While basketball continues to grow around the globe, there has been an increasing amount of European talent making an impact on NBA teams. The talent pool is quickly spreading, and teams that are able to recognize the talents of the Alexey Shveds of the world are given a distinct advantage.
While the 2012 draft had a relatively weak European crop, 2013 should prove to be a much stronger group. While it lacks a sure-fire stud in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki or Pau Gasol, there are several intriguing prospects who are both NBA ready and possess a great deal of upside.
1. Sergey Karasev – Russia
6-8 SG, 1993, Triumph Moscow (Russia)
Russian League: 32.2 MPG, 18.7 PPG, 6.3 REB, 2.5 AST, 47.9% 2PT, 32.4% 3PT, 89.2% FT
VTB League: 27.5 MPG, 14.9 PPG, 4.2 REB, 1.6 AST, 43.2% 2PT, 32% 3PT, 82.5% FT
Eurocup: 31.4 MPG, 14.9 PPG, 3.5 REB, 2.3 AST, 40.2% 2PT, 46.9% 3PT, 82.4% FT
At only 19 years old, Karasev is probably the most NBA-ready international prospect for this year’s draft. Coming from a basketball family, Karasev’s father, Vasili, was a star point guard for the Russian national team before he began his coaching career, where he serves as Sergey’s coach at Triumph Moscow. While it certainly has been a major benefit to Sergey’s confidence having his father as a coach, he has impressed against some of Europe’s toughest competition, playing in three of the strongest leagues Europe has to offer.
Since the majority of Russian teams play in three leagues, Karasev has had to endure a schedule that includes travel far more rigorous than that of an NBA team due to immense size of the country. While he has been fortunate to receive far more playing time at the top level than most prospects his age, he has impressed with his ability to knock down shots and take his man off the dribble. His confidence is his biggest weapon, as he has shown he is not afraid to take it to anybody, hitting double figures in all but two of the first 25 games of the season.
While he may not have the most upside of any player in the draft, he has as good a chance as anyone to be a good starter in the NBA for a long time. Not many kids his age would be able to consistently get buckets at this level, even if their Dad made sure they got the necessary PT.
2. Dario Saric – Croatia
6-10 PF, 1994, Cibona Zagreb (Croatia)
Adriatic League: 20.3 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 4.4 REB, 1.6 AST, 2.4 TO, 1.1 STL, 3.6 PF, 45.9% 2PT, 25% 3PT, 40% FT
While Saric seems to have the most upside of any international prospect in this draft due to his impressive combination of size and athleticism, he hasn’t done his draft stock any favors thus far this season. After bouncing around to start the year, in which he originally was supposed to play with KK Split on loan from Bilbao of Spain, he eventually ended up in Cibona Zagreb, where he was forced to blend in despite not playing in games until December.
While he certainly has been playing well for an 18-year-old, he hasn’t shown himself to be a key factor thus far this season. There have been some questions about his attitude and his commitment to reaching his full potential, making him a bit less of a sure thing. But he certainly has all the tools to be a very high level player.
With Jerel Blassingame coming in to replace the ever malignant Smush Parker, Saric should be put in a much better position to showcase his abilities. Nothing makes a big guy look better than a pass-first guard getting them easy looks.
3. Alejando Abrines – Spain
6-6 SG-SF, 1993, Regal Barcelona (Spain)
Spanish ACB League: 7.8 MPG, 1.8 PPG, 0.9 REB
Euroleague: 5.7 MPG, 2.2 PPG
At 20 years old, Abrines has had some trouble getting on the floor for Barcelona, one of the strongest teams in the two toughest leagues in Europe, the Euroleague and the ACB. While he hasn’t gotten the prime opportunity to showcase his abilities, he has been able to learn from Juan Carlos Navarro, one of Europe’s all-time standouts, which will surely be a major benefit for Abrines moving forward.
Abrines is a two-way player with standout athleticism and solid fundamentals. He seems very natural with the ball in his hands and proved to be a natural scorer last season. With rumors that Abrines may be loaned to a lesser team in the ACB, he may get a better chance to show what he’s got down the stretch of the season. If he gives NBA executives a taste of what he is capable of, he likely can play his way into being a mid-first round pick if he decides to throw his name into the draft this year.
4. Nemandja Nedovic – Serbia
6-3 PG-SG, 1991, Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania)
Lithuanian League: 18.4 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2 APG, 1 TO, 1.6 STL, 41.4% 2PT, 35.7% 3PT, 88.9% FT
VTB League: 21.4 MPG, 10.5 PPG, 2.3 REB, 2.3 AST, 1.9 TO, 1 STL, 47.6% 2PT, 33.3% 3PT, 80% FT
Euroleague: 22.8 MPG, 9.8 PPG, 2.5 REB, 2.1 AST, 2.5 TO, 38.1% 2PT, 34.3% 3PT, 70% FT
A product of the storied club Red Star Belgrade, Nedovic has stepped up his production after moving to Lietuvos Rytas, a strong Lithuanian team that produced Jonas Valanciunas. Nedovic has proven that he can hold his own in both the Euroleague and the VTB league with his ability to get to the rim.
Nedovic has shown a willingness and ability to create for others but has a lot of room for improvement in terms of his decision-making in pick-and-roll situations. That being said, teams have been packing on his drives and forcing him to shoot in the pick-and-roll; if he can develop his jump shot, he should see his game improve significantly. In open space, he has demonstrated creativity, and an improved pull-up jumper could make him a much better prospect.
It doesn’t seem like Nedovic has the upside to be a starting point on a good team, but he has the type of body control and competitive spirit to be a quality reserve on a high-level team. He most likely will be a first-round Eurostash pick, but look for him to be a difference maker for a clever team several years down the road.