It’s no secret that the game has gone international. Many of the best players in the NBA have come from overseas (Donic, Giannis, Jovic, Embiid etc.) and that trend will continue.
It’s also no secret who the next international superstar is. Big Victor Wembanyama, the 7-4 phenom from France, has been heralded as the best prospect since LeBron James – and he deserves all the hype. His skill-set at his size is hard to comprehend, it’s mesmerizing to watch, and we can only attempt to imagine how good he will be in his prime (he’s currently just 19 years old).
So it’ll come as no surprise that Wembanyama lands at no.1 on this list of 2023 international draft prospects.
After him there are a handful of very intriguing players, a few of which have first round potential. This isn’t a particularly deep international group but I really like the top four prospects on this list. And there’s some decent second round prospects as well.
I’ll divide this list into 4 groups: Elite Tier 1, First Round Grades, Second Round Grades and Draft-able/Developmental. Plus I’ll include a list of international prospects who have already come to the States to play college, G League or OTE ball.
Elite Tier 1 (Star/Superstar)
- Victor Wembanyama – C/PF – France – I wrote more words about Victor here – and not much more needs to be said. He’s a special talent and will take the NBA by storm. Whichever franchise lands him (the draft lottery will be held this coming Tuesday!) will have their fortunes altered for the next decade+.
First Round Grades
- Bilal Coulibaly – SF – France – Coulibaly is an upside athlete who is also showed a lot of on the court production this year. He’s a wiry and bouncy 6-7 (maybe 6-8) wing with length. He shows big time flashes on his moves to the basket, has decent handles a good-looking jumper and all the potential in the world. While he might take some time to adjust to the NBA game and develop to the point of getting minutes he’s got the type of potential that will be really hard to pass on in the mid first round. He’s got late lottery upside and I’d be surprised if he lasts into the mid 20’s.
- Rayan Rupert – SG/SF – New Zealand Breakers (France) – Rupert played the last year in the NBL, playing some meaningful minutes and flashing big time upside ability, especially on the defensive end and in transition. He missed a chunk of the season with a wrist injury but came back to finish the season strong. He needs to get much more efficient on offense, shoot the outside shot better and develop his handle but he has all the tools to be a very good NBA player, once his game gets polished up. He’s comfortable with the ball in his hands and shows some playmaking ability. He’s got some potential as a secondary creator.
- James Nnaji – C – Barcelona (Nigeria) – Nnaji is a borderline first round player with intriguing tools in a big, strong 6-10 frame. He’s excellent in the pick and roll, plays above the rim with ease, is a stout rebounder and defender and is really just scratching the surface of his potential. He might not be the most sexy player but young bigs with his traits have value and he could hear his name called in the later half of the first round. I’m probably higher on him than most, and I could see him getting drafted as high as about pick 20. While he might never be an offensive juggernaut he has clear NBA skills with his rebounding, defending and pick and roll game.
Second Round Grades
- Tristan Vukcevic – C – Serbia – The young big is a solid outside shooter with a pure release. He can hold his own in the paint and has enough athleticism to guard at the NBA level. Look for Vukcevic to get looks in the mid to late second round, with a small chance he goes earlier than we expect. He’s a real talent.
- Nikola Durisic – SF – Serbia – Durisic is an offensive minded, ball-handling wing who isn’t a great shooter but can get downhill and has a nose for the bucket. Players with his size and on-the-ball ability have value and, although he’s not a sure thing, he should be drafted by the mid second round.
- Ousmane N’Diaye – PF – Senegal – N’Diaye is a possible second round pick who has intriguing upside but is very raw. He’s a fluid 6-11 athlete who loves to space the floor and has a nice looking 3pt shot. He’ll have to get stronger, improve on D and round out his game but the potential is all there. He’s not likely to have an impact in the NBA in the near future but could be a draft and stash guy.
- Nadir Hifi – PG – France
- Zvonimir Ivisic – C – Croatia
- Tomislav Ivisic – C – Croatia
- Armel Traore – PF – France
International Players In The NCAA’s and Pro Leagues
There are always lots of international-born players who come over for high school (or earlier) and play college ball in the US, or join the OTE or G League Ignite. These players don’t normally show up on international prospect lists but listing them here will give a fuller picture of how big of an impact international players will have on the 2023 draft (note: some of these players might stay in school and enter future drafts).
- Sidy Cissoko – SF – G League Ignite (France)
- Adem Bona – PF/C – UCLA (Mali)
- Leonard Miller – PF – G League Ignite (Canada)
- Mouhamed Gueye – PF – Washington State (Senegal)
- Bobi Klintman – SF/PF – Wake Forest (Sweden)
- Azuolas Tubelis – PF – Arizona (Lithuania)
- Zach Edey – C – Purdue (Canada)
- Adama Sanogo – PF – UConn (Mali)
- Oscar Tshiebwe – C – Kentucky (Congo)
- Efe Abogidi – C – G League Ignite (Nigeria)
- D’Moi Hodge – SG – Missouri (British Virgin Islands)
- Mojave King – SG – G League Ignite (New Zealand)
Overall the international group is very strong at the top and there are a few very nice looking mid to late first round prospects. It’s not a particularly deep group and there could be fewer draft and stash players this year compared to past years.
And the group of international players already playing in the States is as strong as ever.