2014 NBA draft: International prospect guide
With the NBA draft combine and lottery in the bag and draft night just a month away, the big picture continues to come into focus. As always, the most unfamiliar names in the draft are the overseas players, whom NBA talent evaluators haven't seen as much and many fans have never even heard of.
SI.com's latest mock draft has six international players in the first round -- and that's not including those who played college basketball in the United States, such as Joel Embiid (Cameroon) and Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis (all from Canada).
This group is largely made up of players who won't make an impact in the NBA for another couple of years at a minimum, as many are likely to remain in their domestic leagues to receive playing time and continue developing their bodies and skills.
One date to keep an eye on is June 16, the NBA's early-entry draft withdrawal deadline. It's very possible that a handful of these players could remove their names from consideration as they get a better sense of their NBA stock.
That said, if all remains constant, here are 10 names you'll likely hear called on draft day.
Dante Exum, Guard
Team: Australian Institute of Sport (Australia) | Country: Australia
6-foot-6, 196 pounds, 18 years old
At this point, you've probably at least heard of Exum, the Australian phenom who turned heads last year by deciding to forgo college and make the leap to the NBA. His father, Cecil, played at North Carolina with Michael Jordan before playing professionally in Australia, where Dante was born. An athletic and intelligent guard with great size, Exum has drawn comparisons to Penny Hardaway and Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams of Philadelphia. Though there's been speculation about his NBA position (largely because of his size), those familiar with his game -- and Dante himself -- are adamant that he's a point guard.
Adept at both scoring and creating for teammates, Exum excels with the ball and projects as a high-quality defender with a 6-9 wingspan. He tested well at the combine, which was many teams' first look at him. Exum will need to keep working on his shooting range, but he can slash to the rim and possesses a solid mid-range game. He's a potential star, likely to be one of the first picks, and the only international player who is a lock to be on an NBA roster come fall.
Dario Saric, Forward
Team: Cibona Zagreb (Croatia) | Country: Croatia
6-10, 223, 20 years old
The Adriatic League MVP is coming off a season in which he averaged 16.3 points and 9.5 rebounds and led Cibona to a championship. Last year Saric was a projected lottery pick before pulling out of the draft. It's well-known that his father wants him to get more seasoning before coming over, so it's uncertain whether he'll stay in this time around. That decision will likely depend on his stock as the June 16 deadline approaches.
Saric is a point forward-type who handles and passes the ball well, and he brings perhaps as much offensive versatility as any prospect in the class. Doubts linger about his NBA position -- he may not be a good enough athlete to guard threes and doesn't shoot consistently enough yet to keep defenses honest if deployed as a stretch four. Still, he's an elite talent and potential top-10 pick if he remains in the draft.
Jusuf Nurkic, Center
Team: Cedevita Zagreb (Croatia) | Country: Bosnia
6-11, 280, 19 years old
In a thin draft for centers, Nurkic has emerged behind Embiid as perhaps the second best. The big-bodied 19-year-old began playing organized ball only in 2009 and this year helped Cedevita to the Adriatic League finals, excelling in limited playing time (11.7 points and 5.6 rebounds in 16.6 minutes in league play). Nurkic is a raw player with a big adjustment ahead of him, but with chops that suggest he has an eventual place in someone's lineup.
Nurkic is adept around the rim with good post footwork. He's been compared with the Timberwolves' Nikola Pekovic, strong enough to bang inside and the catch-and-finish potential to be a pick-and-roll weapon. He rebounds well with long arms and a thick frame, and could develop into a useful rim protector. Nurkic isn't particularly mobile, and with the changing demands on centers in today's NBA there are questions about his conditioning and if he can get up and down the court. With his body type and developing back-to-the-basket skills, Nurkic could tempt a team in the latter part of the lottery.
Kristaps Porzingis, Forward
Team: Cajasol Sevilla (Spain) | Country: Latvia
7-0, 220, 18 years old
Porzingis declared for the draft a year earlier than many expected. He's a mobile big man who runs the floor well and can space the court with three-point range. Porzingis has also displayed impressive shot-blocking ability, averaging 2.9 blocks per 40 minutes for Spanish club Cajasol Sevilla. He's a very young prospect with an uncommon skill set for a 7-footer.
As is the case with most young big men, Porzingis needs to add strength and show he can handle the NBA's physical style. In all likelihood, he will remain overseas for a couple of more years while he develops. But he's a terrific draft-and-stash option and a potential first-round pick if he stays in the pool.
Clint Capela, Forward
Team: Elan Chalon (France) | Country: Switzerland
6-11, 211, 20 years old
Regarded as one of the most athletic European players to ever enter the draft, Capela boasts an intriguing set of physical tools and has been compared with the Thunder's Serge Ibaka. He's coming off a promising season for Chalon and was an interior force in limited playing time (9.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 22 minutes in league play), although he didn't play especially well in the Nike Hoop Summit. Capela has a long way to go skill-wise and has to get stronger, but he's an ideal candidate to draft and let develop overseas, with a chance for a big payoff down the line.
