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George de Paula: The Brazilian James Harden?

USA TODAY Sports

One of my favorite things to do when the NBA Draft comes around is find the most obscure, grainiest videos of draft prospects that I had no idea existed. We already saw the top college players during the season and there’s coverage of the top 30 players all over the Internet, but it’s those mysterious, enigmatic international players who manage to fall through the cracks.

Every scout and GM scours the globe for that game-changing diamond in the rough, but not everyone has the cojones to take the leap of faith.

Two years ago, it was the Milwaukee Bucks who grabbed this 6’11” kid donned the “Greek Scottie Pippen,” Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s now a household name, albeit one that no one can pronounce.

Last year, it was the Toronto Raptors that took a teenager from Brazil not even the most avid draft experts had heard of, Bruno Caboclo, who Fran Franschilla called “the all-time swing for the fences” and “two years away from being two years away.”

The verdict is still out on Caboclo, who unexpectedly joined the Raptors this season and got limited playing time. Oddly enough, his former Pinheiros teammate and roommate from Brazil might be this year’s first-round gamble.

You can call him the Brazilian James Harden, or simply, George Lucas Alves de Paula, or for short, George de Paula.

Brazil, usually known for its football, has suddenly become a hotbed for NBA talent, and de Paula could be the next big thing.

For starters, he was the youngest player at the NBA Draft Combine at 19, and he’s gigantic for a point guard, standing at 6’6” with an absurd 7’0” wingspan. What’s even more incredible are his freakishly huge hands.

Those are pair of BIG mitts (Courtesy of Draft Express)

Those are pair of BIG mitts (Courtesy of DraftExpress)

Those bad boys are 9.5 inches long, the second-longest of anyone at the combine, including big men. Looks like Kawhi Leonard has finally met his match in a game of thumb war.

He has the requisite body for an NBA point guard, but he’s also got the game to go along with it.

Here’s a scouting video from the guys at DraftExpress, who always have excellent draft coverage.

*De Paula is so scarcely covered, so I’ll be using Draft Express’s resources throughout. Jonathan Givony and Co. always do their homework*

De Paula looks a foot taller than just about anyone who defends him, but doesn’t need to overpower them to score. He’s nifty with the ball and uses crossovers, hesitation and spin moves to blow by defenders. His length and filled-out frame should allow him to get some post looks, ala Shaun Livingston, but that’ll come with more experience. He only has a 34-inch max vert, but his size allows him to easily elevate over defenders for dunks.

Per DraftExpress, de Paula averaged 13.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.0 steals at the U18 FIBA Americas Championship last June, and at the Nike Global Challenge, he averaged 20.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals.

DraftExpress also did the dirty work of adding up all his numbers from the Brazilian League, Nike Hoop Summit, Eurocamp and NBA Combine, and he averaged 10.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists with a 24.6 PER in 39 games.

His numbers are impressive on the surface, but it’s not against elite competition, and a friendly reminder, like his boy Caboclo, he’s still two years away from being two years away.

De Paula admitted to being nervous at the Hoop Summit, where he struggled mightily against elite competition in his age group, and he said he needs more experience and to be more physical before he plays in the NBA.

He’s a lefty, which is a nice touch, but he doesn’t have that sweet James Harden jumper just yet. Combining his FIBA and Global Challenge stats, he shot 29 percent from three in 26 games, and his jumper has an off-kilter release. He’s not a bad free throw shooter and at his size, he could still be an effective player without having an elite jumper. He’s also highly turnover prone, but turnovers and fouls are the most pertinent mistakes among young players and he’ll only improve with more playing time.

In the YouTube and social media generation, it’s easy to fall in love with players from two-minute highlight reels, but it’s best to keep in check. It’s unlikely George de Paula is the second coming of James Harden, but he still oozes with potential and can be that enigmatic game-changer your team is looking for.

Here’s my Top 30 Big Board. I’ll continue to update it in my draft articles leading into the NBA Draft on June 25.

  1. D’Angelo Russell
  2. Karl-Anthony Towns
  3. Jahlil Okafor
  4. Justise Winslow
  5. Emmanuel Mudiay
  6. Kristaps Porzingis
  7. Myles Turner
  8. Kevon Looney
  9. Stanley Johnson
  10. Mario Hezonja
  11. Willie Cauley-Stein
  12. Devin Booker
  13. Jerian Grant
  14. Frank Kaminsky
  15. Tyus Jones
  16. Kelly Oubre
  17. Delon Wright
  18. Cameron Payne
  19. Sam Dekker
  20. Bobby Portis
  21. Trey Lyles
  22. R.J. Hunter
  23. Montrezl Harrell
  24. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
  25. Dakari Johnson
  26. Rashad Vaughn
  27. George de Paula
  28. Christian Wood
  29. Justin Anderson
  30. Pat Connaughton

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