International talent is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s NBA. The 2016 draft took this another step forward with 15 of the 30 first round picks being foreign-born prospects, which means a lot of teams are eyeing potential long-term, draft-and-stash options as opposed to a rookie with a guaranteed contract taking up a roster spot.
Since this train of thought has become so prevalent in today’s NBA, it’s important to monitor the top overseas prospects who could make their way to the league eventually. The 2016 international draft class has gotten off to a pretty good start overall and should make a big impact in the league for years to come.
How are the top international draft-and-stash prospects faring as they work on their respective games and try to impress to make it to the NBA?
Guerschon Yabusele 6-8 260 PF Boston Celtics (Rd 1, Pick 15)
Yabusele played well for the Celtics during both the Utah and Las Vegas summer leagues but opted to sign a deal in China with the with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association last July. Yabusele was great in a preseason blowout loss to the Houston Rockets two weeks ago, going for 24 points and 12 rebounds while showing off his versatility, athleticism and strength.
He’s also looked good in four preseason CBA games for the Sharks, averaging 17.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals. He really has a lot of natural talent and should continue improving his versatility as he prepares to play at the next level. Danny Ainge said he already notices a difference in Yabusele’s physique while playing in China.
“There’s great strength and conditioning and nutritionists that come with being on the Shanghai Sharks,” Ainge told the Boston Herald on Sunday. “His body looks better already. In the month he’s been there, he’s lost a few pounds, and he has a great, great body. And he’s going to get the opportunity to do a lot more while he’s there.”
He certainly fits the mold teams are looking for in their big men these days. Playing in the CBA might not be much tougher than returning to his B-level Rouen team in France, but at least it should give him more confidence moving forward. We’ll see how he continues to progress.
Ante Zizic 6-11 250 C Boston Celtics (Rd 1, Pick 23)
Zizic broke out last season after being named the 2015–16 ABA League Top Prospect after averaging 13.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 25.7 minutes per game leading to a first-round selection to the Celtics. However, Zizic decided to return to Cibona for a fourth season, and he’s reaping the benefits early on.
Zizic has continued to blossom both physically and on the court, putting up 22.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game through five games this season. This includes a dominating 37-point, 20-rebound and 3-block performance against MZT Skopje last week. Zizic looks a bit more athletic and fluid offensively, which should only aid him as he continues his rise to the NBA. Ainge also sees the improvements Zizic has made in such a short time.
“He’s growing a lot. It’s invaluable just to get the chance he’s getting now over there,” Ainge said. “I’m not saying he’s ready to play in the NBA yet, but I do know that because of the kind of kid he is and the work he’s putting in, he’s in a very good situation as far as developing. He’s getting unlimited minutes and touches, and he’s the focal point of his team. The same with Yabusele. They’re going to be better next year.”
Furkan Korkmaz 6-7 175 SG Philadelphia 76ers (Rd 1, Pick 26)
The last of the first round stashes is Korkmaz, who slipped to the Sixers at 26th overall. Korkmaz had the talent to warrant a lottery pick in 2016, but Philadelphia couldn’t pass on his potential. The 6’7” sharpshooting swingman fit what they need for the future, but the 19-year old opted to return for his third season on Anadolu Efes.
Last year, Korkmaz averaged just 4.3 points on 11.6 minutes off the bench, while shooting 39.8 percent from three. Korkmaz has stepped his game up through just two games this year. Korkmaz has reached double figures in two straight, starting with a 10-point, 2-rebound and 2-steal performance in a season-opening win over Istanbul BBS.
Korkmaz also went off for 18 points while knocking down 4 of 5 from deep yesterday in a win for Anadolu over Ted Ankara. If he can continue his rapid rise overseas, it certainly bodes well for Philadelphia’s future. They really need to add shooting and athleticism, and if Korkmaz can continue to add weight to his 175-pound frame, he certainly should develop into something down the line.