In my previous post, I gave some background on my “DMX” draft metric and looked at the top NCAA prospects. The goal of integrating international prospects into DMX was to estimate how they would have performed in NCAA by establishing the relative strength of schedule for the multitude of overseas leagues. This method has its flaws, some that I will get into, but overall I am satisfied with where it ranks internationals among their NCAA counterparts. In the interest of making this read-able, I will hone in specifically on the prospects listed on DraftExpress’ most recent mock draft.
There is a lot to like about Hartenstein (pictured), an athletic, teenaged 7-footer who can shoot threes, rebound, block shots, and pass. Isaiah’s biggest weakness is that he is an over-aggressive goon, resulting in high turnover and foul rates and inconsistent playing time this season for Zalgiris. Between his projection and a Hoop Summit performance where he acquitted himself well against future lottery picks like Mo Bamba, I am open to the possibility that Hartenstein is the best international prospect in this draft.
Kurucs, a 6’8″ forward from Latvia, is another young prospect with good numbers at the U18 level. He did play 24 games this year in Spain’s second-division, but a preseason injury robbed him of possible garbage time minutes in the Euroleague for FC Barcelona. At #22 in the DraftExpress mock and #25 in DMX, Rodi would seem to be rated accurately by the scouting consensus.
French PG Frank Ntilikina, widely considered the best international draft prospect, grades out a bit lower than both Kurucs and Hartenstein. However, the case for Ntilikina is an easy one to make if you parse the numbers.
Ntilikina’s DMX is pulled down by a 308-minute sample as a 17-year old playing for Strasbourg in the France Pro A, so in other words he is unfairly penalized for playing at a high level at an especially young age. If you remove those minutes from the equation his DMX spikes to 6.3, which would be #14 in this class and tops among international prospects. The question for Ntilikina isn’t so much how he compares to the other Euros, but rather how he stacks up against a loaded class of one-and-done NCAA point guards, and even in the best light Frank still looks to be a tier below De’Aaron Fox (7.4 DMX) and Dennis Smith Jr. (8.1), let alone Ball and Fultz.
It speaks to Vezenkov’s track record overseas that he is the fourth-ranked auto-eligible draft prospect by DMX behind Monte Morris and Josh Hart, both of whom I singled out as winners, and Derrick White, my favorite draft sleeper. Vezenkov is an un-athletic tweener, but he has succeeded at every level from starring on the Bulgarian junior national team to his current role for FC Barcelona. His production and efficiency this season against top-tier competition in the ACB and Euroleague is fitting of one of the best young players not in the NBA.
These two French bigs grade out similarly; Lessort is more productive in Pro A, Jeanne is younger, taller (7’2″), and has stretch five potential. I think Lessort is a good bet in the second round as a big who can bring defense and rebounding off the bench, while Jeanne’s upside could push him into the late-first conversation.
Yet another big man from France, Kaba seems like a version of Lessort with more shooting and less rim-protection.
Bolden is an interesting case as a guy who went from looking like a non-prospect in the NCAA (UCLA) to killing it overseas in the Adriatic League and the Serbian League for FMP Beograd.
I don’t think this is an indictment of the level of competition overseas, but rather a case of a much-improved player as Jonah’s rise on draft boards would suggest. He looks like a legit second round pick.
Pro scouts and people with better insight into European hoops are high on Pasecniks and thus he is #28 on DraftExpress. I will defer to the experts on Anzejs being draft-able (not a hard sell at 7’1″ with offensive game), but his DMX is too bad for me to buy the first round hype. Pasecniks’ career trajectory most resembles an NCAA player who wasn’t any good until his junior or senior year. Even his current “breakout” season in the ACB doesn’t knock you over.
Saving my hottest takes for last, I probably wouldn’t even waste a draft pick on Terrance Ferguson, a consensus first-rounder. Everything past Ferguson’s age and physical profile is a red flag: Prime Prep, weak FIBA stats, couldn’t remember his short-list of schools at the McDonald’s game, commitment to/withdrawal from Arizona, terrible in the Australian NBL, incurred a 2-game suspension for punching an opponent. Ferguson is dead last in DMX and there are any number of non-prospects who would grade out better. I would bet against him panning out.