The Luka Effect – More Opportunities For European Prospects
Luka Doncic’s arrival in the NBA is slowly erasing the stereotype around European prospects, one game at a time. Though it was clear that Doncic was a whole different kind of talent, not all NBA teams dared to take the gamble to take a European player who might or might not be able to adapt to the league. The Mavericks gave him the chance to showcase his talents in the league, and now, a couple of months later, Doncic is on his way to becoming an All-Star in his rookie season.
Of course, there isn’t a new Luka Doncic among next year’s prospects, but it does definitely make way for a whole new group of European talents that have the potential to make it in the NBA. These players have the chance to be
Sekou Doumbouya – Limoges CSP
Doumbouya is projected to be the top European draft pick this year. He had a strong last 1,5 season, until a thumb injury sidelined him in December. As it requires surgery, he’ll be out for about 2 months, and that will probably lower his chances to be a top 10 pick. Doumbouya is quite complete player, though he can still improve on a lot of aspects, so there will definitely be several teams that are willing to acquire him. He will be very fitting to the modern NBA, as he’s not limited to a single position, and that will work in his advantage.
Goga Bitadze – Buducnost VOLI
Bitadze currently averages 25 minutes per game with Buducnost in the Euroleague. The 19-year-old could’ve gone to the NBA last year, but as he didn’t want to be a second round pick, he decided to stay in Europe to try and improve his stock. He started the season with Mega Bemax, but was lent to Buducnost to give him a chance to play in the Euroleague. Bitadze already had impressive stats in the ABA league as a two-way player, but he has managed to do the same in the Euroleague. In the five games he has played so far, he averages 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.
Amine Noua – ASVEL Lyon Villeurbanne
Noua is a great athlete, rim protector, scorer and can make threes, and he has proved this with his club ASVEL in the French league as well as the Eurocup. He had a great season last year, and would’ve had a big chance to be drafted into the NBA, but he chose to withdraw his name and return to Lyon for one more year. Though this was good for his development, it might’ve hurt his draft stock, as Noua is now 22-years-old. Where he could’ve been a first round pick last year, he’ll probably be a second round choice this year.
Luka Šamanić – Petrol Olimpija
What’s in a name? Šamanić now projected to be a late first round pick in the draft. This year, he signed a contract with Olimpija, which plays in the ABA League, just as Goga Bitadze, and the Champions League. This is his first year with a 1st team, as he previously played with Barcelona B. Šamanić has a lot of potential, but he’ll need to prove he can make the step to the NBA.
So far, Šamanić has been quite impressive in the last few Champions League games. He played more than 20 minutes, and scored more than 10 points in the last three games. As Olimpija won’t make it to the next round, Šamanić will continue to make a lot of minutes in the last three games of the regular Champions League season.
Laurynas Birutis – Zalgiris Kaunas
Birutis originally entered the 2018 draft, but withdrew at the last moment. At that point, he was playing for Šiauliai and had a breakout year. He led the LKL league in three categories: points, rebounds and blocks, and he won two awards: the Best Young Player and the Most Valuable Player.
When he withdrew his name from the draft, Birutis signed with Zalgiris. Therefore, he will get experience in the Euroleague this season, and his stock for the draft will go up. He probably will be a second round pick, if a team is interested in him.