The arrival of the 2017 Euroleague season is rapidly approaching, and with it comes new hype for some of the top talents. The best of the best will look to emerge and/or dominate this season, with an eye on potentially making the jump to the NBA.
That inevitably comes in the form of the 2018 NBA Draft this year, where many wonder who the next overseas star will be. That could be someone from Euroleague, or it could be a star from a different overseas league that leaves a lasting impression.
Kristaps Porzingis is now an international sensation and household name due to his move to the pros in 2015, while budding talent like Dario Saric, Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic and many others are making their mark known on the NBA map.
Just this past summer the NBA took understandable shots on the likes of Frank Ntikilina and Anzejs Pasecniks in round one of the 2017 NBA Draft. Serbian star shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic even made the jump, finally latching on with the Sacramento Kings.
Early mock drafts don’t peg any overseas players as locks to go #1 overall, but most basketball betting sites will eventually offer props for how many foreign players will be taken in round one. The following five look like locks to at least get drafted and if things break just right, might find themselves in the first round, as well:
Luka Doncic, G/F, Slovenia
Without a doubt, the top prospect overseas talent right now is Doncic, who has performed well with Real Madrid despite playing against older men at just 18 years of age.
Doncic added a Eurobasket title to his resume in 2017 and will look to further round out his rough edges in his pursuit for a pro career in the states. Some draft experts see another Danilo Gallinari in the making here – or better.
That could be the case, as Doncic has the size and length for the NBA, as well as elite playmaking ability and shooting ability. This is a guy who can take over a game as a dual-threat offensive player and even at a young age, seems ready for the big leagues.
There is some doubt as to whether Doncic has the athleticism, defensive ability or handles to excel right away, but he otherwise looks like an elite long-term prospect.
Missouri’s Michael Porter is the better athlete and more enticing overall prospect, but if there is an overseas player this year that could vie for the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, we’re looking at him in Doncic. That’s still not overly likely, but Doncic feels like a top-5 threat and a borderline lock for the lottery.
Rodions Kurucs, SF, Latvia
Next up is Latvia’s Kurucs, who obviously doesn’t garner as much hype as Doncic, but is extremely gifted in his own right. One could even argue he’s a superior talent, as he’s taller, longer, more athletic and brings added versatility to the table.
Of course, there are some issues with Kurucs, which is why he could slide deep into round one. A history of injuries, a thin frame and a lack of elite competition are a few red flags that may keep some NBA teams from pulling the trigger.
Those seem to be fairly nitpicky flaws, however. Kurucs is otherwise a fluid and versatile athlete with immense upside. He has the ability to run the floor with the ball, can attack off the dribble and shows no fear in taking the rock inside.
Strength and experience will come with a player this talented, who is destined for the first round. A strong season could push his draft stock as high as the lottery, as well.
Borisa Simanic, F, Serbia
There are numerous overseas players we’ll want to keep an eye on, but many aren’t realistic options for this year’s draft due to age or contractual obligations. Simanic should be another big name ready to declare, however.
The Serbian star is a scoring guard in a big man’s body, as he can effectively create offense for himself and others and can also score at will. He also sports a smooth shooting stroke that will know no bounds in the NBA, while his surprisingly slick handle allows for him to set himself up from anywhere on the floor.
As intriguing as Simanic is, there are some real concerns with his jump to the NBA. A lack of ideal hip fluidity is one issue, while Simanic’s handle and overall athleticism might not get the job done against quicker and stronger defenders in the NBA.
It would be incorrect to say Simanic is a bad athlete or a poor defender, though. He actually closes out very well, can track the ball, stays in front of his assignment and can even block shots. Doing all of this consistently against elite NBA talent, however, is something pro scouts will have to ponder.
Simanic may not have a concrete position, either. He has the size and length to play three positions, but he might be best equipped to man the stretch four position in the NBA. Even for that, he doesn’t have ideal height and will need to get stronger and improve his lateral quickness.
Overall, Simanic is still a tantalizing prospect with loads of upside. He can put up points in the NBA right now, but he’ll need to iron out some wrinkles before earning a heavy dose of minutes. We can’t rule out the first round if he uses this year to correct some flaws, but he’s probably looking at a spot in round two.
Isaac Bonga, SF, Germany
Germany’s version of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bonga has fired up NBA mock drafts due to his size, length, athleticism and court vision. A one-man fast break when he’s ready to push the ball, Bonga is deceptively quick and can create and score at will.
Tall, long players that can defend and create off the dribble are always wanted in the NBA and that’s exactly the type of dual threat upset we could be getting in the diverse Bonga.
There are question marks that accompany his saliva-inducing skill-set, of course. Bonga’s open court ability is fascinating, but to say it’s polished or always controlled would be a reach. Overall consistency, control and body strength are a few weaknesses Bonga will need to work on before really seeing his name rise up the draft ranks.
While that is most certainly true, Bonga has loads of upside as a strong two-way talent. The problem is he’s quite raw yet and it’s worth wondering how long (if ever) his skills will translate to the NBA. His upside could get him into the first round, but a lack of polish probably has him looking at round two for the moment.
Kostja Mushidi, G/F, Germany
Again, there are more overseas prospects to get excited about, but our focus right now rests with the top talents that are likely to be taken in the 2018 NBA Draft as things stand.
Mushidi should be talented enough to hear his name called next summer. He’s young and lanky, but he’s got a great frame, strong footwork, fantastic size and is also highly versatile.
Consistency is really the main thing holding Mushidi back, but when it comes to young talent, that’s hardly a surprise. Mushidi plays with a lot of confidence and passion and you can see it in his offensive ability as a scorer. This kid knows how to get good looks, whether he’s burning his defender for an easy basket, understanding spacing for an open jumper or creating on his own.
Mushidi has a remarkable handle for a young player with his size and length, which makes for some fun open court playmaking, as well as a nightmare half court matchup. The ability and flash we see from Kostja can lead to recklessness and even carelessness, but it displays his immense upside.
Cutting down mistakes and polishing his handles and shot will really help Mushidi take his game to the next level. If his length can also lead to elite defense, NBA scouts will be looking at him as a very interesting two-way prospect. The buzz isn’t as loud as it probably should be on Mushidi, who right now is more of a day two pick, but has the upside to go inside the lottery.