2021 Draft Watch: Observing Ariel Hukporti and Franz Wagner

September 12th, 2020

by Alan Lu

I decided to watch Nevezis’ center, Ariel Hukporti and Michigan’s soon-to-be sophomore swingman Franz Wagner play in a U18 European Championships game for Germany against Russia that took place on July 31st, 2019, as I was able to see this with thanks to YouTube via FIBA.  Hukporti is projected to be a first round prospect in 2021, and Wagner is a talented player that could be due for a breakout season in college basketball next year.  I set out to watch them play, mostly to see Hukporti, but also to get a feel for their basketball skills.  Here are my thoughts on how they fared, and how their games may translate to the NBA.

German center, Ariel Hukporti (in the middle) is a strong, mobile big man whose solid interior play could allow him to be a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
(Photo:
FIBA)

Ariel Hukporti is an athletic, physical center that can make solid plays on both ends of the floor.  He excels at scoring out of the post, he is also a good rebounder, and he also is a solid defender that moves his feet well when defending both out on the perimeter as well as in the paint.

Hukporti showed that he can score on hustle plays.  He was able to run the floor to score on a powerful as a trailer in transition.  However, despite getting the ball on a roll to the rim, he missed on a layup, as he didn’t show enough shooting touch on that play, as the ball seemed to have come off the side of his hand that time. He also showcased a solid ability to score off the dribble.  Hukporti was able to drive aggressively right to the rim, and he was able to draw free throws by flailing into an opponent.

Plus, Hukporti also exhibited adequate low post scoring skills.  He was able to back his man down to score on a nifty, up and under move, and he also got deep position to score on a turnaround jump hook late in this game.  Sometimes though, he would tend to rush his shots, which would lead to misses, and he also had his shot blocked on a reverse layup on a separate play.  On the downside, he didn’t really look to take jumpers from outside of the paint area, and he will need to extend his shooting range and improve his jump shot moving forward.

He also was fairly turnover prone in this game.  For the positives, Hukporti is an unselfish player that can throw accurate passes out of the post, as he will make the extra pass to get his teammates the basketball.  However, he dropped a pass to an opponent once, and he also committed a couple of turnovers in the post.  He was called for traveling in the post once due to shuffling his feet, but he would’ve scored on a turnaround jumper if the referees had not made that call.  Later on, he was called for a clear out foul when trying to post up off the ball that led to an offensive foul and a turnover.

Also, Hukporti did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was active at crashing the glass, and he would leap up to haul in boards on both ends of he floor.  He would aggressively leap up to get defensive boards, and he also boxed out his man to get a defensive rebound once. 

In addition, Hukporti also played solid defense.  He did a great job of defending his man out on the perimeter, as he moves his feet well when defending drives, and he would block shots to his teammates and also force numerous misses due to possessing good footwork, positioning, and timing.  He also ran in to tie up an opponent on a rebound, and he generally showed a good ability to stay with his man off the dribble and in the post to get stops for his team.  However, he also had a tendency to be solely focused on his man on the defensive end, which at times came at the expense of playing team defense.  There would be times where he would tend not to rotate after his teammates would get beat off of cuts or off the dribble, and his team would allow scores around the basket afterwards.

In general, Ariel Hukporti is a strong, mobile big man that can excel as a two-way player in the NBA.  He can score with his back to the basket, and he is also a solid defensive player that can ably guard his man.  On the other hand, he will need to improve his jump shot, and he will need to improve his awareness on the defensive end in order to make quicker rotations and to play better team defense.  Right now, he may project to be a potential late first round pick for the 2021 draft, as he could end up being a similar player to Sacramento Kings’ center, Harry Giles in the NBA.

Michigan’s forward, Franz Wagner is an athletic, skilled basketball player that can shoot and score the basketball, and he could be due for a breakout season in college basketball.
(Photo:
FIBA)

Michigan’s soon-to-be sophomore forward, Franz Wagner had his ups and downs as he played for Germany in their loss to Russia.  He struggled to make shots consistently, but he played solid defense, and he also had a highlight-reel worthy play as he scored on a thunderous dunk on an opponent on a drive in transition early in this game.

