The 2015 NBA draft has come and gone, but ten teams of the Korean Basketball League (KBL) are still going through the pre-draft process of finding their next talents for the 2015 KBL foreign player draft scheduled for July 21st in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The selection for the KBL foreign players draft is decided on a lottery, with the old fashioned ping pong balls. It is held in Las Vegas at the Palms Hotel and Casino after two days of player workouts in front of Korean scouts.
This draft will have plenty of surprises as earlier this year the league made some rule changes regarding its foreign player format. Each team is allowed to sign two foreign players. That hasn’t changed. What’s different this year is that one of those two players must meet a specific height restriction of 193 cm.
Essentially the league wants a big-man and a guard who will add more playmaking/scoring. But Korean coaches are looking at a different angle. To preserve the advancement of Korean point guards, teams are looking at undersized bigs who show a promising inside game along with the versatility that the average 6’4″ guard carries.
What follows is a look at each KBL team, who they are predicted to choose, and why. Of course, this is in no particular order seeing as the draft order is by lottery therefore teams have been listed based on their 2014-2015 regular season rankings.
The reigning KBL champs would love to bring back Ricardo Ratliffe who’s been rock solid for Mobis but with the new league rules (teams must forfeit their foreign talents of the previous season) Ratliffe needs to find a new home. The Phoebus have a dominant veteran point guard in Yang Dong Guan so expect them to draft a guard who likes to crash the glass and attack the hoop. With the departure of Ratliff and Greg Stevenson, Mobis has two big holes to fill down low.
Mobis coach Yoo JaeHak is a system guy. He usually replaces players who fits the system. However, with this new height limit, his system will require small changes. McKines is a guy who can come in and provide energy while cleaning up rebounds on both ends of the floor. The 27 year-old from New Mexico State University is familiar with the KBL as he played 25 games in 2013 for Anyang KGC. His veteran experience will fit nicely with Mobis.
Mobis needs a rim protecter. A guy who can anchor the paint. Sure, they would have loved to re-sign Ricardo Ratliffe, but that’s not going to happen (new KBL rules). So Mobis needs to look elsewhere. Xavier Gibson has excellent size (6’11”), long arms, and can clean up the defensive glass with his dynamic strength. The only downfall is his athletic ability. Mobis is used to seeing the super athletic Ratliffe doing super athletic Ratliffe things. Gibson is a bigger version of the other Mobis import Ira Clarke. But without a rim protecter, Mobis will be in a lot of trouble. A guy like Gibson might be the only choice to keep the dynasty alive.
They were swept in the 2015 KBL Finals making it one of the least entertaining finals series in KBL history. But make no mistake about it, Dongbu earned their way to the finals with a solid 2014-2015 regular season finishing with 37 wins and 17 losses. To make their way back to the finals, Dongbu will have to add some pieces that fit into the formula they created last season under Kim YoungMan.
Last season, Dongbu surprised a lot of teams making it all the way to the KBL Finals with a San Antonio style system of precise ball movement and corner threes. The best shooter in this year’s KBL draft is Matt Walsh, a 6″4′ international basketball veteran who played four years of university basketball under Billy Donovan at Florida. Walsh has a close relationship with South Korea as his younger sister is a Korean adoptee. He has aspirations to play in Korea so he and his sister can share a unique experience. In 2009, Walsh was the Belgium league MVP.
James Mays is a legend in the Philippines. They will be sad to see him go, but Dongbu will be happy to pick him up. He’s a mix between David Simon’s basketball IQ and Anthony Richardon’s athleticism, a perfect fit to replace the two foreign players who helped lead Dongbu to the KBL Finals. With Walsh hanging out around the three-point line, Mayes will be a solid screen and roll guy opening up the perimeter where Dongbu wants to excel from.
The Seoul SK Knights were big winners this off-season landing the two Sandrin brothers in free-agency. This will mark the first time two Korean-Americans play together on the same team. Add third year KBL pro David Michaels and KBL veteran Julian Kim to the mix, and the SK Knights are by far the team with the most depth in the league. This season, its championship or bust for SK, the pressure is on.
He doesn’t shoot a lot of threes, but he’s a lock down defender. And if the Knights want to go all the way to the finals, they are going to need perimeter defense. Kim SunHyun is still one of the best point guards in the league, he will handle the ball handling responsibilities. Webb is like an undersized Aaron Haynes. He likes to shoot from the elbow and run the floor in transition. A playmaking point guard like Kim SunHyun will compliment Webb’s game perfectly.
The Seoul SK Knights are one of the only teams in the league to have an ex-NBA player on their squad. Now that Courtney Sims is on his way out, why not replace him with another ex-NBAer. Donte Greeene can flat out ball. He’s a versatile seven footer who can bring flash to the showtime ‘FANtastic’ Knights. The Knights and Greene would be a perfect. Greene has spent his last two seasons playing pro ball in Asia, China in 2013-2014 and Dubai in 2014-2015.
