You know many names were nominated as superstars in the international prospect classes of 2002, 2003 and 2004. So who are among the under the radar prospects? What can these players do in the future? In this series, I will dive briefly into the under the radar prospects from 2002, 2003 and 2004 classes before detailed reports.
Team: Centre Federal Du Basket-Ball
Born: January 23, 2003
Best Skills: Slashing, versatile defense
Armel Traoré was born on January 23, 2003, in France. When he is not playing basketball, he studies at home, he has to pass his exams in INSEP with a good degree by the end of the year. He likes to spend time with his family and close friends. His favorite book is Mamba Mentality. He likes to watch animal documentaries but generally tries to improve himself by watching the basketball of other countries.
Armel Traoré is a player that has already attracted the attention of many D1 teams in the NCAA. He’s received offers from Washington, Wake Forest, Florida, Miami, Arizona, Saint Mary’s, Memphis, Utah, and Washington State. But Traoré is currently focused just on INSEP. He wants to make his decision next year closer to the summer.
Traoré has been playing in INSEP since 2017. He was one of the most valuable members of the France’s U16 National Team that won a silver medal at the FIBA European Championships last year. He played in seven games and averaged 12.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.7 blocks. On the shooting side, 1.0/3.4 on 3-pointers and 4.4/9.9 from the field.
Standing 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a 205-pound frame (according to INSEP), Armel Traoré has great size and frame for his age and position. He has really long arms but I am not a big fan of the strength on his arms. Nice popping on his triceps but biceps and wrists need strength. Good but not too wide on his shoulders, the most critical point here is the degree of the shoulders, both smooth and stiff which give him nice bend and up when he slashing. Hollow chest but strong core muscles.
Traoré has almost no mobility on hip turns to the basket ability but not smoothly or quickly. He’s quick on his feet, good laterally, vertically, and linearly. He has pretty nice vertical pop in tight spaces. My biggest question mark about his physical tools and athleticism is his ability to use the tools. I mean, Traoré possesses great tools, that’s clear, but he cannot use his upper body strength when slashing. I think he has to learn how to use his physical tools and his smoothness & explosiveness (can make dunks in open court, can go to the basket by using his change of speed and direction abilities) to make money.
Traoré has shown some mid-range jumpers in a lot of scenarios but not consistently, and cannot create his shots. On 3-pointers, he can hit spot-up threes, especially from the left offense zone. He can hit 3-pointers after curl, Iverson, flash and banana cuts, this is important. Traoré can break the opponent’s defensive line by using deep cuts, while also having the ability to hit 3-pointers, which is great.
Armel Traoré has that ability but as he cannot create around the mid-range, he also cannot create his shots behind the 3-points line. I also have some question marks about his shooting form. After receiving the ball, Traoré sets up his footwork quickly and smartly (pivot is hard and the other foot comes with momentum). He bends his knee back at the same time and quickly. However, after receiving the ball, he loses a lot of time until he lifts the ball and brings it to the head level. He grasps the ball well with his right hand, holding the ball from the right-middle level. But his hand that gives the ball balance is too high. His thumb is especially out of balance. He cannot bend his wrists very well and cannot get energy from his chest. He has a nice vertical pop and last touch in the air, but doesn’t look very comfortable when the ball comes out. So he can hit the 3-pointers in motion offense and as a spot-up shooter but he has to add some fluidity on his balance hand and has to gain strength on his chest to shot better in my opinion. But I do not think he is a bad shooter right now, just need some adjustments.
Slashing is his best weapon. He is not a primary ballhandler, he takes the ball in the half-court after using screens and plays from there. After takes the ball, he does a pretty good job on understanding what happens in the opponent’s defensive line. He waits, sees, understands, and starts to attack the rim. He mostly uses the right channel but left is not bad. Traoré uses burst or euro step if he needs, can change direction and speed to find a better angle, jumps very well and uses his kneecap in the air to avoid the help defender’s hand, and finishes style of bump and fade. Can absorb the contact, despite not having elite soft touch, he can finish very well. He also can finish in tight spaces but as I mentioned, he has room to grow here.
