NBA draft profile: Bosnia F Dzanan Musa

NBA draft profile: Bosnia F Dzanan Musa

Dzanan Musa

Position: Forward

Height: 6-9

Weight: 190

Team: Cedevita Zagreb (Croatia)

You hear stories all the time about what prospects in different sports sacrificed to chase their dreams. Few of them can match Dzanan Musa.

At 11 years old, the Bosnian Musa moved from his hometown of Bihac to capital city Sarajevo (a nearly five-and-a-half-hour drive) to attend a basketball academy. Musa lived in an apartment by himself and trained several times a day until he turned professional at age 16.

“I know how to manage myself,” Musa said after a recent workout with the Denver Nuggets. “Especially when you’re from a small town as I am and you go in the main city, you have people looking at you like you’re nothing. You have to fight through that, so I fight. I fight all the time.” 

That hunger has placed the offensively-gifted wing among first-round talents in the 2018 draft class even if it takes a couple more years for Musa to suit up in the NBA.

Musa has been getting buckets since he picked up a basketball. Look no further than his prolific scoring numbers with the Bosnian national team. 

In the 2014 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship, he put up 23.0 points a game and followed that up in the 2015 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship with 23.3 points a contest. Musa took it up a notch in the 2016 FIBA Under-17 World Cup when he racked up 34.0 points a night en route to being named tournament MVP.

Of course, that was against players his own age. But Musa has held his own against grown men in the professional ranks as well. In 71 total games for Cedevita Zagreb this past season across the Croatian Leagues and EuroCup, the 19-year-old averaged 12.3 points on 47.0 percent shooting from the field and 31.3 from three-point range in addition to 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 23.1 minutes (see highlights).

Overall, Musa is an offensive-minded player that can score in bunches at all three levels when on his game and handle play-making duties as a point-forward.

Like plenty of European prospects before him, Musa has two huge areas to focus on if he wants to make it in the league: physique and defense. 

“In Europe, we don’t have people around here who are these kinds of athletes,” Musa said after a recent workout with the Indiana Pacers. "I have to develop myself into that kind of player to finish through contact.”

Notice he didn’t mention bulking up to help play defense. That’s because Musa apparently isn’t all that concerned with that end of the floor, which will be a major problem when the talent level spikes in the NBA.

Also, Musa apparently has a competitive side that boils over on the court and gets the best of him at times. That works when you’re someone like Draymond Green, an All-Star and multiple-time champion. Not so much when you’re a young player from overseas trying to find his way.

NBA comparison
While Musa would love to be compared to idol Manu Ginobili, we’re not about to make that link. Sorry, kid. 

However, another recent European prospect that was versatile offensively and was confident in his ability to the point of being cocky is Magic forward Mario Hezonja. That seems like a much better pairing. Like Hezonja, it will take time for Musa to adapt his body and game to the league before he is ready to contribute.

How’d he fit with Sixers
Offensively, Musa would appear to fit in pretty well with the Sixers. He likes to get out on the break and can knock down shots. He also would be able to take over ball-handling duties at times if needed.

On the defensive end, the Sixers have studs in Robert Covington and Joel Embiid that can cover up some deficiencies from others, but even they can only do so much.

Draft projection
Musa is projected to go anywhere from the late teens to near the end of the first round. With the Sixers holding the No. 26 pick and already having 11 players under contract for next season, he could be a serious candidate for a draft-and-stash selection.

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Sixers stock watch: Contributions from Joel Embiid, Jonah Bolden, but T.J. McConnell, Landry Shamet struggling on D

Sixers stock watch: Contributions from Joel Embiid, Jonah Bolden, but T.J. McConnell, Landry Shamet struggling on D

There’s never a dull moment with the Sixers.

After barely escaping Madison Square Garden with a win, they crushed the Timberwolves and took care of the Pacers before suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Thunder.

The Sixers are now two games into their 12-game gauntlet and are 1-1.

Here’s this week’s stock watch:

Stock up

Joel Embiid

It was yet another impressive week for the All-Star center, who looks like a shoo-in to be back in this year’s game. In four games last week, Embiid averaged 27.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.8 blocks. 

