Scouting the NBA's Newest Overseas Additions from the 2015 Offseason

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterAugust 28, 2015

Scouting the NBA's Newest Overseas Additions from the 2015 Offseason

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    The NBA is more global today than it's ever been. This summer alone, the league played its first exhibition in Africa, where it also conducted clinics as part of Basketball Without Borders, and is currently bringing basketball camps to the Caribbean.

    Not to mention all the trips that players are taking nowadays to promote their personal brands, particularly in China.

    This year, the globe is coming back to the NBA as strong as ever. The Association hit a new high with 101 international players in its ranks last season and will be adding as many as 10 more to that list in 2015-16.

    Unlike their American college-trained counterparts, these guys haven't been exposed to TV audiences in the States. Instead, their notoriety comes from YouTube mixtapes and scraps of summer-league play.

    Fortunately, there are folks who have seen these guys play extensively, be it on tape, in person or both. To learn more about who from beyond the league's borders will be next to take it by storm, we consulted with NBA scouts, front-office executives and Bleacher Report's own draft guru, Jonathan Wasserman, and put together scouting reports for each player, relayed here in alphabetical order.

Nemanja Bjelica, G/F, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

    Specs: 6'10", 234 lbs, 27 years old, Serbian

    Drafted: Second round, 35th overall pick by the Washington Wizards in 2010

    Previous Team: Fenerbahce Ulker (Turkey)

    2014-15 Stats: 11.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 54 percent shooting, 37.2 percent from three in 26.3 minutes (63 games)

    Strengths: Nemanja Bjelica (pronounced BEE-yeh-LEE-tza) is versatile, enabled by a high basketball IQ. He's a solid shooter who can play in the pick-and-pop, perhaps on both sides thanks to his strong ball skills. He can get to the cup and give it up effectively to his teammates. 

    Weaknesses: Bjelica's not particularly strong or explosive. Nor is he the strongest in-between scorer. He's not a frequent shot-blocker and lacks some strength defensively.

    Outlook: "I think he’s going to be a solid rotation player, might even be a starter, actually. It’s kind of tough to start him over [Andrew] Wiggins. He’s not going to start over Wiggins, but if he can play a 3 and 4, he could potentially find a starting role at some point during the season." — Western Conference scout

    NBA Comparison: Nikola Mirotic

Cristiano Felicio, PF/C, Chicago Bulls

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    Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

    Specs: 6'10", 275 lbs, 23 years old, Brazilian

    Drafted: Undrafted in 2014

    Previous Team: C.R. Flamengo (Brazil)

    2014-15 Stats: 5.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 65.2 percent shooting in 15.4 minutes (48 games)

    Strengths: Cristiano Felicio is an energy player who can bang on the boards and finish. He has the size to set sturdy screens and hold his own in the post defensively.

    Weaknesses: He's somewhat undersized for his position and lacks proper footwork in the low post. He doesn't protect the rim and struggles to score away from it.

    Outlook: His contract with the Bulls isn't guaranteed. At best, he'll be the 14th or 15th man in Chicago.

    "He's shown some touch, but he isn't really a skill player or forward the Bulls will be counting on for much offense." — Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman 

    NBA Comparison: A bigger but less skilled Kenneth Faried

Mario Hezonja, G/F, Orlando Magic

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    Specs: 6'8", 200 lbs, 20 years old, Croatian

    Drafted: First round, fifth overall pick in 2015

    Previous Team: FC Barcelona Basquet (Spain)

    2014-15 Stats: 5.9 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 46 percent shooting, 38.5 percent from three in 15.1 minutes (66 games)

    Strengths: The kid is athletic and fearless, with a fire that resembles those of his American counterparts. On average, Mario Hezonja didn't score a ton in Europe, but his ability to handle and shoot the ball portend more productive days ahead.

    Weaknesses: His shot selection is suspect. His supreme confidence often borders on cockiness and could become a distraction down the road.

