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Standout Prospects in the German League
After six weeks of German Basketball Bundesliga play, a trio of prospects are emerging as potential 2024 NBA Draft prospects.
While the German Basketball Bundesliga is certainly a step below in quality when compared to the top leagues in the European continent, a number of German teams have been able to attract some of the top young talent in the world to their ranks in the last few years. With highly-touted prospects like Jeremy Sochan and Killian Hayes moving from their home countries to play in Germany before continuing their path to the NBA.
In this piece, I’ll go over the recent developments from a number of potential 2024 NBA Draft prospects who are currently seeing minutes in the German BBL.
One of the (many) stars in Real Madrid youth squads at the turn of the decade, Juan Nuñez seemed destined to be the eventual successor of veteran lead guards Sergio Llull and Facundo Campazzo at the Spanish powerhouse. In 2022, however, Nuñez decided to leave the team, as well as to reject several high-major college offers, in order to sign with Ratiopharm Ulm of the German Basketball Bundesliga.
This decision would soon pay its dividends. While Nuñez didn’t start any games during his first season at Ulm, the Spanish guard played nearly 20 minutes per contest and was a key piece in Ulm’s first-ever Bundesliga title. Currently, in what are the initial stages of his second Bundesliga season, Nuñez has stepped into a starting role, improving his production and his efficiency on both ends of the floor.
The main selling point for Nuñez as an NBA prospect continues to be his playmaking for others. There’s not a pass in the book that Nuñez can’t execute, as his combination of vision, creativity, and accuracy make him one of the best passers to come out of the international ranks over the past few years.
The question with Nuñez up to this point has always been the scoring, an area in which he’s showing signs of improvement. The 19-year-old looks more fluid and creative as a ball-handler being able to get defenders off balance with simple-yet-effective crossovers and changes of direction. His lack of burst, however, continues to limit his ability to capitalize on the advantages that he creates with his ball-handling, making him settle for tough, contested attempts in the restricted area.
The jumper is also falling at a slightly better clip for him, as he’s converting 36.8% of his three-point attempts through the first nine games of the season. The improvement seems to come from him being able to cash in on his catch-and-shoot attempts, given that he’s made just 26.3% of his dribble-jumper attempts according to Synergy.
While it would be tempting to say that Nuñez is just “a jump shot away” from being an NBA starter, I believe that his struggles to get by quicker, more athletic defenders will remain an issue at the NBA level, and his lack of versatility as a shooter and his track record of shooting below 70% from the free-throw line are definite concerns when it comes to his projection as a shooter at the next level.
However, that doesn’t mean that Nuñez can’t be impactful from an NBA standpoint. There’s still value in a passing specialist who is also able to put pressure on an opposing defense as a pick-and-roll ball-handler and hit the occasional open jumper. After all, we have seen players with athletic limitations and iffy shooting profiles thrive at the NBA level recently due to the value they bring with their ability to make plays for others.
Nuñez’s former teammate at Ulm, Fedor Zugic, is off to a tremendous start of the 2023-24 season for his new team Göttingen, as he’s scoring 13.4 points per game in just 19.8 minutes per contest while shooting 56.5% from the field and 45.7% from three-point range.
The 20-year-old Zugic has been on the radar as a potential draft prospect for a good number of years already, having been a consistent standout for both Buducnost and the Montenegrin youth national team before moving to Germany ahead of the 2021-22 season. Despite his pedigree as a top-tier prospect, his hot start to the season is still somewhat unexpected, as the scoring efficiency and defensive production avoided him in his first two Bundesliga seasons.
One of the reasons for the improvement is that Göttingen has done a good job of putting Zugic in a position to succeed, running multiple plays for him every game. They are allowing Zugic to exploit his main asset as an offensive player, which is his shooting ability. He can convert jumpers in a multiple number of ways, whether it is as an on-ball creator in ISO and pick-and-roll situations, or as an off-ball shooter, either spotting up or coming off screens.
While the majority of his offensive output comes from beyond the three-point line, Zugic is also able to get to the rim. While not extremely quick, he does a good job of utilizing his shooting gravity to get defenders off position and attack closeouts. In this early season, Zugic has shown solid improvement as a finisher at the rim. While still not an explosive or versatile finisher by any means, he has done a good job of utilizing his size to protect the ball and withstand contact and his length to finish with extension at the rim.
An older prospect, Zugic’s expected improvement as a defender and playmaker for others is yet to materialize. However, his profile as a tremendous shooter with good, not great, positional size who can also put pressure on opposing defenses with the ball in his hands could still interest NBA teams. The question is how much, if any, draft capital a team would be willing to spend on that combination of skills.
The conjunction of ill-timed injuries and a reported contractual dispute with his previous team made Pacome Dadiet miss about four months of his 2022-23 season for Ratiopharm Ulm. However, what he showed in the few glimpses I caught of him was impressive enough to make him one of the prospects I was most intrigued to watch in the current season.
One such glimpse was his 21 points, three rebounds, and two blocks against Real Madrid at the Adidas Next Generation Tournament in Munich. He put together one of the best single-game performances I’ve seen a player deliver against a Spanish powerhouse known for both their dominance at the junior levels and for routinely making top-tier prospects in opposing teams look pedestrian.
This season, Dadiet is playing around 12 minutes per game and has made a good impression with his smooth perimeter game. The French wing is able to get to the rim, possessing an impressive level of fluidity for his size, and is equally impressive in his flashes as a shotmaker, showing a compact and fluid stroke from beyond the arc and converting tough, off-balance shots from inside the arc.
Dadiet is struggling in the exact areas where an 18-year-old player is expected to struggle in his first full-time season at the professional level. While listed at 6’8”, Dadiet plays smaller than his size and can struggle against physicality and contact especially when finishing at the rim. He can also struggle to get into a rhythm from three-point range, which is, again, expected from a young player seeing limited minutes in his first full-time season.
Dadiet has the combination of size, fluidity, and perimeter skillset to potentially thrive as a versatile NBA wing despite his lack of elite explosiveness. His stock ahead of the 2024 NBA Draft, however, might have less to do with his profile and more to do with the opportunity to showcase his skillset.
While Dadiet certainly doesn’t look out of place in the German BBL, his current lack of high-level experience could make teams see him more as a 2025 draft prospect or a late second round bet. However, with his size and skillset, if there’s a prospect who could potentially make a Bilal Coulibaly-type late-season rise on draft boards should he find the available minutes, it’s him.