Wizards

5 best international players in this year's NBA Draft class

Wizards

Last summer, when the Wizards made significant changes to their front office, one of the things they set out to do was add more international players to their roster. They acquired guys like Rui Hachimura, Isaac Bonga and Moe Wagner to help that cause.

Hachimura was the ninth overall pick, where the Wizards are once again selecting, in addition to 37th overall in the second round. Will they go the international route once again?

With that in mind, here are the five best international players in the 2020 NBA Draft...

1. Killian Hayes, G, France

  • Age: 19
  • Height: 6-5
  • Weight: 215
  • Wingspan: 6-8
  • 2019/20 stats: 10 G, 26.8 mpg, 12.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 6.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 0.2 bpg, 45.5 FG% (4.6/10.1), 39.0 3PT% (1.6/4.1), 90.9 FT%

Depending on which mock draft you check, either Hayes or Deni Avdija is the top international prospect in this year's class. Both are projected to go as high as the top-five and as low as the back-end of the lottery. Though they are very different players, ranking them is sort of splitting hairs, as both are young, but present intriguing long-term potential.

Hayes, though, appears to offer the most upside given his size as a lead guard and ball-handling package which is advanced beyond his years. He also had more success than Avdija and his other international peers last season, albeit at a lower level than the EuroLeague. Hayes looks like he has a game well-suited to the modern era as a big guard who has a tight handle and plus-court vision. The questions for him involve his outside shot and potential on the defensive end. But if he puts it together, he could turn into an All-Star in the mold of Goran Dragic.

 

2. Deni Avdija, G/F, Israel

  • Age: 19
  • Height: 6-9
  • Weight: 215
  • Wingspan: 6-9
  • 2019/20 stats: 26 G, 14.3 mpg, 4.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.2 bpg, 43.6 FG% (1.6/3.6), 27.7 3PT% (0.5/1.8), 55.6 FT%

Avdija is entering the league as perhaps the most hyped international prospect in this year's class, as he is poised to be the highest drafted player ever from the country of Israel. He's the size of a forward with the mobility of a guard whose speed really stands out in transition. He has the potential to become a multi-dimensional offensive threat at the next level if he can become a consistent outside shooter.

Avdija's biggest knock is the fact he had little to no success in the EuroLeague. He was on a stacked team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, but didn't produce in terms of volume or efficiency. The EuroLeague is the second-best in the world, only behind the NBA. But if he didn't make a major impact there, it's unlikely he will do so anytime soon in the States. Avdija has a lot of potential, it just may take a few years for him to start realizing it.

3. Theo Maledon, G, France

  • Age: 19
  • Height: 6-4
  • Weight: 174
  • Wingspan: 6-9
  • 2019/20 stats: 22 G, 17.7 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3.1 apg, 0.3 spg, 0.1 bpg, 45.6 FG% (2.6/5.7), 36.7 3PT% (0.8/2.2), 68.9 FT%

This year's draft class appears to be deeper at guard than anywhere else and more specifically with combo guards. Maledon can be counted among them, as at 6-foot-4 he can run an offense or slide off-the-ball and still be a threat with a solid three-point jumper. He shot 36.7 percent from three this season as an 18-year-old against EuroLeague competition.

Maledon's production in a limited role in the world's second-best league suggests he could find early success in the NBA. He may even thrive in a bench role, which can be difficult for young players to adjust to. The question for him would be his long-term ceiling as he is a smart, solid player but doesn't seem to have the high-end athleticism you see from the very best guards.

4. Aleksej Pokusevski, F, Serbia

  • Age: 18
  • Height: 7-0
  • Weight: 201
  • Wingspan: 7-3
  • 2019/20 stats: 12 G, 9.9 mpg, 9.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.2 spg, 1.7 bpg, 40.0 FG% (3.5/8.8), 32.0 3PT% (1.4/4.4), 78.3 FT%

Pokusevski has little consensus as a prospect with some mock drafts placing him in the lottery and others in the second round. He's a classic draft prospect for this era, in that 20 years ago he would have been groomed as a big man who parks on the block, but now projects as a unicorn-type who can handle the ball and shoot despite standing 7-feet tall. He also has the chance to be a special passer for a big man. He can also protect the rim, though he may need to gain some muscle for that skill to carry over to the NBA.

Pokusevski's size and skillset combination has led to some incredible hits but also epic misses in the NBA draft. Sometimes you get Giannis Antetokounmpo, or even Bol Bol. But quite often you instead draft a Thon Maker or Olekseiy Pecherov. Apologies to Wizards fans for that last reference.

5. Leandro Bolmaro, G, Argentina

  • Age: 20
  • Height: 6-7
  • Weight: 200
  • Wingspan: 6-8
  • 2019/20 stats: 24 G, 17.2 mpg, 7.9 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.1 bpg, 42.3 FG% (2.9/7.0), 29.3 3PT% (0.9/3.1), 71.1 FT%

Bolmaro is another combo guard with good size for the position. He handled the ball quite a bit for FC Barcelona this past season, but also spent time off-the-ball. Where he settles in at the NBA level could depend on how his outside shot develops. The play-making and passing skills check out well in terms of his potential as a point guard.

 

Bolmaro is a fun player to watch, strangely, in that he's not smooth. His game is jerky and spastic, but he makes quick movements and quick decisions. Opponents in Europe had trouble staying in front of him because he is very aggressive off the dribble, often getting by his man even if it didn't look pretty. Whether he can get by NBA defenders, who are quicker, is a legitimate question, but Bolmaro should provide plenty of value as a second round pick.