After the cancellation of the majority of FIBA competitions in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup felt like finally going back to certain normality in terms of basketball international competitions. It also helped that we were able to watch a good number of prospects that are likely to make their way to the NBA during the next three drafts, including the best prospect in the world. These are our thoughts on fourteen prospects that made an impact in Latvia.
Team: France | Pro Team: ASVEL (France) | Height: 7’2″ | DOB: 01/04/2004 | Draft Eligible in 2023
- On offense right now Wembanyama is at his best catching lobs. His catch radius is one of the most impressive you will see. His size, length, body control and hands allow him to dunk basically anything thrown up to him. Rolling to the rim he has shown great footwork, coordination and body control to pivot and use his length to extend and finish. Stronger players do bother him and he struggles to back them down at this stage.
- Wembanyama didn’t shoot very well from the field (4/22 from 3, 4/18 on 2pt jumpers) but he flashes great shot making and projects to be a great shooter at his size. The shots he is taking aren’t easy standstill jumpers with time and space. He is shooting off movement, logo threes and difficult post fade aways. When he catches the ball posting up he isn’t strong enough and his centre of gravity is quite high for him to back people down and perform post moves so he usually likes to fade out of the post. With his release point at his size it’s almost impossible to contest his shot.
- He still needs to develop as a playmaker but there are plenty of flashes there to believe in him. When France were winning by a lot it seemed like he got bored and thought it would be a good idea to start making whatever pass he wanted. This resulted in some crazy passes such as him making an accurate touch pass from the elbow to the low block. He has also shown passing ability from the free throw line and wraps passes around defenders. His size and length will open up a lot of passing windows to him.
- A special defensive talent. He had 33 blocks in 158 minutes and that block number is missing quite a few of his blocks. His timing is impressive as a weakside rim protector. He does pick up a few goaltends here and there but that is to be expected. When defending against more physical players he does get bumped around but his length is too overwhelming and recovers to block the shot. At a young age he is quite good at contesting and blocking shots without fouling.
- At his size it is quite scary how well Wembanyama moves on the perimeter. His coordination is impressive and can move his feet to block shots. He puts genuine fear in to opposing players if they drive on him and forces many to just turn away. Even if he does make a mistake defensively on the perimeter like biting on a fake or getting beat on a crossover his ability to recover and block shots is special. Towards the end of games opposing guards will take turns getting bullied by Wembanyama as he switches on to them defensively.
Overall: The best prospect in the world. Wembanyama is 7’3 and a crazy athlete. At his size he has great body control, he moves fluidly and gets up off the ground on his first and second jumps. He is special on the defensive end. His length is just too much, even when more physical players bump him off balance he can block shots. Incredible timing and ability to block shots without fouling. On the offensive end he is rather raw right now and is best catching lobs. He has shown plenty of flashes of shot making out of the post making fadeaways and looking good shooting from deep. The percentages may not be there yet but he will definitely shoot it in the future. It is pretty scary to think what Wembanyama will look like in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years into the future. He has game breaking potential on the defensive end while being one of the best, most versatile offensive players. Unless you’re a contending team every team should be trying to add him in the 2023 draft. – Caine Purnell
Team: Serbia | Pro Team: Mega Soccerbet (Serbia) | Height: 6’10” | DOB: 06/09/2003 | Draft Eligible in 2022
- Capable of slashing to the rim with the ball and as a cutter. Not incredibly bursty but he is a legit 6’10 which helps him with his finishing. Doesn’t pop a lot vertically but still capable of finishing above the rim. He will have some really creative scoop layups at times.
- Has legitimate playmaking upside. Could have had way more assists than the 2.9 a game he was credited with. Great live dribble passer. He likes to push the pace with quick push ahead passes. The touch and accuracy he shows on these passes is really good.
- During this tournament he was really good as a shooter. He ended going 12/33 (36.4%) which is impressive given the difficulty of some of the shots he was taking. Shows great footwork when he is getting into his shot, his release point at his height makes it very hard for people to contest his shot. Out of the post he comfortable shooting over smaller defenders. He likes to face up or fadeaway along either baseline. There is still reason to be sceptical on him as a shooter for now due to poor shooting in the past and mediocre free throw shooting but the potential is definitely there for him to be a good shooter when factoring in size and shot difficulty.