Wagner showed a solid ability to score off drives as well as in transition.  He is a solid athlete that was able to score on a couple of dunks early on, and he also threw down a monster jam on someone early on.  He also managed to use some nifty pivot moves to score on a crafty high-post drive in the half-court, and he also managed to get the extra free throw afterwards.  Plus, he also will take the ball hard to the hoop to draw fouls upon his defenders to get to the free throw line.  However, sometimes he will rush his shots when taking it to the rim, and he may not always have his balance, which can lead to misses.

Plus, he also managed to draw free throws on a put back, as he went up for a shot after grabbing an offensive rebound.  However, Wagner really struggled to knock down jumpers, and he missed all of his three-point attempts in this game, as he could not connect from downtown, despite showing a good ability to move off the ball to get open.

He also displayed adequate playmaking skills in this game.  Wagner threw a long outlet pass to a teammate to set up a score for him on the break, and he can ably pass off the dribble as well as in transition to set up numerous scoring chances for them.  Sometimes though, he would throw catchable passes that would get dropped by his opponents, as that would result in his team to commit turnovers.

He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was quite active at crashing the glass.  He was able to get a tough offensive board in traffic, and he also dove on the ground to get another.  Plus, he would sometimes push the ball up the floor after getting defensive rebounds for his team.

Also, Wagner played very good defense in this game.  He showed a knack for helping his team get steals, as he would poke balls away to do so, and he also got an opponent to lose the basketball another time due to playing good physical defense.  He also excelled at contesting threes to force misses.

In summary, Franz Wagner is an athletic, skilled swingman that can make solid plays on both ends of the floor, but he will need to make more jump shots consistently to be a better offensive player in games.  Right now, he may project to go in the late first to the second round range for the 2021 draft, and if things break his way, he could end up being a solid role player in the NBA.

7-0 Russian big man, Filipp Gafurov played fairly well in his team’s win over Germany.  He is an agile, mobile player that can comfortably play out on the perimeter, and he can score the basketball in a variety of ways.  He is very skinny for a player his size, and he will need to add considerably more strength to allow him to better hold position when he is in the paint.

He did a good job of knocking down open spot-up threes off the catch to space the floor for his team.  He also excelled at scoring on drives to the basket.  He would tend to draw fouls upon his opponents to get to the free throw line.  He also used a spin move and an overhead ball fake to score on a leaner while getting an extra free throw another time.  On the downside, he missed on a couple of pull-up jumpers from the mid-range in this game.

However, he did commit a couple of turnovers on offense.  On one play, he committed an off-ball foul when trying to post up, as he shoved an opponent away that time.  On a separate play, he brought the ball up, but at the sight of a double-team when being pressed in the backcourt, he immediately lost the ball to commit another turnover. Plus, he also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was able to wrestle a ball away to get a tough offensive rebound, and he would leap up to get plenty of boards on both end of the floor.

Also, he played solid defense in this game.  He defended well in the post, and he also used a pull out the chair move to force a miss once.  He also contested a shot off of a drive to force a miss another time.

Overall, Filipp Gafurov is a mobile, skilled basketball player that possesses versatile scoring skills.  He will need to add strength and improve his handles, but he could be an intriguing prospect to keep tabs on in the future.

Florida’s incoming 6-7 swingman, Samson Ruzhentsev had his ups and downs for Russia, but he did show a solid ability to knock down outside shots.  He excelled at knocking down three-point shots from beyond the arc, as he can make them off the catch or dribble, but especially excelled at doing so in spot-up situations.  He also managed to score on a crafty floater, but he generally struggled more to make shots off the dribble, and he especially had trouble in trying to make two-point shots consistently.

He also showed off decent playmaking and rebounding skills.  Ruzhentsev can throw accurate passes off the dribble, and he also would leap up to haul in a board on each end of the floor.  Defensively, he looked to be about average.  He was able to get a steal, but he was called for touch fouls on that side of the ball.

