The NBA is an international competition. And each time more. This year’s MVP, Nikola Jokic, is proof of this; but also that of the two previous seasons, Giannis Antetokounmpo. In both cases, reaching the North American league through the Draft, but without previous experience in the United States. Denver Nuggets bet on the first and the Milwaukee Bucks, on the second. In the case of Jokic, being selected in the 41st position (second round), he has become the MVP with the lowest pick in history; at Antetokounmpo, in the 15th, it is a sign of a practically unprecedented rise, starting from the second Greek division. The two, currently, are the franchise players of their teams and two of the most recognizable faces in the NBA. Surely, the mirror in which many young people around the world look when they start to dribble the ball. A goal that, not so long ago, seemed unattainable, but is no longer so.
Draft 2021, one of the most anticipated in recent years, will not be an exception. Already in the first positions, the international value makes its way. Jonathan Kuminga will be, according to most of the Mock Draft, one of the first five picks. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2002, he presents himself as one of the greatest talents of the generation. His case, however, differs from the two mentioned above and from those to be highlighted below. In 2016, the forward decided to move to the US to continue his basketball career. After passing through the institute and after rejecting a multitude of university offers, his previous stop to the best league in the world has been placed in the G League, the NBA development league. There, with the help of the NBA G League Ignite, a team created by the competition itself to care for young talents, has confirmed its conditions. With him, the American Jalen Green, also in the mentioned top-5.
Cade Cunningham, except for surprise, will lead the gala, which will take place on July 29. Along with him and the aforementioned Kuminga and Green, Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs could draw that first quintet of picks, with possible entries from Scottie Barnes or Davion Mitchell. Behind them, talent from beyond the land of opportunity soon makes its way. After Kuminga, Franz wagner, German, is the next to appear. According to ESPN forecasts, the forward, brother of Moritz Wagner (Orlando Magic), will occupy the tenth position, although also with an asterisk, since his last campaign has been developed in the United States. In his case, at the University of Michigan . It is also the case of Kai Jones, a Bahamian, an opponent of the first 20 elections, who has grown up at the University of Texas or of the Spanish Santi Aldama, who will be looking for a hole in the second round after his brilliant year at Loyola-Maryland. All of them are part of that group of international talent with potential for American stardom, but having already stepped on their soil. Usman Garuba, Real Madrid player, or Alperen Sengun, BesiktasInstead, they are representatives of those non-US players who, since the draft, could come to the United States for the first time in their careers. With them, Josh Giddey, Rokas Jokubaitis, Filip Petrusev or Roko Prkacin.
Usman Garuba (Real Madrid)
It screamed and its echo echoed across Europe. In front of Anadolu Efes, Usman Garuba signed one of those performances that lays the foundations of something serious. The warning was already accumulating leagues, but his 24 points and 12 rebounds in the fourth game of the series sounded like confirmation. Their best performance at the most important moment, two variables that tend to select very well who they collide with. In ACB, he has averaged 18:20 minutes, with 5.8 points and 5.3 rebounds. In Euroleague, 16:17 for 3.9 and 4 respectively. Along the way, three double-doubles and the awards for best young player in both competitions. Little to discover in the Real Madrid player, whose future seems assured in the NBA. And also her willingness to pursue him. As the campaign progressed, and he with it, so did his position in the draft predictions. ESPN currently ranks him at 15th, skirting lottery picks (1-14). He is going to walk there, with the possibility of falling down to the ones that surround 20. His options? Many and very interesting. Going from the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Houston Rockets to the Golden State Warriors and the big markets, like the New York Knicks or even the Los Angeles Lakers.
Alperen Sengun (Besiktas)
On ESPN, Alperen Sengun is the name that appears, precisely, before Garuba. At 18 years old, He has been MVP of the regular season in the Turkish Basketball Super League, in which he has averaged 19.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 blocks. The undisputed leader of Besiktas, he reached the semifinals of the competition, in which he ran into precisely the same ogre as Usman in the Euroleague: Anadolu Efes. In the Turkish national team, in addition, it is already fully established. In many moments, even carrying the offensive weight ahead of players like Cedi Osman, Furkan Korkmaz or Ersan Ilyasova. All of them, NBA level, where it points. He is a center with an infinite arsenal in attack. He has good footwork and, although he is a natural finisher, he has evolved in distribution work from the post. Jonathan Givony (ESPN) does not skimp on flattery when it comes to defining him: “He is possibly the most productive 18-year-old player in the history of European high-level basketball,” he says. In defensive work is where the greatest room for improvement is found. He is hungry to do it and, in each play, he brings the necessary intensity to compensate for his readings, somewhat slow in, for example, the selection of aids. An increase in this plot and in the outside shot (19% in the league) would make him one of the teams with the highest ceiling in the litter.
