The 2020 NBA Draft is set for June 25th at Barclays Center in Brooklyn but will almost certainly be rescheduled. The 2019-20 NBA season is still in limbo, and without a concluded regular season, we cannot get the draft order.
The NBA scouts will get some extra time to find valuable information, but the upcoming draft will be remembered as one of the weirdest of all time. American players will enter the league without playing in March Madness, while European guys will remain a mystery, especially if clubs fail to organize training camps.
Here, I want to show you the brightest talents from Europe. The players from our list should be very solid players in the coming years, while some of them could take the league by storm.
6 – Amar Sylla (Forward, Senegal)
Well, Amar Sylla was born in Dakar, Senegal, but we still consider him as a European prospect, as he moved to Real Madrid as a 14-year-old boy. At the moment, Sylla is playing in Belgium as a member of BC Oostende, averaging 7.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
As a left-handed guy, Amar is quite difficult to defend on the low post. He also has a solid range for a 6-9 tall man, but Sylla still has a long way to go on the offensive end. However, Amar is a versatile defender, always ready to cover on the perimeter or get back and protect the rim.
Comparisons with Pascal Siakam are inevitable, but whoever selects Amar at the 2020 NBA Draft will have to be patient. Sylla is a raw diamond and needs to be brushed thoughtfully.
5 – Arturs Zagars (Point Guard, Latvia)
Basketball is the national sport in Latvia, where everybody loves to hoop. Just look at that guy Kristaps Porzingis! Arturs Zagars is arguably far away from Porzingis’ standard, but the 20-year-old guard is still a very bright talent.
Zagars possesses a kind of positive impertinence, while he’s never afraid of attacking the rim even though he’s 6’3” and only 172 lb. Arturs is already well-known as a pick-and-roll maestro with a terrific basketball IQ.
At the moment, Zagars is playing with Joventut Badalona in the Spanish Liga ACB. He had some serious injury problems in the past, so Arturs has been spending only 9.3 minutes on the floor per game this past regular season.
However, Zagars remains one of the most intriguing European prospects. He certainly lacks size and must add bulk to his body, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Europe for a year or two even if he gets selected at the 2020 NBA Draft.
4 – Aleksej Pokusevski (Center, Serbia)
The 18-year-old big man from Belgrade, Serbia, is considered as a successor of Vlade Divac and Nikola Jokic. He moved to Greece in 2015 and signed for the famous Olympiakos team where he made his EuroLeague debut in 2019.
Pokusevski has solid offensive skills and is pretty agile for a 7-footer. He understands the game very well and reads the opponents’ defenses as a mature guy, while Aleksej surprisingly possesses a great jump shot. He often shoots from deep, which is an interesting fact for a young center.
Another upside in Pokusevski’s game is his defense. He’s a natural rim protector, but Pokusevski also has awareness and quickness to guard pick-and-roll. On the other hand, Aleksej definitely needs to improve his toughness and narrow frame, so he would need some time to adapt to the NBA.
3 – Killian Hayes (Guard, France)
Killian Hayes was born in Lakeland, Florida, on July 27, 2001, but grew up in France, where his father, the former ABA player, continued his career. As well as Luka Doncic and some other guys on our list, Hayes entered professional basketball as a 16-year-old kid.
As a prototype of a modern combo guard, Hayes attracted a lot of attention over the last few years. He mostly plays as PG with an exceptional size for this position at 6’5” and 216 lb., but Killian feels comfortable at shooting guard, too.
Hayes is left-handed and resembles James Harden’s style a bit. He’s an excellent pick-and-roll ball-handler and loves to complete passes off a dribble. Also, Killian has a nice touch around the basket and should only improve offensively in the future.
Hayes’ game is very mature for his age. On the other hand, his attitude is questionable, at least. Interestingly, Hayes refused to play for the French national team at the 2019 FIBA U19 European Championship when Deni Avdija won the MVP Award.
2 – Theo Maledon (Point Guard, France)
Although he’s only 18, Theo Maledon seems ready for the NBA. The Frenchman is 6’4” tall and has an impressive frame that helps him attacking the rim. Maledon has solid ball control and vision, while his quickness reminds me of Tony Parker.
As well as his older compatriot, Maledon will need to work hard on his shooting, although Theo certainly has a better range than Tony Parker had when he arrived in the USA. However, Maledon will have to improve defensively if he wants to get any minutes in his rookie season.
Theo had a lot of problems guarding his opponents in the EuroLeague, failing to stay out of foul trouble that often limited his playing time. Athleticism and strength won’t be issues for Maledon, but his defensive awareness just has to go up.
If he continues to work hard, Theo Madelon could develop into a good NBA player. With his size and 6-9 wingspan, there’s a lot of talent to be exploited, so keep your eyes on this Frenchman.
1 – Deni Avdija (Forward, Israel)
Listed at 6’9” and 220 lb., the 19-year old Israelian is undoubtedly the brightest European talent at the moment. Deni Avdija is a natural leader who won the U20 European Championship twice with his national team in 2018 and 2019. In the championship game against Spain in 2019, Deni tallied 23 points, seven assists, five boards, and three blocks to get a well-deserved MVP award.
Avdija was 16 when he made his professional debut in the Israeli Premier League, playing for one of the greatest European basketball teams, Maccabi Tel Aviv. He’s won back-to-back league titles with Maccabi before declaring for the NBA Draft a month ago.
Now, I have to mention all those Luka Doncic comparisons, as many basketball fans in the USA expect Avdija to make a similar impact as Luka did. Both these guys entered the professional level at the age of 16, so many think Deni Avdija could become a star in his rookie NBA season.
I’ll tell you right away — lower your expectations. Luka Doncic is undoubtedly a better player than Deni Avdija. Remember that Luka came to the NBA as the reigning EuroLeague MVP at a very tender age.
Avdija’s scoring abilities are not as good as Luka’s, and that’s a major difference between these two guys. Still, Avdija possesses excellent offensive awareness and playmaking skills. He can create for his teammates, while his decision-making is pretty good.
Deni is a natural small forward, but he can play from point guard to power forward with ease. Of course, Avdija will have to improve his physical attributes and defensive skills a lot. At the moment, the Charlotte Hornets look interested in Avdija, whose winning mentality could really improve M.J.’s franchise.