- There are some concerns about his defense. On the perimeter his ability to get in a stance and move laterally are rather poor. In the end of the Canada game specifically he was getting targeted over and over again off the dribble at the end of the game. He will have to improve his perimeter defense as he isn’t strong enough, long enough or have enough vertical pop to rely on his physical tools to recover. During this tournament he did flash some rim protection with nice timing blocking the shots of guards. At his size this is something you want to see more of going forward.
Overall: This year Jovic broke out during ANGT, made his Adriatic league debut and was one of the best players at the u19 World Cup. He has put himself in contention to be a top 10 pick in next years draft. At 6’10 Jovic is a versatile offensive player who can shoot, slash to the rim and make plays for others. As a playmaker Jovic is a great live dribble passer who shows great touch, accuracy and velocity on his passes. When slashing to the rim his size is so important as he puts pressure on the rim and can kick out to shooters over or around defenders. Then as a shooter he should attract attention as he can create his own shot off the dribble. Jovic has some physical weaknesses at the moment, if he is able to improve his vertical pop, hip flexibility and lateral quickness that would really help his game, especially on the defensive end. The upside is definitely there for Jovic and there’s a good chance he is a lottery pick next year with the potential to rise into the top 5 with a strong season. – Caine Purnell
Team: Australia | Pro Team: G-League Ignite (USA) | Height: 6’6″ | DOB: 03/17/2003 | Draft Eligible in 2022
- Solid measurements for a wing, standing at 6’6″ with long arms. No wingspan measurements at this point, but seems to be solidly in the positive range in the height/wingspan ratio. Long legs, gets to where he wants on the floor within a few strides.
- Shows a combination of size, length and body control that allows him to create advantages and get to the rim through traffic. Able to exploit slower wing/forward defenders with a solid first step and a combination of dribble moves (crossovers, in-and-outs) and changes in direction. Not super explosive in traffic but uses his combination of length and hang-time to finish with extension at the rim.
- Capable gravity passer who utilizes the advantage he creates as a driver to generate open shots for teammates. Shows some passing ability as a passer off screens, showing timing and accuracy and pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop sets. Uses his size well to make passes over smaller point-of-attack defenders. Has an unselfish approach to the game.
- Could develop into a solid perimeter defender that could do well against wings and most guards. Uses his size well to bother smaller ball-handlers at the point of attack. Shows some moments of multi-directional body control which allows him to stay in front of opponents.
- Not someone who is tasked with making advanced passing reads at the moment, mostly put in simple read-and-react situations where he shows above average reactiveness as a passer.
- Shot is a work in progress. Shows flashes of versatility, but in limited situations. Still needs a ton of time and space to get his shot off, especially off the catch.
Overall: Versatility is the name of the game for Daniels at this point, as a 6’6″ wing who shows a good level of creativity with the ball in his hands which he utilizes to score the ball on drives and create open shots for teammates in simple read-and-react situations. While his jumper has started showing some signs of life, both in terms of percentages (30.2% from three on 43 attempts during the tournament) and in terms of flashes of versatility, this is the area in which Daniels will need to become more consistent both in output and in process, as the prospect of a 6’6″ player with plus perimeter defense and dribble-pass-shoot abilities should be extremely enticing for NBA teams thinking about the 2022 Draft. – Ignacio Rissotto
Team: Serbia | Pro Team: Mega Soccerbet (Serbia) | Height: 6’8″ | DOB: 02/23/2004 | Draft Eligible in 2023
- Physical tools. Excellent size for a wing, listed at 6’8″ with long arms and legs. Moves with a good combination of speed and fluidity considering his size. Shows moments of explosiveness, being able to play above the rim, especially when he’s able to get to the rim with momentum.
- Versatile passer who shows vision and accuracy to execute plays both in transition and in the half-court. Consistent pick-and-roll playmaker who knows passing angles and windows. Utilizes his size well to pass over the top of the defense. Has potential as a secondary initiator.
- Shows an interesting projection as a versatile shooter considering his touch, fluidity and versatility. Not someone who creates his own shot on ISOs at this point, but is versatile enough as a shooter to convert threes when he’s able to create space by using screens. Seems to improveme as a shooter in every single competition he’s in.
- Able to get to the rim with the ball in his hands, using a number of simple but effective moves (crossovers, in-and-outs) to get defenders off balance and initiate drives. Shows a smooth handle and good body control on the move for his size.
