While there is no clear-cut Luka Doncic-caliber European prospect at the top of the draft board this year, there are still several players from the EuroLeague that could turn into steals outside the lottery.
Some of the best international talent projected for the 2019 NBA Draft, Sekou Doumbouya and Luka Samanic, didn’t play in the EuroLeague this season. Due to the high level of competition and limited rotations in such a veteran-heavy league, many teams who are able to consistently feature young prospects don’t achieve the level of sustained success necessary to receive an invitation to play in the EuroLeague.
While this may limit the number of young players we get to watch flourish in the world’s best non-NBA league, it does make what Luka Doncic did last year, and several of our young prospects this year, all the more remarkable.
EuroLeauge 2019 NBA Draft Prospects
Goga Bitadze, Buducnost VOLI Podgorica, 19, C, 6-11
12.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 59.7% 2FG%, 31.3% 3FG%, 71.4% FT%
This rim-running big man from Georgia tops our list of EuroLeague prospects this year and is projected to be a late first-round pick. He is a big body who sets hard screens, is a crafty finisher with both hands around the rim (shooting nearly 60 perecnt on two-point attempts), and can anchor a defense (2.3 blocks per game).
While he was projected to go in the second round last year, he decided to withdraw from the draft last minute in order to hone his skills in Europe for another year. It appears the strategy paid off, with noticeable improvements on both sides of the floor. While it may take several years to adapt to the speed and strength of the NBA game, he could contribute right away in a Jusuf Nurkic role, setting screens and rolling hard to the rim, where his versatility and crafty finishes could prove useful against the bigger and stronger NBA bodies he will have to go against.
He still lacks some of the lateral quickness that will allow him to switch onto NBA-level guards, but his length allows him the opportunity to contest the shots of smaller players, even when trailing behind. Bitadze also has some range, with a consistent mid-range jumper, and a willingness to shoot from the outside. His solid free throw shooting numbers indicate that Goga has the potential to develop into a real outside threat in the NBA, which would increase his value in the new pace and space era exponentially.
Yovel Zoosman, Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv, 20, G, 6-7
3.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.2 APG, 52.4% 2FG%, 37.5% 3FG%, 84.6% FT%
As a 19-year-old, Zoosman led Israel to its first FIBA Gold Medal, scoring 14.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game, and earning tournament MVP honors. While he has struggled to shine in quite the same light under the bright lights of the EuroLeague, his physical frame, great court vision, and two-way potential have him projected as a mid-second round pick.
He has great size for a guard, and can consistently knock down 3-pointers with a high release. He can create his own shot, finishing with a step-back or several crafty finishes around the rim with both hands. However, he relied pretty heavily on his size, physicality, and quick first step to create separation at the FIBA U20 and Euroleague level, which doesn’t seem likely to translate to the NBA very well.
He has great passing vision, and moves well off the ball, but needs to continue to develop quickness and strength if he wants to compete at the NBA level. If drafted in the second round, Zoosman will most likely still need a year or two or more consistent play at the EuroLeague level before coming over to the NBA.