Without a generational talent like Luka Doncic available, international prospects aren’t on the radar of most fans. That doesn’t mean, however, there aren’t international players worth keeping an eye on. Several will be selected in the first round. Count on several to become solid NBA contributors, too. Here are the most intriguing international NBA Draft prospects:
Goga Bitadze | 6-11 Center, Mega Bemax (Serbia)
Potential draft position: late lottery
Expect plenty of comparisons to Denver Nuggets All-Star center Nikola Jokic on draft night. Bitadze spent his formative basketball years at center for Mega Bermax in Serbia, Jokic's former club. He flashes some of the same three-point shooting and fast-break leading skills that have made Jokic one of the NBA’s premier big men. But Bitadze has much more in common with Portland's Enes Kanter than the Nuggets' franchise centerpiece.
Jokic is a passing savant with a preternatural feel for the game. Bitadze averaged a little more than twice as many turnovers (2.5) as assists (1.2) during his 2018-19 seasons with Jokic’s former team. The 19-year-old looks every bit the part of raw, young big man, not a future savant.
That doesn’t mean fans shouldn’t be excited if their team drafts Bitadze, who has good offensive skills. He is a solid post player with a good feel for how to seal his defender and a developing array of touch shots around the basket. He’s hardly a volume three-point shooter (just 46 attempts), but he did convert 47.8 percent of them in Mega Bemax’s two competitions (the Serbian league and Adriatic League). Inside-out skills like he has are rare.
On defense, however, things aren’t quite as promising. Bitadze can block shots, seems generally engaged and moves fairly well. He isn't an outstanding leaper, so there questions whether Bitadze can offer the same level of rim protection when he graduates to a league filled with far more explosive athletes. Bitadze hasn’t been physically challenged infrequently, so it’s hard to tell how he’ll respond to stronger, more assertive big men in the NBA.
Bitadze has a good track record playing for a senior team in a fairly respectable league overseas. He may not be Jokic, but if he develops, he'll be a solid rotation member for an NBA team.
Sekou Doumbouya | 6-9 Forward, Limoges CSP (France)
Projected draft position: late lottery
Doumbouya is perhaps the most tantalizing and frustrating international prospect in this draft. With a 6-foot-11 wingspan and graceful athleticism, Doumbouya looks every bit the part of an NBA forward. But when you chip away at his game, concerns emerge.
Doumbouya will coast smoothly toward the basket for an athletic finish one play but then settle for a moon-ball of a three-point attempt -- an area he converted just 31.8 percent of his shots from -- the next.
Defensively, Doumbouya averaged a block and a steal for his per 40-minute numbers -- that’s rare territory. In general, he’ll showcase the ability to not just guard but lock down players across multiple positions. But that effort wanes on occasion, and the 18-year-old looks disinterested at times.
If he can find a consistent competitive streak and lock into a role offensively, Doumbouya could be a long-time NBA starter. Should the effort continue to ebb and flow throughout his career, Doumbouya may not last long in the NBA.
Deividas Sirvydis | 6-8 forward, Rytas Vilnius (Lithuania)
Projected draft position: second round
For a player who will turn 19 just before the draft, Sirvydis will have racked up quite a bit of professional experience. While playing for Rytas -- the second-best team in Lithuania’s domestic league -- he racked up 738 minutes in the 2018-19 season between the club’s two competitions (the LKL and Eurocup). That’s invaluable professional experience.
Sirvydis, primarily an outside shooter, has a solid handle and good size. He converted 36.6 percent of his 150 three-point attempts this season. And in a promising development, Rytas expanded Sirvydis’ role to the point that it called his number in quick-hitting isolation sets during its playoff run through the LKL Finals. Although he lacks the elite, above-the-rim athleticism, he has a foundational skill set that’s quite interesting.
Defensively, Sirvydis is behind NBA standards physically. He doesn’t have much bulk to his frame and lacks the long arms necessary to make up for so-so athleticism.
Sirvydis could make an NBA roster, but it’ll take time and physical maturation.