Josh Giddey (Adelaide 36ers)
The player of the highlights that appears higher in the predictions. One of those bases that, today, are trading higher. With 2.03 meters in height, it is presented as one of the components of the Draft with the greatest distribution capacity, if not the most. He has led the Australian league in assists (7.4), although he has also left good scoring averages (10.8) and rebounds (7.4). A classic exterior that, despite its defensive gaps, has a natural instinct for occupying spaces. Hence his good numbers under the rim or his ability to rack up steals in silence. As a pin, it dazzles, being an inexhaustible source of highlights; but his shot can be improved. Surely the reason that prevents him from being even higher on the Mocks (14). In the Australian league, he has stayed at 29% from long distance. In catch and shoot, as Juan Estévez collects for the NBA, his percentage is further reduced: 26%. Something obvious: he needs the ball to be dangerous. A fact that, in star-studded North American competition, can be penalizing. In total, his accuracy in terms of real shooting remains at 51%. His true foundations shine in the pick and roll, where he places a large part of his efforts. His body allows him to be very dangerous attacking the rim after blocking, where, in case of being caught, he also finds the shooters open.
Rokas Jokubaitis (Zalgiris Kaunas)
His name will be in the Draft, but, unlike the rest, his immediate future could be far from the NBA: Barcelona will be his next destination. In any case, he will be among those chosen, although in the second round (on ESPN, position 44). At 20 years old (1.93 meters), he comes from playing his most mature season with Zalgiris Kaunas, where he has left 8.5 points and 3.9 assists in the Lithuanian league and 7 + 2.5 in the Euroleague. Silver with his National Team in the 2016 European Under-16 Championship, his projection has always been taken into account on a continental level. He has left signs of irregularity, but his talent is unquestionable. Now, in addition, with early and extensive experience in the maximum European requirement, with an average 20 minutes as a sample. Donatas Urbonas, a Lithuanian journalist, defines him as follows: “Today he is the greatest young promise of Lithuania. It can be said that he is the wonder boy of the country. He is a boy who is very focused on basketball and who tries work on all the areas where you can still improve. ” Among the latter, one can mainly identify his physique, far from the strength that, many times, the NBA requires. Versatile exterior, his shooting had also been one of his must, but, this course, he has proven to be on the right track: in the Euroleague, he has registered 47.8% from the field, 38.8% from the perimeter and 75.6% from the free throw line.
Filip Petrusev (Mega Basket)
As in the interior case, and except for surprise, his name will be heard among the second-round selections (38, according to ESPN). Petrusev’s profile, however, acquires very particular traits. Although it is true that he will disembark in the NBA from the Serbian Mega Basket, the pivot has already crossed the pond to play with the Gonzaga Bulldogs, where, in his second season, he was voted Player of the Year in the West Coast Conference. At 21 years old, a long international experience already rests on his back, with a past, in lower categories, in Partizan, Red Star or even Baskonia. His last year at ABA Adriatic has been marked by what, throughout his career, has characterized him: good rebounding ability, mobility and threat in shooting. 23.6 points and 7.6 saves are his cover letter. 57.9% from the field and 41.9% from the perimeter, his hit on the table. Despite his 2.11 meters tall, Petrusev is an offensive danger from every corner of the court. It is a good axis on which to play the pick and roll and a more than reliable option to finish the plays. During his short career, greater intimidating power has taken over much of the demands placed on him. This season, he has stayed at 1.1 blocks per game, but with signs of physical progress.
Roko Prkacin (Cibona Zagreb)
Very close to Petrusev you can find Roko Prkacin (36, according to ESPN). For greater similarity, also with the ABA as the starting competition. His standards are below those of his league partner, but his versatility makes him a very interesting project. With Cibona Zagreb, he has averaged 13.8 points and 7.4 rebounds. At 18, however, the statistics simply become ground from which to aim much higher. This is what their movements on the track seem to indicate. At 2.06 meters tall, he can play both 3 and 4. Son of Nikola Prkacin, he feels very comfortable dancing near the pole, but he does not limit himself to it. His stride, with a very explosive first step, allows him to be a great danger in transition. There, far from being limited by his size, he shows the ability to dodge opponents. It even has the ability to raise the ball. Its impact, with all this, can be productive on both sides of the track. In NBA Draft Room they compare him, in fact, with Juancho Hernangómez. With 49.2% shooting from the field and 39.4% from the triple in the last course, his shooting certainties have also increased., with the ability to create opportunities from own production.