This part of my 2014 NBA Draft preview focuses in on the promising crop of international players. For this study, I watched the 2014 Nike Hoops Summit game and the Australian Schools Championship Game, and used College Basketball-Reference’s nifty “Player Season Finder” tool to find NCAA-to-NBA precedents for this year’s foreign prospects.
1. Dante Exum – PG – Australia
Overall Rank: #2
NCAA Comp: Tyreke Evans +
A star-making performance at last summer’s FIBA U19 games catapulted Australian PG Dante Exum into the top five discussion and, while he is still very much a mystery box, all signs point towards “stud”.
|Derrick Rose (Fresh.)||.521||.337||.712||1.8||6.2||1.6||0.5||20.4|
|Larry Hughes (Fresh.)||.543||.188||.692||0.6||6.0||2.7||0.5||26.0|
|Tyreke Evans (Fresh.)||.514||.274||.711||1.1||7.4||2.9||1.0||23.6|
|Russell Westbrook (Soph.)||.497||.338||.713||1.7||4.6||1.9||0.2||15.1|
Dante’s stats were accumulated in FIBA play dating back to when he was 16, so take them with a grain of salt. However, between the stats and the film, I feel pretty comfortable concluding that he can score and that he is, in fact, a pure point guard.
(Check out the passing at 10:09, 25:06, 45:52, 55:00, 58:00, and 1:01:05)
Add that to certain undeniable plusses like youth, size, speed, and athleticism, and you are looking at a legitimate top three value. Even if he never improves his shooting, a glaring and legitimate weakness in his game, Exum still projects as a less turnover prone Tyreke Evans. I see him more as a taller Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose, which is why I assign him the second best odds in this draft pool (behind Joel Embiid) of blossoming into an NBA superstar.
2. Jusuf Nurkic – C – Bosnia
Overall Rank: #9
NCAA Comp: DeJuan Blair +
An international who is rising up the mock drafts is Bosnian big man Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic’s appeal as a prospect is pretty self-evident: He’s young, he’s huge, and he’s tearing up international competition.
|DeJuan Blair (Fresh.)||.537||.624||13.9||1.5||2.6||1.7||2.9||17.8|
Nurkic’s Per 40 stats are bloated because he was limited to only 15 mpg in the Adriatic league, likely due to foul trouble (9.0 PF/40!). Jusuf’s astronomical foul and turnover rates suggest that he may be a complete goon, but I’d like to believe that he is roughly DeJuan Blair good. Checking in at 280 pounds with a reported 23” max vertical leap, Nurkic is even a ground-bound brute like Blair. A 6’11” version of DeJuan Blair (a solid pro in his own right) figures to be a somewhat dominant player, and Nurkic should be a top ten pick given this level of upside.
3. Clint Capela – PF/C – Switzerland
Overall Rank: #11
NCAA Comp: Derrick Favors –
Clint Capela, a mobile 6’11” Swede, was the highest rated 2014 draft prospect to participate in this April’s Nike Hoop Summit. Following the game, the general consensus seemed to be that Capela had underwhelmed and likely hurt his chances of being a lottery pick. I saw things differently. Capela finished the game with 5 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 steal, 0 turnovers, and 4 fouls in 14 minutes; hardly a dominating performance. That said, Clint did a lot of value-adding things that don’t show up on the box score like running the floor, chasing down loose balls, and contesting shots. His positive impact was reinforced by the fact that the World team was +1 with him on the court and -12 with him off of it.
(Jump to 23:20, 26:00, 59:30, 1:01:06, 1:03:15, 1:07:37, and 1:16:10 to see CC doing all sorts of good stuff. Keep in mind that he was strapped with four fouls the entire 2H.)
Capela used his freakish wingspan to wreak havoc on defense and on the glass and, although his offensive touches were very few and far between, he made the most of them by being smart and decisive with the basketball. His sneaky skill level is supported by his French league stats, which compare closely to those of Derrick Favors, a consensus top five pick in 2010.
|Derrick Favors (Fresh.)||.613||.629||12.3||1.5||1.3||3.0||3.6||18.1|
Favors was physically stronger and a better shooter at the same stage, but they offer a similar package of rebounding, defense, and rim finishing. I don’t see any significant barriers preventing Capela from developing into a Favors-type player in the NBA.
4. Dario Saric – F – Croatia
Overall Rank: #12
NCAA Comp: Josh McRoberts +
The most hyped Euro in this year’s draft class is Dario Saric, a multi-talented 6’10” point forward in the mold of Hedo Turkoglu or fellow countrymen Toni Kukoc. Since tall, skillful players like Dario are more common in European ball, it was difficult to find him an appropriate NCAA comparison. One name that seems satisfactory is former Duke standout Josh McRoberts.
|Josh McRoberts (Soph.)||.523||.217||8.9||3.9||1.3||2.8||3.6||14.8|
After bouncing around five teams in eight NBA seasons, McBob was finally able to secure a full-time starting spot this season with the Bobcats. Given Saric’s superiority as a 3-pt shooter, and the importance of the three ball in today’s NBA, chances are that Saric will find starter’s minutes earlier in his career, thus making him worthy of lottery consideration.
5. Nikola Jokic – C – Serbia
Overall Rank: #23
NCAA Comp: Nick Collison
Serbian big man Nikola Jokic also participated in this year’s Hoop Summit and, while he didn’t stand out during the game, he reportedly looked like a lottery pick during the week’s practices and scrimmages.
|Nick Collison (Fresh.)||.502||.674||12.0||2.0||1.9||1.7||18.4|
What I like about Jokic is how closely he compares to Nick Collison, a former lottery pick who has provided excellent returns for the Seattle/OKC franchise. If I were to cherry pick a few stats from Collison’s sophomore year (.601 2P%, 10.0 REB, 3.2 AST), Jokic and Collison would be almost mirror images statistically. If Jokic can carve out a 10+ year NBA career like Collison, and I don’t see anything holding him back, he is most definitely worth a mid-late first round pick.
6. Damien Inglis – F – France
Overall Rank: #25
NCAA Comp: Ryan Gomes
Damien Inglis, who played alongside Capela in the Hoop Summit game, continues to be the most bafflingly underrated draft prospect, international or otherwise. Inglis is a 19-year-old with a LeBron-esque body (6’8”, 7’3” wingspan, 240 lbs.) and a high skill level. He has all the makings of an awesome role player in the NBA and, with proper development, could even be a borderline star type. He compares closely both statistically and physically to former 1st team All-American and (surprise, surprise) second round steal, Ryan Gomes.
|Ryan Gomes (Fresh.)||.567||.352*||9.9||2.0||1.7||0.8||2.8*||17.6|
I have Inglis slotted tentatively at #25 overall, though I could easily see him blowing teams away with his size and all-around skills in workouts and moving into the 15-20 range.