TREVISO, Italy -- This week's NBA Global Camp marked the first time the league has organized a draft combine outside of U.S. Over the course of four days, 81 players from 38 countries -- ranging from 15 to 23 years old -- went through athletic and medical testing, measurements, interviews, scrimmages and practices, including instruction from a group of eight NBA assistant coaches and Sergio Scariolo, the head coach of the Spanish national team.
The La Ghirada practice facility in Treviso previously hosted the Reebok/Adidas EuroCamp from 2003 to 2017, but in the wake of the FBI investigation into college basketball corruption, Adidas elected to withdraw financing from this event and others. Most executives in attendance found the event highly successful and are excited about the new addition to the scouting calendar
Of the 30 NBA teams, 29 sent representatives to scout the event, with only the Chicago Bulls refusing to participate because of their unwillingness to pay the $10,000 fee the league charged teams to subsidize expenses, according to camp officials.
NBA executives said the biggest value at the camp came from the opportunity to scout a group of elite international prospects born in 2000 and 2001, known as the International Select team, some of whom appear to be on course to become first-round picks down the road.
NBA Global Camp standouts
From the older group, there were at least two players likely to hear their names called if they stay in the draft past the June 11 early entry deadline, plus a few others who might warrant consideration this year or beyond.
Ukrainian Issuf Sanon had his ups and downs but proved to be arguably the most talented draft-eligible player in attendance. Measuring 6-foot-3 barefoot with a powerfully built 191-pound frame, the 18-year-old impressed with his combination of physical tools, athleticism, aggressiveness, scoring instincts and frenetic energy level. He did a nice job of pushing the ball up the floor and playing pick-and-roll, frequently slithering his way through the paint with impressive body control and getting right into the teeth of the defense while finishing through contact. While his jumper is on the streaky side, he showed enough shot-making ability with pull-up 3-pointers to indicate that he has good potential down the road. He showed good defensive instincts in passing lanes and a high intensity level putting pressure on the ball, even switching onto bigger players on times and holding his own.
Sanon's playmaking and overall decision-making left something to be desired at times (four assists and nine turnovers in two games). There are some questions about his ability to transition into being a full-time PG, but that's somewhat to be expected considering his extreme lack of experience at high levels. Sanon has work to do on his feel, shooting and body language (he too often lets his emotions get the best of him), but he undoubtedly has significant potential and appears to be the type of prospect an NBA team will want to take a chance on in the 40-60 range of the draft to see how he develops after a few years stashed in Europe.
Lithuanian wing Arnoldas Kulboka had one strong game (15 points on eight field goal attempts) and one invisible outing (three points), continuing to be somewhat of an enigma. He measured a towering 6-9½ without shoes and has put on 12 pounds of muscle in the past two years, now appearing to have the type of frame that should fill out nicely in time. The 1,200 minutes of experience he received playing at the pro level this season with Capo D'Orlando in Italy seems to have paid off.
Kulboka has one of the prettiest shooting strokes in the draft, which is attractive considering his size, and he also proved capable of shooting on the move, either coming off a screen or pulling up off the dribble with sharp step-backs. Although he doesn't give you much as a passer or rebounder, he did show decent feet at times defensively that might give him some multipositional potential. His lack of toughness is still an issue, though, and the poor background intel from his inconsistent season in Italy is keeping his draft stock in neutral at the moment. While this is Kulboka's fourth appearance in Treviso in the past five years, he's still only 20. In a draft that is devoid of stash options but has plenty of teams with multiple second-round picks, Kulboka could be an attractive option to a team picking late, should he stay in.
• French guard Adam Mokoka (6-5, age 19) impressed with his freakish athleticism, chiseled frame, 6-10 wingspan, and boundless energy level. He played lockdown defense for every moment he was on the court, made a number of highlight-reel plays on both ends of the floor and got to the free throw line 18 times in 72 minutes. Though Mokoka could very well have elevated his stock into the late second-round territory, he is eligible to be picked in either of the next two draft classes, which could cause him to withdraw and attempt to make another run in 2019. Improving his perimeter shooting, ballhandling and decision-making would go a long way in convincing a team to make a real investment in him.
