The five best European NBA prospects

20/Oct/17 14:50 October 20, 2017

Aris Barkas

20/Oct/17 14:50

Kristaps Porzingis, Dario Saric, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bogdan Bogdanovic are some great players, competing in the NBA and have started their careers back in Europe for their countries.

By Dionysis Aravantinos/

The way these 64 European players (2017-2018 season) in the NBA are revolutionizing the game of basketball at the best competition in the world is something secial. Each of them has a unique story to share, and other young prospects who currently play in Europe look up to them and want to follow their journey in the NBA.

Eurohoops brings you, Europe’s five best young prospects that will keep the NBA busy the next few years, and could be potential rising stars in the world’s toughest league.

Rodions Kurucs

Country: Latvia
Age: 19
Position: SF
Team: Barcelona
Height: 6-8

Rodions Kurucs; a 19-year old small forward from Latvia. Kurucs currently plays in Barcelona and his name has been called up for the first team a few times. His versatile skills, unique talent, length, and athleticism is what makes him a unique talent in Europe.

Early Years

The 19-year Latvian has been playing basketball since 2012, when he played for VEF Riga, his hometown team in Latvia. He showed his skills and unique talent since playing in the club’s youth academy, and in March 2014 he signed a multi-year contract with the Latvian club, in Latvia’s second division. At the time, Kurucs was only 16-years old, and he was competing in the second division in the country. As he showcased his talent in Riga, the following year Barcelona signed him to a four-year deal.

For his first year in Spain, Kurucs played for Barcelona’s junior club, but since 2016 he is part of FC Barcelona B. On March 14, 2017, he made his official EuroLeague debut and scored two points.

The big question mark. 2017 NBA draft

According to many draft experts and mock drafts, Kurucs was projected to be picked in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft. Kurucs had already entered his name into the 2017 NBA draft along with other 182 players, but during the last day, he withdrew his name from the draft. Kurucs will now play another full season with Barcelona, could quite possibly get some opportunities with the first team and will enter his name in the 2018 draft coming this June.

ACB, EuroLeague, Barcelona & Expectations

Kurucs’ length and athleticism gives him a boost on the offensive side of the court, but also his versatility helps out his team. Coaches in the past have used him both as a guard and a forward and he has very quickly adapted to the different positions successfully. The way he will utilize his skill-set this year, and will work on his weaknesses, will be a huge factor as to if he will get some playing time with the first team of Barcelona.

Last season, Kurucs averaged 9.5 points and 2.8 rebounds per game in the 24 games he played with Barcelona. This season he is expected to lead Barcelona B to victories, but also try and get some minutes in the EuroLeague under Barcelona’s first team. It will be challenging, but Kurucs will need to have this experience under his belt, so he knows what to expect from the top level of competition in Europe. Scouts from the United States will be watching him, the pressure will be there, but if he remains healthy, he will have the ability and the opportunity to showcase his talent and become one of the engaging storylines this season heading into next year’s draft.

Dzanan Musa

Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Age: 18
Position: SF
Team: Cedevita Zagreb
Height: 6-9

Perhaps the second best 18-year old European basketball player after Real Madrid’s star Luka Doncic, and one of the most exciting international draft prospects. Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Musa is currently playing for Cedevita Zagreb in Croatia in the first team, under coach Jure Zdovc. His dream is the NBA, and his name will be on the 2018 draft list.

Early Years

Being born in Bosnia, Musa had passion in an early age for football, before choosing to focus on basketball. But when he started playing basketball at the age of eight he fell in love with it and wanted to go as far as he could with it. After playing basketball at KK Bosna XXL, he moved to Sarajevo before joining Cedevita Zagreb in 2014. In December of the same year, Musa signed his deal with Cedevita and finally made his official EuroLeague debut on October 15th, 2015, scoring 4 points and becoming the tenth-youngest player to make their appearance in the EuroLeague since the 2000-2001 season.

With the national team, Musa led Bosnia to the gold winning medal for the 2015 FIBA Europe Under – 16 Championship while he managed to average 23.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. Musa also played in the FIBA Europe Under-17 championship where he led the tournament in scoring with 34.0 points per game. In a game against Chinese Taipei, he managed to score 50 points (!) in 27 minutes and now holds the record for most points scored in FIBA Under-17 Championship.

ABA Liga, A1 Liga, EuroLeague & the Eurocup

Since 2015-2016, Musa is part of the Cedevita Zagreb first team and has played in the ABA Liga, the A1 Croatian Liga, the EuroLeague in 2015-2016 and the Eurocup last season. In the ABA Liga, last season, the 18-year old small forward played an average of 14.5 minutes per game, managing to score 6.3 points 50% shooting from the field, and 1.6 rebounds per game. Musa had some impressive games, but also some relatively quiet games. His best game came against Olimpija where he managed to score 26 points on 71.4% (!) from the field. In the Croatian league, Musa averaged 12.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game, while also managing a +7.4 on the +/-.

As stated earlier, Musa made his EuroLeague debut on December 15th, 2015, and scored 4 points. In the ten games he played, Musa managed to average 2.7 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in just 7.8 minutes. In 2016/2017 Cedevita participated in the Eurocup tournament, with Musa averaging 4.3 points per game.

This ABA season has started off well for Musa, as he is averaging 13.7 points per game in the first four games of the season, while his coach is trusting him and playing him more minutes (25.8).


This season will play a huge role in his near basketball future. If he plays a big part in Cedevita’s offense this season (which he shows he can do), averages many minutes and Cedevita has a successful season his chances to go higher in the 2018 draft will increase. In a league which produces NBA talents and young prospects, Musa could very well be the next star in the making to come out of the ABA league and be drafted in the first round next year.