    Outlook: "How many guys in this draft, in the top 10 especially, are even capable of shooting 8-of-8 from three in a pro game? On top of that, how many of them are capable of doing every dunk Zach LaVine did in the dunk contest? On top of that, how many of them are 6'8"? On top of that, how many have actually played professional basketball? And he’s the same age as all of them. I don’t see how that fails." — Eastern Conference scout

    NBA Comparison: Rex Chapman

Nikola Jokic, C, Denver Nuggets

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    Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

    Specs: 6'11", 250 lbs, 20 years old

    Drafted: Second round, 41st overall pick in 2014

    Previous Team: Mega Leks (Adriatic League)

    2014-15 Stats: 16.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 52.5 percent shooting, 32.6 percent from three in 29.5 minutes (38 games)

    Strengths: Nikola Jokic is a pinpoint passer with a high basketball IQ and a great feel for the game, especially for someone his age. He's a big bruiser who can bang on the boards, can shoot it out to three-point range and moves well horizontally.

    Weaknesses: He's not a vertical player. Jokic's body could use some sculpting and strengthening. So could his defense.

    Outlook: "When he becomes a little bit more experienced and he keeps progressing, he’ll be a guy you can give the ball to on the elbow. I would say he’s already a better passer than [Joakim] Noah. Not as good as [Marc] Gasol, but he can be as good as Marc pretty soon." — Western Conference scout

    NBA Comparison: Marc Gasol

Boban Marjanovic, C, San Antonio Spurs

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    Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

    Specs: 7'3", 290 lbs, 27 years old, Serbian

    Drafted: Undrafted in 2010

    Previous Team: Crvena Zvezda (Serbia)

    2014-15 Stats: 13.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 60.4 percent shooting in 22.4 minutes (76 games)

    Strengths: Boban Marjonovic's height is impressive, and he's well-built. He is a solid shooter and very skilled for a player his size, and he takes up tons of space on the other end.

    Weaknesses: He has questionable toughness and is slow-footed up the floor and off the floor. His shooting range doesn't extend beyond the arc, and he's not as great a shot-blocker as his size would suggest.

    Outlook: "Honestly, his sheer size is going to be a huge problem." — Western Conference scout

    "Defensively, he needs to work on guarding the perimeter and showed to have slow feet. Will struggle guarding pick-and-rolls and playing in our faster-paced game." — NBA executive

    NBA Comparison: Shawn Bradley

Salah Mejri, C, Dallas Mavericks

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    DANI POZO/Getty Images

    Specs: 7'2", 235 lbs, 29 years old, Tunisian

    Drafted: Undrafted in 2008

    Previous Team: Real Madrid (Spain)

    2014-15 Stats: 4.3 points, 2.1 rebounds, 0.7 blocks, 67.6 percent shooting in 9.2 minutes (42 games)

    Strengths: Salah Mejri measures in above your average 7-foot stiff. He's an effective pick-and-roll player who sets solid screens and can finish around the rim. A high-energy guy, Mejri blocks shots and rebounds.

    Weaknesses: He's quick off the floor but doesn't get much lift. His skill level is so-so, and Mejri lacks strength for his size. He's a below-average scorer.

    Outlook: "I think he’s much more of a project than anything else at this point for Dallas. They’re just trying to get a little bigger down low. They didn’t get DeAndre [Jordan], so they’re trying to fill the hole with various project type of guys. He’s obviously not a project guy, but they’re trying to fill the hole with big dudes, so they got him. Another guy who’s probably not going to see too much time, but depending on where Dallas is, if they’re not trying to win this year, he might play." — Western Conference scout

    NBA Comparison: A taller Eduardo Najera

Emmanuel Mudiay, PG, Denver Nuggets

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Specs: 6'5", 190 lbs, 19 years old, Congolese

    Drafted: First round, seventh overall pick in 2015

    Previous Team: Guangdong Southern Tigers (China)

    2014-15 Stats: 18 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.6 steals, 47.8 percent shooting, 34.2 percent from three in 31.5 minutes (12 games)

    Strengths: Emmanuel Mudiay has all the physical tools to excel at his position. With his quick, strong dribble, he can get to the hoop at will and find his teammates for kick-outs. He's more mature than most 19-year-olds thanks to his year in China, where he more than held his own among grown men. Offensively, he's at his most lethal in transition.