• German wing Karim Jallow (age 21) looks the part and then some, with solid measurements that compare favorably to those of DeMarre Carroll coming out of college. While he had some impressive moments defensively, he struggled to get going offensively, as his ballhandling skills remain unpolished and his jumper is still not reliable enough at this stage. Jallow has clear NBA potential due to his frame, athleticism, multipositional defensive potential and budding talent, but he might ultimately elect to withdraw from the draft and make another run in 2019 when he becomes auto-eligible. Finding a first division team that is willing to give him playing time next season will be a major priority.
• German combo forward Louis Olinde (age 20) struggled overall, shooting 5-for-14 from the field with no assists and seven turnovers, but he has clear-cut NBA potential regardless, having measured over 6-10 in shoes with a 9-foot standing reach and a frame that should fill out nicely in time. He showed flashes as a big wing who can throw in 3-pointers, attack closeouts with long, rangy strides and defend multiple positions, but he's still at a very early stage of his development in terms of strength, experience and polish. His shooting stroke is far too slow, his decision-making a major work in progress and he's simply too up and down in his approach to the game. Olinde is someone NBA teams will certainly want to monitor in the next year or two, as it's likely that he will withdraw from this draft and continue to work on his body and skill set in Bamberg next season.
• Brazilian Gabriel Galvanini (age 19) ticks a couple of boxes NBA teams are looking for at combo forward, standing 6-7 barefoot, with a 6-10½ wingspan, strong 216-pound frame, good athletic ability, competitive mindset and a solid feel. The fact that he can defend the guard, wing and forward positions gives him nice versatility. His jumper wasn't falling frequently enough in games or drills to generate the type of buzz he probably needs to stay in the draft, but considering he doesn't turn 20 until September and still has two more years of draft eligibility, this has to be considered a successful weekend. He is coming off a good season in Brazil and looks ready to make the next step to Spain or elsewhere in Europe.
International Select and NBA Academy team standouts
The European roster for the International Select Team -- playing against the Australian Center of Excellence and two NBA Academy clubs -- was expertly assembled by the NBA's manager of international basketball Eugene Park, who also plays a major role in the NBA Academy venture.
• The MVP of the group was probably 16-year old French point guard Theo Maledon, who is simply oozing with talent. Maledon is somewhat of a known commodity, already having a Jordan Brand Classic appearance and a Under-16 European Championship on his résumé. Nevertheless, he showed significant improvement both physically and skill-wise since first playing in Treviso two years ago, having grown to 6-5 with a terrific frame, big hands, a plus wingspan and smooth athleticism that allowed him to get to wherever he wanted on the court. Maledon plays at different speeds impressively, getting to the rim consistently with outstanding footwork, body control and touch around the basket. He does a great job of blending scoring and playmaking, being highly unselfish and intelligent passing ahead in the open court, using bounce passes off the pick-and-roll creatively and seeing over the top of the defense with his excellent size. His shooting has made major progress in the past year, as he knocked down a number of pull-up and spot-up jumpers in the three games he played, even if his stroke is somewhat deliberate and could still use some fine-tuning. Maledon is coming out of his shell as he matures and his body fills out. He's still a little on the quiet side and could stand to ramp up his aggressiveness a bit, particularly in terms of seeking out contact inside the paint, but it was impressive to see the strides he has made. He has clear-cut first-round potential.
