The 2017 draft class is considered really talented. Making things even better, this year’s potentially eligible International prospects are also strong, with players such as France’s Frank Ntilikina and Germany’s Isaiah Hartenstein leading the way.
1. Frank Ntilikina (1998, 6-5, PG, France)
The French prospect has emerged as the top international players of his generation. Ntilikina possesses excellent size and length for his position, which is combined with good – but not elite – athleticism. What’s really impressive with him though is his basketball IQ and maturity. Ntilikina is a true point guard, with great court vision, who loves to set up his teammates with his passes, to the degree that he can be considered too unselfish at times! But this doesn’t mean that he can’t score when he needs to. He is really good in one on one situations – but it’s obvious that he really likes to go right – and can play the pick and roll at a high level thanks to his nice touch around the basket – although he lacks consistency with his shot at the moment – and the ability to pass the ball to the rolling big. On defense, his amazing wingspan (close to 7 feet) and quick feet causes a lot of trouble for his opponents, but his thin frame (he barely weights 180 lbs) hurts him against strong guards.
2. Isaiah Hartenstein (1998, 6-11, PF, Germany)
There are a lot of scouts who have fallen in love with the lefty forward. And for good reason. Hartenstein is – on paper – a prototype forward. He has elite size and wingspan for his position, above average athleticism, plays with a high motor and, above all, he can really play! The German prospect can post up his opponents, shoot from mid-range and even score an occasional 3-pointer, he attacks closeouts and he really likes to finish strong at the basket. At the same time, he is already a great passer, has impressive ball handling for his size and he can even start the break. But this doesn’t mean that he is perfect. He still isn’t a consistent shooter, he drives almost exclusively to his left, his decision making is very questionable at times and he has problems against physical opponents since he lacks upper body strength. On defense, his long arms and athleticism help him be a good shot-blocker, but his pick and roll defense needs a lot of work. At the end of the day, the positives outweigh the negatives, since none of his weaknesses are things that can’t be addressed through work.
3. Kostja Mushidi (1998, 6-5, SG, Germany)
The first thing that stands out about Mushidi is the fact that he has a grown man’s body. He is really strong for his age and has dominated at the junior level with his power and speed. He is a great athlete with length, but the truth is that for the moment is a better athlete than a basketball player and he has to improve his basketball IQ. He is really good on ISO situations thanks to his quick first step and ability to score off the dribble. He also loves contact and is a great finisher at the rim. He is not a consistent shooter though and his decision making needs a lot of work. What’s really impressive with him is that he loves to play defense, taking advantage of his elite physical tools to harass his opponent by using his great lateral quickness, big wingspan and strong body, although at times he is out of control and looks for the highlight play on defense, which can put pressure on his team.
4. Rodions Kurucs (1998, 6-9, SF, Latvia)
Another intriguing prospect with lottery-pick upside. Rodions Kurucs had his share of injuries last year, but he is healthy now and ready to prove to everyone that he remains one of the best players of his generation among the International prospects. The Latvian forward is a high energy all around small forward, who excels on offense. He has an explosive first step, has the ability to put the ball on the floor thanks to his great ball handling, can play above the rim and can score from the perimeter. Since his return to action last spring, he was able to show his improvement in areas where he seemed to have problems in the past, like shooting off the dribble, which is a sign of a hard worker. With that said, he still lacks consistency on his 3-point shooting and he suffers from tunnel vision when he drives to the basket, because he is too keen to finish the play himself.
5. Jonathan Jeanne (1997, 7-1, C, France)
This year looks like… “Make or break” for the French center. Jeanne is a guy with a lot of potential, but he has to turn some of that potential into production this year if he doesn’t want to be considered as stalled. He has elite size and length for his position, can run the floor exceptionally well for a player his size and can already be viewed as a very good rim protector. He is still a work in progress on offense, but his feel of the game has improved the last couple of months. It’s essential for him though to bulk up considerably if he wants to play at the next level. Scouts still project him as a guy who could end up the first round in the next draft and there are many who suggest that he could even have been drafted in the first round of the 2016 draft, despite the fact that – for the time being – he is far from being considered NBA ready.
Keep an eye on…
Nik Slavica (1997, 6-8, SG/SF, Croatia), Felipe dos Anjos (1998, 7-2, C, Brazil), Borisa Simanic (98, 6-10, SF/PF, Serbia), Diego Flaccadori (1996, 6-4, PG/SG, Italy), Vasileios Charalampopoulos (1997, 6-9, SF/PF, Greece) and Michael Fusek (1995, 7-5, C, Slovak Republic) are among the players that will have a lot of eyes on them this year.
Slavica is a modern Shooting guard with ideal size and an excellent athlete, who excels in transition and has “3-and-D” potential. Felipe Dos Anjos impressed everyone in Berlin at the “Adidas Next Generation Tournament” with his improvement. He is a mobile big, with great coordination for his size and a nice touch around the basket. Simanic is a talented combo forward, who has dominated at the Junior level with his ability to score the ball in many ways and it is believed that he will have the chance to be a member of the rotation at the senior level with his team, Crvena Zvezda. Flaccadori is a left handed combo guard with solid athleticism and ability to create his own shot. Charalampopoulos is a left handed all around forward whose role in his team (Panathinaikos) is supposed to be expanded for a 3rd year in a row and this summer managed to be a member of his National team at the senior level. Fusek is an intense competitor who is auto-eligible for this year’s draft. His size, length and surprisingly solid mobility and athleticism, combined with his potential as a rim protector has prompted a lot of scouts put his name in their lists.