- Has potential as a versatile perimeter defender that should be able to cover Wings, Forwards and even some Guards. Serbia even had him as a supersized one-defender at times in the competition. Not someone who will defend point guards full time at the next level, but it’s a good sign that he’s willing to take on the challenge of guarding smaller, quicker players.
- Better as an open-court athlete than in short spaces. Lacks a degree of explosiveness and shiftiness that could limit him as an off-the-dribble creator at the next level.
Overall: Djurisic played just three games in the tournament, but that was still enough for him to take an early lead as the next best player in the 2004 generation (the number one being, obviously, Victor Wembanyama). Djurisic combination of mobility, size, offensive versatility and defense flashes will make him an enticing prospect heading into the 2023. An incredible number of developmental paths exist for him when you consider his current dribble-pass-shoot abilities, and it’s hard not to see a majority of those paths leading to him being a positive addition to an NBA team down the line. – Ignacio Rissotto
Team: France | Pro Team: ASVEL (France) | Height: 6’0″ | DOB: 08/05/2002 | Draft Eligible in 2022
- All-around driver who is able to get to the lane and create advantages nearly at will due to his combination of quickness, fluidity and creativity with the ball in his hands. Has changes of speed and directions that get defenders off balance. Extremely comfortable navigating through traffic, secure with the ball in his hands.
- Above average finisher at the rim despite his size, has an arsenal of floaters and shows moments of outlier touch at the basket. 62% on the restricted area in the tournament according to InStat.
- Carried most of the playmaking load for France and did it with tremendous efficiency, leading the tournament in assists and posting a 2.9 A:TO ratio. Showed consistency to exploit the advantages he was able to create with the ball in his hands. Creative and deceptive passer who is able to create open shots for teammates due to his scoring gravity.
- Shooting continues to be a work in progress for him in terms of mechanics. Switches his form from shot to shot, having more success when he’s able to shoot with his natural one-motion set shot with a really low release point instead of his other motion: an exaggerated two-motion jumper which he uses when he needs to get his shot off against defenders.
- Shows shooting potential despite converting just 29% of his three-point attempts in the tournament. Shows willingness to shoot off the dribble and is able to convert jumpers from beyond the NBA three-point line. Shot a respectable 1.25 PPP in catch-and-shoot attempts according to InStat.
- Undersized, listed at 6’0″ which will limit him to a one-position defender at the NBA level. Most of his drives end up in passes, as his lack of size and explosiveness force him to be really selective with his shots at the rim.
Overall: Strazel was highly ranked among international prospects at the beginning of the 2021 Draft cycle, but his stock took a hit after a rough start to the season where he struggled to find consistency and playing time for ASVEL. What we saw from Strazel in the U19 World Cup is more in line with his output previous to this season, as he was able to create driving lanes and orchestrate the offense for France in the silver medal run. Strazel is certainly limited by his lack of size, but offers an incredible level of playmaking and on-ball creation. If the shot catches up he could be a valuable addition for any team in the world and maybe a few years down the line, for an NBA team as well. – Ignacio Rissotto
Team: France | Pro Team: Tours (France) | Height: 6’5″ | DOB: 01/28/2002 | Draft Eligible in 2022
- Standing at 6’5 he has legit size and length at the guard spot. Overall has good burst, his first step is pretty good and changes pace well.
- Comfortable operating in the pick and roll. Slows down, changes pace, snakes the PnR and crab dribbles with his man on his back. Usually patient if he gets walled off or if the first pass isn’t there, he takes a hard retreat dribble and makes a read from there. Usually prefers to drop off to his big man or lob it up. Wembanyama helped him as a playmaker by being there to catch lobs. Some of his passes are too easily read by the defense and this was exploited by more athletic defenders such as Jaden Ivey.
- Needs his shooting to come around if he is going to be considered a draft prospect. He isn’t a complete non-shooter and has shown flashes of shooting both off the dribble and off the catch but needs to increase his volume. His form is a bit funky as he has a really low shot pocket and gets very little lift as he barely jumps. Never been a good free throw shooter, 28/43 (65%) this season and 59/90 (66%) the year before.
- Likes to push the pace in transition with or without the ball. Uses his speed to get out ahead of defenders and cherry pick. Quick with the ball in his hands and has some basic dribble moves. Likes to dish the ball out and it is even easier for him with more space.