While Embiid continues to dominate in the post and patrol the paint at an elite level, his three-point shooting has really improved. He’s shooting 39 percent from three over his last 11 games. Defenders go for his pump fake when he’s missing. Imagine what happens if he keeps making them.

All of this while dealing with a tight back that’s forced him to be a game-time decision for two straight games. It’s going to be tough to get the big man a break over this stretch. 

MVP favorite James Harden is in the building Monday for a nationally televised game. Then the Sixers play the Spurs, a team that waxed them just a month ago. That’s followed by a matchup against Nikola Jokic, one Embiid will not want to miss.

Jonah Bolden

Another mention for the rookie in this space because of a new dimension he’s shown: being able to play minutes as a backup five. It’s a role that doesn’t need to be huge given how many minutes Embiid plays, but Bolden's been impactful for the Sixers over the past week.

The move has allowed Mike Muscala to play more four and Wilson Chandler to play more three. It also just gives the Sixers a different dynamic off the bench. Bolden is extremely athletic — something the bench sorely needed — and plays with a ton of energy. Bolden has been a huge part of the team’s recent success.

Stock down

The bench guards

T.J. McConnell and Landry Shamet have helped the team this season. McConnell has given the Sixers a big spark at times and is an unquestioned leader. Shamet, who nobody even considered for a rotation spot when he was drafted 26th overall, is shooting threes at an elite level (40 percent).

Neither player is giving the team what it needs defensively. It was evident during the loss to Oklahoma City that neither McConnell nor Shamet had the athleticism or size to compete with the Thunder’s guards. 

Both players have had their moments this season, but don’t be surprised to see Elton Brand upgrade at both spots.

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What Sixers really need for their bench

What Sixers really need for their bench

It’s no secret the Sixers need bench help.

The question is which position they should be targeting. If your first response isn’t a 3-and-D wing, then you haven't been watching this team very closely. 

With all due respect to Landry Shamet, a rookie who’s been thrust into a position nobody thought he’d be in, imagine his minutes going to a proven swingman. 

You look at a player like Reggie Bullock from the Pistons. He’s on an extremely affordable and expiring contract. He’s been an above-average three-point shooter (41 percent during his four years in Detroit). He’s also a decent and versatile defender. 

The Pistons are clinging to the hope they can land the East’s eighth seed, so he may not become available. And that’s not to say the Sixers should go all in on Bullock — though it would make a ton of sense to place a phone call — but a player like him would certainly help. For the record, there is no indication the Sixers have shown interest in Bullock.

The second position to look at has been up for debate. 

A backup five? A true stretch four? While those spots could also use an upgrade, the Sixers’ second-biggest need is a backup point guard.

This is the point of the story where all of the T.J. McConnell lovers will start prepping their hate tweets. But the reality is that McConnell is not a backup point guard for a team with its sights set on winning the Eastern Conference.

There is no doubt McConnell has earned his place on this team and in this league. He’s a dogged competitor that’s given this team a huge spark at times. He’s also been almost automatic in the mid-range.

But his unwillingness to shoot threes is crippling the offense — especially when playing alongside Ben Simmons. His lack of athleticism has also hurt them on the defensive end. It’s never been more evident than in Saturday’s loss to the Thunder.

Unlike on the wing, there are no clear upgrades at the position. Elfrid Payton, who’s on an expiring deal, would be intriguing if the Pelicans fall out of it. It’s more likely they hold onto him to stay competitive and keep Anthony Davis happy.

There’s been a lot of talk about the Sixers needing another big, but that seems pretty low on their list of needs. Joel Embiid is playing 33.5 minutes a game. So basically you need a backup center to play roughly 14.5 a night. That number will go down even more in the playoffs.

Plus, Jonah Bolden has given the bench a real spark. His athleticism, quick feet, rim protection and overall activity have given the team a big boost. His presence has allowed Mike Muscala to play more four and Wilson Chandler to play more three.

Would adding a player like Noah Vonleh help? Sure. Vonleh is a solid backup big that has added the three to his game. If he can be added for little to nothing, then it couldn’t hurt. It just seems like the other positions are of more concern.

One thing is for sure: Expect Elton Brand to make at least one move to bolster this roster. 

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