Power Ranking the Top International 2014 NBA Draft Prospects

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2014

Power Ranking the Top International 2014 NBA Draft Prospects

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    Petr David Josek

    International NBA draft prospects can turn into huge steals or major disappointments, and the 2014 crop offers a slew of intriguing options.

    An Australian prodigy headlines the list of overseas talent, but the rest of the class consists of European standouts. More specifically, Eastern European ballers are prevalent this year, as we're seeing everything from explosive athletes to role-playing point guards.

    Not every international hopeful will get drafted, and not every draftee will actually stick in the Association. But a handful of 2014 candidates will have a good chance to compete in the NBA's jungle of size, skill and athleticism.

    Let's break down the draft outlook and NBA roles of the top 10 foreign prospects.

    *Rankings include top international prospects who haven't played in the NCAA.

10. Walter Tavares, Spain, Center

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    Jorge Sierra/ USA Today Sports

    Vitals: 22 years old, 7'2", 265 lbs

    Draft Range: Second round/undrafted

    NBA Role: Backup/third-string center

    As you might have guessed from his measurements, Walter Tavares' NBA draft value is based heavily on his size. 

    He can get position against almost anyone and presents a great target for guards to feed him the ball. Defensively, he has the potential to alter anyone's shot and shows a willingness to protect the rim.

    Whether he actually executes these tasks is a different story.

    His low-post footwork and scoring ability are minimal at this point, so his impact in the NBA would revolve largely around rebounding and close-range chances. Tavares is also not a good leaper, so upper-tier athletes can still score over him. He has displayed some deft passing from the post, though.

    Don't be surprised if an early- to mid-second-round team scoops him up to add size in the frontcourt.

9. Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Greece, Small Forward

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Vitals: 21 years old, 6'7", 210 lbs

    Draft Range: Second round/undrafted

    NBA Role: Rotational, energy small forward

    A year ago, we had barely heard of the Antetokounmpo family. Nowadays, they're widely known in the basketball world. Giannis is a rising star with the Milwaukee Bucks, and Thanasis hopes to join him in the NBA ranks.

    The older brother spent the 2013-14 season with the NBA D-League's Delaware 87ers, where he exhibited terrific physical tools but a raw repertoire. He struggled to consistently score in half-court scenarios and lacked discipline on the defensive side.

    Fortunately, he showed noticeable improvement as the season progressed. Antetokounmpo acquired better balance on his jump shot, made more plays defensively and became a more productive facilitator. In fact, he finished his season with a near triple-double followed by a 28-point, seven-assist performance.

    He won't be a featured offensive cog in the NBA, but his quickness and energy as a swingman could give him some minutes off the bench. Antetokounmpo's size will allow him to check multiple positions, and when transition opportunities arise, he'll feast in the open floor.

    If he keeps polishing the fundamentals, there's a spot for him on the bench.

8. Artem Klimenko, Russia, Center

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    Vitals: 20 years old, 7'1", 228 lbs, 7'4" wingspan

    Draft Range: Second round

    NBA Role: Backup center

    Teams looking to add depth in the post, especially those coveting a true center on their bench, will be eyeing Russian big man Artem Klimenko.

    The 7'1" anchor is a capable receiver on pick-and-rolls, and once he gets the ball near the hoop, he can score with either hand or flush a dunk with ease. His size also helps him defensively and on the boards, where he can earn extra possessions for his squad.

    He's not much of an athlete, but he does move extremely well in transition. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla has been tracking Klimenko for a while now and noted that he's "light on his feet for his size."

    Don't expect dominance when he enters the NBA. He won't be a dynamic, silky-smooth offensive weapon. Nevertheless, his mobility should empower him to take care of business off the bench, as he plugs into the system and holds the fort down on defense for 15-20 minutes per night.

7. Damien Inglis, France, Forward

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Vitals: 18 years old, 6'9", 240 lbs, 7'3" wingspan

    Draft Range: Late first/second round 

    NBA Role: Versatile rotational small forward, potential starter in future

    French youngster Damien Inglis definitely helped his draft value at the Nike Hoop Summit in April, showcasing his physique and skills against high-level competition.

