With the wide range of movement in the stock of college freshmen and international prospects, it is too early to provide reasonable rankings of prospects for the 2015 NBA Draft. November and December are crucial months as college newcomers and international players rising up a level get their first major minutes against other potential NBA players in a wholly team-oriented environment. The 2015 international class looks a little behind recent years, but surprises could emerge as they did last season. Here are 11 international prospects who have the best chance of being selected in this year's draft:
Potential Lottery Picks
Emmanuel Mudiay (19 on draft day), PG, Congo (6' 5, 200)
Guangdong Southern Tigers-Chinese League
Playing with Yi Jianlian on a Chinese powerhouse, Mudiay will be playing against former NBA malcontents Stephon Marbury, Michael Beasley, and Delonte West. Mudiay originally signed and enrolled at SMU to play for Larry Brown, but eventually took the Brandon Jennings route to go ahead and get paid to play basketball. It is difficult to believe it was the best decision for his development, but it should not harm his status of being a top-5 selection. Emmanuel has elite physical tools on the defensive end with a frame that can defend wing players. He is still seeking balance on how to facilitate as a floor leader while aggressively attacking the rim. A broken shot prevents Mudiay from being a "can't miss" prospect, but he is pretty close due to his ability on the defensive end and growth as a leader. In a draft weak on point guards, he should easily be the first floor leader selected. Early highlights from his season in China can be seen at DraftExpress.
Kristaps Porzingis (19), PF, Latvia (7'0, 220)
Porzingis was the fastest rising international prospect prior to withdrawing from the 2014 NBA Draft. He is a great athlete who has played well against more experienced players in Spain despite lacking the physical toughness necessary to compete at the highest level. He has a solid face-up game in the post and possesses strong instincts as a defender. If he gets tougher and stronger, he could become a multi-tool player on both ends of the floor. He has a streaky shot from long range that could be deadly if he gains consistency as he matures. He is probably a lock to go in the lottery this year, but could go in the top 5 if early returns of improved physicality in this season are carried throughout the year.
Marc Garcia (19), SG, Spain (6' 6" 180)
Reminds me some of Tyler Ennis in how he handles himself on the court. He is a little underwhelming as an athlete, but has enough athleticism to translate to the NBA. Good, but not deadly shooter from outside that needs to improve his mid-range jumper. He looks like he belongs at every level he plays, but does not stand out. He has a strong handle and delivers the basketball well for an off-guard. There are plenty of questions about his athletic ability and slight frame, but the latter may be a product of his age. A borderline lottery pick, Garcia can gain ground this season by proving that he is not as soft as some perceive.
Egemen Guven (18), PF, Turkey (6' 9, 210)
Guven will be one of the youngest prospect eligible for the draft . This could mean a delay until 2016 for declaring himself eligible. He is an athletic and skilled big who possesses excellent hands, works hard, and has developed quickly. He has a strong enough combination of skill and ability to be taken in the top 25 this year. He could go higher if he shows better acumen as a rebounder. Conventional thinking has Guven being a lottery pick in 2016, but that could change if teams evaluate him as a lottery value this year.
Mario Hezonja (20), SG, Croatia (6' 8 200)
Potential…potential…potential. It keep Hezonja on the board due to bursts of stardom within a mess of unnecessary dribbles, clanking rims, and defensive naps. He has a noticeable swagger about him that is intriguing when things go well, yet repulsive when he is biting at teammates while making sloppy mistakes. Mario has a great first step, smooth stroke, and elite overall skill. Unfortunately, his lack of resiliency leaves Hezonja's rate of development on a disappointing curve. Some have put his potential on par with Dario Saric, but his odds of being great are equal to the odds he remains a disappointment.
Potential First-Round Selections
Ilimane Diop (20), C, Senegal (6' 11, 225)
Diop has a rare combination of size, athleticism, and coordination. It is easy to get excited about how smooth he moves in highlights, but he is not yet a basketball player. He does the simple things well which permits him to use his physical advantage over inferior opponents. He is the type of developmental project that could go a lot of different ways depending upon how well he builds off the basics. A likely candidate to be drafted and stashed for development will probably leave his falling to the second round. However, a team that believes he is close to being ready or wants the financial flexibility of stashing a first-round slot may want to take him earlier.
Mouhammadou Jaiteh (20), C, France (6' 11, 249)
With chiseled frame and a 7'4 wingspan, Jaiteh does not look like the typical European big. Despite an imposing physique, he plays stiff and comes off as disinterested. He has shown more aggression against stronger competition, but currently moves too slowly on the defensive end to impact games against elite athletes. This deficiency limits him to being a second-round prospect, but he could rise fast due to his size with a strong season on the defensive end. He is a player that has a certain spark about him that leaves me intrigued about him eventually figuring things out. I would not be surprised if he delivers a breakout season.
Guillermo Hernangomez (20), C, Spain (6' 11, 255)
Hernangomez fits the more stereotypical image of a European big. "Wily" has plus offensive skills, a good frame, and mature approach to the game. He is limited athletically and does not have an elite skill readily translatable to the NBA. He appears to be more of a third post player who can provide solid depth to an NBA bench. He has played strong competition internationally and proven himself as a legitimate professional. His experience is enough to get him on an NBA roster, but unlikely to carry him above the top 40 players taken. However, in a draft lacking depth, a playoff-caliber team could select in hope of finding an affordable player late in the first round who may be capable of playing in the back of the rotation.
Nikola Milutinov (20), C, Serbia (6'11, 220)
Struggled with Jahlil Okafor at the 2013 Under-19 Championships, but so did every other post prospect. Otherwise, he impressed as he started at center for the Serbian team that finished as runner-up to the United States. Milutinov showed enough athletically to track as a future NBA player. Nikola does not currently possess range, but shows potential to expand his shot beyond the perimeter. He is not ready to be a two-way post player due to a thin frame or a stretch player due to an absence of range, but the potential to develop both has him on the board. A strong season in the Adriatic League could see him rise up boards in a way similar to Kristaps Porzingis last season.
Second-Rounders Without Option to Withdraw
Nenad Miljenovic (22), PG, Serbia (6' 4, 200)
Nenad plays with 2014 NBA Draft pick Nikola Jokic for a strong team in the Adriatic League that was full of prospects last season. He tried to play college basketball in the United States but was never assured NCAA eligibility. Miljenovic is a strong leader and facilitator, but he is an average athlete without an elite skill. He does not currently possess the skill set to be useful off of an NBA bench and does not have the athleticism to compete as a starter. If undrafted, he is the type of player whose maturity and professionalism could lead to being signed as a free agent in a couple of years.
Luka Mitrovic (22), PF, Serbia (6' 8, 200)
Luka is a "stretch 4" who can defend the perimeter a little bit, but struggles in the post. He is terrible with the ball in his hands which leaves him little chance of playing on the wing offensively. He is not a young prospect at this point, but has some unrealized potential trapped in the limitations of not having a clear position. An improved handle and greater display of toughness could secure him being selected in his last season of eligibility. Mitrovic has the physical ability to make a team look brilliant for selecting him in the second round, but has not shown enough skill to be considered more than a developmental flyer based upon his present level of skill for his age.