Overall: Not really an NBA prospect but could definitely play on a great team in Europe in the future. This was only his first year of draft eligibility so he has another few years to improve and try and get drafted. His size and ability to operate in the pick and roll make him interesting. If he is to get drafted he will have to show that he is more willing to score attacking the rim and greatly improve as a shooter. He will spend next season at a newly promoted ProB team where he could have a breakout season at a higher level than Espoirs. – Caine Purnell
Team: Spain | Pro Team: Estudiantes (Spain) | Height: 6’6″ | DOB: 01/23/2003 | Draft Eligible in 2022
- Has nice size as an off ball guard standing at 6’6. Decent length and above average strength for his size but always seems to avoid contact. Poor first step, he is more of a smooth athlete. You won’t see him rising up to dunk on anyone.
- Can be a bit streaky as a shooter but when he has it going it is hard to stop him. From the outside he is a serious threat off handoffs, screens and off movement in general. He has nice footwork to prepare himself to shoot. Has rather noticeable valgus knees when shooting. When he puts the ball on the floor he is comfortable pulling up from midrange and can shoot over defenders with his size as an off guard.
- At his best as a playmaker when his shot is falling. He forces defenders to play up on him and that opens up windows for him to usually pass over the defense to his roll man. There are some questions about his first step and burst which limit his ability to blow by his defender. This results in some tough looks as he is forced to pull up when it would be better for him to attack the rim. Has shown some flashes of getting downhill after attacking closeouts or coming off curls and kicking out to a shooter or dropping the ball off to his big man.
- Decent point of attack defender. Could improve navigating screens. His ability to slide laterally is pretty good and his size and length allows him to contest shots. He has some problems against the quicker guards. When switched on to bigger plays he fights well and is somewhat effective against power forwards. Has the potential to guard 2s and 3s with only some switches on to 1s and 4s. Usually makes the right rotations on time.
Overall: Ruben Dominguez has had success in youth tournaments before being MVP of the 2019 u16s. He has some serious potential as a shooter, especially as a movement shooter. Right now, he is rather streaky but it is nice to see that he contributes in other ways. His athletic limitations likely hold him back from being a very effective scorer off the dribble. Defensively he puts up a good fight and rarely gets blown by. Majority of the time he can get a contest on the shot. As Dominguez is born in 2003 he doesn’t become draft eligible until next year. It appears he projects to be roughly a top 50 player at this stage. Next season he will have a greater chance to play a role as Estudiantes are no longer in the ACB but it will raise the question of the quality of the league in LEB Oro. – Caine Purnell
Team: Spain | Pro Team: Real Madrid (Spain) | Height: 6’3″ | DOB: 06/04/2004 | Draft Eligible in 2023
- One of the most creative passers you will see at this age. He can make basically any pass imaginable. His creativity as a passer is great as he will release passes in ways you don’t expect. Excellent live dribble passer, he loves to go to an underhand scoop pass which he throws everywhere on the court. Deceptive with look away and no look passes.
- His handle is great and often relies on it to break players down. He has multiple dribble moves and counters that he is comfortable going to. In PnR he excels at getting to where he wants to go and then picking apart the defense once he has their attention. He lacks some burst against the older players and relies on his handle and deception to create space.
- Needs to develop as a shooter especially in order for him to be a point guard in the NBA at his size. He needs to increase his willingness as a shooter as well as his percentages. In EBA this year he shot 15/89 (17%) from three and 55/85 (65%) from the free throw line.
- Even though he has been a rather limited shooter he does have flashes of excellent shot making and it seems like these have been happening more often lately. Off the dribble he has shown that he can get to step backs from deep and has made them from as far back as NBA range with good form.
- When finishing around the rim he relies on his craft. Driving to the rim he is agile and shifty with his footwork. He has great body control and contorts himself in the air to finish with up and unders and similar moves to protect the ball from shot blockers. It’s not something he really shows in the half court yet but in EBA he did show some sneaky vertical pop for a few big dunks.
