The 2011 NBA Draft is stacked when it comes to international players in comparison to past years. There is a lot of talent coming over from Europe this year, and it's important for teams in the lottery to be scouting these players.
Whether or not the next Dirk Nowitzki is coming out of this draft, there are talented players to be had. Some teams are hesitant to draft foreign players because there have simply been too many busts over the years, and NBA scouts have had trouble analyzing the skills and effectiveness of European players.
All things considered though, these are the top five players coming from Europe who have the most value as NBA prospects.
Jonas Valanciunas is an extremely talented big man playing some pretty good minutes in Europe this season as a 19-year-old. He stands at 6'10", 230 pounds and he's got great measurements for the NBA, but he will need to add some strength if he really wants to excel.
Valanciunas is a good scorer around the basket, and while he still needs to work on his moves, that is to be expected from a 19-year-old. He is also a pretty athletic big man who can block plenty of shots, is a solid rebounder and isn't a liability on defense. Whether or not he can be a difference-maker as a rookie is unclear, but it's likely he's probably not going to be ready right away.
The reason Valanciunas is ranked fifth is because he has a pretty binding contract with his European team, and this could quickly become a Ricky Rubio situation all over again. Valanciunas is very talented, but he might not be in the NBA for a couple years yet.
I expect Valanciunas to be taken in the late lottery, but he would probably be taken higher if he didn't have such a big buyout. It seems realistic for him to go anywhere from No. 9-14.
Donatas Motiejunas is an intriguing prospect. He has been flirting with the NBA for a few seasons now, but it looks like this year he may finally keep his name in the draft.
Motiejunas is a legit seven-footer who looks like the complete offensive package. He is solid in the post, but also has a good mid-range game and a lot of quickness. He can take his man off the dribble if necessary.
While he doesn't have great three-point range yet, there's no reason to believe he couldn't develop that skill. It seems as if he could be a solid NBA scorer in his rookie year. He is only 20 years old and should develop into a good player, especially if he starts playing in the NBA right away.
Motiejunas may not be quite as good as the previously mentioned Valanciunas, but because he will likely be available shortly, he is of greater value right away. Like Valanciunas, Motiejunas must add strength, but over time he should develop a deadly offensive game.
Opinions on Motiejunas vary greatly. Some people think he's a guy who could be taken in the mid-to-late lottery, while others feel he's more of a mid-first-rounder.
Ultimately, I wouldn't be surprised to see him go anywhere from No. 11-15. He has been scrutinized perhaps more than any other international player in this class, which in the end should help his case because he is still considered a great prospect after all the tests and scouting.
Bismack Biyombo is at No. 3 on this list based purely on potential.
He is 6'9", 240 pounds and happens to have one of the longest wingspans ever. At 7'7", his wingspan is something that has scouts absolutely drooling. The best part is Biyombo is reportedly only 18 years old. We can't be positive yet, but as of right now with the information we have, scouts believe the story that he's only 18.
Biyombo has drawn more than one Ben Wallace comparison, as they both had huge potential as low post defenders and raw offensive games.
If I only had one word to describe Biyombo's offensive game, it would be "project."
He might be a decent scorer eventually, but he certainly isn't close yet. His real potential lies in the fact that he is extremely lengthy and can block shots like nothing we have ever seen.
Most scouts seem to be confused on where to place Biyombo, as his defensive and rebounding potential are unlimited. We haven't really analyzed Biyombo's game as much as teams would like, and there are still some question marks, but it seems like he is a lock for the lottery.
He could realistically land anywhere from No. 5-12. Although there have been whispers he could sneak into one of the first four slots, it would seem more likely those teams would avoid him due to the obvious risks.
Jan Vesely has steadily crept up the rankings throughout these last few months because most people see him as a sound NBA prospect with big potential, but not as much downside.
Vesely is 21 years old, but is pretty big in comparison to the other international guys. At 6'11" and 240 pounds, he is the biggest of the four we have seen so far. He should probably still add some muscle, but he is pretty big already.
In terms of skill set Vesely is a little all over the place.
He is known for his great motor and athleticism, but he also has a nice set of perimeter skills. He can handle the ball and shoot significantly better than most players his size as well.
Although Vesely has great range on his jumper, he needs to improve on his moves inside. He lacks the dominant post moves to succeed in the paint right away, but he has the physical tools to develop a low post game. If he can do so successfully, he will be the ultimate offensive weapon.
Vesely is seen as one of the best overall prospects in this draft. He will almost positively be taken in the first half of the lottery, and he has a good chance of grabbing a spot in the top five.
Enes Kanter is far and away the best and safest international prospect.
He has great measurements at 6'10", 255 pounds and a wing span of almost 7'2". Kanter is a physically imposing big man who should have no problem banging down low with bigger NBA players, even though he is still young (he turns 19 in a week).
Kanter is kind of a hybrid of sorts. He is a mix between a big bruiser and a more traditional finesse European big man. He is going to be a solid NBA rebounder, as well as a solid defender because of his size and strength.
On offense, Kanter has a good set of moves underneath, but he can also shoot from mid range and even the three-point line. Despite the absence of elite athleticism, Kanter has everything else.
We were robbed of watching him in college basketball last season when the NCAA ruled him ineligible, but it really hasn't done that much to his draft stock, as he is still a lock as a top five pick. He is the third-best prospect after Derrick Williams and Kyrie Irving, but whether or not he is taken in the top five depends on how the lottery shakes out.
International prospects can be difficult to place in the context of the draft, but this year's class has some really good ones.
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