Most everyone knows about the top college stars entering the 2014 NBA draft, but many aren't familiar with the best international prospects that will end up being difference-makers in the NBA.
In fact, there's at least one international player that projects to be a better NBA player than most others in his class. The other players from overseas are a tier below him, but that doesn't mean they aren't quality players. Their skills differ a bit from some of the other players in the draft, but these international stars will succeed in the NBA.
Here are the three international players that have a legitimate shot at being top-tier players in the NBA within a few years.
Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
Dante Exum (6'6", 185 lbs) is that guy who might turn into one of the top players of this year's class. He's a lock to be a lottery pick—my best guess is No. 5 to the Boston Celtics—and has everything you like to see in a guard.
He has great court vision, thus allowing him to see plays as they develop. This gives him the ability to find the best scoring option when in transition and even in a half-court offense. Exum isn't necessarily a pass-first guard, however.
Given his skills, Exum is capable of also seeing plenty of minutes at shooting guard in the NBA. He has a quick first step that allows him to blow past defenders and get to the basket. His shooting still needs some work, as does his shot selection, but those are things that will come with coaching and consistent reps in the NBA.
Jonathan Tjarks of RealGM.com is particularly high on Exum, via Cameron Tomarchio of news.com.au:
While Exum isn’t quite as long and athletic, he’s far more skilled. He’s an elite athlete in his own right and he plays with more poise than [Andrew] Wiggins, despite being six months younger.
Forget which one has the better highlight tape and who is getting more publicity — passing up Exum to take Wiggins could be a mistake.
Exum could very well be better than Wiggins in the NBA, but only time will tell.
Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Dario Saric (6'10", 233 lbs) obviously has great size and length. Not many small forwards are 6'10" in the NBA, and that will give him an advantage on the boards. He has been a great rebounder overseas, and that trend should continue in the NBA if he maintains the same level of physicality.
He lacks speed and lateral quickness, though, so he's a bit of a "tweener" as a forward. He isn't big or strong enough to be a power forward, but doesn't have the speed to match up against quicker offensive players at small forward. So, he'll be a work in progress defensively.
Offensively, though, Saric is pretty complete. His jumper needs some work, but it's clear that he can score. Brendan Savage of mlive.com has his numbers from the Adriatic League this past season:
In 28 Adriatic League games last season, Saric averaged 16.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting 49.7 percent. That included 34.5 percent on 87 attempts from behind the 3-point line.
In 10 Eurocup games, he averaged 12.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting 48.5 percent.
He was also named MVP of the Adriatic League playoffs after averaging 22 points, 13 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.5 blocks while making 8 of 16 from 3-point range in two final four games.
As a strong rebounder and solid scorer, Saric has the opportunity to make a difference if selected by the right team. Many have said the Detroit Pistons will grab him in the lottery (via Savage), so it looks like he'll be given an opportunity from the start.
Clint Capela, F, Switzerland
Clint Capela (6'10", 222 lbs) is an incredible athlete—perhaps the best of all the international prospects being considered for the NBA draft. As a result, Capela excels in transition and plays very well above the rim.
Defensively, Capela is phenomenal. His 7'4" wingspan certainly helps in that aspect of his game, as it gives him the ability to defend at a high level even if he isn't positioned perfectly. This length will make him a force defensively and above the rim in the NBA, and he'll be a very useful rotation player for a team in need of some size.
His overall offensive game lacks polish, though, and this is what will ultimately hold him back from greater things in the NBA. He doesn't really have a go-to move in the half-court offense, and most of his best plays come in transition.
There are teams like the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder that play a good majority of their games in transition, but other teams with picks in that range on draft day prefer sets that take some time off the clock. That's not Capela's game.
Capela is an example of a guy that really needs to be on the right team to succeed. But, with the right fit, he'll be very, very good.