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2017 Prospect Primer: The Foreigners

Adidas Eurocamp 2015 - Day Two Photo by Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

Here is Part 4 of my prospect primer series, focusing on the foreign players in the draft, most of whom, unfortunately for Sixers’ fans, are big men. Luckily, most of these players have perimeter skills and could easily fit with a Simmons-Embiid core should Noel and Okafor both be traded before the draft. Here are my point guard, wing, and big men primers for the American prospects, in case you missed those.

Lauri Markkanen, Arizona

DX: 13, ESPN: 17

Reportedly 6’11

Age: 19.3

Why you should be excited:

Markkanen fits the exact prototype of a stretch 4, and looks plausible to fit the NBA as a playmaking 4 to boot. As of last August, Markkanen was a career 41% 3-point shooter in FIBA competition, spanning 26 games at the time, and he followed that up with a 13-33 (39%) performance for in this year’s U-20 championships.

Markkanen is more than just a shooter, though, as he has the athleticism and the handle to attack closeouts off the dribble, often finishing emphatically with impressive dunks. For a true playmaking 4, he would need to display more passing skills than he has so far (only 1.5 AST/40 this summer), but he has many of the instincts already.

Here’s a highlight video from his U-20 tournament this summer:

Why you should be worried:

Markkanen doesn’t appear to have the decision-making skills to thrive in the type of creative role Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap play, which means he may wind up being a shooter who can attack closeouts, and not much else. With a poor rate of 1.7 assists per 40 minutes, and an assist to turnover ratio close to 0.5, he’ll need to improve to be a creative 4.

If he were a two-way player, that wouldn’t be an issue, but he has a reputation as a poor defender, and his block and rebound numbers both are rather pedestrian. On the plus side, he reportedly grew two inches since last summer, and saw an uptick in both areas following that spurt. It’s possible that the extra height has given him the boost he needed to mitigate those weak points. His 1.9 blocks and 12.3 rebounds per 40 minutes aren’t world beating numbers, but they’re passable were he to maintain them in the NBA.

What to watch for:

How he defends in space, and how his decision-making looks. Markkanen could fall along a spectrum of power forward prototypes, from the Ersan Ilyasova-style stretch 4 to the Kevin Love-style offensive playmaker (pre-Cleveland), and potentially even as a two-way playmaker, depending on his D. These are the skills that will determine his ceiling there.

Omer Yurtseven, NC State

DX: 20, ESPN: 18

7’0 with shoes, 7’0 wingspan

Age: 18.2

Why you should be excited:

He’s an exceptionally well-rounded big man with great touch and feel around the basket. He has excellent height for a center, if a slightly short wingspan, and quick feet and soft hands, providing mobility and catching ability.

Yurtseven also has a very strong feel for the game. While his tools are adequate, his feel is what allows him to play at a high level across the board, both on offense and defense. JZ Mazlish wrote a scouting report for Upside & Motor that is more in depth than anything I could provide, so if you’re interested in Yurtseven, you should go read that.

With Dennis Smith running the point at NC State, Yurtseven could be in for a big year.

Why you should be worried:

Yurtseven’s physical tools are merely average, and they’re likely to prevent him from reaching an All-Star center level. That said, there’s no reason to expect him not to become a passable starter or an excellent backup. As a change of pace to Embiid or Noel off the bench, he could be very useful.

What to watch for:

How much he plays. Yurtseven will be competing with Beejay Anya and Abdul-Malik Abu for frontcourt minutes at NC State this year, both of whom are established, trusted players in Mark Gottfried’s system. If Gottfried foregoes their minutes in favor of Yurtseven, it’s likely to portend big things from him in the future.

Isaiah Hartenstein, Zalgiris Kaunas

DX: 21, ESPN: 23

Reportedly 6’11

Age: 18.3

Why you should be excited:

He has the look of another pure stretch 4, with the size and speed to guard both up and down a position should he need to. Billed as “the German Kevin Durant,” Hartenstein is most comfortable operating on the perimeter, with a sweet stroke and complementary face-up game to blow by defenders who are too hasty. He’s got nice touch and vision to boot.

Why you should be worried:

He has a tendency for bad shots and turnovers, throwing his decision-making into question. He also appears to be competent on defense, but not outstanding. Similarly to Markkanen, Hartenstein could settle in a number of places along the spectrum of perimeter-oriented 4’s, and it will be interesting to see how his play bears that out.

What to watch for:

Defense and decision-making. Defense will determine whether he’s a one-way or two-way player, a substantial differentiator in starting-level power forwards. If he shows an improved capacity for decision-making, he could join the top tier of creative 4’s. If not, like Markkanen, he would be reduced to more of a jump shooter, which has largely been figured out at this point in the league.

Jonathan Jeanne, Le Mans

DX: 18, ESPN: 26

Reportedly 7’2

Age: 19.1

Why you should be excited:

He’s a 7’2 center with quick feet and a 7’6 wingspan. Moreover, he’s comfortable stepping out to the 3-point line, where he shot 38% on 55 attempts in the 2014-15 regular season, and he can complement that with some shot blocking skill down low. He might be the white whale of NBA big men, combining a real 3-point threat with rim protection skills, and providing spacing without sacrificing paint defense.

Why you should be worried:

Despite his size, he’s still not a great rim protector, blocking only 5.7% of shots during the 2014-15 season. He’s incredibly thin, and it shows in his play, as he struggled to rebound, too. He also struggles to finish through contact, missing contested shots at the rim because he doesn’t have the touch to make up for his weakness. He’s also not great as a decision maker, struggling with turnovers and shot selection.

What to watch for:

How he handles physicality, and how his shot has progressed. I normally see “thin” as the most correctable portion of a player’s scouting report, but it truly affects Jeanne’s play more than many other young big men. He’ll need to show an ability to finish through contact and protect the rim even when bodied.

As a shooter, he has shown potential, but his jumper isn’t good enough to justify its overuse. He’ll need to be a knockdown shooter when open to unlock his potential.

Kostja Mushidi, Mega Leks

DX: N/A, ESPN: 27

Reportedly 6’5

Age: 18.2

Why you should be excited:

Mushidi is an energetic and athletic wing with an outstanding wingspan and great energy on both sides of the court. He could easily see his game translate as a 3&D wing with some secondary creation ability. Although he’s a bit on the short side, Mushidi’s functional size is larger than 6’5, as he has both a short neck and long arms, allowing him to be a very strong defender at the wind position.

Mushidi had a very strong showing at the FIBA U-20 tournament this summer. Although he struggled to score in isolation, he showed some potential as a pick and roll ballhandler. As he matures, he could serve as a secondary outlet alongside Simmons and/or one of this class’s many point guards.

A great video from Manuel Baraniak summing up Mushidi’s U-20 performance:

Why you should be worried:

He’ll likely never be a primary option, and his 3-point shot has been very hit or miss. His value on offense is likely tied to how well he can shoot on spot-up 3’s. He has the ability to hit them, but struggled off the dribble.

What to watch for:

How he shoots, and whether Mega Leks’ up-tempo, pressing style unleashes his inner monster on defense. Mushidi could be one of the best wing defenders in the class, and Mega could inflate his steal numbers due to their frantic style. If he’s an excellent defender, he should have the playmaking stats to back it up this year.

You should also watch how he handles in the pick and roll. Mushidi doesn’t need to be a star there, but if he struggles to shoot, it would up his value on offense if he can create in the PnR.

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