International players have long played a role in determining how the NBA Draft will unfold, but this year that rings especially true. There are five first-round talents among this year's pool of overseas stars, with three having the potential to be drafted inside the top 10. That volume of international-drafted talents in that range hasn't happened since 2015, when Kristaps Porzingis, Mario Hezonja and Emmanuel Mudiay all went inside the top seven.
So who are the names to know as we gear up for next week's draft? Here's a look at the list of overseas stars. (We've excluded LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton from this list because, though they played overseas, they are U.S. born standouts who have mostly built their basketball careers in the states.)
PG (6-5, 192)
French prospect Killian Hayes is a prodigious talent at just 19 years old with a lengthy list of accomplishments on his resume. He won a FIBA MVP award at the U16 championships in 2017, where his team took home the gold. He also competed for three seasons on the international scene, first with Cholet's senior team and most recently with Ratiopharm Ulm.
Playing for Ratiopharm Ulm is where his stock really exploded, jumping from a potential first-rounder to a potential No. 1 pick. What was seen as a huge shortcoming in his game -- his 3-point shooting -- suddenly became a positive, as he shot 39% from the 3-point line in EuroCup play. And during that span, he added a stepback jumper akin to James Harden's that has proven to be equally as lethal overseas.
The emergence of a more consistent scoring threat from Hayes has made him one of the most complete guard prospects in this class. Already, he was an incredible passer and playmaker who plays with a controlled tempo and feel. But with the improved shot he's rounded out as a potential franchise lead guard teams could be targeting as soon as No. 1.
SF (6-9, 215)
Deni Avdija (pronounced: Denny Ahv-dee-ya) checks all the boxes of a prospect who projects to be a point-forward type player at the NBA level. At 6-foot-9 he has great positional size, reads the floor like a point guard, and has the skills to crash the boards and subsequently lead the break with the ball in his hands.
What's worrisome about Avdija's NBA prospects is his shooting. He shot 35.3% from 3-point range last season, and worse, just 59.4% from the free-throw line, per RealGM data. The 3-point percentage is passable -- barely -- but the free throw percentage is red flag territory. Now, both improved as the season wore on, and he made marked strides when the season resumed amid the pandemic. But scouts often use free throw shooting as a predictive statistical indicator of whether a prospect can realistically extend their range deeper -- and 59.4% is well below the mark that would generate optimism for that to happen.
I'm buying he figures it out because every other aspect of his game offensively is so polished, which is why I have him as high as I do here. But it's a legitimate concern for some who envision him as a stretch forward that stretching him past the 3-point line may not be as automatic as you'd think.
C (7-0, 205)
Big Board rank: 12
In this draft, most of the international prospects are fairly well-known commodities. Maledon, Avdija and Hayes have been on the radar for years as international standouts primed to one day be NBA standouts. Leandro Bolmaro has been considered a potential draft pick for quite some time. But Aleksej Pokusevski (pronounced: A-lek-say Poke-ooh-sev-ski) is an enigma to many.
It starts with his 7-foot frame and 7-3 wingspan, but his intrigue branches out from there because of what he can do despite that size, which would be a hindrance for many. He moves incredibly well for a 7-footer with the fluidity of a small forward or shooting guard, and does many of the things a player of those positions can do, too. The ball-handling, floor-spacing, shooting and passing is next-level stuff for a center his size, which in that respect is comparable to Kristaps Porzingis.
The frame is a major question, though, as he hovers around 200 pounds. The chance of him getting knocked around playing with that slender of a frame is a real concern. And the way he plays in the interior, sometimes shying away from contact and struggling to finish easy opportunities, could be problematic unless he makes some serious physical developments. He could be a two years away from being two years away type player, to steal a line from the great Fran Fraschilla.
But if a team is drafting on upside, Pokuševski at the very least should get consideration in the lottery. He's a developmental project, sure. But the skill set combined with the frame and fluidity has him breathing rarefied air. If I'm a team betting on upside in the late lottery there's few I'd prioritize higher than Pokuševski projecting what he can be down the road and not necessarily what he can contribute right away.
PG (6-4, 174)
Big Board rank: 21
A shoulder injury last fall knocked Theo Maledon (pronounced: Tay-Oh Mall-eh-don) off course, but he got better as the season went on and as his health improved. For a team looking to bet on him in the first round, the hope is that that upward trajectory continues on as he jumps to the next level.
Maledon's style is one of constant attack. He comes at you downhill hard and often with speed to get past defenders and the handles to get to the rim at will. He doesn't have an explosive first step or burst to blow by his defender, but when he gets going he's incredibly challenging to stay in front of.
What I like about Maledon is the versatility. It's what the NBA will love about him, too. So long as the scoring and shooting comes along, he's a guy who I think can play either guard position at the NBA level -- and he's already played some with ASVEL both on and off the ball. The comfort he has jumping between different roles seamlessly should be enticing to teams looking for a versatile guard with his creation and scoring upside.
SF (6-7, 178)
Big Board rank: 30
What stands out about Leandro Bolmaro (pronounced: Boll-marr-oh) is the playmaking skills for his size. He can take defenders off the dribble and attack to the rim, or pull up on a dime to drill jumpers, or parse a defense on the move and find a cutting teammate for an easy bucket. There's nothing he can't do offensively that a point guard cannot. And that initiating upside is where his value really lies.
What may hold him back from being a lottery prospect, though, is the shooting. Last season he hit on just 16.7% of his 3-pointers, per RealGM data.
Adding to the shooting concerns is his athleticism (or lack thereof). He's been able to compensate for that overseas with a tight handle and smarts, dazzling his way through defenses with shiftiness. But the NBA's length and athleticism will be an entirely different challenge for him. He struggles at times to finish consistently at the rim already, and adding that extra layer is enough to question how he'll create an advantage for himself, especially if he's unable to make marked improvement as a distance shooter.
Others to watch: Yam Madar, PG; Abdoulaye N'Doye, SF; Borisa Simanic, C; Paul Eboua, SF; Marko Simonovic, C