Usually, international prospects are complete mysteries to me.
They are just a bunch of difficult to pronounce names, grainy YouTube highlight, and statistics that do not really convey any meaning. Sometimes, you get lucky and catch the player playing in a major Euroleague game or a FIBA game with their national team, but most of the time, I have no clue what a guy like Jan Vesely or Donatas Motiejunas can do until they actually get here and play. Hell, I still don't know what Jan Vesely can do other than make out with his really hot girlfriend. Frankly, I am more interested in what she's up to these days than him, but that's beside the point.
The point is, for a casual American fan like me, a glimpse is the most I get, and most of the time I don't even get that. This year, I was actually lucky enough to catch some game plays from various international prospects, so I can actually comment on some of the 2nd round draft and stash prospects.
As luck would have it, I caught exactly one game on each of the following players: Alex Abrine, Marko Todorovic, Nemanja Nedovic, and Livio Jean-Charles. Now, it'd be presumptuous of me to say any of these observations from 1 game are representative of the players' actual strengths and weaknesses, but at least it is observations from another set of eyes and more information.
I watched Alex Abrines in the Euroleague 3rd place game between CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona Regal. The game is probably still available via ESPN3 replay.
19 soon to be 20 years old, Abrines is a good sized shooting guard at 6'6" that's very often compared to fellow countryman Rudy Fernandez. The comparison is quite apt. Abrines is a perimeter shooter with decent quickness and athleticism, but a questionable defender. He mostly hung around the perimeter, looking for 3 point shots, but occasionally displayed the explosiveness to get above the rim.
Kind of a sneaky athlete, hangs in the air longer than you think. He tried to tomahawk one over former Blazer Viktor Khryapa, who was an excellent shot blocker this season according to the announcers, on transition. Very confident shooter, but really did not do much with the ball. Fluid shooting form and consistent mechanic, but his release is on the slow side. Sonny Weems was able to come from behind the screen to block one of his 3 point attempts. Only 2 of 6 in this game, all 3 point shots, but apparently has shot very well in every level he has been to so far, which is encouraging.
Problematic defender, cannot deal with screens at all in the game. He is too skinny to fight over them, yet not quick enough to slip past them. When he goes under, he takes poor angles. He did use his long arms to cause a steal on a reach, but that was pretty much the entirety of his defensive highlight.
Abrines plays for a big name club in Barca, and has the misfortune of playing behind near NBA caliber players in Juan Carlos Navarros, Sarunas Jasikevicius, and Marcelinho Huertas, so he does not actually gets a ton of playing time or responsibility. His combination of youth, skill level, and size makes him a very attractive draft and stash option, but his playing time with Barca might be questionable, since Barca can spend money on big names to play over him pretty easily.
I saw Marko Todorovic in the same game. He is Abrines' teammate on FC Barcelona Regal. I really watched the game for Abrines, but Todorovic was the guy that really impressed me.
Todorovic is a little older at 21, still young enough of a draft prospect, but may not be someone you can afford to be very patient with in term of development overseas. He's a 6'11" 240lb Montenegrin PF/C with limited offensive game, but a surprisingly good defensive streak.
He had to check two very good European big men in Nenad Krstic and Sasha Kaun, sometimes matched up on a small forward Victor Khryapa, and he did quite well in my opinion. He is a big body, long and wide with a decent amount of meat on his bones. Nenad Krstic, with a 20lb advantage, tried to push him around in the paint a couple times, and he just stood firm, moved his feet, and forced Krstic to bad shots.
His mobility is what really impressed me. Typically, a guy his size and weight does not move very well on defense, but many times in this game, Todorovic was able to stretch all the way out to the 3 point line, and get back to the paint area quickly. On one possession, he was able to stay in front of Viktor Khryapa from the 3 point line, cut off his drive to the hoop and force him into a bad pass. I don't know if he can do the same in the NBA, but the lateral quickness is legitimately great for a guy his size. He moves his feet very well, rotate to contain in the paint, and jumps straight up to contest shots. He even got a couple of deflections in this game, although they did not turn into steals. He only committed one foul in this game in transition, which I find rather impressive as well. Not quite an active disruptive force on defense, but the solid defensive IQ displayed in this game was something of a rarity among young players all over the world.
Offensively, there's not much to talk about. He got all his baskets at the rim, all lay ups and no dunks. He did draw 6 fouls and got 8 free throws. He used that quickness very effectively to draw fouls. He made 7/8 in this game, but it was probably too good to be true. If he had the touch to shoot 80% from the line, he would have shot the ball more. Announcers did mention that he is a good offensive rebounder. Not really on display in this game, since he only had 1 good offensive rebound and put back. He did grab 4 rebounds in 20 minutes, which is pretty good since the leading rebounder of this game only grabbed 6. He set big screens and rolls to the basket really hard, makes for a big target, although he mishandled a couple of passes in this game.
Like Abrines, Todorovic also plays behind big names in Ante Tomic and Erazem Lorbec (both players drafted, but never came to the NBA), which limits his playing time. Not sure how representative this one game is, since there's virtually no information available via writers and highlights, but I really liked what I saw. Given how thin the center position is in the NBA, he could be a good NBA player down the line.
Nedovic is a little more well known as a prospect. I actually went out of my way to find a game just so that I can watch him play. Although the game is no longer accessible anymore, I watched Nedovic's Lietuvos rytas took on Leo Westermann's Partizan mt:s. Not going to lie, I was more interested in Westermann, but Nedovic was a nice bonus.
