By Hocine LOUKKAF on 7/22/2021
In an event loaded with prospects, French big man Victor Wembanyama proved the hype was deserved despite being two years youngers than most players.
Victor Wembanyama, 7-3 PF/C, 2004, France
Stats : 14pts 7.4rbds 5.7bl 78% FT
Probably the best prospect since Lebron James, Wembanyama was dominant despite his youth. His height, fluidity and timing allows him to protect the rim like no other with the best shot blocking number ever in a FIBA competition and all the while playing only 22min per game. On offense, Wembanyama could have shot better from three with a poor 18% 3pt but his 78% from the foul line is a better indicator of the stretch big he can become. He’s also able to handle and pass the ball like a wing and will keep improving. His main weakness right now is his lack of strength as he was a bit bullied by Lofton Jr in the championship game Yet, over the two years that separate him from his first draft, he will be able to gain strength and experience as he has signed with Euroleague and Tony Parker’s owned LDLC ASVEL.
Chet Holmgren, 7-0 PF, 2002, USA
Stats : 11.9pts 6.1rbds 3.3as 2.7bl 53.8% 3pt
If it wasn’t for Wembanyama, Holmgren’s MVP title wouldn’t be discussed. The Gonzaga-bound big man was consistent, showing a high motor and great versatility. He also shot well from outside and protect the rim like no other not called Wembanyama. The final against France exposed him a bit as he struggled with 9pts 2rbds on 3/8 FG against the French unicorn. Holmgren remains the potential top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and has the opportunity to fight for an NCAA title with Gonzaga.
Nikola Jovic, 6-10 PF/SF, 2003, Serbia
Stats : 20.7pts 8.3rbds 2.9as 1.7bl 36% 3pt
At 6-10, Jovic has the size and talent to be your modern stretch big with nice handles and solid shooting (36% from three on almost five attempts per game). He also displayed good ability to create for his teammates with a positive a/to ratio. Once that said, Jovic will face the same issue as many European stretch bigs on defense as he may lack the flexibility to get in a stance and defend smaller/quicker opponents. Playing for well known Mega Bemax in Serbia, all will be done to have him drafted in the 2022 draft, a real possibility regarding his combination of skills and physical tools.
Caleb Houstan, 6-9 SF, 2003, Canada
Stats : 17pts 5.7rbds 2.4as 2.3st 85% FT
A versatile SF with length at his size, the Michigan-bound prospect led Canada on offense over solid NCAA players like Nembhard or Mathurin despite struggling badly from what is supposed to be his elite strength, outside shooting. Shooting 3/11 from three against Lithuania, 1/7 against Spain or 0/8 in the 3rd place game against Serbia, Houstan will need to prove in college that this kind of drought will never happen again because despite his skills, he doesn’t have the kind of athleticism to match his supposed elite shooting.
Bennedict Mathurin, 6-7 SF, 2002, Canada
Stats : 16pts 4rbds 34% 3pt
Less skilled than his teammate Houstan, Mathurin displayed better atheticism and had a better 3pt %, albeit inconsistently (two games with 60% or better from three, five with 20% or below). He’s also interesting as he can play both SG and SF spots. Not an elite talent but a solid prospect who could end up a first rounder next year if he keeps working.
Khalifa Diop, 6-11 PF/C, 2002, Senegal
Stats : 14pts 9.4rbds 1.7bl
The Gran Canaria product started slowly but exploded once Ibou Badji left as he had three 20+pt-games to finish the competition. Diop displayed good court vision and the ability to protect the rim. A potential first rounder in 2022.
Dyson Daniels, 6-6 SG/PG, 2003, Australia
Stats : 14pts 5.3rbds 4.6as
Very similar to Dallas’ rookie and fellow Australian Josh Green, Daniels displays nice physical tools at his position and versatility. Like Green, his shooting is still a work in progress and his 62% FT are not encouraging. He’s signed to play in the G League so it will be interesting to see how he fares against pros.
Ibou Badji, 7-1 C 2002, Senegal
Stats : 14pts 10.3rbds 4.3bl
After three games where he displayed his rim-protecting ability, but also his poor IQ and FT shooting (0.3as and 43% FT), Badji decided to leave for the US for some draft workouts, not the most professionnal act (except if he warned the Senegalese federation he was going to leave). The Barcelona prospect remains the same raw physical freak but still has ways to go to develop as he did a pretty good job against Lithuania, dominating physically, but struggled against Canadian giant Edey. He was not so long ago projected to be a top ten pick but has slipped since then and even decided to withdraw his name from the 2021 draft.
Jaden Ivey, 6-3 SG/PG, 2002, USA
Stats : 12.3pts
An electric guard with tremendous athleticism, Ivey was unstoppable for most guards in this competition, as he proved it against France after a bad game against Canada. What prevents Ivey from being really unstoppable is his inconsistency from three with 28% 3pt including three games where he didn’t hit any. He will also need to improve his IQ and passing ability at Purdue as it could open him the doors to the NBA in the years to come.
Phillip Wheeler, 6-7 SF, 2002, Puerto Rico
Stats : 15.5pts 7.2rbds 35% 3pt
Not the most famous prospect, Wheeler is your perfect 3 and D with great size and athleticsm at the SF position. His outside shot is already decent with almost 35% from three and he’s been active on defense with 1.7st and 1bl per game. His FT shot needs refining with a poor 52% and he needs to improve his IQ as he posted a negative a/to ratio. It will be hard to evaluate him as he chose exotic destinations to play pro with contract in Argentina and Puerto Rico but the potential is there.
Honorable mention :
Juan Nunez (PG, Spain, 2004) looks like a younger Rubio with inconsistent shooting but poise beyond the years. French backcourt mates Jayson Tchicamboud (6-5 PG/SG, 2002) and Matthew Strazel (6-0 PG, 2002) were the best supporting cast for Wembanyama as Tchicamboud brings size and shooting at both guard spots while Strazel already has Euroleague experience and, despite his lack of size or elite athleticism, knows how to put pressure on the opponent PG. Serbian guard Nikola Djurisic‘ stats were not the most impressive but the 2004-born shot an impressive 4/6 from three in the combined 44min he spent on the court while dishing at least 2as in each of the three games he played in. Finally, despite their efficiency in that tournament, oversized center Kenny Lofton Jr (6-7, USA 2002) and Canadian giant Zack Edey (7-3, C, 2002) will have plenty of playing time with Louisiana Tech and Purdue to prove NBA scouts wrong despite their old school game and lack of shooting and defensive “switchability”.
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