His shooting skills will come into play this season, as he will try to score more on defenders, using his length and height to get shots over the smaller guys. His aggressiveness will be needed by his team on both ends of the floor, as well as his passion and hard-working mentality. Finally, his confidence in his shooting is high for an 18-year old who will have to prove his skill-set this season, to coach Repeša and his staff.

Anzejs Pasecniks
Country: Latvia
Age: 21
Position: C
Team: Gran Canaria
Height: 7-2

Even though he was drafted in the 2017 NBA Draft, Pasecniks remains in Europe for the 2017-2018 season and is one of the best young NBA prospects in Europe. Currently playing for Gran Canaria, the 21-year old Latvian will get the opportunities and the minutes he deserves both in the ACB League and in the Eurocup competition.

Early Years + 2017 NBA Draft

Anzejs Pasecniks started off his basketball career in his hometown in Latvia. Born in December 1995, Pacecniks since an early age started playing basketball. In 2012 he made his professional debut in the Latvian league with VEF Riga. He played three years in Riga, Latvia and won LBL three times (2012,2013,2015) where scouts from Spain and especially Gran Canaria approached him. In the summer of 2015, he signed a deal with Gran Canaria and for the first year would play in the reserve team, in the fourth division of Spain. Pasecniks debuted with the ACB team in the Supercopa Endesa.

Moreover, in June 2017, his name was heard in New York as he was drafted No. 35 overall by the Orlando Magic. On draft night, however, he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. This season he will continue playing in Europe with Gran Canaria, but the Sixers could sign him at any time.

ACB & Eurocup

For Gran Canaria, last season the 21-year old started six games in the ACB League and overall in the season averaged 7.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game on an impressive 65.7% shooting from the field. Pasecniks was also added to the Spanish League All-Young Players Team in 2017.

This season he has started off playing well for coach Luis Casimiro as he is considered the starting center for this unit and is already averaging 7.3 points and 4.0 rebounds in the first three games.

In the EuroCup, he started only one game but had 5.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per game for the season.


His impressive frame at 7-2, as well as his size and mobility, give him some pretty unique offensive skills he can work on this year and perfect. The way he can attack the basketball and finish with either hand, but also the way he handles the ball at his size will give Gran Canaria a lot to work with this season. He can become a good defender, as he has shown flashes of doing, but he needs to work every day to become better because he is already 21 years of age.

The Sixers’ will be watching, and the pressure will be there from his coaches and fans who want to watch Gran Canaria succeed both in the ACB League and the EuroCup and so he will have to find a way to be productive for his team on both ends of the floor. He will be the starting center for his team, as coach Casimiro will play him more minutes both in the ACB league and the Eurocup, but the question is if he will be the one finishing the games off in crunch time. Also, if he will he prove, that he is capable of starting and will not be replaced in the middle of the season by another player.

Tryggvi Hlinason

Country: Iceland
Age: 19
Position: C
Team: Valencia
Height: 7-2

Hlinason’s story is unique and very different from almost all basketball players right now in Europe. Being born in Iceland, Tryggvi did not play basketball until the age of 15 years, when he was firstly introduced to the game. Four years later he signs a contract deal with Valencia and has many NBA scouts watching out for him.

Early Years

Tryggvi was raised in a very small village, a farm in Iceland named Svartarkot. The farm is located one, and a half-hour drive away from the closest grocery store, so as one can understand Tryggvi’s childhood life was entirely different than what it is now. As Jon Armor Steffansson (one of the greatest players ever in Iceland) stated in a story for ESPN, “It’s a situation you can’t explain to a person that doesn’t live in Iceland or that part of the country. When the weather is harsh, you can’t get to or from it, so you’re just stuck up there. It’s a unique story, man.”

After his parents send him to a secondary school in northern Iceland, Tryggvi contacted the head coach of the U-17 national team to try out for basketball, even though he had never seen a live basketball court and neither had basketball shoes. The try out did happen, and eventually, the coaches were surprised by his talent and skills of this young man and immediately contacted his parents telling them he has a future in the sport.

Furthermore, Tryggvi signed with the Akureyri in 2014. In his second season, he helped Akureyri win Division 1 and achieve promotion to the Úrvalsdeild, the Domins League, the top league in Iceland. Throughout his third and final season in his native country, he led the first division in blocked shots. In June 2017, Tryggvi signed with current Liga ACB champions, Valencia Basket. His story has been shared all over Europe and scouts from the NBA are already watching the 19-year old perform in his games.

Dominos League & EuroBasket 2017

The 19-year old center last year had a great season with Akureyri as he averaged 11.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game while also blocking 2.6 shots. His sturdy frame, body, and ability to score in the low post were some of his skills he used the past season in the Dominos League. Throughout the summer, Tryggvi worked on his game on both ends of the court but also on his body as it needs to become stronger and more powerful to go up against elite defenders and NBA players and also competed in the 2017 EuroBasket with his national team, Iceland.

In the competition, Hlinason averaged 10.9 minutes per game while managing to score 4.2 points and 2.6 rebounds. His best game came against Slovenia, where he scored 8 points and grabbed two rebounds.

Valencia & Expectations

This off-season, Tryggvi signed a deal with Valencia, and he will now be part of the club’s first team, which also competes in this year’s EuroLeague. Hlinason will fight for his minutes, and for a stable position off the bench, but it will be tough because Valencia is the defending ACB champions and want to defend their crown. Hlinason will try to make the best out of his opportunities and showcase his talent, youth, and skills.

His unique talent will be needed at times by coach Txus Vidorreta. He will need to give solid minutes off the bench, score the basketball on the low post, become a defensive presence inside the paint for Valencia, block some shots, make some highlight plays and get the crowd involved. He will be watched by NBA scouts from all over the league, but also from Europe’s powerhouses and will try to prove that his unique story will become more exciting and different with his basketball career on the rise.