3 International Prospects to Know after Dario Saric's New Contract
This year's NBA Draft has had the promise of being elite since most of these players were in high school, but while all eyes were on the collegiate careers of potential number one picks Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, and Jabari Parker (to name a few), NBA hopefuls overseas have been carrying on with their games all the same.
Dante Exum, the Australian point guard, has been considered the top international prospect for a while now. Days before the draft, he remains an enigma, and the unknown seems more promising than Embiid's ailing foot, Parker's suspect defense, or Wiggins' basketball IQ.
There's really no better time to be hopeful about the potential of international prospects. After all, the Spurs' Foreign Legion helped dominate the NBA Finals. But a deeper look at the talent from across the pond indicates it's a talent pool with more minnows needing to develop than whales ready to impact the NBA.
The biggest reason for this is that Dario Saric, the Adriatic League (ABA) MVP, decided to opt out of the 2013 NBA Draft. This morning, he agreed to a three-year contract with Anadolu Efes, which has won 13 titles in the Turkish Basketball League since the league's inception in 1966. Saric has been considered a lottery pick for the past two seasons but will remain out of the NBA until at least 2016. He might still be drafted, but his draft stock will undoubtedly slip.
Which prospects, then, are left to shake up the NBA sooner rather than later?
Unfortunately, the global landscape is a bit bleak now that Saric has decided to stay put, leaving few players with the potential to make a Giannis Antetokounmpo-esque impact on the league this year.
Still, there's one player in particular who should emerge and a few others who may be able to pitch in given the right role on the right team.
Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Height | Weight | Age: 6'11" | 280 lbs. | 19
Projected selection: Late-lottery or mid first-round
Numbers to know: Nurkic looks to be the real deal. He was a bit limited in his production in the ABA this year, playing just 16.6 minutes per game, but was very effective in spurts. His per-36 scoring (25.4 points) was the best in the league by a wide margin. Only one other player averaged over 20 points per 36 minutes. This was helped by his league-leading free throw numbers: 12.2 attempts and 8.5 makes per 36 minutes. He shot 70.1% from the line, which was fourth among the 14 players considered true centers in the ABA.
Nurkic's rebounds per 36 minutes (12.3) and steals (2.3) were second in the league, and is blocks (1.8) were fourth. He has the potential to be an all-around contributor on the post, which is always welcome in the NBA.
For as efficient as he was drawing fouls, though, he was about as costly committing them and was responsible for 6.9 fouls per 36. This was the highest rate in the league.
Final Analysis: As star-studded as this draft is at the top, it is a surprisingly weak class for centers - especially with the injury to Embiid. Nurkic looks like the player most likely to benefit from this weak spot and could be snared off the draft board sooner than he's projected if a team feels the need for a solid inside presence. (And I do mean solid - he's 6'11", 280 lbs. Think Nikola Pekovic, who's 6'11" and 285 lbs.) Nurkic could be the biggest mover on draft night, potentially landing just outside the top-10.
Clint Capela, PF/C, Switzerland
Height | Weight | Age: 6'11" | 222 lbs. | 20
Projected selection: Mid-to-late first-round
Numbers to know: Capela averaged 22.0 minutes per game for Chalon of the French Pro A League. His per-36 rebounding tally (11.3) was third-best among 88 qualified players, and his blocks per 36 minutes (2.5) were tops in the league. Capela's 1.5 blocks per game were second in the league, making him just one of two players to average over a full block per game.
Though he shot just 58.2% from the free throw line, his elite athleticism and affinity for shots near the rim helped him convert on 63.5% of his two-point field goal attempts, third highest in ProA. Capela's 7'4" wingspan has helped him emerge as a threat in the paint on both offense and defense while being just 20 years old.
Final Analysis: Exum and Nurkic are the only sure-things from the global landscape, but Capela appears to be the next in line for the 2014 Draft, which says a lot about the international class considering how raw the youngster is. Capela is likely going near the tail end of the first round and may or may not play in the NBA right away, but he's the type of player a great team like the Spurs or Heat (if they remain intact) could add and develop over time and get the most out of the Swiss product.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG, Serbia
Height | Weight | Age : 6'6" | 200 lbs. | 21
Projected selection: Late-first or early-second
Numbers to know: Aside from the trio of Exum, Nurkic, and Capela, there's no clear-cut first-rounder. Instead, the early second round seems the likely place most prospects will be taken off the board. If any sneak into the first round, Bogdanovic (somehow unrelated to Bojan Bogdanovic of the Brooklyn Nets) seems the most likely, even though he might be in a bit of contract limbo after an incredible season in the Serbian A League, ABA, and Euroleague with Partizan Belgrade.
Bogdanovic's 14.8 points and 1.3 steals per game were sixth-best in the ABA. He also averaged 14.8 points per game, fourth-best in the Euroleague, on 37.0% shooting from beyond the arc in 23 Euroleague contests. His 1.6 steals were also good for fourth in the Euroleague. Bogdanovic also posted top-10 marks in the Serbian A League in points (14.9) and assists (3.8).
His biggest knock, aside from a potential costly buyout if he signs a large contract overseas, is his athleticism. His 6'11" wingspan, though, helps him be a problematic defender, the type of guard who can clog passing lanes, defend jumpers, and disrupt post-ups without leaving his assignment entirely.
Final Analysis: Bogdanovic's length and awareness appear to be enough when combined with his impressive offensive game and shooting ability to warrant first-round consideration. He seems relatively NBA-ready, but he may not be able to find a team willing to risk a first-round selection on a potential hefty buyout. Once he eventually comes to the NBA, though, Bogdanovic could be a multi-talented threat at either guard position.