As most basketball leagues around the world are currently suspended, we asked former NBA scout and current Director of International Scouting for Babcock Hoops, Jason Filippi, to share his thoughts on the top internationally born prospects for the 2020 NBA Draft.
6-9 | 215 | SF/PF | Macaabi Tel Aviv (Israel)
Mock Draft: #5
Deni Avdija is a combo forward who will probably be best fitted to serve as a small-ball four in the NBA. He has been impressive, displaying his versatility on both sides of the floor, operating as a 6’9” point forward that’s capable of making plays in transition with the ball in his hands for himself and others while also proving to be a better wing defender than initially expected. Despite his inconsistent three-point shooting, which remains his achilles heel, the rest of his game is airtight.
Prior to the halt in games, Avdija had been showing consistent improvements with his overall game all season long. He had already been putting up solid numbers on a nightly basis in the Israeli League but was also starting to have a bigger role in Euroleague games as well. Deni Avdija is perhaps the most polished and versatile young European prospect we have seen since Luka Doncic. He has solidified his draft status as a high lottery pick, and will likely be the first international player selected in the 2020 NBA Draft.
6-5 | 195 | PG/SG | Ulm (Germany)
Mock Draft: #7
Frenchman Killian Hayes made a gamble last summer by leaving his team, Cholet, in France to play in Germany for Ulm. A decision that has seemingly paid off for him as he has had a break-out season this year and has subsequently climbed up draft boards as a result.
A 6’5” lefty combo guard, Hayes has displayed a lot of maturity, playing with great confidence this season. He is a good slasher with the ball and can create off the dribble for himself and his teammates. He has improved in virtually every aspect of his game, but most notably his playmaking, as he has looked more like a true playmaker. His inconsistent outside shooting remains somewhat of a question mark, but he is developing into a player that can be depended on to score when needed. Given his solid size, skillset, and versatility in the backcourt, he has drawn comparisons to current NBA player D’Angelo Russell of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Killian Hayes should transition to the NBA seamlessly, and there is a strong likelihood that he will be a mid-to-high lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
7-0 | 200 | PF/C | Olympiacos (Greece)
Mock Draft: #20
Serbian big man Aleksej Pokusevski, who currently plays for the Greek powerhouse Olympiacos’ second team, is a possible X-factor in this year’s draft and could end up being the ultimate sleeper pick. Although our group at Babcock Hoops has been high on him for a while, Pokusevski had not been high on most other draft boards early in the season; however, his stock has risen steadily.
Mobile, agile, and incredibly skilled for a seven-footer, “Poku” is a face-up player that incarnates the modern stretch big man perfectly. Despite not being physically ready for the NBA, he possesses major upside down the road, making him a terrific draft-and-stash option. He would likely benefit most by staying in Europe for another year or so, although it’s certainly possible that his agents could push to have him come to the NBA right away to allow him to receive NBA level physical training. With a looming uncertainty of what path to the NBA he could take, count on us tracking the situation closely. Regardless, do not be surprised if you hear his name called sometime during the first round.
6-5 | 174 | PG/SG | ASVEL (France)
Mock Draft: #24
Due to a slow start this season, a shoulder injury that kept him out of play for a while, and the fact that there are a lot of good point guards in this year’s draft, Theo Maledon has moved around quite a bit on our mock draft throughout this season. Since he apparently adjusted to the higher level of competition in the Euroleague he had been playing very well since January, including an impressive performance at the French National Cup Final 8 in front of several NBA scouts.
At 6’5”, Maledon is a mature and composed player that has good positional size and a solid shooting stroke. Although being more of a distributor than a true creator, his scoring ability opens up plenty of playmaking opportunities. Considering Maledon’s overall game, he’s a safe pick for NBA teams drafting in the first round, as he will likely be a solid pro and fringe starter throughout his career. Although he may have a low ceiling, his floor is high too, making for an interesting discussion when comparing him to the other point guards likely to be in this year’s draft. We currently have him slotted as the 24th pick on our mock draft, but he could easily go much higher.
6-7 | 178 | SG/PG | FC Barcelona (Spain)
Mock Draft: #26
Although it has been challenging to evaluate Leandro Bolmaro this season due to the lack of playing time, the Argentinian combo guard has impressed scouts with his toughness, intangibles, and positive intel. An exciting player to watch, Bolmaro has been hailed by many as the next Manu Ginobili, a fellow Argentinian. At 6’7”, he has shown the ability to be an effective playmaker, which has been a pleasant surprise. He needs to improve his outside shooting, but he has the potential to be a legitimate combo guard with terrific size on the NBA level nonetheless. As our own Matt Babcock confirmed recently, Bolmaro has a reasonable $900,000 NBA buyout if he chooses to come to the NBA next season, allowing for teams in the first round to consider him without much of a hurdle. Expect Bolmaro to be selected somewhere in the late first round or early-to-mid second round of the 2020 NBA Draft.
6-9 | 200 | PF/C | Oostende (Belgium)
Mock Draft: #34
Last summer, Senegalese big man Amar Sylla decided to leave his team in Spain for a bigger role and more consistent playing time with Oostende in the Belgian League. Although he has had an up and down season, Sylla has impressed at times with his length, mobility, and athleticism, all tools that allow him to be a versatile defender, rim protector, and finisher at the rim.
That being said, his overall offensive skill set is still a major work in progress. He tends to take a lot of unnecessary three-point shots in a seemingly misguided attempt to prove that he is a stretch four. I personally do not consider him to be a very good shooter and would suggest that he stick to his “bread and butter” on offense as a rim runner. He is extremely thin, which is potentially a major concern because he projects to be more of a small-ball center. He reminds me a bit of current NBA player Clint Capela, who was also very thin at the same stage in his career. Although Sylla’s draft stock has dropped a bit, I still consider him to be a legitimate option for teams selecting in the second round.
6-7 | 200 | PG/SG | Cholet (France)
Mock Draft: #42
Following a disappointing season last year, Abdoulaye N’Doye has bounced back, improved his game, and has had a solid season in France this year. He has changed the narrative for me from being an overrated prospect to now suddenly being an underrated one. N’Doye is extremely versatile, as he is capable of playing three positions on both ends of the court. He is not ever going to be a dynamic scorer but has turned himself into a player that can be counted on to knock down open three-point shots with consistency, especially from the corner.
On the defensive end, he is an NBA caliber wing defender, utilizing his freakishly long 7’2” wingspan. N’Doye has proven to me that he is a legitimate “3-and-D” prospect who may actually be better suited for the NBA as a versatile role player rather than being a star player in Europe.
Others worth mentioning: Malcolm Cazalon, Paul Eboua, Philipp Herkenhoff, Giorgos Kalaitzakis, Arturs Kurucs, Yam Madar, Nikita Mikhailovski, Louis Olinde, Borisa Simanic, Marko Simonovic, and Arturs Zagars.