Next to the European players that I have analyzed in details a few days ago, there were also a high number of other interesting prospects coming from all around the world. Here is a quick review on the most talented players that are not from Europe.
Connor Frankamp had the role of shooter in the US Team. And what a shooter he is. He has great range and can fire either in catch-and-shoot or out of the dribble from NBA range. But he can also create his shot on this level when he puts the ball on the floor to go to the mid-range distance. Frankamp who was listed as a PG for the team played mainly the shooting guard position though. He handled the ball sometimes but was never really the main playmaker. The 1m85 tall guard showed some basic passing skills in Pick and Roll situations or when driving to the basket but his main role was scoring and he fulfilled this one at best as he was the top scorer of the team. Frankamp should become a high-level College player but he might lack the athletic abilities for the NBA. But I think that he can have a pure role player role on the highest level nevertheless.
Tyus Jones played long minutes on the PG position for the USA team despite being a year younger than his team mates. This showed in some moments as his decision making was a bit more hazardous but overall, Jones has an interesting profile. Mainly using the drive to the basket as a scoring option, Jones could finish close to the hoop with his good hang time and scoring with contact. He also showed the occasional floater from the top when he split the defense or pushed the ball hard to pass his defender. Jones likes to do some head or shoulder fakes to bring the defense in trouble and has his head always nicely up to see his team mates or the shot clock. However, he needs to work on his shot from outside as it is not a regular option for him at the moment. He can make the three-point shot but barely used it during the days in Kaunas.
Justise Winslow was probably the most impressive athlete of the whole tournament in Kaunas. The 1m98 tall forward and son of former European pro Ricky Winslow was a beast in the paint in terms of energy and finishing strong. He was not only the best rebounder of the American team but he gave them some big scoring coming from the bench. Winslow has a great first step when he attacks the basket and his footwork allows him to do difficult direction changes before the finish. With his superb athletic and jumping abilities, he can explode to the basket for the high-flying and energetic finishes. His ball handling allows him to bring up the ball on the fast break and make him a great Small Forward prospect; if he can develop a shot. His free-throw shooting was not very regular and he barely tried his chance from behind the arc. On defense, he had an excellent timing for blocking shots, especially when coming from the help side. Right now, he is a great Power Forward in a Small Forward body. This is the main point concerning his development and with some good work, he has a bright future ahead of him.
Jabari Parker is already considered a lottery Pick for the NBA Draft 2014 as he will finish High School next summer. During the days we were in Kaunas, Parker was injured and could not play at 100%. However, you could easily recognize why he is considered one of the most interesting prospects in the United States. Being listed at 2m03, Parker first of all showed an excellent jump shot around the key and also a good looking three-point shot. He mainly played on the PF position but should not have any problem to develop a SF game in the future as the shooting mechanics and the touch is present. Next to a great shot, he is quite explosive and athletic but we rarely saw him put the ball on the floor. But he was not playing every game that I attended so I can not judge his ball handling skills enough.
Jahlil Okafor was the main offensive option for Team USA in the paint. The 2m10 tall big guy, who is a distant cousin of Emeka Okafor, showed great inside play and excellent footwork in order to create a multitude of easy baskets for his team. He is a fantastic finisher without being an outstanding athlete but he runs the court very well for a player of his size. Out of the low post, Okafor can score with a multitude of different moves, jump hook, drop step or spin moves. During the tournament, he rarely played facing the basket or taking a jump shot around the key. This has been underlined by his very poor free-throw shooting (41.7%) where his mechanics are not regular at all and his arms drift away on every shot. This is a major part to work on for Okafor in the next years as it will not only help him from the free-throw line but give another dimension to his overall game.
Gabriel Deck finished the World Championships as best overall scorer. The bulky Argentinean power forward showed an excellent feel for the game and an all around scoring potential. Deck can attack the basket from outside by putting the ball on the floor. He is not extremely fast but has quick feet that allow him to finish on complicated spin moves or by putting his defender into trouble. Deck knows how to get open as he uses different fakes to get rid of the defense. His lack of explosiveness and limited size (only 2m02 tall) force him to be creative in terms of shot creation. His jump shot looks good as well and he can score out to the three-point area even if his percentages drop significantly if he goes further than 4-5 meters. When he plays in the low post, Deck generates a lot of contact and draws quite an interesting amount of fouls. When he gets the ball in the low post, he can also play face up or score on the turn around jump shot.
Alvaro Merlo was the clear vocal leader of the Argentinean team as the tiny but strong PG understood exactly what was going on on the court. Merlo dribbles the ball very hard and quickly so that it is very difficult to steal the ball away from him. His offensive game has a good mixture of long-distance shots and hard drives to the basket where he is not afraid to go to the rim despite being only listed at 1m82. But Merlo’s game is not all about scoring and passing, he is present in any kind of soft skills that are needed on the court. He likes to take the charge on the defensive end, talks and advises his team mates what to do; he is the typical right hand of the coach on the court. Merlo might lack the necessary size or talent to become a high level player, but he will certainly have an interesting career in his home country and make it eventually to the Senior National team one day.
Dante Exum was one of the most amazing and spectacular players of the whole tournament. The Australian guard excelled with fantastic body control, superb speed and great athletic abilities. But next to these physical qualities, Exum showed that he can be an excellent basketball player and that he is a world-class talent. With his first step, he can pass nearly every defender and go hard to the basket to finish either with the dunk or the difficult layups with contact. Out of the drive, he still can find his team mates when they are open but this is a part of his game where he can become better. As of now, he mainly played SG but PG looks to be his future spot on the highest level. His shot is still a work in progress as he remains extremely streaky from behind the three-point line because of mechanics that are perfectible. From mid-range, his shot looks more fluid which is a positive sign for the future even if this is not a regular option in his game right now. On the defensive end, Exum can develop into a stopper as well because of great lateral speed and a terrific wing span. He is the son of former North Carolina Tar Heel Cecil Exum and it would not surprise me if he develops into one of the hottest college recruits from abroad in the Class of
Ben Simmons was the youngest player on the Australian squad but he has a really interesting profile. The left handed forward runs the court extremely well and has above average athletic abilities. He plays very long and with a lot of verticality and was used often as a spearhead in the Australian zone press defense. With his mobility, he could steal multiple balls and initiate fast breaks. His defensive presence was his main asset but his offensive potential is interesting as well. So far, Simmons is pretty raw in terms of scoring as he was not very effective in shooting around the key or from outside the three-point area. This is clearly a part of his game where he has to work on. His ball handling is perfectible as well, especially with his right hand. In order to become a SF in the future, Simmons has still a long way to go but he has the potential to develop a wing game for the highest level in the future.
Mirko Djeric had a career game in the semi-final against Croatia where he scored 7 three-pointers and helped his team to reach the Gold Medal game. Despite having scored only 5 2 point baskets in the whole tournament, Djeric came out as the second best scorer of the Aussie team of the championship. But his main force, next to his streaky three-point shot is that he is able to find his team mates on the drive. Physically strong and playing hard, Djeric is not really a PG that excels with speed but plays more under control and with his head. He formed a great back-court duo with Exum with the exception of the Final where Djeric’s lack of athletic abilities and potential to score against the big guys in the paint was apparent. Nevertheless, Djeric should have a future as a professional, either in Europe because of his Serbian origins or in Australia.
Nicholas Duncan might not be the most spectacular guy on the court but what a heart and hustle he showed in Kaunas. He is a 2m03 tall forward and he was the best rebounder by far of the Australian team. He has a real flair for the offensive rebound where he can catch the ball so many times despite his size and athletic limits. Duncan is present in every lose-ball situation and tries to get a hand on every possible steal. Offensively, his impact is limited, even if he was the fourth-best scorer of his team. He can hit the occasional three-point shot but mainly score on offensive boards, hustle plays or after a good pass.
