Džanan Musa: The 2018 NBA Draft’s “Other” Import

When someone mentions the top European prospects in the 2018 NBA Draft, the conversation has been dominated by everyone’s thougts on Slovenian guard Luka Dončić, as he’ll almost certainly be taken among the top three or four picks.

But while the next European player to be taken after Dončić hasn’t seemed to generate nearly as much headlines, he could be one of the most intriguing talents in this year’s draft class as well.

That player would be Dzanan Musa, the 18 year-old forward from Bosnia & Herzegovina, who’s been playing for Croatian club KK Cedevita Zagreb for the past three seasons.

The 6-foot-9 Musa is already a veteran of international competition at such a young age, 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 year 2000. That means that, at only 18 years old, Musa is already something of a seasoned professional.

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.

He’s entering the NBA Draft at the perfect time, capitalizing off his recent play at KK Cedevita Zagreb, where he scored 12.2 points per game last year (shooting 61% from two-point range and 34% from three), and tallied 3.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 23 minutes per game (in 58 games).

The critics will pick apart Musa’s game in a manner that’s a familiar refrain for many prospects coming from Europe: his defensive ability (or lack thereof). Like with many “Euro’s,” scouts will debate what it means that Musa might be a better basketball player than athlete overall. Skilled basketball players can contribute on offense, but it’s the athletes who can make the difference on dfense. That’s why the NBA tends to take raw athletes over polished players because they want players who will get better as they get older.

Further, while Musa has the desired NBA height, some worry about how much size he can pack on his slight frame, without slowing down his already somewhat-marginal explosiveness. His lateral quickness is a question mark, especially for someone who will be spending most of his time playing on the wing, so will making him bigger and stronger be the right answer?

And 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?

That’s what the conversation around Musa will likely entail between now and the end of June. Some may think we’re “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 his offensive gifts, he could be as intriguing a prospect as many of the guys projected to be taken in the NBA Draft lottery ahead of him.