LONDON (AP) – Ousmane Dieng of France moved to Australia for a season to hone his skills. Nikola Jović stayed at home in Serbia.
However, both are expected to end up in the NBA as they are among the top international prospects in Thursday night’s draft.
Both are versatile 6-foot-10 wings who just recently turned 19 after completing their first pro seasons.
Dieng played for the New Zealand Breakers of Australia’s National Basketball League as part of their Next Stars program, which has become a hotspot for NBA prospects. Jović was voted the top contender in the ABA League after his first full season for Belgrade club Mega, which produced reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokić.
Here’s a look at some of the top international players in the draft:
STRENGTHS: Multifaceted goalscorer with a view of the pitch and playing ability. He averaged 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.4 assists this season and shot 36.5% from 3-point range.
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Jović told The Associated Press he trained for the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs – on Monday both teams had three first-round picks – the Denver Nuggets (the 21st and 30th picks), the Chicago Bulls (No. 18) , the Chicago Bulls (No. 18), the Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 19), and the Milwaukee Bucks (the 24th pick). He’s also had practice sessions with the Miami Heat, who have the 27th pick, and the champ Golden State Warriors (No. 28).
“My basketball IQ is really good, I’m really good at shooting, also at passing. These are things that I can immediately translate to the NBA,” said Jović.
CONCERNS: Jović doesn’t possess an explosive first step. There were also concerns about his strength at the start of the season at 200lbs, but he has gained weight and now weighs 224lbs.
“I work on my whole body. Core stability is really important to me,” said Jović, who turned 19 this month.
NBA Big Board director of scouting Rafael Barlowe said Jović is a “league-average defender” and said getting the fit right is crucial: “He could end up in a bad situation, like Deni Avdija (Washington Wizards) on the team where he has no way of handling the ball and is stuck in a corner.”
The lanky Frenchman bounced back from a slow start in Australia to show why he could be a potential lottery player.
STRENGTHS: Perimeter skills, playmaker potential, can defend multiple positions. He averaged 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. His 3-point shot percentage was in the single digits early on, but he’s been 35% for the last 12 games of the season.
“I just had to find my rhythm and keep working on my game,” he said.
Dieng worked with “many” teams but declined to name them.
“I can fit into any team because I’m quite versatile, so I can do what the coach wants me to do,” he said. “I’m quite a hard worker and very versatile with good vision and can do anything on the ground.”
CONSIDER: recording consistency and frame. He needs to add mass. At 215 pounds, he’s about 10 pounds heavier than at the start of the season when he looked lost at times.
“The gap between the third division in France and the NBL is really big. Everything is faster and everything is more physical,” he said, adding that “playing under former NBA players has been really good for me.”
Some other internationals with no US experience:
– ISMAEL KAMAGATE: A 6-11, 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 missed nine shots in a game against Roanne. All-Star of the French League.
– KHALIFA DIOP: The latest Senegalese big man, a 7ft 1, 240lb 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 shooting guard 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 sporty 6-7 Italian who shot 38.3% from behind the arc for Bologna.
The 7-foot-3 Victor Wembanyama of France may have been this year’s top pick – possibly last year’s as well. The 18-year-old should finally be eligible to play in 2023.
With his size and his skills – ball handling, shooting, rim protection – Wembanyama is considered a generational talent. He finished the finals with 22 points, eight rebounds and eight blocks against a strong US team that included Chet Holmgren in last July’s FIBA U19 World Championship finals. He plays for ASVEL, Tony Parker’s French team.
“If he maximizes all his gifts,” Barlowe said, “he could easily become one of the best players of his generation.”
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