Stars from Europe and beyond are beginning to dominate the NBA. The
'Greek Freak', Giannis Antetokounmpo, has won back-to-back MVP awards,
joining an elite group of players to have the prize in successive
Luka Doncic will certainly win an MVP
award at some stage of his career, having blown away the league in his
first two seasons. The Slovenian has matched records produced only by
LeBron James and Michael Jordan – highlighting his potential to become
one of the all-time greats and certainly the best NBA player to have emerged from outside of the United States.
The 2020 Draft will provide the next generation of talent from Europe
to attempt to secure a berth on NBA rosters. There are a number of
intriguing prospects that could be selected in the first round and even
the top 10. We’ll now look at three of these players and where they
could possibly land.
The Frenchman has been touted in the top five of the 2020 Draft due to
his excellence on the court for Ulm in the Basketball Bundesliga. Hayes
was part of the France team that won a silver medal in the FIBA
Under-17 Basketball World Cup in 2018, losing out to the States in the
final. He was one of the stars of the World Cup, being selected in the
All-Tournament team alongside players from the USA that will be vying
with Hayes for selection in the Draft, including Vernon Carey Jr.
At 6ft 5in, Hayes has a good size for playing point guard, and was
productive for Ulm in the EuroCup by averaging 12.8 points and 6.2
assists per game. Teams of the ilk of the Chicago Bulls have a reported
interest in the 19-year-old. The Bulls have a litany of issues that
need to be addressed before they can be counted among the favourites
but drafting Hayes would certainly help in the long-term. Miami Heat
are a team they can use as an example as they patiently rebuilt and
they have shocked many with their deep playoff run. Some teams are
likely to be undervalued next season by the main bookmakers found at sites such as Legal Betting
as there is usually a surprise entrant into the post-season, so they
could be worth a punt on the futures market to reach the playoffs.
It would be too much for Hayes to turn around in his rookie season, but
playing alongside Zach LaVine could be blessing for Hayes to slowly
develop. Few players hit the ground running like Doncic, but a steady
progression like another French point guard in the form of Tony Parker
would suit Hayes and the Bulls just fine.
Outside of Omri Casspi there have been few Israeli players to have hit
the heights in the NBA. Casspi was selected 23rd overall in the 2009
Draft and has had a solid career in the NBA with spells at seven teams,
including the Golden State Warriors. Avdija could eclipse his
compatriot by being drafted in the top 10 and perhaps even sooner than
that with the Cleveland Cavaliers linked with the power forward. The
19-year-old was named MVP of the Israeli League for his exploits in
2020 and also earned the FIBA U20 European Championship MVP last year.
Avdija has averaged 13.5 points per game for Maccabi Tel Aviv last
season, but the standard of competition will be raised dramatically in
the NBA. The 19-year-old does have an impressive skill set and would be
a fine complement to any team, but once again it would be a surprise to
see him have a Doncic-like impact. Although should he land with the
Cavaliers – then Avdija may have a lot of starting time in his rookie
19-year-old has enjoyed an extremely productive career in France with
ASVEL, becoming a Pro Champion in 2019 as well as the French Basketball
Cup Final MVP. Therefore, he has proven credentials at performing under
pressure. Maledon was on the same Under-17 side with Hayes that was
beaten by the States in 2018, although he is not quite the same
standard of point guard at the moment as his international team-mate.
Maledon’s stats are solid without being spectacular and will have to
take his time to further develop his shooting skills, averaging 7.4
points per game. To progress into a starting point guard in the NBA, he
will need to improve those levels as well as his assists. Reports
suggest that he could land in the range between the 15th and 20th pick
in the first round of the NBA Draft. That would be a sweet spot to land
in to play for a solid team where there will not be the pressure of
having to make an immediate impact.
The three players have tremendous potential and we will wait to see whether that can translate at the highest level.