NBA Draft Rankings: The Top International Prospects
2022 could produce the best international prospect since Luka Dončić
The international draft class hasn’t had a strong candidate for the No. 1 pick since Luka Dončić in the 2018 NBA Draft.
That’s about to change.
The 2019, 2020 and 2021 international draft classes were relatively weak.
The 2019 draft class produced just three first-round picks, all taken after the lottery. In 2020, things got better with two lottery picks (Killian Hayes and Deni Avdija) and two more first-round picks. In 2021, Australia’s Josh Giddey was the only international player to go in the lottery. Only two more international players — Turkey’s Alperen Şengün and Spain’s Usman Garuba — went in the first round, not counting No. 30 pick Santi Aldama, a college player by way of Spain.
That’s a total of just three lottery picks and 10 total first-round picks in the last three drafts.
In the 2022 NBA Draft, it looks like we could have as many as three international lottery picks and as many as seven first rounders. Make that four potential international lottery prospects if you count Dominican Republic guard Jean Montero, as we do here. And make it five if you count Australia’s Dyson Daniels (we don’t), who’s playing in the G League.
Get your passports ready, Big Board readers: This year is going to be filled with some of the best international prospects since Luka.
Here’s a look at the seven top international NBA prospects for the 2022 NBA Draft.
Unicaja Málaga (via Congo)
6’11” | 215
Age on draft night: 18.6
Draft projection: 1-5
Nzosa has a real shot at being the first international No. 1 pick in the draft since Andrea Bargnani in the 2006 NBA Draft.
While Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jalen Duran and Jaden Hardy have a home-court advantage by playing in the NCAA or G League, so far Nzosa has played at a high level in tougher competition and is significantly younger than Holmgren, Banchero and Hardy.
He’s an extraordinary talent, especially at his age. Blessed with elite size, length, speed and defensive instincts, he’s already putting up significant numbers in the Spanish ACB.
Last season for Málaga, Nzosa’s averages per 36 minutes were 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. These numbers might not wow you at first, but they are very impressive for a player in his age-17 season.
He has elite defensive skills, with all the tools to be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, including the length, speed and lateral quickness to guard three positions on the floor and protect the rim.
As excellent as he is on the defensive end, offensively Nzosa is still a work in progress, though he is already an excellent finisher at the rim and has a developing jump shot that he’s looking more and more comfortable taking.
He also draws rave reviews from both teammates and coaches as a player with the intangibles — work ethic, intelligence, humility, competitiveness and drive — to be great.
If he continues to improve while playing a big role for Málaga this season (he might be playing behind Michael Eric, which could limit his minutes and development), he’ll have the strongest case since 2018 among international players to go No. 1.
(Note to readers: This is an excerpt of my NBA Draft Rankings: The Top International Prospects provided to free subscribers. To get my take on all 7 of the best international draft prospects … you need to be a paid subscriber.
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