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Overtime Elite: Top NBA Draft Prospects to Watch

With OTE's inaugural season beginning this weekend, here are the players to watch.
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ATLANTA — You’ve probably heard and read about Overtime Elite—the recently founded, Atlanta-based basketball academy that’s billed itself as a “transformative” new pathway for teenage basketball prospects. It’s an alternative option to college basketball and the G League’s Ignite program that pays its players and offers them a holistic on- and off-court education.

Overtime began as a popular social media platform that featured player highlights and focused on high school athletes. But after raising tons of money—including funding from Jeff Bezos, Drake and a host of NBA stars—Overtime shifted gears and planted its flag parallel to the increasingly amorphous high school basketball space. The league hired former NBA exec Brandon Williams to run the basketball side and former UConn coach Kevin Ollie to lead the team, which will feature 27 players (divided into three teams for game purposes) for its inaugural season that begins this weekend.

If that exceptionally well-crafted explanation left you with more questions, that’s O.K.—NBA executives and luminaries all over the hoops industry largely shared that sentiment over the past calendar year. OTE is foraying into uncharted territory. Thankfully, what the new league is not doing is hiding from curious eyes.

Overtime Elite opened its doors (and its brand-new, 103,000 square-foot facility in Midtown Atlanta) to the NBA for the first time on Saturday for a pro day event that drew a full house of about 60 NBA scouts. Everyone was COVID-tested before entering the building. None of the visitors (which included a small pocket of media and this writer) knew exactly what to expect out of this—the majority of OTE’s prospects are two or three years from being draft-eligible, not all of them had lofty national reputations before signing on and, in this line of work, there are always pro days that wind up dragging or disappointing. But scouts witnessed a tightly run, three-hour program that highlighted prospects effectively and ended with about an hour of officiated five-on-five scrimmaging. It ran like a college practice, with Ollie and his staff (which includes longtime DePaul coach Dave Leitao, among others) maintaining a brisk pace.

The day essentially served to legitimize OTE’s program in the eyes of the NBA. The question of how the program sustains itself in the long run was a popular and fair one among NBA folks in attendance, but everyone seemed satisfied with what they saw in the short-term. OTE’s operation is clearly something scouts will have to take seriously—and frankly, entering the weekend, expectations didn’t seem especially high.

Teams are expected to have freedom to return and watch games over the course of the season, which should be a better setting to evaluate OTE’s prospects, who will play a home-heavy schedule against prep schools and against one another, with international competition potentially on tap in the spring.

Although there’s not a surefire future NBA star in this year’s group, there are several intriguing prospects eligible for the 2022 draft and a handful of 2023 and 2024 names to know. Here’s a quick rundown of who stood out this weekend from a draft standpoint.

Overtime Elite guard and NBA draft prospect Jean Montero

2022 draft-eligible

Jean Montero, G

If there’s a true headliner among OTE’s initial group of prospects, it’s Montero, who has been widely projected as a first-round pick in the upcoming draft dating back to his breakout showing at the 2020 Basketball Without Borders Global Camp. A native of the Dominican Republic, Montero is the clear top player among his OTE peers at this stage, and it’s no coincidence he’s also the most experienced, having spent the past two seasons playing professionally in Spain as part of Gran Canaria’s development system.

Montero is advanced skill-wise as well as in the way he thinks the game, which he showed this weekend. He is a good off-dribble shooter, is generally unselfish with the ball, and excels making plays on the move and improvising. He’s also emerged as the vocal leader of the group, due in part to his relative age and experience.

Listed at 6' 2”, 172, Montero will spend this season trying to combat the stigma around his lack of size. He has filled out a bit and doesn’t seem to tire quickly, which helps him play a tad bigger, but he’s not overly long (6' 4" wingspan) and won’t have much of a physical advantage in the NBA. It helps that Montero is a highly coordinated finisher, comfortable leaping off either foot and finishing with either hand, but he’s not a player who will easily dictate the terms of contact around the basket against bigger bodies.

Still, for a guard his size, Montero doesn’t have many glaring holes in his skill set: his shooting form is good and stretches out beyond the three-point line; he competes and moves his feet defensively; he’s a smart ball-mover and improving as a pick-and-roll player in the halfcourt. His ability and aptitude remain readily evident.

He’ll be best suited playing on the ball due to his size limitations, and would seem to offer a fairly reasonable floor as a second-unit point guard, with upside tied to his growth as a shooter and playmaker. He’s more of a scorer by nature, and there’s more progression that has to happen here first—the uncertainty surrounding his level of competition might make the final eval a little more difficult for some scouts. But for now, Montero remains a projected first-rounder in what may be a fairly thin guard class.

Kok Yat, G/F

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Yat, the cousin of recent Hornets draftee J.T. Thor, may have helped himself more than anyone else over the weekend, showcasing a smooth jumper, high-level athleticism, and upside as a scorer and defender with desirable size and measurables on the wing. Yat, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, who played high school basketball with Thor at Norcross in the Atlanta area, took a bit of a winding path to OTE, initially committing to play at DePaul last September, then reopening his recruitment in May after Dave Leitao’s firing. He wound up joining Leitao with OTE, and would seem to qualify as a legitimate sleeper after rating as the 188th best player in 247Sports’ final 2021 class rankings.