Nedovic is a 6'4 point guard out of Serbia. He has been a professional player since 17, but oddly enough still not very skilled at his position. He is also 21, nowhere close to ready as a point guard in the NBA. He outscored Leo Westermann in this game, but Westerman was clearly the better point guard.
Nedovic is a poor passer, at one point came into the game and immediately turn over the ball 2 possessions in a roll. Despite excellent height to survey the field, Nedovic showed weak awareness and court assessment, often gets deflections on routine passes. He only garnered 3 assists in this game, but turned it over 3 times, basically negates his passing. To his credit, some of his passes are solid, great even, but his team is absolutely terrible at converting open shots. His teammates are pretty selfish, Nedovic often passes the ball and will never see that ball again on that possession.
He is a hell of a scorer. Absolute terror in transition, not only fast with an explosive burst, but also very strong opening a path to the rim. Extremely quick first step, just flat out blew by the entire Partizan team on one play, but did not convert at the rim despite solid frame and strength. The lack of finish is curious, since he is supremely athletic.
He can make shots from all ranges, made shots from 3, midrange and at the rim in this game. He was 3 of 3 from 3 point range in this game. Unfortunately, all 3 shots look different. The mechanic might be inconsistent, the only thing that was common was that he rises way high to shoot the ball and very quick release. Not the most aggressive player. Given his talent and reputation, I thought he should have been way more involved, instead, Nedovic opted to stand around on offense a lot after the initial pass. Again, really bad team factors in his lack of touch sometimes. Nedovic did not run the pick and roll particularly well either. He had some solid play, but did not look to attack much, really should have been in the paint a lot more.
Defensively, he can play excellent defense, but he does not stay focused. In the 4th quarter, after he had 2 very strong possessions against Westermann, just flat out fell asleep and let Westermann blew by him for a lay up. Another guy that cannot play with screens, sometimes would just give up after getting screen out of the play.
Despite having a pretty good statistical game, Nedovic really fell flat for me after this game. After looking up his statistics this season, it only confirmed my thoughts about his lack of PG skills and multiple holes. However, Nedovic is only 21, and he is athletic as hell. Some players are athletic, and some are ATHLETIC. Nedovic is ATHLETIC in all caps and then some. Google his highlights, ridiculous hops combine with length and explosiveness will make teams take a flyer on him. He has the opposite problem as Alex Abrines and Marko Todorovic. He plays for a really bad team, so he is forced into playing outside of his comfort zone a lot and may not have the chance to correct his flaws. It is up to teams to evaluate his ceiling and development, but he is one of those players that, if he figures it out, can be a star in the NBA.
Side note from this game: Davis Bertans from Partizan, 42nd pick in 2011acquired by San Antonio on draft night, is an AMAZING 3 point shooter at 6'10" and an absolute beast in this game.
This kid killed it at the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit against a really strong American class, and really that alone derseves a spot in this conversation.
He scored 27 points and collected 13 rebounds in this game and added 2 steals and 2 blocks for good measure. It was an all time performance in the Nike Hoop Summit event, but the statistics were more impressive than the actual game in this case, although you got to love a player that finds a way to impact the game without touching the ball. No plays were ran for Jean-Charles. He essentially collected 27 points on effort buckets. He ran the floor really hard, screen and flash to the basket, and he grabbed offensive rebounds and put them back. It may not have been the most impressive 27 points I have ever seen, but it is not easy to score 27 points simply cleaning up around the baskets.
I cannot really comment on Jean-Charles' offense because there weren't much to discuss really. He played like a power forward. He set screens both on and off the ball, and he rolled hard to the basket. Much of his success was attributed to Schorder's vision, but he also made really hard cuts and finished well at the rim. He did not overpower or out jump everyone and dunk everything home, but simply very crafty around the rim. He can change hands and hang in the air to make shots in close, and he can pump fake defenders out of position and use his length to finish. He did make his lone attempt from the top of the key, and the word is that the mid-range is pretty consistent. 7 of 10 from the free throw line certainly supported that assessment. Not the prettiest shot, really long release, but that matters little if he is a power forward. He tried to show off some passing and ball handling, but they resulted mostly in turnovers.
Rebound and overall activity in this game was what really stood out. Jean Charles collected 7 offensive rebounds over a really strong power forward corp in Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. A really quick jumper, often the first guy in the air the moment the ball hits the rim, and a really fast sprinter down the court as well, beats everyone down the court on several occasions. He really used his quickness well against the stronger Julius Randle. The world team played a lot of zone, so there are not much you can discern about individual defense. Jean-Charles did show very solid quickness and excellent weak side awareness around the rim, able to block shots and disrupt passes with his fantastic wingspan.
Scouts are not very high on Livio Jean-Charles, even though he was the MVP of this game. He is a 6'9" 217lb player with a 7'2" wingspan that's somewhat stuck between forward positions. Judging from this game, he might have settled on power forward as his position, and that's where scouts fall out of love with him. His height and length are only average for power forwards in the NBA, and he has a narrow frame. His body does not look like it can pack on an additional 30lbs. He would be fantastic as a small forward defensively because he is a fluid and coordinated athlete for his length, and his quickness and effort bodes well for him as a next level defender. However, the lack of perimeter ball skills is a concern.
The advantage Livio Jean-Charles has over the others is his age. He is only 19 years old, and already plays for a pro A team in France, Tony Parker's Asvel. At a young age, he already demonstrates the ability to read the game and do all the little things that helps teams succeed. Ball skills can develop over time, and since he is young, he has the option of staying in Europe several years to develop his game. I think he is more of a bargain than people realize, and having an NBA team define and shape his future goals may do wonders for his development.
That's all I got for 2nd round international prospects. Feel free to add your thoughts about these prospects or others in the comments below.