• Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our International Spotlight ongoing feature where we take a look at all the international players around the league and their outlook for the upcoming season. We examined the Atlantic Division in the first part of this mini-feature and how the situation in Toronto could offer great value for young studs like Pascal Siakam and up-and-coming forward OG Anunoby.

    Here is a closer look into the Central Division:

    Chicago Bulls

    Tomas Satoransky, PG, 27 years old, Czech Republic

    As much as Bulls fans tend to blame GarPax for the direction of the team the last few years, the truth of the matter is that Chicago has drafted well and executed some great deals, putting the franchise in a great position moving forward. Enter Tomas Satoransky, who proved to be more than a reliable replacement for John Wall the last couple seasons. The Wizards simply let him walk in free agency while the Bulls were smart enough to get him at a very reasonable $30 million deal for the next three years.

    The  numbers have always been there for the combo guard, who is able to put his stamp on both ends of the floor, but what flies under the radar are the intangibles he brings and the chemistry he manufactures with his teammates.

    Satoransky is coming off a sensational World Cup tournament where he helped his team defy all odds ending up finishing 6th in the world  playing without their arguably best player, former Wizards first-round pick Jan Vesely. The Bulls still have Kris Dunn while they also drafted Coby White but it looks that Satoransky has a clear path to starter minutes and he should be on your radar in standard leagues.

    Cristiano Felicio, C, 27 years old, Brazil

    The ugliest mark still on the books for the Bulls is the guaranteed $24 million-plus GM Gar Forman handed out to Cristiano Felicio a couple years ago. Felicio is already an afterthought, especially after he struggled to get minutes last year when Wendell Carter Jr. got injured, forcing the Bulls to start Robin Lopez for 36 games. The Brazilian big will remain on the roster simply because GarPax hates to admit their mistakes but there isn’t a reason he should be on any of your fantasy rosters. The team has moved on from him, signing Luke Kornet and drafting Daniel Gafford.

    Lauri Markannen, PF/C, 24 years old, Finland

    The Finnish product has been a clear winner in Muscle Watch 2019 but regardless of whether you buy the hype there is growing optimism that he will continue to develop into the franchise piece the Bulls have been looking for in the last few years.

    There is some talk about him spending some time as the center and we should expect to see a heavy dose of him and Wendell Carter Jr. playing together. The Bulls were unable to establish any chemistry last year due to the plethora of injuries and the underwhelming performance of Kris Dunn so Markannen will be helped tremendously by the signing of Tomas Satoransky who is a team player that likes to get the ball to his teammates in the places they want.

    Lauri is already a solid offensive player and the addition of talent around him will help ease the pressure on him, potentially increasing his percentages, but the defensive numbers are not there even though he did average 9.0 rebounds per game last year.

    Adam Mokoka, 21 years old, France

    Mokoka had a nice performance in Las Vegas, showing his versatility on both sides of the floor after going undrafted in June. He is a big combo guard and knows how to use his body in order to attack the basket while it was obvious that his experience playing in the Adriatic League has paid dividends.

    The French kid could become a defensive force, similar to Pat Beverley, and it will be interesting to see what kind of a development plan the team has for him but I expect him to spend most of his time in the G-League. The Bulls seem to like big guards who cannot shoot and Mokoka fits that mold so it’s likely that he gets a chance if things go south quickly in Chicago.

    Cleveland Cavaliers

    Matthew Dellavedova, PG, 29 years old, Australia

    Delly failed to see much action with the Bucks last year before being sent back to Cleveland where his much-loved hustle earned him solid minutes off the bench. His presence at the FIBA World Cup validated the fact that he is still able to make an impact with his defense and shooting so it’s a matter of how he fits with the current youth group. The Cavs drafted Darius Garland and also have Collin Sexton and Brandon Knight so the minutes clearly don’t look to be there but it’s not out of question that another team takes a shot at him.

    Cedi Osman, SF, 24 years old, Turkey

    Cedi has made strides, becoming a bigger part of what the Cavs are trying to accomplish but the question remains whether the team can put him in a better place to succeed. Cleveland turned to him once Kevin Love went down at the beginning of the season last year but the burden was heavy and Osman struggled with his shooting, his shot selection and his ball-handling with the defenses focusing on him. T

    he Turkish swingman had a much harder time getting the necessary room to operate which led to him not being a reliable playmaker, forcing the action and turning the ball over at a higher rate all while having to work much harder to score.