He can finish with both hands. The most professional thing he uses when slashing is that he can change the direction of the ball. Traoré on his way to the basket, can anticipate the area where the defender could be and pull the ball to his right or left, both on the ground and in the air. Aside from using his physical tools more effectively, my biggest concern with his slashing and overall finishing abilities is his lack of control. Armel Traoré doesn’t control his surroundings at all when he meets the ball under the basket as give and go or a quick cutter. Yes, it’s good to be fast, but sometimes he can’t finish things very easy possessions, his shot gets blocked, forces the position, and due to his lack of elite shooting ability, his shots going hard contest.
Not a great handler, full-court set set driver (can finish in transition situations and has grab, go and finish ability), passer and pick-and-roll scorer. He can protect the ball when he attacks the rim but not advanced or extra things, he’s prone to lose the ball as a primary ballhandler. Can change direction and speed, has ability to use euro step move but again, not any advanced or extra things. The passing side is not great. Has prone to gamble, which is bad. He has to add some PnR threat. He has shown some drop step and pump fakes in face-up situations as a post-up player but not consistent, but not bad, better than his PnR ability.
Armel Traoré can guard multiple positions and this is the best thing in his defensive package. Despite not using his physical tools and athleticism very well on the offensive end, Traoré’s length, quick feet, and wide shoulders make him a good defender for his class.
First note about his defensive performances from last year. Traoré was defending his opponents as the classic wing defender in one-on-one situations in the first three games last summer. So one hand was always in the air while the other hand was on the ground. Thus, Traore avoided foul and dropped his opponent’s chances of covering the shooting, drive and open pass angles.
When the offense tried tricks like go-stop-go, euro step, shifty handling, etc. Traoré’s lower stance worked very well. But in the next four games, his defensive style changed completely. His two hands were always in the air against his opponents, absorbing contact when the attacker started to drive, but he did not stand against them, he moved laterally to them.
Meanwhile, a big was building a wall in front of Traoré’s man. So Traore has two different one-on-one defense packages. The first is potential peskiness. The second is to put pressure on the star player with team defense in critical matches. This is important. But the only concern that I have in mind from here is that Traoré lags far behind the quicker attackers. I think he should improve in this regard.
Armel Traoré is a good defender but not high-level. Tagging cutters and getting back to his man with a high hand. He does a nice job putting the pressure around the perimeter, hands always active, head always up, always talks with others but he sometimes biting on the opponent’s handler. When the handler gives pass/body/eye/burst/screen fake, Traoré breaks his team’s defensive line because he makes wrong help-defenses, rotations, slides, etc. I would like to see him smarter around the perimeter and as a team defender.
Off the ball situations, he is good. He is a player who can fight with aggressive screens and also does a good job as a tagger around the baseline. He is pesky on the attacker’s drive zone. Traoré does a good job on running to closeouts, showing his quickness, using his one hand to close the shooter’s angle and hip turns. Also, he turns screens on shoulder to shoulder level. He is long but knows when and how bending to run around the screens.
Traoré is a good rebounder. He knows how to use his vertical pop and length to take the ball in the air. Has game instincts and grab, go, and finish package is pretty impressive. Not a good rebounder on the offensive end but it is not necessary.
Armel Traoré is a good slasher, decent shooter, traditional driver, passer, and handler on the offensive side. He does not have any PnR or elite post-up threat. However, he is a player who can run sets, adapt to detailed sets with his shooting and cutting abilities, this is important. Defensively, he should work on some quickness things in one-on-one situations. Good at covering PnRs, fighting with screens, talking with the others but needs balance and has to be thought around the perimeter. Good on closeouts. The physical tools side is perfect on the paper, but as with all prospects, his developing curve in terms of strength and learning process in terms of “using the tools” will be CRITICAL.
Position: Shooting guard
Best Skills: Spot-up shooting, team awareness
Ruben Dominguez was born on January 23, 2003, in Spain. Before he started basketball, Dominguez was a huge fan of soccer but his passion for basketball increased in a very short time and he decided to do this sport.
Ruben Dominguez was an important member of Spain’s under 16 teams last year and in 2018. In 2018, he won the silver medal where he averaged 8.9 points, 1.3 rebounds in seven games. After a year, he won the gold medal where he averaged 13.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.6 steals in seven games.
