Five best international prospects in the 2016 NBA Draft
BOSTON – There is no question that the NBA has become a global game, one where teams will expand their search to continents as well as college campuses, to find the best players.
Four international players were taken in the first round of last year’s draft, headlined by Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis, who was chosen by the New York Knicks with the fourth overall pick.
Porzingis, runner-up for the league’s rookie of the year award, was the first of three international players taken among the top seven picks. After that, just one international player (Serbian center Nikola Milutinov, 26th overall by San Antonio) was selected in the first round.
This year’s international crop will produce a similar number of first-round picks, although they will be more spread out than last year’s group.
Here’s a look at five of the top international prospects heading into Thursday’s draft.
5. Ante Zizic, C, International
Much of this 19-year-old’s game is predicated on his energy and hustle, which helps to mask what he lacks skill-wise. Still, teams love his big 7-foot, 254-pound frame with a 7-3 wingspan. He is indeed a relatively raw player, but he possesses enough positive traits to make him a legitimate target near the end of the first round.
4. Juan Hernangomez, SF/PF, International
The NBA is a pick-and-roll league and few international prospects show the potential to thrive in P&R sets as much as Hernangomez. Not only is he good at rolling to the rim, but a much-improved mid-range game makes him a threat in pick-and-pop situations as well. But at 6-9, he needs to also incorporate more of a low post game to his offensive package. His 3-point shooting could use work as well. Look for the 21-year-old to hear his name called in the latter stages of the first round although there has been some buzz of late that he may sneak his way into the mid-teens of the first.
3. Furkan Korkmaz, G, International
This 18-year-old guard (he’ll be 19 next month) has been a big-time scorer at youth levels, generating points in a variety of ways whether it’s off the dribble or in catch-and-shoot. NBA teams love his 6-7 frame and the fact that he can play above the rim. But he needs to become more solid with his ball-handling and add strength to his frame, which would help him at both ends of the floor and become a better decision-maker. Far too often he’ll try to force passes into spots where there’s just not a lot of space, which as you might suspect, results in turnovers. Even though he was searching for a promise from a team in the lottery, Korkmaz will be taken somewhere in the late-teens to early 20s of the first round.
2. Timothe Luwawu, SG/SF, International
One of the more physically impressive prospects in this draft, the 6-7 Luwawu was out to prove that he was more than just a well-conditioned athlete. This past season, he became a much more consistent 3-point shooter, which has elevated his stock to where he’s now a solid first-round pick. He shot 36 percent on 3s this season after hitting less than 30 percent from 3-point range a year ago. Combine that with his ability to get out and score in transition quickly, and you have all the makings of a player that contribute sooner rather than later to whatever team selects him.
Timothe Luwawu 2016 NBA Draft scouting report
1. Dragan Bender, PF, International
From the very outset of the draft process, Bender has been the most coveted international prospect. He is a 7-footer with perimeter skills, which makes him a player who scores high on the potential scale. While he didn’t play much for Maccabi Tel Aviv, he has shown a very quick shot release in limited minutes, which speaks to his potential as a perimeter scorer. And defensively, his 7-2 wingspan coupled with surprisingly nimble foot speed and lateral quickness give him the potential to be a solid defender even when he has to guard smaller, quicker players. The physical tools that this 18-year-old has are the main reasons why he is such a highly regarded prospect that could be off the draft board as early as the No. 3 pick to Boston.