With the NBA Draft now just days away on November 18, there’s an abundance of scouting reports, mock drafts, big boards and trade rumours doing the rounds as teams prepare to make their selections. Included in the player pool are a number of intriguing European prospects, ranging from projected top-end lottery talent to second-round steals. Despite mass uncertainty surrounding this year’s crop, we take a look at what they bring to the table and where they are likely to be selected.
Projected selection: 2-6
Position: SF / PF
Stats: 7.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.8 APG
Player comps: A dynamic Dario Saric, Gordon Hayward with poor shooting stats
Likely to be the highest draft pick ever to come from Israel, Deni Avdija is a versatile forward with strong finishing skills and impressive playmaking ability at a height of 6’9. Avdija has spent the last three seasons playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli Premier League and EuroLeague, developing his well-rounded skillset and maturity. At 19 years old, Avdija presents as a prospect with a lot of upside, while being ready to immediately contribute in a competitive roster.
Avdija’s ability in the pick-and-roll and basketball IQ further add to his value, however, his sub-par shooting from three (34 percent) and the free throw line (53 percent) hold him back from being a sure-fire top three pick. NBA teams will be hoping that his relentless work ethic combined with elite coaching will help him add efficient perimeter scoring to his already-extensive repertoire of skills.
Projected selection: 6-12
Stats: 11.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 5.4 APG
Player comps: Shot-making Evan Turner, less-athletic Jordan Clarkson, taller Tony Parker
Born in Florida but raised in France, Killian Hayes is a young (18 years old) point guard with a great feel for the game, impressive passing skills and the potential to efficiently create his own shot. Hayes started every game for Ratiopharm Ulm of the Basketball Bundesliga (Germany) and made big strides throughout the season, such as adding James Harden-esque step-backs and side-steps to his bag of tricks.
At 6’5 and with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, Hayes has good size at the point guard spot, which contributes to his effective off-ball defense and potential as a lockdown perimeter defender in the NBA. Despite his left-hand dominance and relative lack of athleticism (although not weedy, by any means), his range of capabilities with the ball in his hands and potential upside will intrigue many of the teams with lottery picks in this year’s draft.
Projected selection: 16-40
Position: PF / C
Stats: 10.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 3.1 APG
Player comps: Lightweight Porzingis, college Bol Bol, out-of-the-league Dragan Bender
Aleksej Pokusevki is a mystery. The forward played just a few games for Olympiacos’ B-team in the Greek second division due to a series of minor injuries. The Serbian is a marvel to watch, with the ball handles of a guard, high basketball IQ, playmaking skills and incredible shooting form – but at just 195 lbs, Pokusevski may never be strong enough to play NBA minutes. To put that into context – the 7’ Aleksej Pokusevski is the same weight as 6’2 Kyrie Iriving, who is hardly plump.
It remains to be seen whether teams will take the gamble on the Serbian, who is projected to go in the late lottery by many outlets, but could ultimately suffer the same fate as Bol Bol, whose similar lack of build and sample size left him falling into the mid-second round.
Projected selection: 23-35
Stats: 7.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 2.7 APG
Player comps: Quicker Joe Ingles, poor man’s Goran Dragic, raw Monte Morris
Theo Maledon is one of the youngest prospects in the draft at 18 years old and plays for LDLC ASVEL in France, where he is trained by the great Tony Parker. Maledon is a facilitating point guard whose lack of burst is made up for by his controlled, smooth style of play. Despite showing solid form, the Frenchman’s shot creation skills will need to improve, as will his exploitation of switches in the pick and roll. Teams with a late first round pick may see Maledon as a player with high potential, who could turn out to be an effective complementary piece rather than a ball-dominant star.
Projected selection: 30-48
Stats: 13.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.9 APG
Player comps: Inferior Danilo Gallinari, Ryan Anderson with a broken leg
Killian Tillie’s game is made for the NBA. Many scouts predicted the 6’10 senior as a lottery pick, only for his immense misfortune with injuries likely setting him back into the second round. Born in Paris, he later moved to play college basketball for Gonzaga, where he spent four years refining his skills and playing with other current professionals.
Tillie possesses great shooting ability, especially for a forward, hitting 44 percent of his threes during college, as well as being able to punish players in the post. He can move his feet well on both ends of the floor, consequently defending a range of players well on the perimeter, with one of his only knocks being a lack of rim protection. At 22, Tillie’s upside may be limited, but his maturity, perimeter skills and size could provide an NBA team with a plug-and-play role player, if he can stay healthy.