As you probably know if you like to keep track of the world’s top professional basketball league, the NBA is in something of a golden age. The league is raking in money, interest is at an all-time high and climbing, there are countless stars in their primes, and the quality of the game is about as fun as it’s ever been. Rather than resting on its laurels, however, the NBA appears to be ready to change and improve at all times and in any way – a result of the forward-thinking, almost entrepreneurial commissioner Adam Silver.
For one thing, there’s growing buzz about NBA expansion. It’s not something that would be done lightly, but a league thriving like this might be wise to add a team or two. Earlier this year an article specifically aimed at the Seattle crowd (which used to have the SuperSonics) noted that expansion talk is heating up. The thinking is that the United States’ West and East coasts would each get a new team (potentially in Seattle and Louisville, respectively). It’s just educated speculation for now, but it’s certainly interesting.
We also know that the NBA is pushing rather aggressively for new revenue streams. Late in 2017, the NBA came out in support of legalizing sports betting in the U.S. Details are a little bit hazy, but the NBA basically wants one percent of all revenue tied to betting on basketball activity, which would make for a fairly lucrative new source of income – particularly if the league were running its own app, or providing betting options through the existing official NBA app. This should all be easier now that the U.S. Supreme Court has officially legalized sports betting.
As much as the NBA is looking to expand and improve on its own, however, there’s also another shift happening in the league that’s not a result of any specific organizational effort. The NBA has more international players making major contributions, and still more arriving with each passing year. Once upon a time it was unusual for international players to be considered high up in the NBA draft, at least without a great degree of skepticism. Now, however, Europeans and other international players are routinely projected high in the first round.
This bodes well for Tomer Levinson, a young but very promising prospect we wrote about last month who has his sights set on the NBA (and possibly the 2022 draft). Already 6’10’’ with a nice skill set and some solid accomplishments to his name, Levinson is going to have a chance. In the meantime however, here are some of the international NBA prospects who are helping to pave the way for him, for anyone interested.
Luka Doncic (Slovenia) – Widely viewed as the best NBA prospect to come out of Europe in many years, if not ever, Doncic will be in this year’s draft. The Slovenian and Real Madrid standout is expected to be picked in the top five and should impact an NBA roster next season.
Dzanan Musa (Bosnia & Herzegovina) – Dzanan Musa, too, will be in this year’s draft, and is perhaps a decent gauge as to what scouts will say about Levinson. Levinson will likely be taller by the time he’s drafted in 2022, but for now they’re vaguely similar players. Musa profiles as a versatile scorer who will play multiple positions.
Sekou Doumbouya (France) – A potential top-five pick in the 2019 draft (per a leading NBA Draft website), Doumbouya is 6’9’’ already with room to grow and a very athletic frame. He’s a talented scorer with the potential to become a do-it-all forward in today’s NBA if his game can be refined somewhat.
Luka Samanic (Croatia) – Luka Samanic isn’t quite so highly touted as others on this list, and could elect to stay in Europe a few more years. However, he’ll ultimately have the size to play as a center in the NBA, and has the ability to stretch the floor as a shooter. He could be a poor man’s Kristaps Porzingis.
Chol Marial (South Sudan) – Standing 7’2’’ and not even 20 years old yet, Chol Marial is a player the whole world will begin to hear more about in the coming years. A bit like Joel Embiid before him, he’s only recently picked up basketball but has shown flashes of skill. There’s work yet to be done, including building muscle, but Marial will be a potential top-five NBA selection in 2020 or 2021.
Killian Hayes (France) – Hayes is a tall, long point guard prospect out of France who has a chance to shoot up draft boards. He’s a creative and very quick player who can change a game on his own. Scouts say his shooting needs to improve, but he’s a different sort of European prospect.
There are more international prospects of course, but with the NBA’s growing trust of non-American players, these are guys you could hear about a lot in the coming years. And with a bit of progress and a bit of luck, Tomer Levinson will be next on the list.