LONDON ( Associated Press) — France’s Ousmane Dieng has moved to Australia for a season to hone his skills. Nikola Jovic stayed at home in Serbia.
Both are expected to enter the NBA as they are among the most promising international players in Thursday night’s draft.
Both are versatile 6’10” wingers who just recently turned 19 after completing their first professional season.
Dieng played for the New Zealand Breakers in the Australian National Basketball League as part of his Next Stars program which became a hotspot for up-and-coming NBA players.. Jovic was named the top prospect in the ABA league after his first full season with Mega Belgrade, birthplace of reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.
Here are some of the top international players in the draft:
STRENGTHS: Multifaceted scorer with court vision and playing skills. This season, he averaged 11.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists and shot 36.5% from three-point range.
Jovic told The Associated Press he worked for the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs — both teams had three first-round picks as of Monday — Denver Nuggets (21st and 30th picks), Chicago Bulls (No. 18), Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 19), and Milwaukee Bucks (24th pick). He also had training sessions scheduled with the No. 27 Miami Heat and the No. 28 champion Golden State Warriors.
“My basketball IQ is really good, I’m really good at shooting and passing. This is something that I can immediately transfer to the NBA,” said Jovic.
PROBLEMS: Jovic doesn’t have an explosive first step. At the beginning of the season at 200 pounds there were also concerns about his strength, but he gained weight and now weighs 224 pounds.
“I work on my whole body. Hull stability is very important to me,” said Jovic, who turned 19 this month.
Raphael Barlow, director of scouting for the NBA Big Boardsaid Jovic is vying to be a “mid-level quarterback in the league” and said proper form will be vital: “He could be in a bad situation like Denis Avdiah (Washington Wizards) on a team where he doesn’t have ability to handle the ball and he got stuck in the corner.”
The lanky Frenchman bounced back from a slow start in Australia to show why he could be a potential lottery winner.
STRENGTHS: Perimeter skills, playmaking potential, ability to defend multiple positions. He averaged 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. His 3-point shooting percentage started out in single digits, but in the final 12 games of the season, it was 35%.
“I just had to find my rhythm and I kept working on my game,” he said.
Dieng has worked with “multiple” teams but declined to name them.
“I can fit into any team because I’m pretty versatile so I can do whatever the coach wants me to do,” he said. “I’m pretty hardworking and really versatile, with good eyesight and can do anything on the floor.”
PROBLEMS: Shooting stability and frame. He needs to add volume. At 215 pounds, he’s about 10 pounds heavier than he was at the start of the season, when he sometimes looked lost.
“The gap between the French third division and the NBL is really big. Everything happens faster and more physically,” he said, adding that playing among former NBA players “was very good for me.”
Some other foreigners with no US work experience:
– ISMAEL CAMAGATE: 6-11, 230-pound center for the Paris Basket. The 21-year-old Frenchman averaged 11.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. He deflected nine shots against Roanne. French League All-Star Game.
– KHALIFA DIOP: The last Senegalese big man, center of Gran Canaria in Spain, is 7’1″ tall and weighs 240 pounds. He averaged 6.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game.
— HUGO BESSON: The 21-year-old shooting guard played with Dieng for the New Zealand Breakers. The 6-4 Frenchman averaged 13.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. Shooting 30.8% from three-point range.
– GABRIELE PROCIDA: Athletic 6-7 Italian who scored 38.3% from three behind Bologna.
The 7-foot Victor Vembanyama from France may have been the top choice this year – perhaps last year as well. The 18-year-old will finally be eligible in 2023.
Due to his size and skills – handling the ball, shooting, defending under the basket – Wembanyama is considered the talent of a generation. He finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and eight blocks against Team USA, which included Chet Holmgren, in the FIBA Under-19 World Championship final. last July. He plays for ASVEL, a French team owned by Tony Parker.
“If he makes the most of all his abilities,” Barlow said, “he could easily become one of the best players of his generation.”
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