- Deni Avdija, Khalifa Diop and Killian Hayes were among the elite young prospects who showed off their skills at the annual Basketball Without Borders Global Camp.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Basketball Without Borders Global Camp remains one of the best events on the scouting calendar, moving annually with NBA All-Star Weekend, bringing together personnel from around the league and giving elite young talent from around the world an opportunity to showcase their skills. The 2019 camp wrapped up Sunday, with three full days of practices and highly competitive scrimmages drawing a full house of scouts. Every year, BWB features a handful of players who have had successful starts to their NBA careers, including a number of high-lottery selections. It has become a one-stop shop to see international prospects in a structured, energetic environment.
The Crossover’s Front Office was again in attendance all three days. Below you’ll find evaluations of the camp’s top long-term prospects.
Deni Avdija, G | Israel
Height: 6’8” | Weight: 210 | Draft-Eligible: 2020
After coming in as the weekend’s headlining name, Avdija earned camp MVP honors and did well in showcasing his extremely advanced package of skills. He is not a player you have to squint very hard to appreciate, and it was immediately apparent on the first day of games that Avdija was the most talented and most NBA-ready player at the event. His feel for playmaking off the dribble is innate, and he has legitimate potential to be someone who can piggyback an NBA offense as a ball-handler for extended periods of time. He’s not the prodigy Luka Doncic was, but those comparisons seem likely to come his way given his preferred style of play and distinct strengths.
With NBA teams favoring positionless setups, Avdija should be able to play either guard spot on offense. Avdija dazzled with an array of creative passes, looked like a comfortable set shooter from outside and has the size and feel to be an adequate defender. He is not wildly explosive, and developing his skills finishing in the paint will be imperative as the competition gets tougher, but the glimpses we saw over the weekend were overwhelmingly positive. For a player who comes from a much more organized team setup than the vast majority of his peers, Avdija did a good job getting his teammates involved and playing to his own ability. He is on track for a lottery selection in 2020, and hopefully a larger role with Maccabi Tel Aviv’s senior team next season. His continued evolution could land him near the top of next year’s draft.
Khalifa Diop, C | Senegal
Height: 6’11” | Weight: 240 | Draft-Eligible: 2021
Diop looked like far and away the most intriguing long-term prospect among bigs at the camp, particularly given the fact he’s still two years away from the draft. His team won the championship, due in large part to the backbone he provided them defensively. There aren’t many young guys anywhere built the way he is, with rippling shoulders, massive hands and a substantial amount of reach. Diop moves his feet well defensively, has a good sense of positioning and, although he’s not an elite-level shot-blocker right now, his ability to contest shots and take away angles is highly impressive. He was even able to switch onto small guards and contest on the perimeter for short stretches. From a rebounding perspective, he can play above the rim on both ends and has a chance to be prolific.
Offensively, the catch-and-dunk component of Diop’s game should be there, but he also showed some extremely impressive flashes of skill during drills. He’s not a good shooter yet, but his release at times looked very natural, and his ability to pass and handle the ball relative to his size is above average. Diop didn’t play with much emotion at all, but his no-frills approach and impressive motor earned him a lot of fans among the scouts in attendance. He is in the midst of his first professional season with Gran Canaria’s junior team and is still a ways off from being NBA-ready, but he possesses a substantial amount of upside and ought to be tracked closely from here. Expect the buzz to mount if he stays on course.
Killian Hayes, G | France
Height: 6’5” | Weight: 190 | Draft-Eligible: 2020
Hayes played in this event last year in Los Angeles but was injured for a chunk of it. He left no doubt about his talent level with his play over the weekend, and was pretty clearly the second-best player in attendance, which was to be expected given his level of professional experience. While his mood on a given day can still get in the way of his performance and interest level, when Hayes is fully engaged, he looks the part as a first-round prospect going into next year. He has a great positional profile as a combo guard with size and agility, and will be part of a strong trio of French prospects, including point guard Theo Maledon and wing Malcom Cazalon (neither of whom attended this weekend).
Born to an American father who played at Penn State, Hayes is a left-hand dominant scorer who can be exceptional as a creative, dribble-breakdown player in isolation. His style of play is almost more American than French, as he can almost overdribble at times with a vested interest in making a play. When he wants to be, he’s also an excellent passer who sees angles well enough to think he’ll be able to playmake on the ball long-term. His defensive success is also tied to his effort level, as he moves his feet well and can hang with smaller guards. Hayes’s jump shot is still a work in progress, and it’s unlikely to be an elite component of his game long-term, but he should be able to get it to a respectable place with more work. It’s too early to make big conclusions about the 2020 draft, but right now, the lottery looks more guard-centric than this year or in 2018, meaning there will be some stiff competition. Hayes should end up in the mix toward the middle of the first round.
Amar Sylla, PF | Senegal
Height: 6’10” | Weight: 200 | Draft-Eligible: 2020
While Sylla’s overall play was a bit underwhelming at times this weekend, from a physical perspective he is as impressive as anyone. Currently a part of Real Madrid’s junior setup, Sylla was recorded last year with a 7’2” wingspan and 37-inch max vertical, and has the type of sloping upper body that seems destined to add positive muscle. He moves smoothly for a guy his size and has a good amount of facility as a ball-handler, although it’s not all game-applicable at this point. His jumper needs some work, as does his finishing ability at the basket, but it could be that Sylla’s athletic prowess creates a lower baseline for prerequisite skill in order to succeed. If he adds the three-point shot and continues to focus on rebounding and defense, there’s a clear pathway for him into an NBA role. He will be eligible for the draft next year, but looks more like a first-round flier than surefire lottery talent at this stage.
Addison Patterson, G | Canada
Height: 6’7” | Weight: 200 | Draft-Eligible: 2021
Patterson stood out among yet another good group of Canadian players with his natural basketball feel and athletic fluidity. He needs to get stronger, but his size and wiry build help make him an effective defender and slasher. Patterson is comfortable with the ball in his hands and can both score and provide some secondary playmaking at this stage. He’s particularly solid in transition, and his overall polish helped set him apart in scrimmages. He does have a bit of a funky release on his jumper, where his elbow sort of juts outward and puts emphasis on his wrist (Lonzo Ball is immediately called to mind), and the results there were a bit mixed. Patterson shoots with enough touch that it might be workable. The Ontario native plans to play college basketball, and recently listed Oregon, Illinois, Maryland and Arizona State among his suitors. He is currently a 2020 prospect, but is old enough that he could potentially reclassify for the fall.