Early in October, we followed up with some of the international prospects who were projected to be selected in the 2023 NBA Draft as they started their respective seasons. As basketball leagues overseas reach the two-month mark of the season, we catch up once again with the top international prospects and take a look at how they are dealing with the ups and downs of the season.
Victor Wembanyama has all but secured his place as the first overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft with his play during the first two months of the season. Since our last update, Wembanaya averaged 25.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 3.8 blocks on 65.9 True Shooting percentage while leading Metropolitans to a 5-0 record.
With his place as the top prospect in the draft seemingly set in stone, Wembanyama is only competing with history at this point and when it comes to prospects that have come out of the French league, what Vic is doing from a statistical standpoint is to dominate in a way we haven’t seen a prospect ever do:
Sadly, the good news about international prospects seems to end with Wembanyama, as the injury bug has bitten the next two prospects in the international consensus top three.
Rayan Rupert suffered a broken wrist on November 6th, after slipping on the floor during a game against Sydney. Rupert had finally cracked the starting five for the New Zealand Breakers and was averaging eight points, three rebounds and two assists per game since being inserted into the starting lineup.
For a prospect whose draft stock might hinge on his development as a jumpshooter, it will be interesting to see how Rupert is able to come back from the injury and if he’s able to get into a rhythm quickly. His potential as an athletic wing defender and slasher might be enough for NBA teams to take a flier on him late in the first round, even if the shot doesn’t come around for him for the remainder of the season.
It’s a similar story for Nikola Djurisic, who has been out of Mega’s rotation since our last update. The Serbian forward had also been dealing with injuries a few months ago, which made him miss the Adriatic League season opener. Definitely an untimely setback for Djurisc, who had played his best game of the season on October 23rd, just before being out for a month.
Djurisic came back to action last Sunday, playing just three minutes in Mega’s win against Mornar. It will be interesting to see how many minutes Mega will continue to give him as they ease Djurisic back into action.
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Meanwhile, James Nnaji has been alternating between bench minutes and DNPs for Barcelona, as he’s averaging around 14 minutes per game in Spanish League competition but being limited mostly to garbage minutes in Euroleague games.
While Nnaji might not have the amount of minutes expected of a top prospect, he has been efficient playing within his role as a two-way interior big, who makes an impact by finishing plays at the rim, rebounding and protecting the paint.
Other players to watch as we move through the season:
• Older international prospects who are extremely productive in top leagues such as Matej Rudan (Mega – Adriatic League/Serbia), Malcolm Cazalon (Mega – Adriatic League/Serbia), Mouhamet Diouf (Reggio Emilia – Italy) and Nikos Rogkavopoulos (Merkezefendi Basket – Turkey). I previously wrote about how older prospects who specialize in one aspect of the game can get their name called late in the second round of the NBA Draft. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was the case for any of the prospects listed, should they continue their current form.
• High-scoring players such as Fedor Zugic (Ratiopharm Ulm – Germany), Len Schoormann (Hamburg Towers – Germany) and Lefteris Mantzoukas (Panathinaikos – Greece), who are all shooting over 50% from beyond the arc, but their contributions beyond scoring continue to be question marks.
• Pre-season projected top prospects who are struggling to start the season such as Roko Prkacin (Girona – Spain) and Juan Nuñez (Ratiopharm Ulm – Germany). They haven’t been the most efficient to start the season, especially as scorers, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them surging late in the season.
• Younger prospects contributing for teams in top leagues such as Musa Sagnia (Manresa – Spain), Berke Buyuktuncel (Tofas – Turkey) and Paulius Murauskas (Lietkabelis – Lithuania). While they don’t have the statistical impact of older, more established prospects, they have carved spots on their respective teams’ rotations in some of the top leagues in Europe before turning 20 years old.
• Finally, the wildcard: Bilal Coulibaly. He’s dominating the Espoirs U21 French league playing for Metropolitans, but he will likely need to see senior team reps at some point during the season, otherwise the leap in level of competition from Espoirs to the NBA might be too far for him to take in next year’s draft.
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