TREVISO, Italy — This year’s international class in attendance at adidas Eurocamp isn’t as strong as it’s been in the past, with the players here either vying to be second round selections in the upcoming NBA Draft, or trying to impress for a spot at some point in the future.
There are a variety of reasons for this — Australia’s Dante Exum, for example, is the international prospect projected to go the highest in the June 26 draft, but he’s virtually guaranteed to be taken with a top-five selection, and could do nothing here to help improve his stock.
And others projected to go in the first round, like Croatia’s Dario Saric and Bosnia’s Jusuf Nurkic, were still playing for their Euroleague teams in the playoffs. Those two specifically, in fact, went head-to-head later Saturday night in the Croatian League Finals, which some scouts attended by making a drive of a little more than three hours to Zagreb in order to see them in person.
Vasilije Micic was the player most had their eyes on during the first day of action, as he’s been projected as a late first round or (more likely) an early- or mid-second round pick. While he looked impressive from a skill standpoint during the morning drills and scrimmages, the point guard struggled a bit in live game action, and didn’t transcend the competition on the floor the way the camp’s other top prospects have done in years past.
Micic has good size, above average handles and good court vision, and may one day make for a serviceable backup point guard at the NBA level. But he’ll need to increase his overall aggressiveness in order for that to happen, and whether it was the camp format or something else, he didn’t do anything to dramatically change the minds of those who have seen him play previously, in either a positive or a negative direction.
The most talent on display came not from the international players, but from the USA Select team of players under the age of 18 who won’t be draft eligible for at least two more years.
Thon Maker is a seven-footer who extremely polished for his age, and reminds of Kevin Garnett in the way that his arms hang and just how he carries himself physically. He’s extremely thin, as are all players this tall and this young, but can already knock down mid-range jumpers at a high percentage and is active and talkative on the defensive end of the floor. He was pushed around by the bigger, stronger and older members of the French team down low, which was to be expected. But Maker is a player who would likely go directly from high school to the NBA if the age limit wasn’t in place, due to his combination of size and agility, along with his being at a relatively advanced stage in the development process.
Maker, who was born in Sudan and came to Australia at age five before now playing at Carlisle High School in Martinsville, Virginia, is ranked as the top high school prospect in the nation.
Some additional notes:
– Ioannis Papapetrou could be a late second round pick this year, and looked like a legitimate prospect in the first day of action. He’s a 6’8″ wing who can shoot it, and his feel for the game was on display as he showcased an ability to get open, as well as drive with the ball to create his own shot.
– My favorite player of the day was Dmitry Kulagin, a 21-year old 6’6″ combo guard who has been to Eurocamp in the past, but this time was by far his most impressive showing. His activity on both ends of the floor was immediately noticeable, and he was in attack mode from the moment he stepped on the court. Kulagin finished 6-of-10 from the field in his two games combined, and his athleticism and effort was a joy to watch.
– Others who impressed on day one were French big man Mouhammadou Jaiteh (albeit against a younger, less bulky USA Select U-18 team), and Lucas Mariano and Marcus Erikkson both showed an ability to consistently knock down shots from three-point distance.
– Just as the talent level is down a bit this year, so is the number of high-profile NBA personnel in attendance. The general managers here include Toronto’s Masai Ujiri and Indiana’s Kevin Pritchard, but many who normally attend preferred to conduct private team workouts back in the states instead, in preparation for what’s expected to be a deeper draft than usual.