    His ball-handling ability is impressive for a 6'9" player, and in Portland he scored off the drive, dished to teammates and created jumpers. Inglis also shows lots of natural talent and effort as a defender and rebounder, which helps enhance his overall stock.

    If he wants to excel in the NBA, however, he's got to refine his game a bit more. He's not an elite athlete, so he has to upgrade the shot-creating skills and improve his shooting range. Inglis is just 18 years old, so there's some time for him to develop.

    While he may not be ready to thrive as an NBA swingman tomorrow, his upside is certainly attractive. A strong frame and 7'3" wingspan are fueled by his two-way energy and blossoming skills.

    The teams that pass on him better hope he doesn't figure out how to optimize his tools and become a star.

6. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia, Shooting Guard

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    Thanassis Stavrakis

    Vitals: 21 years old, 6'6", 200 lbs, 6'11" wingspan

    Draft Range: Late first to mid-second round

    NBA Role: Rotational shooting guard

    With awesome length for a wing and a promising three-point stroke, Serbian star Bogdan Bogdanovic has a chance to latch on in the NBA as a shooter and slasher.

    He'll be able to get his shot off against most swingmen, and when defenders try to run him off the line, he's got enough handles to attack the rim. Bogdanovic's NBA club will be able to use him as a spot-up threat or an off-the-dribble weapon.

    Defensively, his wingspan and agility will make him competitive and create turnovers, but his lack of explosive quickness or consistent effort could keep him from shining.

    Most scouts and analysts believe Bogdanovic is an intriguing prospect worth considering, but one NBA agent is cautious. He told B/R NBA Lead Writer Jared Zwerling he doesn't think he's a sleeper pick due to "the sheer percentage of drafted Europeans that don't work out in the NBA system."

    When European stars find the right fit, however, they can pay huge dividends. It's up to Bogdanovic to make the most of his opportunity and find his niche.

5. Vasilije Micic, Serbia, Point Guard

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    AFP/ Getty Images

    Vitals: 20 years old, 6'4", 188 lbs

    Draft Range: Late first/early second round

    NBA Role: Dependable backup point guard

    One of the best passing prospects in Europe, Serbian point guard Vasilije Micic cracks our top five because he has what it takes to facilitate in an NBA rotation.

    He owns excellent court vision, great timing and the ability to serve up crisp, accurate dimes. During Adriatic League play in 2013-14, he dished 5.8 assists in addition to 11.8 points. Once he grows comfortable in the driver's seat of an NBA offense, he'll enjoy a bunch of success distributing to the talent around him.

    In order to reach his ceiling, he must take better care of the ball and avoid forcing plays. Micic averaged 3.5 turnovers in the ABA, and the defense will be decidedly stiffer this side of the Atlantic.

    What exactly would his ceiling look like? Micic's best-case scenario compares to a poor man's version of Jose Calderon: an non-athletic, below-average defender but a polished point who's a talented passer and crafty scorer. He may not reach Calderon's peak level of productivity, but he could potentially earn a big role and even start some games.

    Micic broke his hand in early April, so he'll enter workout season and the NBA combine playing catch-up.

4. Clint Capela, Switzerland, Power Forward

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Vitals: 19 years old, 6'11", 222 lbs, 7'4.5" wingspan

    Draft Range: Mid- to late first round

    NBA Role: Rotational power forward

    His skills aren't advanced at all, but you can't help but marvel at the ranginess and athleticism of Swiss forward Clint Capela.

    Explosive leaping and end-to-end foot speed are his forte, and he uses those gifts to constantly go around and over his French league opponents. Capela's lightning-quick vertical and 9'2.5" reach allow him to play above the rim with ease.

    Despite this physical prowess and a developing mid-range jumper, he's got a long way to go before he's a consistently productive reserve. He's still learning proper positioning on both ends of the floor.

