europe and a changing mindset in the NBA about the center position (not everybody can play with undersized bigs for long stretches after all), Goga Bitadze can get drafted in the 12-25 range. Starting – and finishing – the season in Mega Bemax, Bitadze demolished everyone in the Aba League. In between, he spent almost half the season in Buducnost, demonstrating his abilities in the EuroLeague, where he held his ground against elite competition. The Georgian center was really productive at every level. He has an inside and out game, expanding his range all the way up to 3-point live, he can play the Pick and Roll and the Pick and Pop. At the same time he is a rim protector and he really showed improvement guarding the Pick and Roll. He still has his flaws, since he is an inconsistent shooter, foul prone and can have problems in a switch-everything defense. But he definitely showed that he is ready to take the next step.
3. Luka Samanic (00′, 6-11, PF, Croatia, Petrol Olimjia)
Luka Samanic’s stock has been all over Draft boards this season, going from a mid first rounder to mid-second rounder after a disappointing start, before settling in the late 20’s currently. That’s probably a good position for a player who has just one year of professional experience and possesses high upside, but also some question marks. The Croatian forward is an extremely talented player, who – on paper – can do just about everything on the floor, at least on the offensive end. He can become a modern Stretch-4 who can put the ball on the floor and cause a lot of problems. At the same time, his questionable motor and inconsistency have been holding him back all season long. If he manages to find a way to erase that concern, he could be a contributing player.
4. Adam Mokoka (98′, 6-5, SG, France, Mega Bemax)
A freakishly athletic combo guard, who for years was considered a far better athlete than a
basketball player, Mokoka really improved this year. The truth is that he would probably have gotten drafted if he had kept his name last year, but he probably didn’t feel ready at the time. After a season when he had plenty of playing time – and a lot of NBA scouts watching him thanks to the fact that he was on the same team with Bitadze – the French guard gained a lot of traction. Mokoka managed to polish his game. Having the ball in his hands more as a secondary playmaker for his team, he can now read the game better and he is not just another great athlete who drives to the basket all the time. His athleticism and elite defensive potential remains his calling card of course, but it’s the fact that he improved in other areas of the game that make him look like a future NBA player. Mokoka still has his flaws. He must improve his decision making, become a better passer and a more consistent shooter. But he certainly raised his stock this season.
5. Joshua Obiesie (00′, 6-6, PG/SG, Germany, s. Oliver Wurzburg)
Joshua Obiesie had some eyes on him after his showing in Adidas Next Generation Tournament in 2018, but nobody expected what happened this year. The German prospect was considered a prospect for the 2020 NBA Draft at best, but suddenly everything changed after January. Receiving plenty of playing time in s. Oliver Wurzburg, Obiesie impressed everyone with his mature approach to the game. The lefty combo guard has great size for his position, excels on the open floor, and is already a very good passer who can play the Pick and Roll and is unselfish by nature, while showing signs of being a good shooter in spot up situations. It has to be noted of course that he is an average athlete by NBA standards, who can’t really create his own shot and for now and is limited in half-court situations. Despite his flaws though, it’s apparent that he has NBA potential.
6. Deividas Sirvydis (00′, 6-8, SF, Lithuania, BC Rytas)
The Lithuanian prospect isn’t ready to play at the NBA level and surprised a lot of people when he decided to keep his name in considering that he has 3 more years of eligibility. The fact that he didn’t withdraw his name could probably mean that he has a second round promise and felt comfortable enough to stay in this year’s NBA Draft. Sirvydis has been one of the few teenagers in Europe this season that had consistent playing time at a high level, playing in the Lithuanian League and EuroLeague’s EuroCup. The truth is that he had his ups and downs all season long, but that’s something to be expected due to his age. His combination of size, high basketball I.Q and elite shooting put him on the NBA radar the last couple of years and all those things were demonstrated on the floor this season. At the same time, everyone could also see the lefty forward struggling on the defensive end while guarding on the perimeter and also having an inconsistent season regarding his shooting, which is supposed to be his biggest weapon. The later though might be disregarded some by NBA scouts, since they could take in consideration the fact that this was just his first season at a high level, with fatigue playing probably a big factor on his low percentages. Sirvydis is considered a possible late second rounder at this point.
7. Brian Bowen (98′;, 6-7, SF, USA, Sydney Kings)
Brian Bowen’s path has been full of obstacles. There is no point reminding everyone what happened and forced him to lose a full year of basketball before deciding to sign with Sydney Kings and play in the NBL. What can be said is that he didn’t exactly impress in the Oceania League. Playing as a reserve, Bowen failed to make a difference for his team, which of course makes sense considering his basketball… sabbatical and the fact he had to go against grown men. It was really difficult for teams to evaluate Bowen, but there are still scouts who are intrigued by his size, length (6-10 wingspan) and his ability to score the ball in almost any situation. All those teams will surely take into consideration his lack of elite athleticism and strength, which combined with his inconsistency and age (he will turn 21 years old in October) could make his upside appear more limited than it was two years ago, but even with that in mind, he could get drafted in the second round.
8. Alen Smailagic (00′, 6-10, PF/C, Serbia, Santa Cruz Warriors – G-League)
The Serbian forward/center chose a different path before this year’s NBA Draft. Having little to no exposure because he played for a semi-professional team in the 3rd-tier Serbian Regional League (Beko), Smailagic decided to play in the G-League and his decision definitely looks like in panned out just great. Playing at a high level for the first time in his career, the Serbian prospect showed a lot of promise as a versatile big, holding his ground against players who aim to play in the NBA. His fearless approach and skill set on the offensive end are impressive for a player of his age and experience level, his shooting mechanics are very good and he has nice body control. He sure has his flaws, especially on the defensive end, due to his lack of lateral quickness and length, but his performances in the G-League could earn him a position in the second round, with the Warriors said to be enamored with him.
9. Yovel Zoosman (98′, 6-6, SF, Israel, Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Yovel Zoosman is an other player who has been on the NBA radar for years, thanks to his
performances at FIBA Championships at the Junior level. The scouts love his length (measured with a 7-1 feet wingspan), versatility, ability to knock down shots and fearless approach of the game. But he does have his flaws, with just average athleticism (for the NBA level) and inability to create his own shot at the next level being his greatest shortcomings. His overall skill set, versatility and approach to the game are probably going to be enough for him to get drafted at the end of the second round, but if he wants to play in the NBA he must work on his flaws.
10. Marcos Louzanda Silva (99′, 6-5, SG/SF, Brasil, Franca)
Coming from Brazil where he played at a lower level League, Marcos “Didi” Louzanda Silva created some hype with his shooting performances in practices at in the 2019 Hoop Summit. The Brazilian prospect is an interesting player, with 3-and-D potential. He has solid size for a shooting guard, plays with energy and has already a shooting range going all the way to the 3-point line. “Didi” isn’t an elite athlete, but he plays the game at his own pace and makes good reads. He has some limitations on the offensive end, since he can’t really create his own shot and needs to be more focused on defense, but his mix of shooting, size and energy could lead a team to pick him in the second round.