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Nuggets in great shape following deadline for international prospects to declare for draft

Harrison Wind Avatar
June 14, 2016


With three first and two second-round picks in next week’s draft, it’s unlikely the Nuggets select five players that will be on their roster next season.

As is the case for most teams, second-round picks rarely make the opening night roster, but with three firsts as well this year, the Nuggets have to find a creative way to spend those pick with an extremely young roster already in Denver.

One way they can use those five picks is by combining assets to move up in the lottery, or by simply trading them for another player. However, if a trade doesn’t come to fruition on draft night, the Nuggets many look to stash one, or two of those picks in Europe next season.

Monday was the deadline for international prospects to remove their name from the draft and this summer the European cards fell in Denver’s favor. This year’s international class is strong at the top and deep throughout the draft. Here are the top European players that kept their names in the draft and some potential draft and stash prospects the Nuggets could target in the first and second rounds.

The Cream

Dragan Bender | Forward/Center | 7-foot-1, 225 pounds | 18-years-old | Croatia (Maccabi Tel-Aviv)

Bender, the No. 3 player on the latest BSN Big Board which will be released later this week, has arguably the third-highest ceiling in the draft. He’s got incredible feet for a player his size, can guard on the perimeter, and also has a versatile offensive skill-set that includes a consistent jumper that stretches out to three and the ability to rim run like a deer in transition. Bender could be selected as high as No. 3, and I doubt he would get past Denver at seven. Bender will come over to the NBA next season.

The Middle

Timothe Luwawu | Guard/Forward | 6-fooot-7, 205 pounds | 20-years-old | France (Mega-Leks)

Luwawu represents a lot what teams are looking for in modern-day wing players. He’s extremely long, possessing a 6-foot-11 wingspan which helps him to project as a solid perimeter defender, has a beautiful looking stroke from three, and is an extremely gifted athlete who can make teams pay in transition. I’m higher on Luwawu than most and have him at No. 6 on my board, but he’s been inconsistent in Europe and scouts remain a bit wary on the Frenchman. He could be selected anywhere from the mid-lottery to late first-round next Thursday. Luwawu should play next year in the NBA.

Furkan Korkmaz | Shooting Guard | 6-foot-7, 185 pounds | 18-years-old | Turkey (Anadolu Efes)

At just 18-years-old, Korkmaz’s body is yet to develop and he lacks the strength needed to contribute at the NBA level next season, but it’s easy to see why some are so high on the Turkish international. Korkmaz has already shown the ability to operate effectively in the pick and roll, has a consistent and effective jumper out to NBA range and is an impressive athlete. However, he still needs another year to season in Europe. Korkmaz has an exceptionally thin frame and can get worked on defense if his opponent decides to take him to the basket. He could use another year to work on his body and his approach on the defensive end of the floor, which he struggled with last season in Turkey. Korkmaz is a draft and stash candidate who should go in the middle of the first round.

Ivica Zubac | Center | 7-foot-1, 265 pounds | 19-years-old | Croatia (Mega Leks)

Zubac is a massive, 7-foot-1, 19-year-old center who ended last season with Mega Leks, the same team that housed Luwawu this season and was home to Nikola Jokic before he came over to the Nuggets. Coincidently, Zubac has a lot of the same skills that made Jokic such an impact player for Denver during his rookie year. He moves well for his size and is a threat in the pick and roll, has a high basketball IQ and is a good rebounder for his age. He might stick in Europe for another season, but could go in the middle of the first round in this year’s draft.

Zubac plays a lot like Nikola Jokic and could play a similar type role for an NBA team. Credit: MN Press
Zubac plays a lot like Nikola Jokic and could play a similar type role for an NBA team. Credit: MN Press

Zizic, another Croatian-born prospect is a true center who could go in the middle of the first, or second round. While Bender and Zubac’s draft stock is based mostly on potential, Zizic’s is based more on an extremely effective year at Cibona last season. Zizic registered a 25.7 Player Efficiency Rating, the second-highest in Adriatic League history and it’s not like the 19-year-old saw limited minutes. Zizic averaged 13.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and shot 63.9 percent from the field in 25.7 minutes per game, an incredible stat line for such a young player in a league like the Adriatic. Zizic’s game is built off sheer strength and power. He’s an all-effort type player who sets hard screens, rolls to the rim with authority and has a basic post game to work with. He may or may not come over to the NBA next season and his decision will likely ride on what team selects him.

Juan Hernangomez | Forward | 6-foot-9, 220 pounds | 20-years-old | Spain (Estudiantes)

At just 20-years-old, Hernangomez like Zizic put up outstanding numbers for a player his age in a top league in Europe. The versatile forward averaged 9.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 23.7 minutes per game for Estudiantes last season, a stat line worthy of a late first-round or early second-round selection. Hernangomez has a long frame, should be able to slide between the four and three spots, and projects as a plug and play offensive player that can fit a variety of systems. He can stretch the defense out to three where he converted on 35.8 percent of his attempts and has an adaptable mid-range game as well. Being only 20, Hernangomez could benefit from another year abroad so he can come over in 2017-18 and have an immediate impact.

The Sleeper

Paul Zipser | Guard/Forward | 6-foot-8, 210 pounds | 22-years-old | Germany (Bayern Munich)

At 22-years-old, Zipser is perhaps one of the more ready international prospects to come in and find a roster spot as a role player immediately. He’s played significant minutes in the EuroLeague and EuroCup, and fittingly, Zipser possesses a calm and controlled offensive game that’s effective. Zipser has an impressive jumper and shot 47.4 percent from 3-point range last year, and can attack the defense off the dribble as well. He’s also a solid defender and has some real potential as a 3-and-D guy down the line. Zipser might have one of the higher floors of all the international players this year and could be drafted in the late first, or early second round.

Zipser could be a second-round steal and should be able to fill a role on most teams. Credit; Getty
Zipser could be a second-round steal and should be able to fill a 3-and D role on most teams.
Credit: Getty


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