• Killian Hayes bounced back from a somewhat underwhelming showing at Basketball Without Borders in Los Angeles in February. He continues to show progress with his court vision and ability to make reads out of the pick-and-roll, delivering some of the most impressive passes seen at the entire camp. While not blessed with elite athleticism, Hayes has great size, length and feel, as well as an outstanding frame. He plays at his own pace and has become a much more consistent off-the-dribble shooter since last year, which has opened up his game considerably. He did a nice job of finishing through contact and played lockdown defense, giving him outstanding versatility considering his ability to play any of the backcourt positions. That's important for his long-term projection since he doesn't have an elite first step to consistently generate offense from a standstill, having some issues at times at this camp creating separation from some of the more athletic defenders. Nevertheless, it is difficult not to be impressed with the type of basketball IQ he already possesses as a 16-year-old, as well as how good of a teammate he is.
• French wing Malcolm Cazalon had some equally impressive moments at times. At 6-7 with a near 7-foot wingspan, a terrific frame and impressive athleticism, he's a prototype for what the NBA is looking for at his position, and he already has some budding skills to match as well. He showed the ability to knock down jumpers with his feet set and off the dribble, can create his own shot smoothly out of pick-and-rolls with outstanding body control, has soft touch on his floaters and can find the open man. He can also sit down in a stance and move his feet, switching onto guards and wings alike. Despite having all the tools you look for, Cazalon is still figuring out how to put it all together consistently, as his approach to the game can leave something to be desired. He tends to shy away from contact, loses his focus easily and he's extremely introverted on the court, not showing much of a personality and seemingly not quite realizing just how talented he is. The son of a French national team player, Cazalon is so young still that he has plenty of time to figure things out, and his progress will be closely monitored by NBA teams.
• Latvian point guard Arturs Zagars bolstered his stock considerably, as he appeared to be one of the most polished, smart and versatile players at the camp. Zagars has shot up from 5-9 to 6-3 in the past few years, which has taken his game to another level. He's an outstanding ball handler who plays at different speeds, passes out of pick-and-rolls creatively, utilizes Eurostep moves expertly and is extremely crafty with the way he finishes around the basket, visibly modeling his game after Kyrie Irving, as he told us in an interview. He's a consistent shooter with his feet set or off the dribble and understands the value of competing defensively, both of which are important traits since he's not blessed with elite length, strength or athleticism. Zagars might not perfectly fit the prototype for what NBA teams are looking for at his position, but you can't rule out players in his mold with sky-high basketball IQs, a polished jump shot and a competitive streak. He's in a perfect situation to develop, playing in one of the great European basketball schools, and probably will emerge as a prospect down the line once he proves his game can translate to senior competition.
• Senegalese power forward Amar Sylla had a productive weekend, doing all the dirty work while still managing to show impressive potential in all other facets of the game. The 6-10 Real Madrid product was arguably the best overall athlete at the camp, blessed with exceptional mobility, pogo stick explosiveness and a much more polished skill set than you normally see in African players his age. He has good hands, soft touch out to the 3, a solid feel for the game and a very good motor. It will be interesting to see how Sylla's frame evolves, but he made a strong impression at both this camp and at the Adidas Next Generation Tournament in Belgrade last month.
• Australian Josh Green, a late addition to the camp as part of the NBA Academy roster, was clearly one of the most talented prospects in attendance. The 6-6 strong-framed combo guard is a tremendous athlete who shows great versatility as a ball handler, passer and defender, even if his outside shot remains a work in progress. This is his third appearance in front of NBA executives in the past four months. While the recruiting services don't appear to share the same level of enthusiasm for his talent level as NBA scouts, Green is building an outstanding résumé for himself as a potential lottery pick heading into the 2020 draft. He told us he will return to IMG Academy for his senior year of high school.
• Fellow Australian Tamuri Wigness joined Green to form one of the most athletic backcourts at the camp. He isn't blessed with great size but is a blur in the open court and creating offense from a stand-still and can put tremendous pressure on the ball defensively. His jump shot and decision-making skills are a work in progress, but the aggressive guard showed enough flashes in those areas to be optimistic about his future, even as a NBA prospect potentially if he continues to progress.
