Scouting (via Youtube) the Top Non-Dragan Foreign Prospects

Posted: 06/12/2016 by levcohen in Basketball, Draft

Much of what I know about many of the top NBA draft prospects comes from what I’ve seen from them in their time playing college basketball. Particularly for the players who played deep into the NCAA tournament, my opinion is largely (rightly or wrongly) based upon how they performed in college. Unfortunately, some of the players who will become first round draft picks did not play in college. I’m referring to Thon Maker, who due to his unique situation was able to make the jump from high school to the draft, and I’m referring to foreign players who have been playing in the pros in Europe instead of in college in the US. I’ve already discussed Dragan Bender, who’s clearly the cream of the crop this year. Today, I’m going to look into the next four best foreign prospects. Because I know absolutely nothing about these guys going in, I’m just going to watch some youtube videos (along with stats) and try to make some deductions about these guys.

Timothe Luwawu is a 21 year old French wing who played for Mega Leks (in Belgrade) in the Adriatic League. Now, there’s no reason you should know anything about an Adriatic League club, but if you were to know anything about any of them, it would probably be Mega Leks. This is a team that had three players drafted in 2014, including stud big Nikola Jokic. It’s also a team that’s very devoted to developing young players, which explains why Luwawu played 31 minutes per game this past season while Bender played just 11 per contest. And it’s a team that plays at a very fast pace, which is certainly something to keep in mind. First, here are Luwawu’s stats from last season in those 31 minutes per game: 14.6 points on 40% shooting, 2.1 made threes on 37% shooting from beyond the arc, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.9 turnovers, and 1.7 steals. It’s dangerous to extrapolate too much from these stats, but I think it’s fair to say that he’s at least a decent three point shooter who’s active on defense but who isn’t the best playmaker. After watching some Youtube of Luwawu, though, I’m confident that I know a lot more about him.

  • This might just be in comparison to players who play in the Adriatic League, but Luwawu seems fast and explosive. His ability to change speeds often gives him easy lanes to the hoop, and he’s put a lot of Serbs on posters this year. He’s also very long (6’7″ with a 6’11” wingspan), and that’s very evident in the videos. Basically, his athletic ability and size could make him the prototypical two-way wing.
  • His shot mechanics are good but might be a little slow. I don’t think Luwawu is going to be a knockdown shooter in the NBA, at least in the early going. Almost all of his threes seem to come on catch-and-shoot plays and/or total blown coverages, so don’t expect him to make a lot of super tough threes.
  • He’s not great at finishing tough shots at the rim, and that will certainly be an issue against bigger and better defenders.
  • It’s hard to find much defense in highlights, but Luwawu seems like a defender who has the potential to be very good. He has quick feet and long arms and is pretty active on the defensive end. On the other hand, he often loses his man on defense. Whether that is a byproduct of just being raw or something deeper and more troubling (like a lack of effort or attitude problem) is yet to be determined.

If you want a long, rangy wing who has the potential to develop into a nice role player, Luwawu is your guy. He’s not great on either end just yet, but he probably has the upside to be a Danny Green-esque 3-and-D guy. In fact, Green might be an accurate best-case scenario for Luwawu. It is fair to note that, at 21, Luwawu is a couple of years older than some of these other guys.

Ivica Zubac, a 19 year old 7’1″ center, is Luwawu’s teammate with Mega Leks. Because he transferred from Cibona Zagreb (more on them later on) to Mega Leks, he missed four months and is only now getting into the swing of things with his new team. He’s thus barely played at all this year, which makes what few stats he’s generated rather worthless. To Youtube we go!

  • Zubac is big. He’s listed at 265 pounds, and he uses every last one of those pounds to set strong screens. He’ll be a good screener in the NBA. He also has a 7’4″ wingspan, which gives him the potential to be a rim protector down the line.
  • He’s got great hands, good footwork, and some nifty post moves. He made some really difficult and contested catches in the highlights I was watching and was also able to execute in the post even with the shot clock running down. The guy’s much more polished than I expected.
  • He gets caught ball-watching on defense all the time. That speaks to a lack of defensive instincts. And while he’s an adequate athlete, he’s nowhere near good enough to cover up for the lapses he makes. If he doesn’t stay attached to the guy he’s guarding, he’s going to give up a lot of easy buckets.
  • He’s a sub-60% free throw shooter and doesn’t shoot outside of 5 feet, and I don’t think he’ll ever develop a real shot in the NBA. That doesn’t make him unusable, but it limits his upside.
  • I think it’s fair to say that Zubac is mobile but not explosive. He’s not going to posterize people in the NBA, but he runs the floor pretty well for a big man.