Overall: Juan Núñez is one of the top players in the 2004 generation at the moment. Playing against his own age he is dominant as an initiator with his creativity as a playmaker. At this tournament he struggled to play consistent minutes with older players in front of him. Against the older, stronger and more athletic players he had some trouble initiating offense without having to go to multiple counters to break his defender down. Núñez isn’t draft eligible until 2023 so he will have time to continue to work on his quickness and perimeter shot before the draft. The next step in his development will be interesting to track as he has outgrown EBA but isn’t good enough for Real Madrid so you would assume a loan deal would be coming soon. – Caine Purnell
Team: Puerto Rico | Pro Team: Atleticos de San German (Puerto Rico) | Height: 6’7″ | DOB: 04/23/2002 | Draft Eligible in 2022
- Listed at 6’7 Wheeler has great height for a wing. He has long arms and legs but is skinny.
- Really special as a vertical athlete. Comfortable elevating off of one foot or both feet. Impressive body control on euros and similar finishes. Excellent speed especially in the open court and is explosive in small spaces.
- Shown flashes of shot making in the half court. His handle looks loose because he has a high dribble but he can be really flashy at times. If someone cuts off his drive he loves going between his legs from behind with his dribble and shooting. Shows decent footwork to get to step backs and similar moves.
- As a shooter he is still improving and shot pretty well at this tournament 8/23 (35%) from three. In the past he hasn’t been a good shooter from three or from the free throw line. Both of his elbows stick out when he is shooting
- His athleticism makes him an amazing finisher when given space. As he is rather skinny he can have some problems finishing with contact but did decently well at this tournament. He can be used as an undersized big where he busts zones from the middle of the zone or down low. With his athleticism he is always a lob threat and a put back threat.
- In transition Wheeler is so hard to stop due to his athleticism. He is incredibly quick and has the ability to jump off of one foot or two feet so he is a threat to dunk anything. At his size he can just grab rebounds and go which is easier for him to attack as the defense isn’t set and his handle isn’t that great.
Overall: Phillip Wheeler has had a very interesting journey to this point. From high school he went to Stella Azzurra for his final year of school. Then he went to Puerto Rico and Argentina. Wheeler’s athleticism is undeniable and it should allow him to play at higher levels even though he still needs to develop his skill. If he can keep developing his outside shot then it is pretty likely that he will get an NBA opportunity with a combination of shooting, athleticism and defense. Even if his shot doesn’t improve that much I’m sure he will get an opportunity in Europe or in another strong league such as the NBL or the G-League. – Caine Purnell
Team: Senegal | Pro Team: Barcelona (Spain) | Height: 7’0″ | DOB: 10/13/2002 | Draft Eligible in 2021
- Elite combination of physical tools. Elite size for an NBA Center, listed at 7’0″ with a 7’8″ wingspan. Impressive mobility and coordination, able to run the floor at a good speed, moves really well laterally, to a point where he’s able to contain opponents in the perimeter. Tremendous leaper who is able to play at rim level on either end of the court with ease.
- Excellent projection as an NBA rim protector due to his elite size, length and explosiveness. Was a deterring factor in the paint and opponents generally avoided shooting near his vicinity. Blocked 5.6 shots per 36 minutes at the tournament and kept opponents to 21% shooting in the restricted area according to InStat.
- Was able to make a difference as a perimeter defender. Solid job defending screens in the pick-and-roll, was solid in containing and presenting himself on switches, preventing opponents from having driving lanes or big spaces to shoot coming off a screen. His above average lateral mobility and ability to turn his hips allowed him to be effective defending closeouts and covering drives.
- While limited as a self-creator due to his lack of footwork, he has improved his versatility as a finisher in catch-and-finish situations at the rim, where he shows his length and hangtime to finish over opponents. Comfortable taking one dribble to establish better position in the paint.
- Perimeter offense hasn’t developed beyond very sporadic flashes of shooting, mainly via face-up jumpers in the mid-range. Same can be said about his passing, which despite some flashes of making simple reads and deliveries out of the post, hasn’t gotten to a point where he can be projected as someone who is going to make plays for teammates at any capacity.
