Posted Jun 6, 2014 12:32 PM
TREVISO, Italy -- At last.
At last, Dante Exum is draft eligible after turning 19 during the calendar year. At last, Dario Saric is heading back toward the lottery after a long look in 2013 that ended with the decision to stay in Croatia for another season. At last, the international representation is not merely adding to the depth of the 2014 Draft, but in some cases saving it.
Seriously. In a bad year for centers, with only one a lock for the lottery, one other possible, and then maybe not another until late in the first round or early in the second, it's possible that two of the top three candidates are from overseas, and even that has an asterisk: Joel Embiid, the possible top pick by the Cavaliers, is coming via Kansas, but was born and raised in Cameroon. After that, Jusuf Nurkic from Bosnia is a possibility for the top 14 and, depending whether teams consider Michigan's Mitch McGary as a power forward or center, Walter Tavares from Cape Verde may be third.
Exum, from Australia, is the top-rated point guard, even amid doubts from some front offices he can handle the full-time load at the position and is more a combo guard. Vasilije Micic of Serbia is more true distributor who will be part of point-guard row that could dominate the end of the first round and the start of the second, along with as many as six others from the U.S. college game.
Remove what should be another very strong showing by Canada -- Andrew Wiggins, Nik Stauskas, Tyler Ennis, Dwight Powell, Jordan Bachynski and others -- and limit the conversation to prospects outside North America. Remove Embiid as an overseas product who spent a season in the NCAA proving ground. Even remove Thanasis Antetokounmpo, brother of the Bucks' Giannis, with his 2013-14 in the D-League after leaving Greece. The international impact on the 2014 Draft class is still obvious, a sentiment that comes to the forefront as NBA executives and scouts gather for the three-day adidas Eurocamp that begins Saturday as the top annual evaluation of players from outside the United States and Canada.
Exum has been on the radar for years and solidified his spot as an elite prospect at the Nike Hoop Summit last April in Portland, Ore., followed by the under-19 world championships in Prague, enough that he could go from a career against Australian high schoolers to the top five on June 26. Saric is a lottery candidate, just as he was a year ago before choosing to stay in Europe. Neither is sneaking up on anybody.
But Nurkic climbed way up draft boards this seasons as a physical presence who doesn't project as a superstar but could become the reminder that finding a solid, dependable long-term starter at center could also be valuable use of a lottery pick. Switzerland's Clint Capela, likewise, made big gains this season as a power forward playing in France.
Several others are possibilities for late in the first round, including Micic and Latvian power forward Kristaps Prozingis, before the international influence continues in the second round.
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