    Capela doesn't have the strong, fundamental footwork necessary to score in the low post, nor does he have a great feel for taking advantage of face-up opportunities. In addition, he shot a woeful 48 percent on free throws during EuroCup play and 58 percent in French league play.

    That being said, his long-term upside is enticing. If he can cultivate a greater awareness and comfort in a five-on-five system, he could be a great energy forward not unlike Kenneth Faried.

3. Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia, Center

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    Vitals: 19 years old, 6'11", 280 lbs, 7'2" wingspan

    Draft Range: Late lottery/mid-first round

    NBA Role: Potential starting center

    Jusuf Nurkic climbed the draft charts throughout the 2013-14 season by imposing his will on the inside and showcasing his promising skill set. The Bosnian center possesses two valuable traits that could make him a productive NBA post player: a bulky frame and soft touch around the basket.

    He posted 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds for Adriatic club Cedevita this season, which is superb considering the youngster only saw 16.6 minutes per game. Nurkic can pound the paint for deep position and finish strong with a dunk or deftly off the glass. He shows nice footwork and a smooth, quickly developing shooting stroke.

    Defensively, Nurkic will have trouble against top-tier athletes, but he'll hold his own for the most part due to his mobility and length.

    There are some concerns surrounding him, however. He needs to improve his conditioning in order to be an end-to-end threat, and he must also clean up some counterproductive attitude lapses.

    NBA clubs positioned in the late lottery will take a hard look at him, because his size and fluid skills would be a great addition to any team. He'll be a pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop contributor, as well as a dependable back-to-the-basket resource.

2. Dario Saric, Croatia, Forward

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    Vitals: 20 years old, 6'10", 223 lbs, 6'10" wingspan

    Draft Range: Late lottery

    NBA Role: Potential starting combo forward, secondary scorer and facilitator

    Multidimensional Croatian forward Dario Saric has been on the NBA radar for a couple years, and it looks like he's finally officially making the jump to the Association.

    It was a big weekend for the 20-year-old Adriatic League star. On Saturday, his agent announced Saric's decision to enter the NBA draft via Twitter. Then on Sunday, the young prospect earned MVP honors in the ABA championship by notching 23 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks.

    So what exactly will our No. 2-ranked international star bring to the NBA? In short, he offers a 6'10" frame with the ball-handling and passing skills of a guard. Saric shows great awareness for a forward, staying involved as a slasher, passer and rebounder.

    "Versatility is his specialty," said B/R NBA Lead Writer Jonathan Wasserman. Saric doesn't project to be a prolific scorer at the next level, but he'll provide enough shooting and a better ball-handling version of guys like Boris Diaw and Andrei Kirilenko (perhaps not quite as defensively talented).

    If his NBA coach can maximize his gifts, he could be a key asset on a playoff-caliber squad.

1. Dante Exum, Australia, Combo Guard

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    Michael Dodge/Getty Images

    Vitals: 18 years old, 6'6", 188 lbs, 6'9.25" wingspan

    Draft Range: Top 5

    NBA Role: Starting combo guard or point guard, potential All-Star

    Without a doubt, Australia's explosive guard is the best overseas prospect available.

    It's been a few months since we've seen Dante Exum compete in an organized game, but he's worked out in L.A. all winter to prepare for the draft. Presumably, he's been trying to put on some muscle and improve his jump shot.

    If he's upgraded in those departments, he's got a great chance to be one of the league's most dynamic backcourt threats.

    Exum's desire to join the Los Angeles Lakers is well-documented, but he may be long gone before Mitch Kupchak and Co. are on the clock. The young guard's size, elite athleticism and offensive creativity will likely make him a top-five pick—meaning L.A. needs a favorable bounce in the lottery to land him.

    As a rookie, he'll struggle to be an efficient shooter and a consistently effective floor general. But with his poised demeanor and impressive collection of tools, he should quickly come into his own and become a lethal combo guard.

    Unless otherwise noted, statistics gathered from Eurobasket.com. Player measurements gathered from DraftExpress.com. 

    Dan O'Brien covers the NBA Draft for Bleacher Report.

    Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR