The Golden Age of the International Mixtape

“The Hustle is nonstop.

I never stop hustling.”

  • Young Jeezy

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TOP HITS FROM THE TOP 2016 PROSPECTS

The #1 rule of ranking prospects is “don’t judge a book on its mixtape.”  I understand the logic: just because a player can go the length of the floor and dunk over a bunch of high school nerd-lingers, doesn’t mean he can ball at a higher level, and it doesn’t say anything about his skills as a teammate/leader.


Well, I say, to hell with all that.  Mixtapes are the easiest and the most fun way to get a sense of what some of these international players entering the draft can do on the hardwood.  Sure, Gregg Popovich can send some random “Assistant to the Assistant of Player Development“  on a round-trip business class to Istanbul on his slightest whim, but – for the rest us rubes – all we need are a 3 minute youtube video to adequately judge a player halfway around the world. 

Next thing you know, Porzingis is selected #4 and small children are crying. 

Welcome to the Golden Age of the International Mixtape.

Without further ado, let’s get to know the 5 top international prospects hoping to hear Adam Silver call them to the stage at the 2016 NBA Draft.

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#1: DRAGAN BENDER

Vitals:

Position: F

Height: 6’11

Age: 18

From: Croatia

Last Played: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Report:

This dude seriously looks like he can stretch the floor and play both ends with equal intensity.  Plus, he can also drive to the rim or bomb corner threes as necessary.  Oh – did I mention he distributes with aplomb as well?

I’m fascinated with his skills and grace, but also deeply distracted by the DHL logo on the Maccabi floor. 

mac_logo_inside

Oh the humanity.   

1485733993092187311Bender is likely to be this year’s Porzingis; but, we will have to wait to see if he can match the hype – or the cornrows. 

Most Compared to:

Kristaps Porzingizis, Toni Kukoc, Boris Diaw

Potential Nickname:

Dragan Ball Z

Projection:

#3 Overall Pick.

(GET THAT STANK OUT OF HERE, sorry I had to)

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#2: Furkan Korkmaz     

Vitals:

Position: G

Height: 6’6

Age: 18

From: Turkey

Last Played: Anadolu Efes Istanbul

Report:

This guy can drive, he has a sweet looking jumper, and he lays up tear drops that would make grown men bawl like a three-year leaving Chuck E. Cheese.  What about his fade away?  Nasty.  And I get that he was running circles around folks, but he seemed to be playing in slow motion at times: I wonder about his speed, and it certainly won’t be that easy to shake defenders with elite NBA defenders like Klay or Kawhi on him every other night. 

Also, no defensive highlights here; but generally, I like what I see and the style points on some those reverse lay-ups are absolutely exhilarating. 

Ball, young man, ball!

Most Compared to:

Marco Bellinelli, Gordon Hayward, Kevin Martin

Potential Nickname:

Furk the Turk

Projection:

#16 Overall Pick

  (dunking as Darth Vadar, love it)

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#3: Timothe Luwawu

Vitals:

Position: G

Height: 6’6

Age: 21

From: France

Last Played: Mega Leks (Serbian League)

Report:

timothe-luwawu-017Sweet mother of mercy – this dude has some hops.  And the magenta/neon green uniforms?  Just bring those over to the big show as well. 

This guy is spectacularly athletic and is an absolute joy to watch attack the rim.  Plus, it looks like he has some nice range and can distribute the rock.  Might have a bit of a Paul George vibe to him. Looks very comfortable playing in the high pick-and-roll.  Also, what’s up with the clips where they look like they are playing in night vision on a submarine gym or something?

Get this guy to the NBA s’il vous plait.  He potentially has the most swag of any international player entering the draft.  I have high expectations for his draft night suit.

Most compared to:

Danny Green, Borgan Bogdanovic, Nicolas Batum

Potential Nickname:

Timmy LuWOW

Projection:

#17 Overall Pick

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#4: Thon Maker

Vitals:

Position: C/F

Height: 7’1

Age: 19

From: Sudan/Canada 

Last Played: High School (Canada)

Report:

The handles.  The step back, pop, and boom.  Oh: did we mention this guy is 7’1?  And that he has been compared to KG, Durant, Kobe, etc.? 

Though his stock may have dropped a bit and his expectations may have downgraded based on his potential over-hype, Thon Maker still has the highest ceiling of any international player this draft. 

Apparently, he considered forgoing this year’s draft to play at Kansas.  Two words – Joel Embiid.  I think he’s making the right decision to go directly to the NBA, and this mixtape could be proof in a court of law – I solemnly swear it.  This dude’s draining 25-footers, blocking shots into the 5th row, and he can play the post. 

He’s perfectly built for the stretch 4, with speed and range to boot.  Thon needs to bulk up if he plans to play the 5, but isn’t KD actually like 7 foot as well?  I was really impressed by his court-vision, athleticism, and – actually – I was pretty much impressed by everything about Maker.  If this tape isn’t truly indicative of his skills, then fair enough; it should be nominated for best short film at next year’s Oscars, because I’m still suspending my disbelief. 

Most compared to:

Kevin Garnett, Kevin Durant, Myles Turner

Potential Nickname:

The Mixtape Messiah

Projection:

#30 Overall Pick

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#5: Zhou Qi

Vitals:

Position: C

Height: 7’2″

Age: 20

From: China 

Last Played: Zinjang Flying Tigers

Report:

A 7’2″ big man who can crash the boards, run the floor, and spot up from 3 in transition? 

Check please. 

Yes, Zhou Qi does all of it.  I wonder about his speed, but he seems to represent the epitome of the evolution of big man in today’s game.  He doesn’t just bang in the post, and frankly, he will have to add some weight if he’s going to try to in the NBA; but, he’s more of a stretch 5 anyways, with a diverse portfolio of skills. 

I’m calling Charles Schwab and buying.  Ultimately, Zhou does seems most comfortable in the paint.  Driving, denying, defying. 

Most compared to:

Yao Ming, Rudy Gobert, Kristaps Porzingis

Potential Nickname:

Scrabble (Qi is the single most played word in Scrabble)

Projection:

#36 Overall Pick

(7’8 wingspan and 32” vertical.  I’m scared)

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Let the draft begin!

it should be a great one with another strong crop of international players.  Brooklyn is hosting again – I wonder who they’ll take in the lottery.  Oh, wait.

imageSo – get the war room ready, and watch some mixtapes:

It may just save the franchise.

By: Andy Hare (@ahare)