I don’t think Zubac has very high upside due to his defensive limitations and inability to stretch the floor. But his post moves are solid and he’s been pretty efficient, and his youth could lead a team to draft him and then stash him overseas while he continues to develop.

Ante Zizic played against Luwawu and Zubac in the Adriatic League and for Cibona Zagreb. He’s a 6’11” Croatian center who is just 19 years old and still managed to play 26 minutes per game for Cibona. He averaged 13.4 points per contest on 64% shooting and also managed to connect on 70% of his shots from the line. Zizic added eight rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game but also turned the ball over six times more often than he got assists. After watching the limit Zizic film that exists on Youtube, here’s what I know:

  • He’s very good in pick-and-roll situations. In fact, it seems as if the vast majority of his points have come when he’s been the roll man in a pick-and-roll. He’s got quick feet and a big frame, which should help him in the pick-and-roll at the next level.
  • He’s physical and draws a lot of fouls. If you’re tired of seeing big men who are scared of being fouled and sent to the free throw line, Zizic might be the guy for you. He took 5.7 free throw attempts in just 25.7 minutes per game. And his solid 70% free throw shooting may mean that he has room to grow as a shooter moving forward. As of now, he never shoots from outside the paint, but he could develop a 16 or 18-footer.
  • He’s got decent enough athleticism, probably good enough that he can be a solid defender in the NBA but certainly not strong enough for him to be a defensive anchor. He’s also not mobile enough to play power forward under any circumstances, so he’ll be locked in at center.
  • Zizic is very, very, very unpolished offensively. The terrible assist-to-turnover ratio may have told you that, as may the fact that almost all of his points come on dunks off of pick-and-rolls. He doesn’t seem to have any post moves. Then again, he’s only 19, so none of this is very surprising.

Given the recent success of big men from the Adriatic League (Nikola Pekovic, Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic), Zizic is a very interesting prospect. He’s not very versatile, but he has been very efficient this year despite being just 19. He’s a strong enough defender to be considered more of a potential asset than liability in the long run and is a good enough free throw shooter to make it plausible that he will develop a midrange shot. You could do worse with a draft-and-stash in the middle of the first round.

Furkan Korkmaz is a 6’7″, 185 pound Turkish shooting guard who won’t celebrate his 19th birthday until a month after the draft. He plays for Anadolu Efes (in Istanbul) in the BSL (Basketball Super League) and Euro League, so we’re finally moving away from the Adriatic League. The Euro League and BSL are both competitive, so the fact that Korkmaz played just 8.8 minutes per game as an 18 year old in Euro League play and 14.4 in the BSL is understandable. Given his lack of playing time, most of the stats are again rather worthless. But it is worth noting that Korkmaz shoots well over 40% from three point range.

  • The first thing I noticed in my Youtube deep dive is that Korkmaz won the BSL slam dunk contest. I don’t know how much that’s worth, but I think it’s fair to say that Korkmaz has good bounce and athleticism. When you pair that with his 6’7″ frame, it’s easy to imagine him becoming an explosive shooting guard.
  • That shooting percentage is legit. He’s got a great looking shot and can hit when open or guarded. He has a much better chance than Luwawu of becoming a knockdown shooter.
  • I was surprised to see the number of times Korkmaz deferred to his teammates. He’s a very unselfish player, which can be taken positively or negatively. I’m going to take it positively and assume that he will make the correct extra pass in the NBA, something that not many players can do.
  • He’s so so so so skinny, and it hurts him on both sides of the floor. His defense is his weakness at this point and is probably the reason that he rarely got on the court for Anadolu Efes, but his lack of size also hurt him on the offensive end, keeping him from finishing through contact. If he can put on weight, I could see him becoming a very good offensive creator and a decent defender.

Every year, there seems to be a European guy who can just shoot the lights out. This year, Korkmaz is that guy. He’s very skinny and probably needs to be stashed overseas for a few years, but he has the potential of becoming a great offensive creator in the long run. If you want a guy who can contribute immediately, though, Luwawu is probably the better pick.

Also considered:
Juan Hernangomez- the brother of Guillermo Hernangomez, who was drafted with the 35th pick last year, Juan is having a good year in Spain. He’s a 6’9″ power forward who’s fast and has good range but has very limited offensive skill.
Guerschon Yabusele- his name is hard to spell, but Yabusele is a very good athlete who could be a prototypical stretch-4 with a lot of work. I wanted to write more about him, but he’s very raw and I’m not convinced he’ll be drafted in the first round.

Ranking of the international prospects:
Bender
Korkmaz
Zizic
Luwawu
Zubac
Yabusele
Hernangomez

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