    Weaknesses: He can lose control at times. His jumper isn't broken but clearly needs work (and better shot selection to boot). Mudiay's floor vision and decision-making aren't there just yet.

    Outlook: "He has the speed and quickness, he has the size, he has the athleticism, but him knowing the NBA game, the mentality of the NBA point guard. It’s just something that comes with time. I think he’ll be fine." —  NBA executive

    "I think he’s going to go through some first-year jitters as the main guy, but I feel like he’s going to be way beyond some of the other point guards just because he has a year of pro basketball under his belt." —  Western Conference scout

    NBA Comparison: John Wall

Raul Neto, PG, Utah Jazz

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    Specs: 6'4", 194 pounds, 23 years old, Brazilian

    Drafted: Second round, 47th overall pick in 2013

    Previous Team: UCAM Murcia (Spain)

    2014-15 Stats: 8.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 42.6 percent shooting, 20.5 percent from three in 22.4 minutes (34 games)

    Strengths: Raul Neto is a jack-of-all-trades. He has good size for his role: a pass-first point guard who sees the floor well, plays with effort defensively and moves his feet. He's also pretty crafty with the ball.

    Weaknesses: He's also a master of none and isn't exactly a knockdown shooter so far. 

    Outlook: "He projects more as a backup point guard than a starter, but his ability to create easy shots for teammates should make him a serviceable NBA player." — Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman 

    NBA Comparison: Luke Ridnour, Pablo Prigioni

Kristaps Porzingis, PF/C, New York Knicks

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    Ronda Churchill/Associated Press

    Specs: 7'1", 230 lbs, 20 years old, Latvian

    Drafted: First round, fourth overall pick in 2015

    Previous Team: Baloncesto Sevilla (Spain)

    2014-15 Stats: 11 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.0 block, 0.9 steals, 49.6 percent shooting, 35.9 percent from three in 21.4 minutes (50 games)

    Strengths: Kristaps Porzingis can really shoot with range and generally has great skill for a player of his size (7'3" in shoes). He's great in transition, thanks to his bounce getting up and off the floor, and can finish with a soft touch at the rim. "His intangibles are off the friggin’ Richter scale," one Eastern Conference scout said.

    Weaknesses: He's slender for his size. At this point, Portzingis is more of a 4 because he's not physically ready to be a 5. Whichever position he plays, he's bound to get bullied by bigger foes defensively until he bulks up a bit.

    Outlook: "He’s not unlike anybody else that’s young and in the league. You play because you’re offensively skilled, but the coach doesn’t always play you a lot of minutes because you’re not used to guarding. You struggle to make the transition defensively. That happens to most players. He probably won’t be any different. That will be the most critical part of the learning curve: finding his place and the speed of the game and defensively." — Scout

    NBA Comparison: A springier Dirk Nowitzki

Walter "Edy" Tavares, C, Atlanta Hawks

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Specs: 7'3", 265 lbs, 23 years old, Cape Verdean

    Drafted: Second round, 43rd overall pick in 2014

    Previous Team: La Palma (Spain)

    2014-15 Stats: 8.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 62.6 percent shooting in 22.1 minutes (60 games)

    Strengths: You can't teach the kind of size and length (7'9" wingspan) that Walter "Edy" Tavares brings to the table. Those attributes should help him become a defensive difference-maker. He's powerful enough to make a dent up front.

    Weaknesses: He's slow getting from end to end, though that's not at all unusual at his size. The bigger problem is he's still quite raw, especially on the offensive end. "Just a big dude who happens to be a big dude," a Western Conference scout said.

    Outlook: "His defense right now is better than his offense, I think. That’s where he’ll make his impact immediately" — NBA executive

    NBA Comparison: Rudy Gobert

    Josh Martin covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.

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