LONDON (AP) — Ousmane Dieng of France has moved to Australia for a season to hone his skills. Nikola Jović stayed at home in Serbia.
The two are expected to meet up in the NBA, however, as they are among the top international prospects in Thursday night’s draft.
Both are versatile 6-foot-10 wingers who just turned 19 after completing their first professional season.
Dieng played for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s National Basketball League under its Next Stars program, which has become a hot spot for NBA prospects. Jović was voted the ABA League’s top prospect following his first full season for club Belgrade Mega, which produced reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokić.
Here’s a look at some of the best international players in the draft:
STRENGTHS: Multifaceted scorer with vision for the field and playmaking skills. He averaged 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists this season and shot 36.5% at from 3 points.
Jović told The Associated Press that he trained for the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs – both teams had three first-round picks on Monday – the Denver Nuggets (the 21st and 30th picks), the Chicago Bulls (No. 18), the Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 19) and the Milwaukee Bucks (the 24th pick). He also had workouts scheduled with the Miami Heat, who have the 27th pick, and the champion Golden State Warriors (No. 28).
“My basketball IQ is really good, I’m very good at shooting, as well as passing. These are things that I can immediately translate to the NBA,” Jović said.
CONCERNS: Jović does not have an explosive first step. At the start of the season at 200 pounds there were also concerns about his strength, but he has bulked up and now weighs 224 pounds.
“I work on my whole body. Core stability is really important to me,” said Jović, who turned 19 this month.
NBA Big Board scouting director Rafael Barlowe said Jović projects himself as “an average league defenseman” and said the right fit will be vital: “He could end up in a bad spot like Deni Avdija (Washington Wizards) on the team where he has no ability to handle the ball and he’s stuck in a corner.
The lanky Frenchman has recovered from a slow start in Australia to show why he could be a potential lottery pick.
STRENGTHS: Perimeter skills, playmaking potential, can defend multiple positions. He averaged 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. His 3-point shooting percentage was in the single digits early on, but over the last 12 games of the season it was 35%.
“I just needed to find my rhythm and keep working on my game,” he said.
Dieng has worked with “lots” of teams but declined to name them.
“I can fit into any team because I’m pretty versatile so I can do whatever the coach wants me to do,” he said. “I’m a pretty hard worker and really versatile with good vision and I can do anything on the floor.”
CONCERNS: Shot consistency and framing. It needs to add volume. At 215 pounds, he’s about 10 pounds heavier than he was at the start of the season, when he looked lost at times.
“The gap between the French third division and the NBL is really big. Everything is faster and everything is more physical,” he said, adding that playing with former NBA players “was really good for me”.
Some other internationals without American experience:
— ISMAEL KAMAGATE: A 6-foot-11, 230-pound center for Paris Basket. The 21-year-old Frenchman averaged 11.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. He stopped nine shots in a match against Roanne. All-star of the French championship.
– KHALIFA DIOP: Senegal’s last big man, a 7-foot-1, 240-pound center for Gran Canaria in Spain. He averaged 6.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game.
— HUGO BESSON: The 21-year-old full-back played with Dieng for the New Zealand Breakers. The 6-4 Frenchman averaged 13.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Shot 30.8% from 3-point range.
— GABRIELE PROCIDA: A 6-7 athletic Italian who shot 38.3% from behind the arc for Bologna.
The 7ft 3in Frenchman Victor Wembanyama might have been the first choice this year – possibly also last year. The 18-year-old will finally be eligible in 2023.
With his height and skill set – ball handling, shooting, rim guarding – Wembanyama is considered a generational talent. He finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and eight blocks against a stacked USA team that included Chet Holmgren in the FIBA Under-19 World Cup final last July. He plays for ASVEL, Tony Parker’s French team.
“If he maximizes all of his gifts,” Barlowe said, “he could easily be one of the best players of his generation.”
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