My primary motivation behind writing about International prospects last year was to set the record straight on Clint Capela, a player who I felt strongly that scouts had whiffed on. Watching Capela spell Dwight Howard as a rim protector and Harden’s pick-and-roll partner in the Playoffs has me feeling confident in my ability to evaluate European prospects on small slices of data. The only assessment that doesn’t look great a year later is that of Dante Exum, who I overrated based on his ability to score inside the arc against other teenagers. To keep myself from making a similar leap of faith this year, I’ve only included players with a significant minutes sample of pro ball.
Mario Hezonja has had an uneven career in terms of production and playing time that probably merits a more in-depth analysis. Overall, his cumulative stats combined with plus size and athleticism justify his hype as the top foreign prospect.
This year’s Clint Capela could be Bosnian SG/SF Nedim Buza, a player who is underrated for no apparent reason. Buza is 19 years old, has great size (6’8″) for his position, and rock solid stats playing against professionals. Like Capela, Buza flew under the radar at the Nike Hoop Summit, going 2-2 from 3PT range (his only attempts) in 13 minutes. He did appear to be overmatched athletically against guys like Alonzo Trier, which I have to assume is his biggest knock as a prospect. His questionable tools are the only thing keeping me from taking a crazy bullish stance on Buza, who I already have about 20 slots higher than DraftExpress. Clumped in with Buza in the 30-40 range are Cedi Osman and Timothe Luwawu, a pair of young 3&D prospects who are inefficient but scouts seem to like.
My other favorite from this group is Mateusz Ponitka. In the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit game, the then 17-year-old Polish phenom poured in 17 points against a Team USA backcourt featuring Bradley Beal. Whatever hype existed back then seems to have subsided, because Ponitka is on the outside looking in on mock drafts despite being a productive player overseas. Ponitka is the shortest and oldest of the group, but he has very good stats and appears to be an NBA athlete.
Ognjen Dobric is a deep sleeper, but he’s posted insane offensive efficiency and all of his YouTube highlights are dunks. I say he’s draftable.
While Kristaps Porzingis has plenty of intrigue as an athletic, floor spacing 7-footer, his consistently terrible rebounding rate does nothing to quell concerns about soft-ness. He’s worth a gamble in the lottery, but I maintain a bearish stance on Kristpas relative to the scouting consensus.
On the flip side of that is Arturas Gudaitis (pictured), a projected late-2nd rounder that I have on the fringes of round one. The 6’10” Lithuanian has a combination of scoring (19.9 PTS/40), efficiency (.626 TS%), rebounding (11.4 REB/40), and rim-protection (2.4 BLK/40) that is matched only by top center prospects like Karl Towns and Jahlil Okafor. Were he a few inches taller or a few years younger (AG will be 22 on draft night) I might have Gudaitis in the lottery. As it stands, he looks like an awesome second round value as a defender and pick-and-roll stud.
Aleksandar Vezenkov has a great age (19) and stats combo, but he doesn’t pass the eye test as an un-athletic tweener with a murky NBA role. Similarly, Mam Jaiteh has great stats but looks like a stiff. The last three guys are late-2nd round waivers. Anzejs Pasecniks is the sort of gamble I would make in the 50s: a 7’2” teenager who is a bit too confident in his 3PT stroke. Last and least is Nikola Milutinov, who if not for his reputation amongst more informed scouts (#37 on DraftExpress), wouldn’t be on my big board at all. Based on his stats and eye test it’s not apparent what he’s good at besides being 6’11”, and I feel confident calling him a dud.