May 18, 2024
Home » Ranking NBL x NBA Draft Prospects | Pre-Blitz

Ranking NBL x NBA Draft Prospects | Pre-Blitz

Photo: FIBA

The NBL Blitz is just days away from tipping off in Surfers Paradise and at least 25 NBA teams will be represented, with some teams flying multiple scouts to look at talent down under.

Here, I rank draft prospects for the upcoming 2024 NBA Draft who currently play in Australia and New Zealand.

(Honorable Mention) Rocco Zikarsky

Team: Brisbane Bullets

Position: Centre

Projection: Lottery (2025 Draft)

Rocco Zikarsky is or is going to be, the tallest (recorded) Australian to ever exist. And if we know one thing about basketball, it is that “you can’t teach height”. But the seven foot three centre is more than just a big body.

His feel for the game on both ends is extraordinary for a 17-year-old, and his speed for his size makes him a top prospect for the 2025 draft.

He won’t be Brisbane’s primary big man this season, sitting behind Boomers great Aron Baynes and Kiwi Tyrell Harrison in the depth chart. This season, in a collegiate context, is more of a ‘red shirt’ season for Zikarsky. Developing his body, adding more size and making him more professionally ready to match up with polished big men in both NBL and soon the NBA.

(1) Alexandre Sarr

Team: Perth Wildcats

Position: Big

Projection: Top 10

Standing at seven foot one, with a seven-five wingspan… need I say anymore? Alex Sarr sees the ball like a volleyball and swats it with no regard for human life!

In all seriousness, Sarr is easily the best prospect in the league for this upcoming draft. While coming into Perth being touted as a defensive specialist, the French big showed his class on both sides of the court during the Wildcats games in Las Vegas versus the G-League Ignite.

In game one he had 17 points, seven rebounds and six blocks, but in game two, he really exploded. 26 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks again, blasting himself into potential number one pick contention.

I’m a bit more of a realist than others and it’s extremely early days, but Sarr is the prototype of a modern-day NBA big and teams will draft him off his body and athleticism alone regardless of the numbers he puts up.

(2) Bobi Klintman

Team: Cairns Taipans

Position: Forward

Projection: First Round

When you think of Sweden, what do you think of? IKEA? Zlatan Ibrahimovic? ABBA?

You don’t think of basketball, let alone a six-foot-ten versatile forward with lottery potential.

That is what Bobi Klintman is. After one year at NCAA collegiate program Wake Forest, Klintman ditched North Carolina for tropical Far North Queensland and Adam Forde’s young Taipans.

Forde called him “the current NBA obsession – He’s the prototype – A six foot ten wing who can shoot the three and defend multiple positions.”

He most likely won’t start for Cairns this season, but he will definitely play big minutes across the four, the three and potentially the five. To compare him to a previous next star, think of Ousmane Dieng for NZ a few years ago. A player with the height of a centre who can shoot the three and moves like a guard.

(3) AJ Johnson

Team: Illawarra Hawks

Position: Guard

Projection: Late First Round

This season’s first new next star, AJ Johnson is a six foot six athletic guard that will likely come off the bench for Illawarra behind import guards Justin Robinson and Tyler Harvey, but that will not stop him from seasing opportunity this season.

Originally committing to Texas before joining the Hawks, Johnson is still unproven against bigger bodies, but draft experts have had him as high as the lottery in this season’s draft.

A broken nose won’t stop him from playing in the NBL Blitz, and he’ll be able to show his talents to a wide range of NBA scouts and front office staffers.

(4) Trentyn Flowers

Team: Adelaide 36ers

Position: Guard/Wing

Projection: Late First-Early Second Round

Trentyn Flowers was the last next star signed for this upcoming season, and it came relatively out of nowhere. Uncommitting from Louisville, Flowers main reason to leave and come to the NBL was to ‘play the point guard’.

Despite saying he is one, Flowers throughout his high school journey rarely played the lead ball-handler role. In fact, he was recruited by colleges as a wing with his six foot eight frame.

You could see in their pre-season game against Brisbane that he is not used to the pressure put on him when bringing the ball up the floor.

No doubt that he is a great prospect and athlete, but being a starting point guard on an NBL team as a teenager is only for the elite of the elite. And it doesn’t bring winning basketball.

CJ Bruton has given him the keys of the team but it could spell disaster for both the team and his draft stock.

(5) Alex Toohey

Team: Sydney Kings

Position: Forward

Projection: Skips 2024 draft, First Round in 2025

Toohey, like the previous two named, uncommitted from a big basketball school (Gonzaga) and decided to stay home in Australia and sign with the Sydney Kings.

The man from Canberra has been a part of the Boomers program for a couple of the last qualifier windows, showcasing his talent in limited minutes. But he was able to play a major role in the Institute of Sport / Centre of Excellence team in the NBL1 East conference this past season.

He averaged 17.9 points, 5.8 rebounds on 56% shooting from the field, being the team’s second leading scorer behind new Perth Wildcat Ben Henshall.

He is a three/four that potentially with a more developed body, has the potential to play the small-ball five. Toohey’s scoring ability is his greatest asset, being able to score from all three positions and being a great low post operator.

I can see him skipping the 2024 draft but he will be one of the higher prospects coming into the 2025 class.

(6) Ariel Hukporti

Team: Melbourne United

Position: Centre

Projection: Second Round, Two-Way

We know about Hukporti’s story as the German centre didn’t commit to the 2022 draft to return to United, just to miss the entire NBL23 season due to an achilles injury sustained in the Blitz.

But from all reports inside the Melbourne camp, he’s come back stronger, faster and better than before. He will have most of the first half of the season to impress NBA teams as United’s starting five as Jo Lual-Acuil returns from a wrist injury.

We know from his NBL22 season that he is NBA ready, but it’s whether or not teams want to jump at him given his age and his injury history.

(7) Mantas Rubstavicius

Team: New Zealand Breakers

Position: Wing

Projection: Undrafted, Two-Way

Rubstavicius is a straight bucket, no other way of saying it. Whether it is shooting from beyond the arc, driving in or pulling up for a midrange two, the man called Mantas gets it done. Makes it even more weird why the Breakers signed Justinian Jessup as an import.

He’ll most likely come off the bench with the logjam in the Breakers two through four positions, but he should get plenty of minutes throughout the season.

He could absolutely explode this season across the ditch and become a first round pick but that is extremely unlikely when he’s playing behind numerous star players.