    Having a better collection of talent around him really helps as he can avoid the contested jumpers and is someone that can thrive as a secondary creator so it will be interesting to see how he fits into the basketball situation this year. Osman is coming off a successful World Cup where he led his national team in scoring, showing his growth and providing leadership to a group that almost beat Team USA. It’s possible that he his game can evolve to another game.

    Ante Zizic, C, 22 years old, Croatia

    The Croatian center took some steps forward in his second year in the NBA, establishing himself as a relentless rebounder on both ends of the floor, attacking the glass and scoring with ease against smaller opponents. Still, he is slow and relatively immobile and he has always been better at defending space and not the pick-and-doll, making him an underwhelming rim protector who doesn’t offer strong defensive stats.

    With the Cavs slowly rebuilding and looking to move the expiring deal of Tristan Thompson and the contract of Kevin Love, he could very well find himself logging heavy minutes as the season progresses.

    Detroit Pistons

    Sekou Doumbouya, SF, 18 years old, France

    Sekou failed to see much playing time in Summer League, stepping on the floor for just 13 minutes due to a right hamstring injury, but he looked like he has an NBA body and runs the floor very well. His jumper is very smooth, but not surprisingly, he struggled with on-ball defense and the Pistons will likely try to ease him in as he makes the transition to the majors.

    The French forward possesses as much upside as anyone outside of the top three picks in this year’s draft and he has the potential to average a steal, a block and a three but a lot will depend on his ability to stay on the floor and avoid foul trouble and the occasional rookie mistakes.

    The Pistons have a gaping hole at the small forward position where Tony Snell is expected to start so it’s almost certain that he will get opportunities – it’s just a question of how fast this will happen.

    Thon Maker, PF/C, 22 years old, Somalia

    Thon was able to, surprisingly, force himself out of Milwaukee last year and he gets a fresh start in Detroit where he was able to deliver career highs in rebounds (3.7) and blocks (1.1) last year while getting the chance to start for a few games down the stretch.

    The Somalian center has always intrigued scouts with his determination, length and skill level, but that happened against almost non-existent competition and his development has stagnated in a much more competitive environment.

    After playing as a point guard and on the perimeter early in his career he is still struggling to getting used to playing as a power forward with opponents able to push him around and kill his confidence. The presence of veterans like Blake Griffin and Markieff Morris could be beneficial to him so it remains to be seen whether he can beat Christian Wood for backup minutes.

    Svi Mykhailiuk, SG, 22 years old, Ukraine

    Svi found himself in Detroit last year after he had just started to crack the rotation with the Lakers but he is now entering training camp determined to make an impact as an off-the-bench scorer. For the second summer in a row he was one of the best scorers in Summer League, spreading the floor, attacking the basket and being all over the place fighting for loose balls and defending with intensity.

    What really impressed Las Vegas attendants though was his vision and passing as he averaged 4.2 dimes in five games and showcased another aspect of his game that not many people thought was there. The Pistons are desperate for some wing help and it’s likely that Svi gets some minutes next to Luke Lennard as a small forward. There will be playing time for him but it’s his percentages that will limit his fantasy value.

    Indiana Pacers

    Goga Bitazde, C, 20 years old, Republic of Georgia

    Bitadze is one of, if not the most skilled offensive big man in this year’s draft and I really like his landing spot. The Pacers could absolutely use his offensive skills as Goga can finish near the rim with either hand and step back with a soft jumper. He lacks the lateral quickness and it’s almost certain that he will struggle defending the pick-and-roll action but he has a reported 7’3” wingspan and 9’2” standing reach, while he has shown the ability to be an elite shot-blocker.

    Bitazde was forced to miss Summer League due to visa complications but he has been in Indiana for almost two months now, practicing with his teammates and getting up to speed with the transition from the European to the American system.