• One of the biggest breakout performances of the camp was delivered by 6-11 Bahamian power forward Kai Jones, who was discovered by the NBA at their Basketball Without Borders Americas camp a year ago after being spotted in a local gym. Jones, who grew up running track and field between seventh and 10th grade, has grown five inches in the past two years, and is still at a very early stage of development compared to most of his peers. Nevertheless, it is difficult not to be excited about the long-term potential he possesses considering his impressive frame, long arms, excellent athleticism and surprisingly versatile skill set. Jones can shoot the ball spotting up and off the dribble, has solid ballhandling skills and showed significant potential defensively with his combination of length, mobility and excellent instincts getting in the passing lanes and protecting the rim. He switches onto guards, sitting down in a stance and moving his feet with long rangy strides.
After having one highly productive outing against a relatively low level of competition in the first day, Jones came back to earth to an extent in the second and third days, showing why he's still more of a project for the college level. His body is still at a very early stage of development, and he tends to get knocked off balance easily against stronger players. His extreme lack of experience definitely showed, as the game moves a little too fast for him at times and he's very unpolished on the offensive end in particular. With that said, it's important to remember how much of a late bloomer he is. After skipping a grade in high school, Jones is on track to do a post-graduate year at the well-respected Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. Expect him to go from lightly recruited 3-star prospect to a hot name in high school circles very soon.
• The destination of next year's camp was already a hot topic among attendees, with the new NBA-caliber practice facility built in Valencia, Spain, rumored to be one potential option.
• While very pleased with the weekend as a whole, NBA scouts mentioned they would like to see the rosters opened up next year beyond strictly those prospects who have made themselves eligible for that year's draft. International agents in attendance expressed a degree of frustration with the fact that the NBA didn't make it clear before the early entry deadline that only players who submitted their name for the draft would be eligible. A number of younger prospects who could have added significant intrigue to the camp, as well as many U.S.-based internationals, were not in attendance for that reason. Unless this rule is changed, expect a flood of prospects to submit their names for the draft next year as players jockey for spots at this camp.
• It was fascinating to see players from different countries, who each play their own unique style of basketball, go head to head. It is difficult at times to gauge the level of international players who compete in leagues that aren't as gifted physically as others, or play against younger and inexperienced players. Having an 18-year old like Sanon match up with much older players certainly provided a lot of value.
• In speaking with many of the campers in attendance, it was mentioned several times that one of the highlights of the weekend was the ability to work with some highly respected NBA assistant coaches who brought a very positive and different approach than many had previously encountered in drills, practices and games. That group was made up of Dan Burke (Indiana Pacers), Chris Fleming (Brooklyn Nets), Dan Craig (Miami Heat), Rex Kalamian (Toronto Raptors), Melvin Hunt (Atlanta Hawks), Brendan O'Connor (LA Clippers), Vin Bhavnani (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Mark Madsen (Los Angeles Lakers). A number of assistant coaches who cut their teeth in Treviso in previous years have gone on to become NBA head coaches later, such as Kenny Atkinson, J.B. Bickerstaff, Terry Stotts, Dave Joerger, Igor Kokoskov and Jay Triano. It wouldn't be a surprise to see some of the coaches here do the same down the road.
• It became clear that one of the smartest moves the NBA has made in recent years is partnering with the Australian Center of Excellence (CoE) for their recently formed NBA Global Academy in Canberra. A total of 16 Australians made up the 81 players in attendance, and their fundamentals, competitiveness, feel and unselfishness lifted up the level of play considerably, making the games featuring the younger prospects far more enjoyable to watch. The Australian system of developing basketball players, both physically and skill-wise, is quickly becoming one of the most respected methods on the planet, along with the Spanish school, as they seem to get the most of their talent pool year after year. The CoE (previously known in basketball circles as the Australian Institute of Sport [AIS]) was led by head coach Adam Caporn, who impressed some of the NBA executives in attendance with his demeanor.