First round could feature a record number of international prospects
Global Game: NBA Draft Preview
In 2003, a record nine international prospects were chosen in the NBA Draft's first round. The following June, eight international players were selected in the first round.
This year, a new mark could be established as a number of international prospects are being billed as potential first-rounders, including the favorite to be selected No. 1 overall, Australian center Andrew Bogut.
Born in Melbourne as the son of a pair of Croatian immigrants, the 6-11 Bogut moved to the United States in 2003 to play collegiate basketball at University of Utah. He shined with the Utes during his brief stay there, ranking 19th in the NCAA in scoring (20.4 ppg) and second in rebounding (12.2 rpg) en route to Consensus National Player of the Year honors as a sophomore this season.
Scouts compare Bogut to younger version of Lakers center Vlade Divac because of his passing skills, shooting touch and rebounding ability. Given the low supply of quality centers in the game of basketball, it'll be difficult for any team with a top pick to pass Bogut up in the draft.
Another international big man capable of landing in the lottery is Spanish native Fran Vazquez. This season the 22-year-old late bloomer averaged 11.1 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 24.2 minutes per game in the Spanish ACB for Unicaja Malaga and potentially played his way into the top-10 after being originally considered as a second-rounder.
Standing 6-10, Vazquez is considered one of the top shot-blockers in Europe and he's also an efficient rebounder and scorer in the paint. He's a rugged player who's willing to do the dirty work for his team.
If there's a word that sums up the perception of French seven-footer Johan Petro, it's "potential." Petro's NBA body and fluid mobility have scouts drooling over his upside. Those same talent evaluators are also wondering when he's going to tap into it.
In two seasons in France's top professional league with Pau Orthez, Petro's been relatively non-productive. This season was supposed to be his break out year, but instead Petro averaged just 6.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in 13.0 minutes per game. Considering the limited playing time, those numbers are solid but you have to wonder why he's playing so little.
Like Petro, 7-3 Lithuanian pivot Martynas Andriuskevicius is prospect attracting attention because of his potential. Andriuskevicius is a match-up problem waiting to happen -- he's a long and skilled big man who can move, shoot and dribble. Trouble is Andriuskevicius is also a match-up problem waiting to be exploited -- he's thin and dislikes contact, not exactly traits desired in a pivot.
Andriuskevicius averaged 4.4 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 9.6 minutes per game for Zalgiris this season in the Lithuanian LKL, competing under the tutelage of former Trail Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis, who owns the club he plays for.
Given the fact that he only turned 19 in March, Andriuskevicius' upside is unlimited. For now, he's still a project.
Perhaps the only international guard who may go in the first 30 picks is Croatian point guard Roko Leni Ukic. Quicker than a blink of an eye, the 21-year-old Ukic gets to the hole on a regular basis. His decision making at times is enough to make his coach's head spin, but he has good vision and an uncanny aggressiveness on the offensive end.
He averaged 18.5 points and 4.3 assists in 35.2 minutes for Split in the Adriatic League this season.
Each player has a significant chance of landing in the first round, partly due to the withdrawals of a number of high profile prospects in the draft.
Ilic could sneak in at the end of the round. He's showed good instincts for the game with his pro team BC Reflex in Serbia & Montenegro. He has soft touch, a willingness to rebound and can pass. Ilic is not a super athlete, however.
Korolev wowed scouts and general managers with his performance at the Euroleague Final Four junior tournament. He's got great size for the wing position and is an excellent athlete. At 18-years-old with little experience playing at the senior level, however, Korolev's a risky proposition. Still, he could go fairly high in the draft.
Ilyasova is another early entry candidate for the draft who's intriguing because of the performances he's put together at the junior level. He's played sparingly on Ulker Istanbul's senior team and has experienced injury problems. Even so, he's always been regarded as a potential future lottery selection.
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