As a result, Saturday was the first opportunity for many scouts (myself included) to watch Yat, and while it’s important not to get wildly carried away, his physical profile and projectable jump shot make him a clear person of interest for NBA teams moving forward. He is an above-the-rim leaper, looks like a pretty consistent shooter, and is listed at 6' 8" with a 6' 11" wingspan. He handles the ball and moves like a wing, and has enough lateral quickness to guard the perimeter.

He’ll need to prove he can be efficient in flashes during games, and teams need to get a handle on the level of competition OTE will face, but Yat has put himself on the draft radar.

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Dominick Barlow, PF

Barlow is the third notable draft-eligible prospect, a late-blooming forward who opted to join OTE rather than take a prep year. He was a back-end Top 100 recruit on major scouting sites, but gathered some steam on the summer circuit and opted to turn down a host of high-major offers.

Barlow is an explosive athlete and competent shooter who profiles optimistically as a stretch forward in the long run, standing 6' 9" with a 7' 1" wingspan and wielding huge hands. Players with that type of innately versatile profile tend to get long looks. He stands to play with more physicality and add strength, and he isn’t the most natural mover—his footwork, balance and coordination has to keep improving—but his skills do fit his positional mold somewhat neatly.

Barlow played at a small high school and flew under the radar as a result, but he will draw NBA attention moving forward and has some of the better athletic tools in OTE’s group. It’s too early in the process to say exactly what it amounts to yet, particularly for a player who lacks high-level experience, but if Barlow proves to be a quick learner, there will be a case to make for him in the long run, and potentially in this draft.

2023 draft-eligible

Amen Thompson, G/F

Ausar Thompson, G/F

I’m going to take the liberty of writing up the Thompson twins together, as it’s legitimately tricky to differentiate their games on first viewing, but they’re both exceptional run-jump athletes and profile as OTE’s two highest-upside prospects. Neither Thompson played in five-on-five scrimmaging, which makes it hard to draw any conclusions, but they sufficiently showcased their incredible quick-twitch explosiveness in drills, in addition to how much they both have to improve as jump shooters.

Both are reputed as excellent passers, and the sheer speed and force with which they move and can get downhill was pretty astounding on a first viewing. It’s harder to say anything more conclusive than that until we get longer glimpses of proper game action, but the buzz around them has been significant.

Amen appears to be the better shooter of the two right now, although his release needs some work—he’s right-handed but lets the ball go from the left side of his face, which creates some difficulty shooting off the dribble and with the consistency of his mechanics. I’m not a shooting coach, but it’s going to take some time for him to get results in game situations. Ausar struck me as the slightly more explosive leaper, but that was purely based on my eye test, and he showed less consistency in his overall shooting form and release point. Their measurements and testing times were generally similar: both Thompsons stand 6' 7”, with Ausar’s 6' 10" wingspan an inch longer than Amen’s. They both look like ambidextrous finishers around the basket.

It’s probably a good developmental decision to have them play on separate teams within OTE’s setup, and any opportunities to see them play head-to-head will be fascinating. I’m not ready to say which one is better yet, nor should there be a huge rush to make that judgment. But at this early stage, both twins look like potential high-caliber talents, provided their shooting improves sufficiently over the next two years. These are the two guys I’m personally most intrigued to watch as OTE’s season gets underway.

Overtime Elite bench during pro day

2024 draft-eligible

Alexandre Sarr, F/C

The younger brother of recent Kentucky and Wake Forest center Olivier Sarr, Alex measured at 7' 0” with a 7' 3" wingspan and has an obvious NBA-caliber physical profile. Like his brother, Sarr is more of a finesse-oriented big and had a reputation in Europe for being somewhat contact-averse in spite of his size. Still, we’re talking about a huge 16-year-old (he was born in 2005!) with demonstrable shooting ability and skill in an already-giant frame. It helps that Sarr moves more like a forward than a center.

The Frenchman was part of the prestigious Real Madrid academy setup the past two years, giving him a strong baseline hoops education, and is obviously one of the more fascinating long-term prospects in the OTE fold. Teams want to see him embrace the finer points of interior play. But there’s a lot of time and runway for Sarr to enhance his NBA case.

Tyler Smith, F

Smith initially caught my eye in Las Vegas at Pangos Camp back in May, with a versatile skill-set at 6' 9" with a 7' 0” wingspan and a promising left-handed stroke. Already a fairly comfortable perimeter shooter, Smith rated as a top 10 prospect in the 2023 high school class before his decision to leave his Houston high school and join OTE. He’s a long way away, but should be able to fit in at either forward spot and offers some upside as a tall, skilled perimeter player. He flashed some intriguing things as a passer at pro day in addition to some ambidexterity with his off hand. Proper game action will give a better sense of Smith’s role, but the potential is certainly there, and he turned down a host of high-major offers. He turns 17 in November and is theoretically old enough for the 2023 draft, but at present isn’t eligible until 2024.

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