Standing 6-foot-6 with a near 6-foot-8 wingspan and improving frame, Rubén Domínguez has good size for a 17 years old European player in my opinion. His arms are long and strong but he has a lot of room to get stronger in his other parts. His core, chest, and shoulders are not elite yet. In addition, he has problems with contact due to these shortcomings.
His lower body is quick, strong, he has lateral movement but his vertical pop is not good. His hips are mobile and fast, he can rotate and transfer energy from his lower body to his upper body while shooting, supporting the pure curl in his wrists. On the athletic side, there is a lot to improve. He is a good shooter in transition situations but not a good finisher, runs well but lack of vertical pop hurt him here. He’s not just a smooth or explosive athlete. This applies to both offense and defense. He has a lot of room to improve on that.
Ruben Domínguez’s game mostly revolves around spotting up for the 3-pointer or filling the lanes to finish around the basket. I can say that clearly, Domínguez is one of the best shooters in his class. He is able to create his own shot around the perimeter, using one-step-one and burst techniques to create his own shot with a good hop, release, and rotation. The Spanish prospect doesn’t have a perfect pull up but it’s not too bad.
Domínguez has a shooting mentality that many 2003 born players don’t have. He can shoot with a quick release and high set point against pressure, and he does not hesitate to use the right shot at critical moments. His shooting form looks solid with a smooth follow-through, but he needs to quicken his catch and release. Apart from shooting, the biggest weapon in Dominguez’s offensive game is to drive the right channels, get contact, and use the rim to find buckets.
He needs a lot of things on his athleticism package, but when he can combine his strong arms, his BBIQ in lateral and linear movements, Domínguez can use the rim and find buckets in traffic around the rim – uses the glass well when driving to the hoop. He’s not very good at driving to his left, and he also tries unnecessary floater/layup at times. On off-ball motion, Domínguez is not a cutter or something but he knows how to create his catch-and-shoot using the screens very well. He catches the ball, sets up his shooting form, and hits. I am a huge fan of his awareness on the offensive end. He sees things early, talks with his teammates, and directs them. He has to learn how to be an aggressive slasher despite his aggressive style. I think his lack of elite athleticism and physical tools hurt his stock here.
Domínguez is not a great passer but showed some advanced flashes as a read & react and transition passer. I also think he has a lot of room to be a good scorer in transition situations. Domínguez runs the court well, reads the game well but not a primary scorer in transition. Domínguez has good footwork, knows the game, has a feel for the game, he’s a team player, can operate off-ball motions, and coaching guy. At the end of the day, his elite shooting threat, responsibility, average ballhandling, high awareness, and average finishing skillset (soft-touch, change direction ability, BBIQ, and right dribble) makes him a good offensive rotation player for the Euroleague level in my opinion.
A scrappy, high-motor defender who is energetic on and off the ball, Domínguez may not be overwhelmingly versatile, but he showed a lot of good things guarding quicker guards with his lateral movement, BBIQ, and good stance. I can say that clearly, he is one of the best spot up defenders in his class. He is not a physical or aggressive defender but thanks to his BBIQ (timing, reading the game, feeling the game, high-motor, reaction) and awareness help him here. I think he knows how to move around the screens and put pressure on the shooter.
Domínguez can close the shot angle of his opponent. On the offensive side of the game, he can overcome the pressure with dribbling, as well as on the defensive part, he can put pressure against quick, tricky guards. He’s not perfect as a deflection and steals defender, he has good eye-hand coordination, but I think he does well in things that don’t usually reflect on the stats sheet. His lack of athleticism and elite strength hurt his switch, pick-and-roll, and off-ball painted area defense in my opinion. He is active in the passing lanes but lack of athleticism hurt his stock here. He can’t protect the rim but showed some flashes in pick-and-roll situations thanks to his lateral movement and angled stance but not consistently. I think he is a good team defender, not a playmaker but talks with his teammates, protects the team shield with them, and rebounds decently.