The Changwon LG Sakers are the team that was close, really close, but might have hit their ceiling. Starting point guard Kim SiRae will be absent from their roster for two full seasons while he serves his mandatory Korean military duties. Jarod Stevenson, their best offensive weapon, was a free agent this year and was picked up by Goyang Orions. Kim JongKyu is the only remaining all-star on the Sakers, and he’s a low post back to the basket only type player. Changwon needs shooting, they need scoring. So they need to hit a home run with their foreign draft picks.
Matt Walsh might be the best pure shooter in the draft, but Dewarick Spencer is the best shooter who can create off the dribble. His handles are advanced enough to play keep away with those quick guards. He loves using the high screen to splash down three pointers. He’s the scorer LG desperately needs. An experience import who’s been around the Asian basketball market for four seasons with stops in Lebanon, China, and Iran. When you are a team who needs a guy who scores in bunches, Spencer is your man. Oh yeah, and he shoots over 40% from beyond the arc. This is a real combo guard who will keep the LG foundation from crumbling.
Last season the LG Sakers lived and died in the hands of Devon Jefferson. But what was supposed to be a happy story, Jefferson couldn’t have scripted a worse ending. But the past is the past, while LG will try to forget about Jefferson, they will certainly remember his game. That’s why Leo Lyons is a perfect fit for LG. He has the same inside/outside game as Jefferson and can create shots off dribble better than most bigs. LG loved putting the ball in Jefferson’s hands, and Lyons loves having the ball in his hands. With this pick, LG won’t have to do too many adjustments within the game plan. There has been some interest regarding Lyons from the Chinese Basketball Association, obviously Lyons would choose China over Korea strictly for the higher salary, but his experience in the KBL is valuable for any team.
They traded their first round draft pick (Korean draft) for Jarod Stevenson, who is on the other side of his peak. This can only mean one thing, the Orions want to win now. After starting the 2014-2015 season with eight straight wins, the Orions started playing mediocre basketball and coasted their way to a first round exit to the hands of the LG Sakers. Despite the addition of Stevenson, the Orions will need more scoring from their foreigners. Jang JaeSeok had a break out year last season anchoring the paint but will need help cleaning the glass.
Aubrey Coleman is a true warrior on the basketball court. He’s more of a scorer than a pure shooter, which is good for Goyang as they added shooting with Jarod Stevenson. And Coleman can bring much needed defense to a team that struggled getting stops when they needed them most last season. He will have the ball in his hands more than other foreign guards entering the league. He will also surprise many fans with his ability to jump over defenders and throw down nasty dunks. Coleman was selected by the Houston Rockets to participate in this year’s 2015 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
Various media reports out of South Korea insist on the return of former NBA big-man Courtney Sims. The three-year KBL veteran is a strong presence on the offensive glass. And with the shooting presence of Stevenson you can expect a lot of shots from the perimeter. Having a long Sims inside is huge for Goyang who are currently developing their own domestic big-man Jaeseok Jang. Sims can bring a mentorship role to the up-and-coming Jang.
The biggest loser from the KBL’s new system is the Incheon ET Land Elephants. Having to give up their captain, Carlos Powell, is a huge loss. Powell was their best player, and one of the best foreign leaders the KBL has ever seen. So with Powell out, it’s tough to predict what direction Incheon is heading in. One positive move is the growth of young guard Kim Jiwan who is currently playing in the Philippines’ PBA.
In the Philippines, Marqus Blakely earned the nickname ‘Mr. Evertyhing’ for his abilities to do absolutely everything needed on the basketball court. The guy is an absolute beast. He led Tim Cone and the Pure Foods HotShots to back-to-back Governor Cup championships in the Philippines. Blakely is the best undersized big in this draft. By drafting Blakely, Incheon will have likes of two “big guys”. With Kim Jiwan playing in the Philippines, it won’t be hard for him to gel to his new teammate. Blakely is going to go high in the draft, but he’s a perfect fit for Incheon. We hope he’ll be wearing those new PEAK jerseys in Incheon next season.
David Simon was always in the right spot at the right time for Dongbu last season. His large frame under the basket made it very difficult for Korean teams to defend. He averaged 16 points and just under seven rebounds per game according to asia-basket.com. Simon is a role player who can fit into any system. His experience in the KBL will certainly earn him a draft spot in this year’s draft. But he will have to try and fill in the shoes for what Carlos Powell created in Incheon. A foreigner who’s a leader. Simon could be that guy.