Capela moves exceptionally well, finishes around the basket and blocks a lot of shots with his nearly 7-4 wingspan and enormous hands. Those traits help him play above the rim and finish lobs easily. His calling card is his rebounding, with natural instincts that help him grab boards outside of his area on both ends. Capela likes to face up and attack the basket but will need to keep honing his mid-range game to be more than just a bruiser at power forward.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Guard
Partizan Belgrade (Serbia) | Country: Serbia
6-6, 200, 21 years old
Bogdanovic, who withdrew from last year's draft, enjoyed a breakout season with Partizan, winning the Euroleague Rising Star award for best young performer after averaging 14.8 points and 3.7 assists in 31 minutes. He also possesses a great name and is not to be confused with 2011 draftee Bojan Bogdanovic (no relation). Partizan is reportedly looking to sell him to the highest-bidding European club this summer. In that scenario, he could command a higher salary from a European club than he would on an NBA rookie deal, and his new team would likely be hesitant to let him go without a significant buyout.
At 6-6, Bogdanovic can play either guard spot, score in a variety of ways and facilitate offense when needed. He projects as a capable defender, active in the passing lanes with a 6-11 wingspan. Bogdanovic isn't an outstanding athlete and can be turnover-prone, the two biggest knocks against him. It may be a while before we see him in the NBA, but Bogdanovic has a chance to sneak into the first round.
Vasilije Micic, Guard
Mega Vizura (Serbia) | Country: Serbia
6-4, 188, 20 years old
One of the top guards in the Adriatic League, Micic has featured and had success with Serbia at nearly every youth level. He did a lot for his stock at last summer's U-19 World Championships, leading his country to the finals and standing out in a loss to the U.S. against a backcourt that included likely first-rounders Marcus Smart and Elfrid Payton. A true point guard and one of the most creative passers in the draft, Micic has played professionally since age 16 and his size, experience and savvy make him an intriguing selection.
Micic changes speeds effectively to create for teammates and passes extraordinarily well. He's not terribly quick or fast, but understands angles and shines in pick-and-roll situations. Micic will need to shoot much better from the perimeter (28.9 percent from three-point range), particularly because he could have difficulty beating defenders into the paint. He also could struggle to defend his position because of the lack of speed. Still, with his feel for the game, Micic could become a useful contributor in the right situation.
Damien Inglis, Forward
Team: Chorale Roanne Basket (France) | Country: France
6-9, 240, 18 years old
The 18-year-old Inglis, who started for the International team at the Nike Hoop Summit, has top-flight defensive potential. He passes the eye test with an NBA-ready body and 7-3 wingspan. He averaged only 15.3 minutes for France's Chorale Roanne Basket but has shown ability in flashes. Having barely played any high-level basketball, he won't be ready to contribute for a few years but could make for a nice option later in the draft.
Inglis can guard multiple positions and has a chance to become a shutdown defender. He's an intelligent player with a developing offensive skill set, flourishing in transition and making plays for teammates. He's not a good shooter and will need to land in the right situation with a patient team, but Inglis warrants a second-round selection based on his defensive ability alone.
Walter Tavares, Center
Team: Gran Canaria (Spain) | Country: Cape Verde
7-2, 265, 22 years old
Tavares, who, like Nurkic, started playing basketball in 2009, is largely an unknown. What we do know is that he's 7-2 with a nearly 7-9 wingspan, hails from the tiny island of Cape Verde off the West African coast and goes by "Edy." He's coming off a solid season in the Spanish league (six points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 20.8 minutes), one of Europe's toughest.
Tavares has emerged as one of the top shot blockers overseas and a productive rebounder with a chance to contribute on the interior in the NBA. He's also pretty mobile, though not as athletic as fellow 7-2 European Rudy Gobert, who went in the first round last year. Tavares' offensive game is unpolished and he can't create much for himself, but guys that big are few and far between. There's enough promise for a team to take a flier on him.
Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Guard
Team: Delaware 87ers (D-League) | Country: Greece
6-6, 205, 21 years old
Thanasis comes into the draft with significantly less hype than his younger brother did last year. Thanasis doesn't have the same freakish upside and talent that earned Giannis a first-round selection by Milwaukee, but after a season in the D-League (where he averaged 12 points and 4.3 rebounds in 29.3 minutes), Antetokounmpo showed himself to be a worthy NBA prospect in his own right. His decision to forgo a European career and play domestically paid off, earning him plenty of looks from scouts.
Like his brother, Antetokounmpo is an explosive athlete, one of the best in the D-League. He has a lot of promise defensively with his length and quickness and a tenacious attitude. He can play above the rim, but it will take a ton of skill development for him to make a real impact on offense. Expect to hear his name called in the second round, and even then there's a chance his team keeps him in the D-League longer.