I don’t think Rubén Domínguez is a fit prospect for the NBA right now. Yes, he’s definitely an excellent shooter, his game awareness and motor are high, he’s a good micro part on the defensive end, but I don’t think he can keep up with the pace and athleticism of the NBA. I think he has the potential to be a critical rotation player that every team would want at the Euroleague level.
Team: Barcelona II
Born: February 26, 2003
Best Skills: Team awareness, BBIQ, al defenses
Yahir Gael Bonilla Silva was born on February 26, 2003, in Mexico. He started playing basketball because of his physical tools. When Bonilla was around 8-9 years old, his height and wingspan were very long for his age. In his early years, he played basketball just as a hobby but his love for the game was growing and he soon decided to pursue something professional in this sport.
Bonilla is one of the successes of the Barcelona scouting staff like Ibou Badji and Augustin Ubal. Before Bonilla showed his talent at the FIBA 2019 U16 Americas Championship, Barça’s staff scouted him and took him from Mexico to Spain.
He shined at the ANGT Valencia last year. Averaged 10 points, 7.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.6 steals, 2.6 blocks while shooting 40% from the court. After Valencia, he shined at the U16 Americas Championship. In six games, he averaged 16.2 points, 14.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 4.5 blocks while shooting 38.5% from the court and 26.9% from the 3-point line.
Standing 6-foot-8 with an improved 210-pound frame, Gael Bonilla possesses good length, width on shoulders, long arms, pretty impressive leg length, wide chest and horizontal core muscles. From the strength window, things are not too good but also not too bad. Biceps and triceps are popping in his arms but wrists are thin. He has strong quadriceps.
He has fullness from shoulders to arms, chests are not very strong but not totally hollow either. Core muscles look good. In general, I think he needs to work on his lower body, length to fill. Because also Bonilla’s footwork is not quick. He can move laterally, linearly, and vertically but not quickly. Has a great second jump, can finish with one foot or two feet.
The best thing about Bonilla’s physical tools and athleticism is his ability to use these things. I mean, Bonilla is a hard-noised defender because he can use his length very well. He is a good finisher around the basket because he can jump on his island, absorb the contact, and finish over the rim protector. Despite average speed footwork, his ability to change direction and speed is pretty impressive. Especially when Bonilla attacks to the basket, his first step a little, not too wide, but second is wide and strong.
Gael Bonilla is a versatile offensive player in my opinion. He has not an elite shooting threat but he hit some 3-pointers last summer, especially against Canada and despite misses, he created his shots.
Bonilla’s shooting form is not unorthodox but it doesn’t look comfortable. While the ball leaves his hands, the balance hand looks good. He gives good momentum and holds the arc very well. However, his right (shooting) hand doesn’t look good and his shooting hand positioning is inconsistent.
Sometimes he holds the ball like he holds a tray. Sometimes he keeps his hand exactly as he should but cannot do it consistently. He pulls the ball out quickly, but interestingly, Bonilla pulls the balance hand from the ball before he shoots. As he does this, he gives the ball a lot of power, which is not good. Not a major above the minor problems on his footwork and elbow point. Load timing not too quick but average for his size and frame.
Versatility is the best thing in his shooting ability in my opinion. Bonilla can hit 3-pointers and mid-range jumpers as a spot-up shooter or self-creator. He can create mid-range shots after one or two dribbles and pump fakes. He can give screen and body fakes to create his shooting space, which is great.
Because Bonilla is already creating huge spacing thanks to his ability to stretch the floor, he also can hit the shots on DHO, floppy, elevator, drag, and elbow setup situations. For example, last year Mexico used some elbow series, like elbow weak, elbow strong, elbow shoulder to shoulder, elbow 51. And in these sets, Bonilla made a screen first, then popped to the top of the key, took the ball, and hit the shot. In DHO situations, he can comfortably play both roles. So his shooting versatility, self-confidence, and decent shooting form make him an average shooter in my opinion. But he has to improve on his upper body mechanism.
Gael Bonilla is a right-handed basketball player. But here is a fun fact. Last year at the ANGT and U16 Americas Championship, he used his left hand 112 times in all dribble situations. Funny, right? This makes him a versatile finisher around the basket. When he attacks closeouts, he wants to read the defensive line first. After analyzing, he dribbles with left, but when he takes the first step, he changes his hands quickly, protects the ball, jumps, and can finish both hands. Of course, right better than left but his left hand is really good.