Overall, Samson Ruzhentsev is a good shooter that will need to improve in the other facets of the game.  He excelled at making threes, and he was tied for leading his team in the most points scored amongst players that participated in this match.  He will need to continue to hone his skills and refine his overall game, but if he puts in the work to do so, he could project to be a 3 and D type of role player in the NBA.

Cincinnati’s incoming freshman, 6-9 Russian forward, Viktor Lakhin excelled as an inside scorer and interior defender in his team’s win over Germany.  He was able to use a quick spin move to his left to score in the post, and he also managed to score on a left-handed drive to the hoop.  Plus, he also scored on athletic tip dunk.  Lakhin also was able to score on a quick put back another time, and he generally did a good job of making shots in the paint.

On the downside, he did commit a couple of turnovers.  Lakhin was able to throw a good interior pass once to set up a scoring opportunity for a teammate once.  On the other hand, he stepped out of bounds off of a drive, and he also lost the ball off of a drive on a separate possession.

Also, he did a great job of rebounding the basketball in this game.  He would chase down balls to get boards on both ends of the floor.  Plus, Lakhin played solid defense.  He did a good job of blocking shots when defending in the post, and he also tipped a pass to a teammate to force a turnover.  He would use his length to contest shots and play passing lanes to help his team get stops.  On the downside, sometimes he would struggle to defend in one-on-one situations, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores.  He also fouled an opponent on a three-point shot, as that led to a four-point play.

Overall, Lakhin is an athletic, energetic big man that can score, rebound, and block shots in the paint.  He will likely need to improve his jump shot and decision-making skills on offense, but his ability to make shots efficiently, rebound, and defend in the paint could allow him to carve out a role as a rotational big man in the NBA sometime in the future.

Russia’s 6-8 forward, Dmitrii Kadoshnikov is a fairly athletic swingman that excelled at making plays to help his team on both sides of the ball.  He is an energetic player that will use off-ball motion plays to score, and he excelled at scoring off of cuts, rolls, and on put backs.  He also managed to score on a powerful, two-handed dunk midway through this contest.  He also dribbled to the post area, as he used a pump fake to score on a jump hook.  He did take a three-point shot, but he missed that time from beyond the arc.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  On one good play, Kadoshnikov drove very quickly up the court and managed to throw a solid interior pass to set up a score for a teammate on the break.  However, sometimes he would be careless with the ball, as he would commit ball-handling turnovers, and he also dropped a pass out of bounds late in this match.

Also, Kadoshnikov did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would leap up to haul in boards on both ends of the floor, and he also brought the ball up once off of a defensive rebound.  Plus, he also played solid defense.  He was able to poke a ball away from an opponent off of a drive to a teammate to force a turnover, and he excelled at contesting shots off of drives to get stops for his team.  On the downside, he was called for a foul after rotating to help his man on a drive another time.

Overall, Kadoshnikov is a fairly athletic, energetic combo forward that will make hustle plays to help his team on both ends of the floor.  He will need to improve his jump shot and ball handling skills, but his ability to make shots efficiently, rebound, and defend could make him an intriguing prospect to keep tabs on down the road.

I also watched this game to try to assess the skills of Russia’s 6-7, 2001-born forward, Aleksandr Chadov, who already has been getting some meaningful minutes in both the VTB United League and in the Basketball Champions League.  However, he only played in the last half of a minute in this game, and he spent most of the time on the bench on this day.

When he was on the floor, he showed off decent mobility and footwork to defend out on the perimeter, but he did get beat on a nifty pivot move from Wagner, as Chadov ended up fouling him and allowing the score to give his opponent a three-point play late in the game. Chadov also managed to get a defensive rebound, and he drew free throws shortly afterwards, as he was able to make one of his two free throws.  Overall, Chadov is a basketball player that seems to possess above average athletic gifts, but he didn’t really do anything on offense, as he just was not on the floor long enough.  From looking at his season statistics and from observing his play in this match, Chadov is a player that may have a long way to go before being able to make it to the NBA, but if so, he may be a player that may possess considerable potential, as he could project to be a 3 and D type of role player at that level.

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