Before going into how Bismack Biyombo fits into this year's class, I want to go back almost a decade to the 2002 draft. While the world was marveling at the anticipation of Yao Ming being drafted, another foreign born big man was rising up draft boards like a phoenix.
Nene Hilario, or Nene as he is known these days, caught the attention of NBA scouts at the previous summer's Goodwill Games, an event where he more than held his own against NBA players in an overtime loss for Brazil.
In the year that followed, Nene continued to impress scouts with his staggering measurables, his relentless intensity and a refreshing commitment to rebounding, shot-blocking and on the ball defense.
Not even a year after his foray into the eyes of NBA personnel, Nene had established himself as a premier talent in the upcoming draft and after being initially selected and traded by the New York Knicks, settled down in Denver where, after the departure of Carmelo Anthony, he has become the face of the franchise.
I'm not saying that Biyombo and Nene are the same player. Nene was about an inch taller, roughly 20 pounds heavier and had a bit more polished of an offensive game than the native of the Republic of Congo.
However, in a draft that scouts are saying is lacking top-level talent, a player as intriguing as Biyombo should be an enticing selection for any GM.
Those critical of Biyombo note his less-than-stellar workouts where his offensive shortcomings were highlighted, along with a lack of "feel" for the game.
Taking into consideration these negatives, a prospect with the wing span the size of Shaq's (7'7"), a commitment to defense comparable to Ben Wallace (11 rebounds and 10 blocks in a triple double against the US in this year's Junior Hoops summit) and the type of refreshing, driven personality that quickly made NBA GMs look past his recent workout, should make Bismack Biyombo the potential steal of this year's draft.
As important as workouts are leading up to the NBA draft, some prospects are not prepared for the format of such a demonstration. One really has to consider the major differences in a player like Biyombo against, for argument's sake, one of the Morris twins.
Biyombo never had to impress college recruiters, he did not have the luxury of pre-college or pro level instruction that more polished prospects had, and he never received the type of tutelage of world-class coaches like Bill Self, Mike Krzyzewski or any of the dozens of NCAA coaches one could name.
Biyombo's path to this year's draft is scattered with changing countries, teams and even leaving his family to pursue his dream.
American players live in a country where basketball talents are groomed by experts from a very young age. The Congolese big-man, living on his own in Europe, had to nurture his God-given talents any way he could.
He was able to do so, combining his natural physicality with an unyielding work ethic, to establish himself as, quite possibly, the most athletic player in this year's draft.
Despite all the obstacles in his way leading up to Thursday night, Biyombo still maintains the drive to succeed and a love for the game that can only be summed up by a recent quote given by the young man documenting his life up to this point, "Basketball was my life…all my life."
For those who need solid evidence that Biyombo can compete with the type of talent the U.S. has to offer, look no further than his performance in this past year's Junior Hoops Summit (the same event that everyone is basing Enes Kanter's ability on).
Biyombo had 12 points, 11 rebounds (seven on the offensive end) and 10 blocked shots, the first triple-double ever recorded in the event. This was a game against the nation's top high school players (most who, if they could, would enter the draft this year), yet Biyombo's performance and dominating presence on the court is only a taste of what this guy could do.
People marvel at the offensive onslaught that Enes Kanter put on in his Junior Hoops Summit, yet there is no reason to think that Biyombo's triple-double isn't just as impressive. The young man displayed his defensive skill from the get-go with ferocious blocks and confident rebounding skills and his tenacity and explosiveness on offense allowed him to chip in on the offensive end as well.
If people are going to start using this event as a measuring stick for international players like they do in the case of Kanter, Biyombo should have no problem making his way into the lottery.
Not every team in the league has a spot for a player like Biyombo. He's the type of player that will require patience, persistence and a great deal of coaching.
Having said that, the young man possesses some attributes—commitment to success, desire to win and humbleness—that will do wonders for the locker room of whatever team decides to take him.
It is hard to say that this is the type of player who can be a star in this league. Few prospects in this draft are.
However, if there is a team who has the patience to allow Biyombo to develop as a player, they will be adding a world-class athlete, a defensive stopper, a fan-favorite and perhaps most importantly, a positive locker room presence that can benefit a team years down the road.
People will question whatever team does eventually select Biyombo, there's no doubt of that. There were also teams that questioned why the Nuggets traded an established player like Antonio McDyess for a player with one name.
Looking back on it all, I'd say Denver is pretty happy that they took that risk.