The NCAA tournament gives fans the opportunity to see which players NBA teams will select in the draft the following June. However, it does not give us a chance to see all the talent that will be in play for the 30 teams to select from.
International prospects are part of the NBA scope now. Could you imagine Dallas without Dirk Nowitzki? San Antonio without Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili? Memphis without Marc Gasol, or Los Angeles without his brother Pau? The list goes on and on.
It just goes to show you that valuable NBA contributors—and sometimes stars—are waiting to make it big just like the American prospects that you might have seen duke it out in the March Madness.
This year, there are as many as seven international players who could go in the first round of the draft, partially because this year is seen as a "weak" draft for true impact talent and simply because there are guys overseas ready to play meaningful minutes in an NBA uniform.
Here's a look at four you should be paying attention to as the draft approaches.
SF Dario Saric, Croatia
Saric has all the talent in the world, but concerns about his motor, attitude and ability to contribute without being the star are all coming into question as the draft approaches.
A 6'10" small forward who has played point guard for his teams in the past, Saric is projected as a lottery pick in some scenarios. He's a good shooter, can create his own shot when necessary and can even go down inside and work smaller defenders. Additionally, he's seen as a guy with a high basketball IQ.
Yet, concerns remain.
One such is his attitude. This tweet from Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress shows that while he's prone to having big games, his coach isn't as apt to keep him on the court in crunch time. That could be a red flag for an NBA team:
Radnicki wins 105-101 in double OT. Dario Saric 13 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 4/10 FG in 25 minutes. Coach sat him most of crunch time.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) February 18, 2013
He also makes headlines for the wrong reasons (h/t Givony):
Dario Saric was fined 1000 Euros for being out at night until late in Zagreb after his team loss to Jolly, his club announced today.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) May 9, 2013
Although Saric is only 19 years old, he'll be expected to avoid trouble like that in America, where the stakes are much higher. He won't be able to get away with that kind of attitude, especially if it affects his play.
While it might seem like a small thing to some, Saric assuredly needs to clean up his image a little bit before the draft. If he does, there's infinite possibilities for the team that drafts him, largely because he can do so many different things well despite being 6'10" and officially listed as a small forward.
On both talent and trouble, you need to pay attention to Saric before June's draft.
SF Sergey Karasev, Russia
Like the player above him, you won't be able to catch Karasev at the NBA scouting combine (h/t Chad Ford):
4 Int'l players were invited to Draft Combine but declined: Dario Saric, Sergey Karasev, Giannis Antetokounmpo & Nemanja Nedovic— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 10, 2013
That should really disappoint the hardcore NBA fans out there, because Karasev is an intriguing left-handed prospect who could be in the lottery by the time things are all said and done in June.
Hailing from Russia, the 19-year-old prospect shows maturity beyond his years on the court. An above-average jump shooter who likes to find open teammates in transition, Karasev averaged 16.1 points and 2.4 assists in Eurobasket play this year (via DraftExpress) while shooting nearly 50 percent from the three-point line.
Like Saric, he has a high basketball IQ, can play and guard multiple positions and is just as comfortable with the ball in his hands as he is running through screens and playing down low (a common theme among good European prospects).
Gery Woelfel is among those hearing that Karasev continues to rise up draft boards, another reason why it will be disappointing not to see him at the scouting combine:
Draft's fastest riser? Sergey Karasev. Two NBA execs told me they project him as a lottery pick.— Gery Woelfel (@GeryWoelfel) May 3, 2013
Being a lefty and showing the ability to be a knockdown shooter from the outside, Karasev could be a nice pickup for a team looking to immediately plug him into its rotation, or even help a contender out right away.
PG Dennis Schroeder, Germany
Germany is famous for producing Dirk Nowitzki, but the next great player from the country might be lightning-quick point guard Dennis Schroeder.
The 6'2", 168-pound point guard has been one of the fastest players in Europe this season, giving scouts hope that the rest of his game will develop to the point that he is one of the elite players at the position in the NBA.
He certainly has the jets to contend with big names in the NBA.
On tape, Schroeder shows a nice ability to both blow by his defender with one step to the basket, uses the "Steve Smith" hesitation dribble well and has enough range to be considered more of a threat from the outside than someone like Rajon Rondo, for instance.
NBADraft.net compares Schroeder to current Mavs point guard Darren Collison, noting that his ability to get to the cup and finish makes him an intriguing prospect for a team in need of depth at the position while Schroeder develops an NBA IQ.
He'll need to bulk up some and prepare for the physicality of the NBA game, but Schroeder is an intriguing prospect who is still in his teens and ready to see how his game translates to the NBA.
With Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams and Shane Larkin really the only standout point guards entering the draft this year, Schroeder could find his name called very early—like when a team needing guard help gets desperate in the middle of the first round.
C Rudy Gobert, France
Rudy Gobert might be the most intriguing prospect in the 2013 NBA draft. With center likely being the position that goes early and often in the selection process, Gobert could usurp a number of talented NCAA players and go somewhere in the middle of the first round.
At 7'1" with a 7'9" wingspan, Gobert has captivated scouts with his ability to run the pick and roll, protect the basket on defense and be extremely efficient from the field (near 70 percent) while doing so.
If you want to check out an official look at Gobert, he now has a personal website (h/t HoopsHype):
French draft prospect Rudy Gobert has an official website. po.st/aQgy79 Huge wingspan.— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) May 1, 2013
Gobert is quick, athletic and he plays hard when he's on the court, always ready to dunk the ball rather than just go for the easy shot (hence the high shooting percentage). He might not be able to manhandle the rim like that in the NBA, but his skill around the basket is encouraging, if nothing else.
Although he clearly needs to add some weight to his bones to take on some of the more physical centers in the league, the play of guys like Anthony Davis, Brandan Wright and some of the other finesse centers in the league should bode well for Gobert's development.
At first glance, which prospect intrigues you the most?
With wide-ranging comparisons to guys like Shawn Bradley and Marcus Camby, Gobert is an interesting prospect on what he could become down the line. He's a capable backup, in my opinion, when he enters the league, but with some time in the weight room and the understanding of the NBA game, he could be a stretch center in a small lineup who is also capable of defending the rim.
International players might not be the most recognizable on draft night, but you'll be sorry you missed them if you don't check them out now. If you wait, they might be NBA stars and you could have had the chance to help discover their talents.
*Don’t forget to catch the 2013 NBA Draft Combine action on Thursday, May 16 and Friday, May 17. The event will be broadcast both days from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET on ESPNU and 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2. For reairs of the combine, NBATV will be airing Day 1 coverage on Saturday, May 18 at 12 p.m. ET. Day 2 replays will be Sunday May 19 at 12 p.m. ET.
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