When it comes to “international” players in the 2018 National Basketball Association (NBA Draft), the conversation has been largely centered on Slovenian guard Luka Dončić, who will almost certainly be taken among the top three or four picks.
But the next European player to be taken after Luka Dončić hasn’t seemed to generate nearly as much headlines, even though he could be one of the most intriguing talents in this year’s draft class as well.
That player would be forward Dzanan Musa from Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Musa is an 18 year-old forward standing 6-foot-9, who’s been playing for Croatian club KK Cedevita Zagreb for the past three seasons. He’s a veteran of international competition as well, having participated in the the Adriatic League, EuroCup, and Croatian League. When he joined the Euroleague, he was still months away from his 17th birthday, making him the ninth-youngest player to make his debut in the EuroLeague since the turn of the century. Point being: at only 18 years old, Musa is already something of a seasoned professional.
Musa is capitalizing off the momentum he’s generated from his play at KK Cedevita Zagreb, having scored an average of 12.2 points per game last year (shooting 61% from two-point range and 34% from three), while tallying 3.4 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 23 minutes per game (in 58 games).
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Musa’s combination of professional experience (which will hopefully translate into him getting playing time immediately), basketball IQ, and high-motor playing style will endear him to NBA scouts. He’s a gifted offensive playmaker, with a quick release that’s not afraid to use from anyone where n the floor, a good first step that he can use to finish around the rip with either hand, and a developing jump shot that’s getting better from three point range (an absolute must in today’s game). As a wing player, he knows how to handle the ball, take his man off the dribble, or deliver a timely pass to a cutting teammate; like most European players, he shows great court vision.
Where critics will pick apart Musa’s game is a familiar refrain for many prospects coming from Europe: his defensive game. Like many international players, scouts will debate what it means that Musa might be a better basketball player than athlete overall. The NBA tends to take raw athletes over polished players because they want players who will get better as they get older.
While Musa has NBA height, there are worries as to how much size he can pack on his slight frame, without taking away from his already somewhat-marginal explosiveness. That lack of explosion and athleticism is also evident on defense, as his lateral quickness is certainly a question mark, especially for someone who will be spending most of his time playing on the wing. In a world where the “3-and-D” wings are ever in demand, what does it mean that Musa’s three-point shot is still developing, and his “D” skills leave a lot to be desired?
For those who are talking about Musa, that’s what the conversation will likely entail. Some believe that we might be “missing the forest from the trees” for Musa, who’s been so heavily scouted — and perhaps over-analyzed — over the past few years. But if some team understand and accepts him for what he is — namely, a gifted offensive playmaker — he could be right up there with Luka Dončić, as far as being a valuable prospect.