We won’t notice it as much because the 2020 NBA Draft won’t have a live audience this year, but international prospects aren’t always met with the warmest reception when their names are called. Just think back to 2015, when Kristaps Porzingis, now one of the best big men in the NBA, was greeted by a chorus of boos and disbelief when he was taken fourth overall by the New York Knicks.
Generally, it’s nothing personal. Fans hear a long name that’s hard to pronounce, see an unfamiliar face, and their immediate reaction is that their team blew it.
To prevent fans having a similar reaction when teams select Israeli forward Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv) and American-born, French-raised Killian Hayes (Ratiopharm Ulm) — the top two international prospects in the Nov. 18 NBA Draft — CBS Sports spoke with David Gale, who coached against Hayes and scouted Avdija while coaching with Porsche BBA and MHP Riesen last season in Germany. Gale also has over a decade of experience in the NBA and G League in the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and Los Angeles Clippers organizations, so he has a good perspective on how international players will translate to the NBA.
Here’s what he had to say about Hayes and Avdija, who are both projected top-10 picks — perhaps even top-five. In my latest mock draft, I have Avdija going No. 4 to the Chicago Bulls and Hayes being selected by the Knicks at No. 8.
Gale: “Killian is a legit 6-5, very smooth, really has a good feel as a passer. Killian loves to get in the paint and draw the defense, and he knows what he’s doing — he’s trying to draw the D and knows where the kick-outs are and how to hit the roller. He 100 percent improved as the year went on. He became a better passer.”
Gale: “He knows how to read the [pick-and-roll] defense. He knows how to hit the opposite corner, he knows how to bait you in and hit the roller. He leaves his feet to pass a little bit too much, but that’s just being young. In a pick-and-roll-heavy offense he’d be good, and especially in an offense like Miami, where Duncan Robinson or Tyler Herro use the pick-and-roll, toss to the big and come right back for the hand-off. Killian did a ton of that to get back to his left hand.”
Gale: “Killian can pull up off the bounce — he’s really shifty, kind of like D’Angelo Russell in a sense, the way he moves a little, shifty, not fast. He just uses his body, knows how to use angles, knows how to use pick-and-rolls, rub guys off the screen and kind of snake the pick-and-roll and get back to his strong hand — really good at that.”
Gale: “Defensively, he’s pretty good actually. He’s got quick hands, he’s big enough, he can keep guys in front, he can play coverages. That’s one thing that college kids don’t have that Europeans have is, college kids have not played the more complicated defenses that European kids have.”
Gale: “He is extremely one-hand dominant. I mean, he really struggles to go right. In the pick-and-roll, if you force him right, he wants to get you on his back, snake the pick-and-roll, cut back and get back to his left hand.
“When we played against him, we beat them by 30, and the game plan was ‘make him go right the whole game, do not let him get to his left hand.’ [Former Seton Hall guard] Khadeen Carrington and [former Iowa State guard] Nick Weiler-Babb did a great job and won us the game handily. We forced him into 11 turnovers that game, I believe. In fairness, it was the first month of the season, and he got better as they went on, but going right is his biggest weakness.”
Gale: “The shot, if he’s got time to set his feet, is definitely improving. But the shot needs some work to speed it up and become more consistent. Again, it got better, but I don’t think it improved as much as you would like to see.”
Gale: “He looks great in a 1-on-0 workout. But if you’re physical with him, and you make him try to be a finisher instead of a passer, he can struggle. … We had strong American guards. … When I say strong, [former Middle Tennessee State guard] Marcos Knight looks like a fullback. And they just bullied him. To me, I would be concerned when [Hayes] doesn’t have the same swagger as in Europe, that he shies away from contact and plays a bit more casual.”
Gale: “Killian, to me, is a guy who would probably benefit more from going to a good team and learning from a good point guard or veterans around him, and then playing some in the G League. I think that’s the perfect scenario for him. I don’t think he would benefit from being thrown into the fire and having to start right from day one.”
Gale: “If I’m betting on it, if I had to put my money on it, I think he’ll have a good, solid NBA career. But I think in the first year he’s way better off going to a team with a good culture there.”
Gale: “I think he’s a little more athletic than you anticipate. To me, if he’s a four man, much more impactful there than if he’s a three. I don’t think he’s Luka [Doncic], but I think he’s a pick-and-pop, can put it on the ground and attack, can get out in transition and run, very impactful as a four. Kind of your modern-day, typical four man. … I think he’s going to end up being a really good pick-and-pop guy. He can play at the elbows. He can make plays and create for others.”
Gale: “His jump shot, his shooting mechanics have improved. It seems to me like he’s able to replicate the same shot over and over, so it doesn’t look different every time he goes up. And he puts in the work to do it. Is he going to be Steve Novak? Probably not. He’s not Korver, he’s not Dirk Nowitzki, but to me, the jump shot shouldn’t be a concern.
“His jump shot has improved greatly. When you watch the restart games in Israel, when they went back and finished their season out, he was scoring, he was shooting the ball well. He’ll need a little time to keep developing it, like DeMar DeRozan a bit. DeMar wasn’t a shooter at all when he first came into the league. And now he’s one of the best mid-range shooters in the game. … I think [Avdija’s] shot is going to improve to the point where he’s a dangerous shooter.”
Gale: “He works hard. If you look at the growth this guy’s had in the past couple years, he’s’ definitely a worker.”
Gale: “I really, really like him and I think he’s going to be a very good NBA player. … I don’t know if he’s a top-three guy. If I had to guess, I think he’s probably somewhere between four and seven. But when it’s all said and done, he could end up having one of the best careers in this draft.
“The thing that people have to understand is, that in Europe when you’re a pro, you’re having two practices a day, but he’s still a kid. I don’t know this for a fact, but I bet he was in school or he was living with his family, or he had all his friends and all that comfort or distraction around. When you’re in the NBA and all you’re dedicated to is basketball, they’re going to have a guy wherever he gets drafted that’s his guy and is dedicated to getting him better.”