Overall: Badji will always be an enticing NBA prospect due to his elite projection as a rim protector thanks to his combination of measurements, mobility and explosiveness. While at this point it’s unlikely that Badji will develop some areas of his game in which we’ve only seen very sporadic flashes through the years (namely his perimeter offense and his interior self-creation), this tournament might have helped him in terms of showing growth as a finisher on the interior and a better defender outside the restricted area. Badji was the only 2021-eligible prospect in attendance at the tournament which, considering that we’re in the middle of “workout season”, it speaks highly about his competitiveness and desire to play the game of basketball. – Ignacio Rissotto
Team: Senegal | Pro Team: Gran Canaria (Spain) | Height: 6’11” | DOB: 01/15/2002 | Draft Eligible in 2022
- Listed at 6’11 and 231 pounds Diop is a physically imposing center who is long and very strong. He is really explosive allowing him to cover a lot of ground quickly. As a vertical athlete he loads up quickly as a two footed leaper. He is great recovering defensively due to his explosiveness and length.
- Things are easier for him defensively when everything is happening in front of him and he doesn’t have to worry too much about what is happening around him. Definitely gets caught ball watching at times. Moves his feet well and great at recovering, potential is there to switch when needed. Can struggle with where to be after being asked to defend on the perimeter. Navigates screens in the paint quite well when he is engaged, locks on to his man tightly and makes him feel his strength. He has nice timing when rotating over from the weak side.
- He gets a better chance to show off his skill playing at this tournament for Senegal than he usually would in ACB. As a playmaker he continues to flash his ability to pass from the paint. Attacked the rim a few times off the dribble, strength helps him to bump players off. During the tournament he showed off his jumpshot, making some midrange jumpers and making 3 threes. This was the best he has ever shot the ball and he still only shot 62% from the free throw line albeit a small sample size. If he does shoot it will take him some time to get there.
- More of a power finisher than a finesse finisher but showed nice touch on some finishes with his right hand. Doesn’t like to use his left hand very often. Limited post scoring arsenal, tends to just hold guys off and overpower them to the rim. Way too strong for other players at this level. He has a great motor for offensive rebounds and is too strong to keep off the glass.
Overall: More of a fringe NBA prospect at this stage but there is probably a good chance he gets drafted at some point. After Badji left to go and do workouts in the USA, Diop got a chance to shine while playing at center. He is a physically dominant center who is capable of flashing perimeter skills. He does need to work on his defensive IQ but he has all the physical and athletic tools to be a good defensive center. If Diop withdraws from the draft which I’d expect him to do, he will have a chance for more minutes next year back in the ACB. Continuing to grow his skillset over the next couple of seasons while improving his defensive awareness will definitely get him drafted as he is already so interesting as a physical force blocking shots and finishing on the inside. – Caine Purnell
Team: Turkey | High School Team: Prolific Prep (USA) | Height: 6’9″ | DOB: 03/28/2003 | Draft Eligible in 2023
- Excellent physical profile for the position, listed at 6’9″ with a strong frame and optimal length. Moves with tremendous speed for his size, able to reach a top speed that allows him to beat everyone in transition. Vertical athlete that plays above the rim with ease for lobs and blocks.
- Solid finisher at the rim, who is able to elevate with power and makes for a difficult cover at his level of competition. Plays extremely well against contact, able to keep his balance and finish against physicality. Tremendous lob threat who is able to catch and dunk anything that falls near his general vicinity.
- Utilizes his size and his vertical ability to make an impact as a rim protector. Shows good motor and regularly attempts plays outside of his comfort zone at the rim. 3.9 blocks per 36 minutes during the tournament.
- Shows some intriguing on-ball abilities in space. Fluid enough to put the ball on the floor to establish a better position with his back to the basket and to make short distance drives and attack closeouts when he’s facing up.
- Has shown very early flashes of a jumpshot, still in an early stage of development but is more fluid in terms of mechanics than you would expect considering where he was not long ago. Still needs a ton of time and space to let his shot fly; making the release quicker will certainly make the shot a more functional offensive weapon.
- Still very limited in terms of footwork and creativity on the post, especially against traffic.
Overall: This was the first opportunity to watch Bona in a FIBA setting, after he enrolled at Prolific Prep at the beginning of the 2020-21 high school season. Now considered as a 5-star recruit by most scouting services based in the US, Bona continues to be a tremendous athlete at the Center position, who is able to make a difference on both ends of the floor with his combination of size, length, mobility and physicality. His flashes of on-ball abilities and very early developments as a floor-spacer are certainly enticing, but if they don’t end up being anything but flashes, Bona will still be an enticing prospect once the 2023 NBA Draft rolls around as an energy big that will be able to make an impact in the paint both as a finisher and rim protector. – Ignacio Rissotto
Team: Australia | Pro Team: Illawarra Hawks (Australia) | Height: 6’11” | DOB: 07/12/2002 | Draft Eligible in 2022
- He has an impressive physical profile, listed at 6’11 with a long wingspan. He is rather thin and doesn’t have the broadest shoulders. As a leaper he gets up really well jumping off two feet and has a reasonably quick second jump. On offense he has flashed a pretty quick first step for someone his size.
