Top 3 International Prospects in NBA Draft

Steve O Speak

By Guest Blogger Howard Ticker:

In my whole life as a huge NBA fan, I have never been high on drafting international players in the NBA Draft in the top 10 picks. Sometimes it is too risky to see if their game can transition well to the NBA with the different rules overseas. Some of course go straight from their country to the draft and have successful careers like Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Yao Ming (China), Andrea Bargnani (Italy), Manu Ginobili (Argentina), and Pau Gasol (Spain) to name a few. Some also don’t pan out and a prime example of that Darko Milicic who was drafted 2nd overall in the 2003 NBA Draft behind only Lebron James and right before Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade (went picks 3, 4, and 5 respectively). I think it is best for them to come from overseas, play a season or two of college to get use to the game, and then declare when they are ready. It seems too many of these international players become “projects” and play overseas a few seasons or in the developmental league and are throw in players in trades. Some players have successfully came from their countries, played in college, declared and went on to have great careers like, Tim Duncan (Wake Forest and was born in the Virgin Islands), Steve Nash (Santa Clara University and was born in South Africa), and Andre Bogut (Utah and was born in Australia) to name a few.

However, this season there are 3 international players who I believe can be drafted in the top 10 of this year’s draft and be solid contributors to their team their rookie seasons. I will list them starting at 3.

3) Jan Vesely 6’11”, 240 lbs, Czech Republic, Small Forward/Power Forward:

Vesely has crazy length and leaping ability who scouts say is an outstanding hustle player and defender as a forward. With these skills he should be able to guard his man on the perimeter or in the post. He has a very good fundamentally sound shooting stoke, so he can knock down the open jump shot. Also, with his athleticism, he can take it to the rim with power. He is a great rebounder because of his athleticism and length. He does however need to put on some muscle to be a bigger body in the paint, and work on some post moves to take advantage of smaller defenders while they are guarding him. I believe he is an intriguing talent who has a lot of potential and upside who can be a solid role player this season because of his hustle. Many believe his game is similar to an Andrei Kirilenko and I believe he can go anywhere from pick 5-10

2) Jonas Valanciunas, 6’11”, 240 lbs, Lithuania, Power Forward/Center:

Many people believe he may be the top international prospect in this draft. But although he is very intriguing, he also has question marks. He has length and size and is developing his skills now. He has the potential to play like a Pau Gasol but with a lack of work ethic he could easily be a bust. It will take him time to grow into his body and develop strength but I feel like with his current skills and work during the summer, can make an impact his rookie season. He is mobile in the post with great length. He also has a solid basketball IQ. He needs to be tougher and develop his skills in the post game. He doesn’t have a solid face up jumper but is a great free throw shooter with a solid shooting stroke. Once his midrange game improves he will be able to really extend the defense. Once he gets down playing solid with his back to the basket with skill instead of just his size advantage then he could be a great offensive weapon in the post game. He is a great rebounder and is a solid defender who can change shots in the lane. This may sound like he can be a project that I was talking about earlier, but when I was watching his highlights I truly believe with his skill set, he can play and be a solid role player this season, and a great player down the line. Based on his potential he is worth taking around pick 5.

1)Enes Kanter, 6’11”, 260 lbs, Turkey, Power Forward/ Center:

He wouldn’t be on this list if he wasn’t declared ineligible by the NCAA when he was ready to play for Kentucky this past season. He played for the Turkish national team and professional leagues. He is an extremely skilled post player with many impressive moves around the basket with his back to the basket or face up. He is a very strong rebounder with his length and strength. He is still a teenager and has very high basketball IQ and skill. He isn’t the most mobile or athletic player but with his talent and production from where he played previous seasons really puts him on the top of this list. I think in a few seasons he can be a 20 point and 10 rebound player. I think he can go as early as pick 3 behind Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams depending on if Utah wants to go with Brandon Knight at pick 3 (who ironically would have been his teammate this season at Kentucky. He will have a great NBA career in my opinion and would be shocked if he isn’t taken in the top 5.

International Players who also deserve mention:

Bismack Biyambo, 6’9”, 240 lbs, Congo, Power Forward

Donatas Motiejunas, 7’, 225 lbs, Lithuania, Power Forward/ Center

I believe both of these guys could go in the late lottery and top 20 at the latest.


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