Jack Purchase showed an interesting profile as a stretch four who had to play Center for Australia. The 2m03 tall power forward has a good shot from the three-point line, especially from the corner. He nearly takes no shots inside the paint despite playing an inside position but the Australian offense mainly used him to stretch the floor. On defense, he uses his size well in order to rebound the ball but Purchase is also a good passer in an organized system. He should not have too many problems to get interesting College offers in the next year.
Moataz Hosny was the main player to follow on a surprising Egyptian team as the 2m01 listed inside player was the best shot blocker of the tournament with 4 rejections per game. He has a very good wingspan and great timing for going up to block shots even if he is not extremely athletic or explosive, especially on the offensive end. In fact, his offensive game is extremely raw and he is not very present. For example, he blocked nearly as much shots as he made baskets (28 block and 29 field goals made) during the whole tournament. His shooting mechanics are not very polished either as it is underlined by his poor free-throw shooting. He has some fluid moves though when he attacks the baskets but he does not go for it that often. Egypt seems to produce some interesting big men over the last years (like Assem Ahmed who finished 3rd best scorer and 2nd best rebounder of the U19 Worlds last summer) but their future remains questionable in a difficult environment.
Zhou Qi was already one of the highlights of the Albert Schweitzer Tournament so that there is not much to add on him right now. He is an extremely talented big guy who is capable of scoring either in the paint or from outside. You can find more on him in our review of the AST 2012.
Liu Bo was another option in the paint for China as the 1996 born left handed player showed some interesting offensive skills in Kaunas. He has a nice shot around the key and can also finish close to the basket with the foul. Bo goes hard for the defensive rebounds and has the potential to become a great overall rebounder because of his timing and athletic abilities. Offensively, he can also put the ball on the floor and showed some good passing skills on the drive for kick-outs for example. If his shot is stabilizing, he might have the potential to become effective from behind the arc as well in the next years. Overall, he is an interesting talent to follow and might even grow a few centimeters in the next years.
Zhao Ji Wei played a good tournament for China at the Point Guard spot. The lightning quick guard is an excellent passer and knows how to split the defenses and drive to the hoop. He is not afraid to try to go to the basket even against taller players but struggles sometimes in his finishes. He can score from behind the three-point line but needs to become more regular. Ji Wei reads very well what the defense gives him in order to make good decisions depending on the situation. He fights hard on the court and is a real vocal presence for his team mates.
Justin Jackson from Canada was probably one of the most talented players of the whole tournament. Two years younger than the competition, Jackson was still the best player of the Canadian team in my eyes. He is first of all extremely long with a terrific wingspan. Listed at 1m98, he can play both wing positions right now but he will probably settle down as a Small Forward in the future. He has great handles despite his size and recognizes the gaps on defense where he can penetrate to the basket. He can create his own shot from mid-range and has already a touch from outside that is though still in the making. Jackson can also finish with his weaker left hand in traffic against the big guys and his huge hands help him to control the ball easily in the air. Together with Andrew Wiggins, he will form the Canadian National Team wing duo for the next years. Jackson can be considered as one of the most highly regarded College prospects of the next years.
Tanveer Bhullar is a long-term project for Canadian Basketball. The 2m18 tall big guy had a lot of problems in Kaunas to have some impact on the game because he rarely got the ball on the guard-driven Canadian offense. Bhullar has a good shot and soft hands which should already be a good base to work with. He has some basic moves with his back to the basket and is surprisingly mobile on defense. Of course he struggles to guard to high-flying athletes but he can hold his own in the paint against classic low-post players and changes a lot of shooting trajectories. Athletically, he is not at best as he has some problems to run the court well and he has very short arms. Nevertheless, Bhullar is an interesting player to follow who might not reach his best level until he is around 25 which is still way ahead.