- Majority of his finishes around the rim are lobs or putbacks. His explosiveness and makes him a great lob catcher. He has pretty decent hands. Gak’s post up game is rather limited right now and usually just takes a dribble and turns over a shoulder.
- Has soft touch for a big man. He is comfortable finishing with floaters, little push shots and short jump shots. Possibly some potential as more than just a lob catcher as he did show that he could attack closeouts off the dribble. Likely too limited as a playmaker to be very useful out of the short roll.
- Maybe down the line he could develop into a bit of a stretch big. His form isn’t the prettiest as he cocks the ball over on his right shoulder. The volume isn’t there yet and it’s hard to gauge him as a free throw shooter as he went 8/10 from the line. He does have nice touch which is a positive.
- Defensively he uses his athleticism well to block shots with nice timing. He can get a bit jumpy on fakes. Moves his feet well on the perimeter but could do a better job contesting jump shots.
Overall: Akoldah Gak was once in ESPN’s top 100 basketball recruits before he made his decision to join the Illawarra Hawks. When signing with the Hawks he signed a 3 year deal with the first which was the season just gone as a development player before converting to being a fully rostered player. The potential is definitely there for Gak with his size and length. He is a great athlete capable of blocking shots and finishing plays. There is some upside to his game as a shooter and he has quite nice touch. Going forward it would be nice to see him continue to work on his perimeter shot but the majority of his development will just be to continue in his playstyle as an athletic rim protector and rim runner. The tricky part will be getting the development in Illawarra as they currently have Sam Froling and Duop Reath ahead of him at center. If Gak does develop to be a draftable player it won’t be for a few years. – Caine Purnell
Team: Latvia | Pro Team: CB Prat (Spain) | Height: 6’11” | DOB: 04/07/2002 | Draft Eligible in 2022
- Struggles to get to and finish at the rim through contact. Lacks the strength and post moves to back people down and get to the rim. Doesn’t have the burst to face up and blow by people to get to the rim. Very few dunks or alley oops due to poor vertical pop and few rolls to the rim.
- Impressive, soft touch with his left hand around the rim. When he isn’t able to get to the rim he likes to go to a little floater with his left hand. Out of the post with his lack of strength and [post moves he usually takes a dribble and goes to a little baby hook.
- He has started shooting the ball really well from deep this past season. At this tournament he didn’t shoot that well from three 6/24 (25%) or from the free throw line 11/23 (48%). But during the LEB Silver season he shot 24/60 (40%) from three. He also improved his free throw shooting to the best it has been in his career at 38/48 (79%).
- Despite having potential as a stretch big he has some really strange shot mechanics. He brings the ball way back behind his head and can lean into his shot without getting much lift and just launch the ball like a slingshot. His release point at his size does make it incredibly hard to contest though.
- Struggles to defend on the perimeter due to his below average ability to slide and really slow hip flips. He needs to do a better job of contesting jump shots. Down low he does a decent job of contesting shots but could use some extra length and a better ability to load up quicker to jump and when moving backwards. Battled well against Khalifa Diop on the block despite the strength and athleticism disadvantage.
- Has some playmaking upside, had 22 assists in 7 games including 11 against Iran. Shown some decision making out of the short roll. Been used on the perimeter for handoffs into pick and pops and similar actions, useful and practical playmaking for a stretch big.
Overall: Krišs Helmanis has potential as a stretch big going forward. He has great touch and has been much improved as a shooter this season despite a disappointing tournament. His ability to shoot the ball at his size make him interesting going forward. While the shooting at his size makes him appealing, he will have to improve in some areas in order to become an NBA player. He will likely have to improve physically so that he is able to move better defensively, contest shots better and be more of a threat at the rim. This is only his first year of draft eligibility so he still has time to improve but will likely end up being more suited to a good European team. – Caine Purnell