NBA draft: Are there international prospects beyond France fans should keep an eye on? Oui!


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France isn't the only country producing top prospects for the NBA — it just sort of seems that way.

Victor Wembanyama was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft a year ago and went on to win the league's Rookie of the Year award.

Two more Frenchmen — Alexandre Sarr and Zaccharie Risacher — are projected top picks Wednesday night in the draft. Tidjane Salaun is another potential lottery pick from France, and Pacome Dadiet could go late in the first round.

But the international pool extends beyond France. Other prospects include Nikola Topic and Nikola Djurisic of Serbia, Bobi Klintman of Sweden, Juan Nunez of Spain and Ulrich Chomche of Cameroon.

Here's a closer look:

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a partially torn ACL but is still projected to be a first-round pick. He doesn't turn 19 until August. He was projected as a top-five prospect early in the 2023-24 season following his performance with Belgrade club Mega — Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic 's old team. Topic made a midseason move back to his original club Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) to play alongside one of his idols, Milos Teodosic, and to get some meaningful minutes in the Euroleague. But he missed time with a left knee injury — before the ACL issue that came later.

"I'm working on my rehab with the knee injury, and that's the main focus right now," Topic said in a video call with reporters on June 4 from the NBA's pre-draft camp in Treviso, Italy. "After that, I'll work on basketball. ... I've been doing (the) weight room. It's not 100% healed. I haven't started running or practicing with (the) basketball. The focus is on my rehab, on my knee and on my body mainly."

In the latest AP NBA mock draft, Topic is projected to be selected 15th. He needs to improve his 3-point shooting — as he shot around 30% last season. He averaged 14.5 points, 5.5 assists and 2.3 turnovers per game in an injury-shortened season.

The 6-7 small forward has logged major minutes the past two years as a starter with Mega, where he was teammates with Topic for part of last season. The 20-year-old Djurisic improved his 3-point shooting this season but still shot just 30.5% overall — and 33.6% in 30 Adriatic League games. He averaged 14.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.2 steals and 3.2 turnovers.

In an interview with the Indiana Pacers when he visited there for a pre-draft workout, the 209-pound Djurisic said he is trying to show that he is a "three-level scorer, can defend multiple positions, can switch 1 to 4." He says he's "definitely a creator" on the floor "who cares about finding open teammates." He's projected as a second-round pick.

The 21-year-old Swede played this past season in Australia as part of the National Basketball League's " Next Stars " program. A versatile 6-foot-9 forward, Klintman shot 36% from from 3-point range in 23 NBL games for the Cairns Taipans while averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. The 212-pound Klintman played one season at Wake Forest and withdrew from last year's draft. The AP mock draft predicts Klintman going toward the end of the first round.

After developing through Real Madrid's youth system, the 6-4 point guard played with Ratiopharm Ulm in Germany the past two seasons. The lefthander shot 31.9% from 3-point range in both of his seasons there.

The 20-year-old Nunez has shown improvement. He averaged 9.9 points, 4.9 assists and 2.3 turnovers in 2023-24 and in 15 Eurocup games he upped those numbers to 10.8 points, 5.7 assists and shot 35% from beyond the arc. A crafty pick-and-roll playmaker, the 205-pound Nunez lacks explosiveness. He's not an elite defender but can be disruptive on that end of the floor. Nunez shot only 60.7% from the free throw line last season. Most mock drafts predict Nunez as a second-round pick, which could make a draft-and-stash candidate.

The 6-10 center is trying to become the first NBA Academy student-athlete to go directly to an NBA team. The 232-pound Chomche just barely qualifies for this draft — he turns 19 on Dec. 30.

He has played in two seasons of the Basketball Africa League. Chomche was preparing for a third season but withdrew when he received an invitation to the NBA combine. In three BAL qualification games playing for the academy's team, he averaged 13 points, nine rebounds and 2.7 blocks. His game is often described as " raw," because of limitations on the offensive end. With a 7-foot-4 wingspan, he can certainly block shots and protect the rim, though. Africa academy alums Babacar Sané of Senegal and Thierry Darlan of the Central African Republic left for the G League Ignite. Sané is in the draft; Darlan had declared but withdrew.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba

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Ken Maguire

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