Whenever the KBL starts a new season, Busan is always the most unpredictable team. But this year there are some positives. While they will certainly miss the likes of Tony Akins who was picked up via free agency by the team he once won a championship with, KCC, the positives come with their newly hired bench boss, Cho DongHyun. Busan is trying to adobt the formula of their neighbors, Mobis, as Cho DongHyun was an assistant coach to Yoo JaeHak for two seasons. Their foreign players should include on athletic big, and an oversized guard who can defend both the post, and the perimeter, is Busan wants to really mimic the three-time champions.
They call him LaDontae Buckets for a reason, he can flat out score. And with the departure of Tony Akins, Busan needs scoring, badly. The lefty scorer can shoot and make shots from anywhere. Team him up with Cho SungMin and you might have the KBL version of the splash brothers. Speaking of the splash brothers, Henton will be participating in the 2015 NBA Summer League, playing for the Golden State Warriors. With the NBA Summer League ending a few days prior to KBL tryouts, expect Henton to be game ready.
The best big man in the KBL draft. Plain and simple. The smartest move Ratliffe made after graduating from Missouri was enter the KBL draft. He’s been dominant ever since he first stepped foot on Korean soil. He was a true fan favorite in Ulsan. Busan hired one of Mobis’ assistant coaches so look for them to steal Ratliffe away. With Ratliffe on your team, good things will happen.
So much turmoil surrounding this team and their head coach Jeon ChangJin, who is under police investigation for allegedly fixing games that he was betting on, that we don’t know where to start with KGC. Add an ankle injury that will sideline their best player Oh SeGeun for at least the first month of the season and you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster. For Anyang, their decision making in Vegas will be extremely important. They will have to look for an undersized big as their guard and a solid big man to carry the team while Oh SeGeun is out.
A great shooter with strong ball handling abilities. He’s got an NBA type body, so count in as an athletic undersized big, and attacks the hoop with strength. In 2012, Pickett played in China averaging 25 points per game and shooting 51% from the field. Anyang will love Pickett running the pick-and-roll with KBL All-Star Oh SeGeun (when healthy).
Joseph Jones is currently at the peak of his basketball career. Last season, he helped Hapoel Jerusalem to an Israel League championship averaging 12 points and just under four rebounds per game. He’s not a guy who demands the ball, but on the defensive end he creates a lot of attention for the apposing players. He would give Oh SeGeun a chance to do his thing on offense without wasting too much energy on defense.
Last season was supposed to be the year that sees KCC back in the mix as a playoff team. But injuries to Ha SeunJin and Kim TaeSool kept KCC in the bottom of the standings. The year got worse resulting in the firing of head coach and Korean basketball legend Hur Jae. So here we are again. A fresh start with some of the old talent (Tony Akins) that led them to a KBL title in 2011. Let’s see if KCC can climb out of the KBL basement and rise to the top. Here are some draft picks that might help them do just that.
If you haven’t noticed by now the KBL is taking a lot of talent from the PBA for the 6’4″ and under spot. So drafting the 2012 PBA Governor’s Cup player of the year is nothing short of a win. He’s a true undersized big who can shoot and knock down the open shot. KCC signed Tony Akins during the off-season, add Korean national team guard Kim Taesul to the mix and KCC is backcourt ready. A dominant undersized big would bring a lot of value to the team.
With the new height restriction on one of the foreigners, KBL teams are staying away from ‘tweeners’, guys who fall between 6’6″ and 6’9″. While Rhodes, by KBL standards, is in fact a ‘tweener’, he’s proven that he’s a fit for this league. Last year, while playing for KT he was a triple-double machine. He’s built a fanbase in South Korea. Those fans would love to see him back no matter where he ends up. But team him up with his teammate from last year, Tony Akins, and the tallest Korean in the league, Ha SeunJin, and you’ve got yourself a ‘tweener’ who will be more than a contributor on a winning team
The league’s worst team made the best off-season move signing 2015 KBL Finals MVP Greg Stevenson to a league record $737,000 per year contract. Stevenson will bring a veteran presence to a young team that includes second year KBL all star Kim JunIl and other up and coming players. Unfortunately, Kim JunIll is coming off a serious knee injury and is not expected to be 100 percent come September.
Arizona Reid will be a top two pick in the draft. He’s that good. Reid is a dominant undersized big who has no problem destroying players who are half a foot taller than he is. He can dominate inside, but has a quick first step from the perimeter and finishes with both hands. He’s an experienced Asian basketball import winning two ‘best import’ awards in the PBA (2011 – 2014). Reid is currently finishing his season in the Philippines with the Sam Miguel Beerman.
Troy Gillenwater was the biggest surprise out of all foreigners last season. He led the Goyang Orions to an 8-0 start and was selected as an all-star. He finished the season second in points per game with just under 20. He’s a stretch big man who could add some outside shooting for Samsung, a team desperate for scorers. He would be a great fit next to Stevenson, a player who likes facing up and taking it to the hoop.