The 2014 NBA draft class boasts some scintillating international talents who could make significant impacts with the right teams.
For years, foreign players had a reputation as being softer than Americans, and saying they relied on fundamentals rather than athleticism was meant to be pejorative.
That line of thinking has largely fallen by the wayside as reductive and provincial, and this year's crop of prospects from around the world further disproves it. These guys are every bit as physically gifted as their American counterparts—more so, in many cases—and have the potential to develop into game-changers in the NBA.
|2014 NBA Draft 1st-Round Order|
|7||Los Angeles Lakers|
|21||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|28||Los Angeles Clippers|
|29||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|30||San Antonio Spurs|
Dante Exum, PG, Australia
The crown jewel of the internationals this year, Exum has a point guard's speed and agility in a shooting guard's body.
From the moment he steps on an NBA floor, he'll be able to beat his man to get penetration and score, but the 19-year-old is still honing his skills as a distributor. He certainly has what it takes to grow into that role with seasoning, but he's not equipped to take the reins of an offense by himself yet.
That's no problem for the Orlando Magic, who are still in the process of converting Victor Oladipo to point guard. With Exum and Oladipo together, neither would be burdened with full facilitation duties, and they would form a defensive backcourt that would wreak havoc on whomever they faced.
Ideal Team: Orlando Magic (No. 4 overall pick)
Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
It's a pity the Detroit Pistons frontcourt is hopelessly clogged; Stan Van Gundy would have loved having Saric on his team if he were around at No. 8.
Like Hedo Turkoglu during SVG's days with the Magic, Saric brings intelligence and off-the-bounce creativity to the small forward position. He can use his dribble to get his own shot—and at 6'10", he'll be a tough cover for wings—but he can also dish the ball very well for someone his size.
Saric is not a superb shooter, but he's a selfless competitor who knows exactly what he has to do to put his team in position to win. He would thrive on a team in need of an offensive boost from the forward positions and with a star guard in need of more productive off-ball opportunities—say, Kobe Bryant.
Ideal Team: Los Angeles Lakers (No. 7 overall pick)
Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Comments that Nurkic isn't athletic are misleading. He doesn't have the leaping ability many teams seek in prospective rim protectors, but, as valuable as those guys are, it's harder to find 6'11", 280-pound centers who can score at will inside and have the quickness to play effective help defense.
Nurkic will likely be the first draft-and-stash prospect off the board; he needs more time playing with Cedevita Zagreb to up his basketball IQ and cut down on his rampant fouling.
Once he does, he'll be an absolute load for opponents to battle on both ends of the court. It will take a couple of years, but he has the raw ability to make a team picking in the middle of the first round very happy.
Ideal Team: Boston Celtics (No. 17 overall pick)
Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
As soon as Capela accepts his destiny as a prodigy at power forward rather than at small forward, he has star potential.
Granted, at just 225 pounds, he's too light to play the low post in the NBA, but he won't be coming stateside for a year or so anyway. Capela has great instincts as a rebounder and the hops to finish around the rim and protect it on the other end.
A 19-year-old can certainly bulk up, work on his so-so jump shot and improve his feel for the game. With time and, eventually, NBA coaching to help him do so, he can wind up being a steal.
Ideal Team: Toronto Raptors (No. 20 overall pick)