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NBL Prospect Watch

In the latest installment of ‘P.I. Pulse,’ Pro Insight’s Drake U’u reflects on his own time playing professionally in Australia, provides an update on the latest NBL happenings through Round 15, and covers the top prospects currently playing “down under,” highlighting what should make them appealing to NBA teams:

As I reflect on my brief time in the NBL with the Perth Wildcats, I feel incredibly privileged and grateful to have played in one of the best basketball leagues in the world. As I transitioned into an NBA front office in Sacramento, I had always felt that the league was a hidden gem for scouting talent. Fast forward six years, and it is truly special to see the league gain the relevance and respect it deserves. From James Ennis, to Torrey Craig; from Jae’Sean Tate, to the number-three pick in the 2020 NBA draft, LaMelo Ball — the NBL has proven to be a hotspot for attracting and developing talent.

While it may not be known as the most athletic league, the NBL is one of the more physical and intelligent levels I’ve evaluated. With the recent success of former players translating to the NBA, the NBL is undoubtedly a league that requires attention. I love Australian players. They have a tremendous amount of pride in the team, they are disciplined and tough, and most importantly they care about winning. Every game is a battle, regardless of where teams find themselves in the standings. Coaches and management teach discipline and players hold each other accountable.

As my boy Corey “Homicide” Williams says, “The NBL ain’t no cupcake league!” The NBL is the real deal, and it is here to stay.

Let’s talk prospects.

2021 Draft Prospects

Josh Giddey, 6’8 PG, Adelaide 36ers

11.1 PPG, 7.1 REB, 7.4 AST, .420 FG, .308 3P

Giddey has quickly emerged as one of my favorite players in this year’s draft. At just 18 years of age, Giddey plays with tremendous poise, pace, and maturity. He has great positional size as a PG which allows him to get to his spots and keep defenders on his hip as he makes his reads. Great feel for the game offensively. I love his ability to play in the pick-and-roll with his size. He’s rarely rushed or rattled by pressure, and his vision is special. Giddey is extremely comfortable off the bounce, making plays with either hand and delivering precise passes to teammates. So much of his game translates to the next level, and it’s hard not to see glimpses of LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, and Joe Ingles. He has shown the ability to make open shots with his feet set or off the dribble, although this is a major area for growth in his game. Mechanically, his shot looks comfortable and should improve with repetition and confidence. He’s capable of finishing around the rim, but this is an area he needs to improve consistency in as well — specifically through contact and length.

Defensively, he also has room for improvement — although the majority of his deficiencies should improve as he gains strength and improves focus and effort on this end. After watching a handful of his games this year — including his most recent performance against the NBL’s number-one seed Melbourne United where he posted a triple-double (he and LaMelo are the two youngest players to achieve this in NBL history) — it is clear that Giddey has real game and is a top prospect in this year’s class.

Mojave King, 6’5 SG, Cairns Taipans

4.9 PPG, 2.0 REB, 0.6 AST, .360 FG, .286 3P

Mojave is an interesting young prospect with some upside as a perimeter defender at the next level. Physically, he has a great frame for his age and plays with a good motor on both ends. He possesses plus-athleticism and length and has shown some ability to knock down open shots. Unlike Giddey, however, his feel for the game is still developing and his decision making with the ball needs to improve. Ironically, his strongest game of the season came against Adelaide, where he and Giddey matched up and he finished with a season-high 14 points and 5 rebounds in 27 minutes. His minutes have been sporadic, but as my Pro Insight colleague Henry Ward recently pointed out, he is a prospect worth tracking in the second round.

NBA Prospects

Justinian Jessup, 6’7 SG, Illawarra Hawks (Golden State Warriors)

14.7 PPG, 4.2 REB, 2.0 AST, .457 FG, .403 3P

Jessup has had an efficient rookie season with the Illawarra Hawks. The Golden State’s draft-and-stash prospect has been doing what he does best: shoot at an elite level with size. He’s connected on over 40% of his three-point attempts on the year, on nearly six tries per contest. He’s always on balance and has great footwork to quickly get into his shot. He moves well without the ball and most importantly, he doesn’t need the ball to be effective. He’s shown nice improvement off the bounce and an ability to defend his position. I think this was a nice pickup by Golden State in last year’s second round. He fits from a stylistic standpoint and immediately adds a floor spacer to their group.

Didi Louzada, 6’5 SG, Sydney Kings (New Orleans Pelicans)

8.8 PPG, 3.4 REB, 1.9 AST, .391 FG, .264 3P

Despite similar numbers across the board from his rookie season — and a significant dip in his three-point shooting percentage, I still like Louzada’s potential as an NBA prospect. He has a great NBA frame and the ability to guard either guard spot. He plays with great passion and a motor on both ends. He has a decent feel for moving without the ball and for the most part, plays to his strengths. He is aggressive and unafraid, and when he is making shots can likely find his way on to an NBA floor. While he isn’t quite the floor spacer that Josh Hart is yet, I can see him filling a similar role. Looking forward to seeing how the Next Stars prospect progresses.

Jock Landale, 6’10 C, Melbourne United

15.8 PPG, 8.1 REB, 2.5 AST, .526 FG, .365 3P

Landale has been on my radar since his Saint Mary’s playing days and I’m confident in his ability to play on an NBA roster. There’s a lot to love about everything that he brings to a locker room — from his game to his professionalism. Since graduating from college, he has transformed his body and become more agile, and most importantly has expanded his range to the perimeter (shooting nearly 37 percent from 3P range this season on nearly four attempts per game). More skilled than he is an athlete, but moves well for his size and has great touch over either shoulder in the post. He sets great screens, has an exceptional feel for the game and a knack for making winning plays. Definitely a prospect who is ready for the next level.

Cam Oliver, 6’8 PF, Cairns Taipans

17.3 PPG, 10.0 REB, 1.2 AST, .495 FG, .319 3P, 1.3 BLK

I’m a huge advocate for players testing the G-League for a season or two after college, and if they don’t receive a call-up, taking their game overseas to continue developing, maturing, and