Today’s post is the first part in a two-part series looking at the foreign players available for this year’s NBA Draft. With Donatas Motiejunas the only sure first-rounder in this group, we are seeing the culmination of the last few years where GM’s have started to shy away from picking foreign players in the Top 20. Only the top prospects will now get a look that high, and they should be ready to play at the NBA level within a season or two to be chosen this high. So, let’s take a look at the first 5 prospects in our group:
1) Donatas Motiejunas – Motiejunas, a 7-foot Lithuanian forward, is considered the tops in the foreign player category this draft, and possibly the only First Round pick. With the ability to play inside and out, Motiejunas sports a nice touch around the rim and a serviceable jumper, with good consistency from 18-20 feet. He will need to add some bulk to match up against most NBA players, especially on the defensive end. He is an average rebounder for his size, but will need to improve his positioning if he wants to play significant minutes. On the defensive end, Motiejunas uses his long arms well to alter shots, though his lack of agility could cost him guarding against NBA 3’s and 4’s. He is clearly a project, but with a year or two of NBA games under his belt, he should emerge a starter for whatever team nabs him.
2) Robin Benzing – Benizing, a 6’10 German small forward, may have as much upside as any other small forward in the draft. On the offensive end, he does a good job getting to the rim, and works well without the ball, especially along the baseline. He does need to improve going to the basket stronger and stop trying to avoid some contact. He has good range from the perimeter, but he should decrease his release time. Defensively, he is not strong enough to play the post and not quick enough to play on the perimeter. He needs to become a much stronger player to play at the NBA level. While clearly not ready to play regular minutes next year, he should be able to help some teams right away with his scoring ability.
3) Kevin Seraphin – Seraphin, a French Guyanan power forward, has a NBA-ready body and some skills to match. Offensively, his move-set is developing, including a nice mini-hook and the ability to turn and shoot over both shoulders. He has nice touch around the rim, and is a tenacious offensive rebounder. He is still very awkward while playing with his back to the basket and needs to improve his ballhandling skills. Defensively, he does a good job using his size to his advantage, pushing players off the blocks and using his long arms to block shots. Most of the mistakes he makes are due to lack of experience and he should eliminate these over time.
4) Tibor Pleiss – Pleiss, a 7-1 German center, is an intriguing prospect. Only weighing 220 pounds, Pleiss will need to develop some muscle to compete at the NBA level, though he has excellent footwork for his size. In the post, he has good hands, 3 or 4 solid moves, and good court-vision. However, without some bulk, he will most likely be making his moves 6 to 8 feet away from the rim. He also needs to improve his touch around the rim, as a lot of his shots come off his hands as line drives at the hoop. Defensively, he is again at a disadvantage because of his lack of strength, though with the ability to react quickly and good footwork, he will make shots tough for the best big men. He does a good job rebounding the ball, securing the ball up high and is a good outlet passer. He is still a few years away from being NBA ready, but when he does make it, he should make an impact.
5) Paulo Prestes – Prestes, a 6’10 Brazilian power forward, may be the most ready of this group to play significant minutes in a NBA game next season, though his upside is probably not as high as the others. He has a strong body, plays a physical game and can finish strong at the rim. He is still very raw playing with his back to the basket and any moves he has usually involve bullying his defender. He has a very limited perimeter game and his foul shooting needs improvement. Defensively, he does a good job using his body to force guys away from the basket, and is a good jumper for his size. If pulled away from the blocks, he has a tough time with his footwork and ends up playing on his heels. His game reminds me of Luis Scola when he entered the league a few years ago, so here’s hoping that Prestes improves as quickly as he did.
In the second part later today, I will examine the potential of Alexey Shved, Nemanja Bjelica, Miroslav Raduljica, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, and Pablo Agular, so make sure to check back in later