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A look at this year’s international NBA draft class: Part 1, the point guards

Will Johnny Rogers and Tommy Sheppard go for a Euro prospect?

Real Madrid v LDLC Asvel Villeurbanne - Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Photo by Angel Martinez/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

Kevin Broom, our data guru, has argued that this year's NBA draft class is unusually weak. This may well be the case, though I tend to agree more with Danny Ainge. Of course Ainge’s rhetoric is biased as he is trying to get rid of some of the four picks the Celtics own in a (weak) draft, and, hey, who believes Danny Ainge any more when it comes to trades... At any rate, this won’t be my focus here. I will limit myself to one aspect of this year’s available prospects and I'll try to argue in this series that at least the international draft class is quite strong this year. I have the feeling Kevin’ll disagree, but only time will tell. The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks has expressed a similar opion to mine already pre-suspension.

In this 3-part series I’ll focus entirely on European markets, and evaluate also two players that may also be available as free agents outside the draft.

Washington Wizards General Manager Tommy Sheppard is as well positioned as any to take advantage of this year plethora of international talent. Among NBA GMs he is second to few in international scouting experience. Sometimes he hit (Tomas Satoransky) and sometimes he and/or Ernie Grunfeld whiffed (Jan Vesely, Issuf Sanon, Anžejs Pasečņiks). Moreover, this year Sheppard can take full advantage of the services of Johnny Rogers, who played extensively (and I mean absolutely extensively) in Europe and knows European hoops as well as almost anybody in the NBA.

I will go over nine players over the next three days as part of a three-part series. First, we will focus on the point guards.

Part 1 — Point Guards

Today, let’s dig in on three point guards (I mean 3 PGs).

Yam Madar

Yam Madar is 6’3”. In the Israeli League he averaged 8.0 points, 3.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 21.0 minutes, while shooting 43.8 percent from the field and 77.8 percent from the free throw line. He only shot 27.4 percent from deep.

Yam Madar is the best international point guard you’ve never heard of that is available in this year’s draft. He is a long shot to be drafted, but hey, anything can happen in 2020. He currently plays for Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the Israeli league and stands at 6’3”. He’s a good and rather quick ball-handler, who can up the pace/tempo in the style Scott Brooks likes (think Brandon Jennings). His strong suite is his unselfishness and his effort on D. His shot mechanics needs some work, but is already quite smooth (take a look here) and he is relatively good at finishing with contact at the rim. His 3 point shot definitely needs work. I have to say I like the kid, and I think he could one day be the third option for PG on an NBA team, but that is pretty much the ceiling I can see. Given this, I don’t see him being drafted before the 50’s; much more likely going undrafted. Yet, he could be an interesting propspect to sign on a two-way contract or on a small-scale contract. Especially if the team can get him to muscle up he might prove my ceiling projection was wrong.

Killian Hayes

Killian Hayes is a 6’5” point guard. In the EuroCup he averaged about 27 minutes in which he shot 50/39/91% for 12.8 pts/game along with 6.2 apg, 1.5 spg, 2.3 rbg.

Killian Hayes is a player I was telling everyone about a year ago when he was largely overlooked. It all started when I attended one of his games in the EuroCup (the secondary league of the EuroLeague). I had a chance to speak to his coaches and a couple NBA scouts that were there. The scouts were actually in town to see Deni Avdija (on whom I will write in part 3), and hopped by to see Killian. But that night I realized Killian is as much a star in the making as Deni is.

Just seeing the kind of confidence and swagger he radiated before the game and in the locker-room was enough for him to catch my eye. And then came the game. His team is, how to say, not the strongest team in Europe or even in the EuroCup itself (by the way, one of his teammates was Goran’s brother, Zoran Dragic). His coach was on his rookie year (Jaka Lakovic) and was clearly intimidated by the big stage. Yet Killian seemed right at home. Whenever he was on the court you could sense the team had purpose and played on a different level. In that sense he is definitely a PG that makes his teammates better. But he also has worked on an increasingly effective step-back 3 which makes it possible for him to find open teammates as he can create for himself (and in multiple ways). He’s left-handed too which is a plus. He finished that night with 25 points with 5/7 from deep to go with 5 assists, a steal, a block, 2 rebounds, and only 3 TOV in 29 minutes. I knew that evening that a star was born.

Just to shed any doubts off your mind, the Eurocup is not the NBA, but it is also a competition level at least as tough as most NCAA conferences or the G League.

There is no way Hayes is available at 9th. As far as I am concerned he is a top 5 pick, no questions asked. I don’t see the Wizards trading up for a PG since they feel (misguidedly) set at the PG spot. Heck, I even think they won’t draft him if he is available at 9. But that’s probably just me being bitter.

Theo Maledon

First, in the photo you see Maledon going up against Edy Tavares (a center I will take up in part 2).

Maledon is also 6’5”. In the EuroLeague he averaged about 18 minutes in which he shot 51/37/69% for 7.4 pts/game along with 3.1 apg, 0.3 spg, 1.8 rbg.

Let me start by saying this: Theo Maledon is likely to be available at 9th and I think the Wizards should draft him if he actually is. All year long scouts have been comparing him to Killian with him initially having the upper hand. For me it was clear all along that Killian should go higher, but it wasn’t until Spring that this began to be reflected in mock drafts. What can I say, I’m ahead of my times. (Kevin, stop throwing tomatoes at me.)

Theo is almost ambidextrous, but ultimately right handed. He has playing in tougher competition than Killian as played for Villeurbanne in the Euroleague. Villeurbanne is owned by former Spurs superstar Toni Parker, and Parker has been long viewing Maledon as his ultimate successor/heir.

The fact that Maledon’s stats are from the EuroLeague while Hayes’ are from the EuroCup certainly explains why Hayes’ stats look better. But don’t let that fool you: Maledon is an extremely promising PG who has high basketball IQ, court vision, and long hands on D. He is probably not as fast as Killian, and has a more introvert personality (I spoke to him earlier this year so I can attest to that, he is very shy and soft-spoken), so overall a bit less flashy. But I definitely see his ceiling as a starting PG in the league. His floor I think is a backup PG.