Tag Archives: Rodions Kurucs

Studying Abroad 2018

Before jumping in, I made a few notable changes to improve the international projections. FIBA tournaments and other junior-level competitions are no longer included; only stats from professional leagues beginning with each player’s first draft-eligible season. This narrows the focus of the projections, rewards guys playing in high-level leagues overseas, and puts them on more equal footing with NCAA prospects. Here is how DMX ranks the internationals in the latest ESPN 2018 mock draft:

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Luka Doncic

Slovenian prodigy Luka Doncic is not only the top-rated player in this draft class, but also stands as the DMX “GOAT”, and by a significant margin. Doncic is posting unheard of all-around production (23.7 PTS, 8.6 REB, 7.6 AST, 1.9 STL, 0.5 BLK Per 40 minutes) against what could be the toughest possible non-NBA schedule between the Spanish ACB and Euroleague. DMX is largely built on precedent and there is none for a teenager dominating the highest levels of international play. As much as I like Jaren Jackson as a potential defensive anchor with offensive upside, Doncic stands out to me as the most unique and special talent in this draft. Even if Luka is not a combination of Bird and Magic as his DMX would suggest, he could be a Gordon Hayward type which is a solid enough return on the top pick.

Dzanan Musa

Currently ranked between picks 20-26 on ESPN, The Stepien, and NBADraft.net, Bosnain bucket-getter Dzanan Musa strikes me as a candidate to be a draft-day steal. He is one of the youngest players in the draft, has good size for a perimeter player at 6’8″, and was highly productive and efficient on a good Adriatic League team. Even with valid concerns about his frame and defense, late first round seems pessimistic to me.

Isaac Bonga

Isaac Bonga is another Euro prospect that I think is oddly underrated. Bonga was once a projected lottery pick who is now regarded as a late-second rounder even though he fared well in the top German league as an 18-year-old. He also has an intriguing profile as a 6’9″ guy who can pass (4.6 AST/40) and potentially shoot (89.3 FT%). Just based on box score scouting, I don’t see why Bonga is rated some 20-30 spots lower than Oregon product Troy Brown (who I really like):

PLAYER POS LG DMX HT AGE PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV
Troy Brown SG/SF NCAA 5.2 6’7″ 18.9 14.5 8.0 4.1 2.0 0.3 3.2
Isaac Bonga SF BBL/PRO B 5.2 6’9″ 18.6 13.8 6.5 4.6 2.4 0.9 4.5

Elie Okobo

French PG Elie Okobo is a name picking up steam and for good reason. He has had a breakout year in the French Pro A, vaulting him into the top 25 overall in DMX. I have always been a fan of Okobo’s offensive game having watched him in FIBA tournaments and it seems like he has greatly improved. I think he’s a worthy choice in the late first/early second range.

Rodions Kurucs

It’s a bit disappointing that Rodi Kurucs only logged 56 minutes for FC Barcelona in his second draft-eligible season, but he has put up strong enough numbers in the Spanish second-division league (LEB Gold) to earn a top-50 grade. Kurucs is 6’9″, can shoot, and boasts a promising combination of steals (2.2/40) and blocks (1.4/40), albeit against weak competition. I would side with most draft boards that he is a mid-to-late 2nd rounder.

Issuf Sanon

Sanon is a really fun player who can play on the ball offensively and uses good instincts and athletic ability to rack up steals and blocks, but his shooting/scoring for a 6’4″ guard is a serious red flag. The Ukranian product has shot 26% from 3PT and 45% from the line this season (on just 1.8 FTA Per 40 minutes) and his scoring volume is outlier bad (11.7 PTS/40). Sanon will still be 18 on draft day and he is an NBA athlete, so he might be worth a late 2nd round flier for a team with a good shooting coach.

Karim Jallow

DMX is low on Jallow because he’s 21 and still playing mostly for Bayern Munich’s farm team, and with a sub-30 3PT% for his career I’m not sure he can be considered a 3&D prospect.

Amine Noua

Amine Noua has had a nice age 21 season in France, but his overall body of work does not merit drafting in my opinion. I would much rather take Gary Clark or a medically-cleared Bonzie Colson, a pair of NCAA power forwards who are not listed on ESPN’s latest mock.

Studying Abroad 2017

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.

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Isaiah Hartenstein

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.

Rodions Kurucs

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.

Frank Ntilikina

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.

Aleksandar Vezenkov

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.

PLAYER TS% PT/40 RB/40 AS/40 ST/40 BL/40 TO/40 DMX
Aleksandar Vezenkov .697 18.7 7.1 2.2 1.4 0.6 1.6 6.3

Mathias Lessort

Jonathan Jeanne

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.

Alpha Kaba

Yet another big man from France, Kaba seems like a version of Lessort with more shooting and less rim-protection.

Jonah Bolden

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.

SEASON TEAM PT/40 RB/40 AS/40 ST/40 BL/40 TO/40 DMX
2015-16 UCLA 8.3 8.7 1.9 1.2 1.5 1.5 1.1
2016-17 FMP 18.5 10.7 2.5 1.7 1.6 3.0 4.6

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.

Anzejs Pasecniks

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.

PLAYER TS% PT/40 RB/40 AS/40 ST/40 BL/40 TO/40 DMX
Anzejs Pasecniks .668 18.7 8.0 0.6 0.6 1.9 1.8 4.5

Terrance Ferguson

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.