Solid finisher overall, has good tricks here like reverse, eye fake, little pumps, baby jumps, etc. Can give pass, body, burst, and eye fakes before attacking the rim. So, yes, he is 6-foot-8 and can manipulate the defense. Despite Bonilla’s upper body strength, he is not a good finisher in tight spaces due to lack of elite lower body athleticism and soft touch. He is not a player who forces the game but sometimes, he goes to the traffic and loses the ball.
He always talks with his teammates, he is an offensive playmaker, active in off the ball motions with cuts like flare, fake 51, floppy, curl, and screen. While cutting, he uses the big’s screen very well. Bonilla is also an effective scorer on BLOB.
He can increase the offensive tempo. His face-up offense is not too good in post-up but he’s good at back-to-the-basket situations. He turns his left shoulder better than his right. Doesn’t have an elite drop step or hip mobility but his BBIQ, balance, and consistent scoring weapons make him a good scorer here again.
He is not a good pick-and-roll scorer and I think this is the major thing which he has to work on. Because he already has the potential to be a pick-and-pop threat. He can also finish in transition very well.
Gael Bonilla is an elite passer for his position and size. He has abilities on drive-and-dish, sees the open man on post-up, coast-to-coast after grabbing the defensive rebound, operate wing plays like 1-4 zipper, etc. So I have no doubt about his passing ability. The handling side is more complicated. Solid handler but sometimes he holds the ball too open. He is also prone to lose the ball when he attacks against bigger players or lateral defenders. So I would like to see him calmer as a handler.
Gael Bonilla is one of the best defenders in all prospect classes in my opinion. He can guard multiple positions, can protect the rim amazingly, energetic on the passing lanes and has a gravity effect under the basket. However, there is one thing which I have a question mark: Quickness.
Bonilla is a smart and quick reaction defender but quickness in terms of body movement is my question. I mean, against the quicker or shifty ballhandlers, he stays behind them. The lack of elite quickness and lower body tools hurt him here. However, if the ballhandler doesn’t have any bump-and-fade, advanced or in front of the defender finishing abilities, Bonilla shifts his body, uses his arm length and makes block with PERFECT timing. He knows how to avoid the foul in block situations. He just makes blocks using his upper body, timing, and BBIQ. Bonilla can block his opponent from the back, front, or side. He’s not a freakish blocker like Yannick Nzosa or Adem Bona, but he’s a smart and technical blocker rather than a flash or quick blocker.
Bonilla is a defensive playmaker. His head is looking for surprise cuts, off the ball screens, and weak side games but while doing it, Bonilla also manages his man. He always talks with his teammates directs them.
He is pesky on ISO situations. When the offensive player is attacking against him, Bonilla’s right-hand goes up and left-hand pushes the attacker’s chest without an illegal move. He has a low and hard stance making it difficult to pass him. He doesn’t bite on pump fakes but sometimes reacts slowly on closeouts.
Bonilla is good in PnR situations. He slides very well on handlers if his team does not use drop or ICE. After sliding, he uses his pesky tools. If his team covers PnR with ICE, Bonilla uses his mini-steps very well, showing his anticipation. He’s aggressive on post-up but not good against post-up scorers with excellent drop step or explosive athleticism. He’s energetic on passing lanes, active on the glass and a versatile defender overall.
On the rebounding side, almost excellent. Bonilla has great game instincts both on the offensive end and on the defensive end. He has grab-and-go and coast-to-coast abilities.
Gael Bonilla is an elite defensive anchor. He is just 17 years old but already shows his BBIQ, timing and agility to protecting the basket against all offensive weapons. Offensively, Gael Bonilla has the potential to be a good player because he can grab a lot of rebounds, see the court, has an impressive passing package, can finish inside, and has gravity effect. But his improvement curve as a shooter will be critical. Today’s basketball needs a power forward who can stretch the floor. I think if he can add a consistent shooting threat to his arsenal, Bonilla will be a player who every NBA team wants to have. Otherwise, the sharpness in PnR and post-up weapons will determine his projection.