International influence on this year’s NBA draft did not quite match the hype of 2018, when EuroLeague Most Valuable Player Luka Doncic came stateside. The 2019 class also lacks the projected volume of international products forecast for 2020.
Still, imports have the opportunity to make an impact on the NBA immediately. In particular, the 2019 NBA draft’s class of EuroLeague and EuroCup alumni bring in a mix of potential and refined skill sets that can have an impact as soon as next season.
Pick No. 15, Detroit Pistons
The word “upside” gets bounced around often this time of year, without concrete explanation of the definition. Sekou Doumbouya is the definition of upside.
The French wing won’t turn 19 until two days before Christmas. He’s 6-foot-9 and may still have room to grow physically, while his game definitely has vast potential for growth. He’s already demonstrated the impressive foundation of his game in FIBA, France’s top professional league (LNB Pro A), and EuroCup.
As a member of Limoges CSP, Doumbouya appeared in eight EuroCup games during the 2018-19 season. He grabbed seven rebounds in his EuroCup debut versus Cedevita Zagreb and posted his second-highest point total of the campaign in his third outing against an ALBA Berlin squad currently competing with EuroLeague member Bayern Munich for Germany’s Basketball Bundesliga championship.
The 11-point outing against ALBA Berlin demonstrated the facet of Doumbouya’s game that makes him such an intriguing fit for the current NBA style, knocking down a pair of 3-pointers. Check out that performance here.
Doumbouya’s youth, and his still developing body and repertoire, renders him a long-term project. He could be a building block for Detroit’s future, along with 21-year-old Thon Maker. Doumbouya’s best course for finding minutes is refining his 3-point shot; only seven teams shot worse from deep than the Pistons last season, and all of them missed the playoffs.
Pick No. 18, Indiana Pacers
Georgian big man Goga Bitadze may not have attracted a crowd during NBA Draft media availability, but his game could prove too much to ignore.
That was certainly the case in the 2018-19 EuroLeague season. Bitadze was a late addition to the Buducnost VOLI Podgorica roster, appearing in just 13 games. But that was more than enough for him to earn the EuroLeague Rising Star trophy. Sacramento Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic and likely 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks accounted for 4-of-5 Rising Star winners preceding Bitadze.
Bitadze averaged 12.1 points on nearly 60 percent shooting from inside the 3-point arc, and pulled down a club-best 6.4 rebounds per game. His last EuroLeague game ranked among his very best, with Bitadze notching 16 points, eight rebounds and a blocked shot against Rick Pitino’s Panathinaikos club.
Bitadze’s rim-protecting presence should make him right at home on the NBA’s most aggressive defense. He’ll also help with rebounding, a category in which the Pacers ranked No. 24 in the NBA last season and finished with a negative per-game differential.
Of incoming 2019 rookies, Bitadze is one of the most equipped to contribute immediately, and Indiana is a good fit for his game.
Pick No. 37, Detroit Pistons (via Dallas Mavericks)
Lithuanian Deividas Sirvydis adds to the international flavor potentially powering the Pistons in the future.
Sirvydis just turned 19 this month, but played beyond his years in EuroCup competition with Rytas Vilnius. He started 11-of-17 games for the club and showed glimpses of a dangerous 3-point shot (46.3 percent on 41 attempts).
His 10-point performance against Mornar Bar in the EuroCup regular season provides some context for Sirvydis’ 3-point shooting, as well as an ability to get to the free-throw line. Should he come over to the U.S. for the 2019-20 and earn a spot on Detroit’s roster, Sirvydis could help address some of the team’s deep-shooting woes. He would be another shooter in the same vein as current Piston Luke Kennard.