    The Pacers didn’t bring any veterans behind Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis so the minutes will be there for the Georgian center while word out of Indiana has already been that the team plans to play him at center, together with Turner or Sabonis and even though I’m keeping my expectations low the kid has the potential to contribute right off the bat.

    Domantas Sabonis, PF/C, 23 years old, Lithuania

    Sabonis dropped career-highs across the board last year as the Pacers allowed him to become their anchor off the bench, putting the ball in his hands and letting him operate deep in the post where he is most successful. He made their decision to move on from Thaddeus Young easy and we are about to see what has been discussed in the last couple years, a Sabonis – Myles Turner frontcourt. The Pacers lost Bojan Bogdanovic but added more shooting with Jeremy Lamb and T.J Warren so we shouldn’t expect much to change in Indiana while the presence of Malcolm Brogdon will help spread the ball around and feed all the mouths in what is expected to be a more diverse offense this year.

    Sabonis is not perfect and his small arms don’t help him produce defensive stats but if he gets 30 minutes he might be able to increase his averages to a steal and a block per game, further boosting his fantasy value.

    Milwaukee Bucks

    Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF/PF, 24 years old, Greece

    The Greek Freak delivered a phenomenal fantasy season last year, dropping career-highs in rebounds (12.5), assists (5.9), triples (0.7) and field goal percentage (57.8) in just 32.8 minutes per game, but he struggled with turnovers (3.7), free throw percentage (72.9) and 3-point percentage (an abysmal 25.6), ending up as the sixth-best player on a per game value.

    Teams were able to defend him better during the postseason and there is a chance his confidence was somehow affected by the meltdown against the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals and a poor showing with Greece in the FIBA World Cup but there is no doubt that Giannis has the proper mentality and is already back in the gym working on his game.

    Coach Bud has built the entire organization around Giannis in a system that aims at supporting his skills and I don’t see much changing this season. Sure, Antetokounmpo could always start hitting his threes and his percentages might improve but it’s hard to predict when that happens, while it’s more possible to see an uptick in his turnovers due to the lack of a secondary ball-handler like Malcolm Brogdon next to him. Draft him with confidence.

    Thanasis Antetokounmpo, SF, 27 years old, Greece

    The Bucks did Giannis a solid as his older brother returns to the NBA, where he was drafted back in 2014 by the Knicks. He only played only a couple of NBA games and spent most of his team in the G-League. The oldest Antetokounmpo will be the first to say that he wasn’t ready for the jump back then but the truth of the matter is that his overseas stint the last few years has helped him develop into a dynamic 3-and-D forward who is capable of energizing his team and providing a spark off the bench.

    I assume that the Bucks signed him to simply provide depth insurance, but as a defensive specialist who excels above the rim it’s a matter of time before he becomes a fan favorite in Milwaukee. I expect him to provide some deep-league value if his shot starts falling which is not out of question as he has put a lot of work into it and his confidence is at an all-time high.

    Dragan Bender, SF/PF, 21 years old, Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Not much changed for the Dragon in his third year in Phoenix and he was simply able to walk away after another miserable season where he struggled to show any consistency and failed to gain the confidence of Igor Kokoskov, who was operating under a lot of pressure the entire year. Bender was close to signing with EuroLeague powerhouse CSKA Moscow but the Bucks decided to take a flier on him, especially after the abrupt departure of Nikola Mirotic.

    I could see the Bosnian forward stretching the floor in long and athletic lineups that Bud like to use but at this point it’s uncertain whether he will even make the roster while he will likely have to compete with DJ Wilson for deep rotation minutes

    Ersan Ilyasova, PF, 32 years old, Turkey

    Ilyasova had a down statistical season last year but he led the league in charges drawn by far with 0.75 per game, playing mostly as a backup center. The Bucks signed Brook Lopez’s brother, Robin, which means that he will return to his natural position playing as a power forward, while the departure of Nikola Mirotic leaves a lot of minutes to be claimed behind Giannis Antetokounmpo. We’ll have to wait and see how Bud figures out his rotations for the upcoming year but if the Turkish forward starts getting close to 20 minutes he could be an interesting option in deep leagues due to the production of cash counters.

    Thank you for checking us out this article and please check us back again next week as we examine the international players in the Southeast Division. Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @philysstar and stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.

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