We are right in the middle of the European season and it’s time to review NBA teams’ overseas draftees and their performances in recent months. While it’s hard to say that one particular name is a lock for a buyout and NBA future, there are many candidates for possible roster spots next season. We also have some rapidly emerging draftees in the mix.
Valuable: Marcus Eriksson (G-F, 24, Gran Canaria, Spain)
Notable: Alpha Kaba (C, 21, ASVEL, France)
Eriksson is probably the most improved player in Europe this season. The legitimacy of the Spanish league, the second-best domestic competition on the planet, and the playoff aspirations of Gran Canaria made his progress even more lucrative. He is leading his squad in scoring both in Eurocup (15.7 points per game) and Liga Endesa (13 points per game), but the most flashy thing about the guard is his prolific 3-point shooting. Marcus has converted more than 50 percent of his long-range shots so far. It may be too soon to scream Marco Belinelli, but with their recent struggles, Hawks might have to take a closer look at their best European asset.
The Celtics have exactly zero unsigned draftees. No grandpas, no youngsters, no nothing.
Valuable: Aleksandar Vezenkov (F, 22, Barcelona, Spain)
The Bulgarian was once ranked near the top of his European class but then found himself sliding all the way to the bottom of the second round. Unfortunately for him, his market value and playing time with Barcelona shrank considerably this season. What’s even more depressing is that Barcelona should make a run for the playoff spot in the EuroLeague and Vezenkov’s role is unlikely to change. Aleksandar, or Sasha, as he’s most commonly known, had much more success in domestic competition (10.1 points per game, 43.3 percent 3-point shooting) but without a great EuroLeague showing like the one he had last year, it is hard to imagine a buyout story with Brooklyn in the near future.
See Boston situation.
The Bulls have 35-year-old Albert Miralles, 31-year-old Tadija Dragicevic, and 32-year-old Milovan Rakovic. If you think those players have no chance of entering NBA, you are one hundred percent correct.
Valuable: Dimitrios Agravanis (C, 22, Olympiacos, Greece)
Notable: Milan Macvan (F, 28, Bayern Munich, Germany)
The Cavs have a bunch of goods, but almost all of them are cheap and useless. That may sound harsh, but the only one from the group who will probably test NBA waters is Greek center Dimitrios Agravanis. The bad thing is that he’s already injured himself pretty badly, not to mention that he was only a backup behind Nikola Milutinov anyway. Milan Macvan is a very skilled European big with a deep emphasis on the word “European.” He’s too small for NBA “five” and too slow and limited for the NBA “four.”
Notable: Petteri Koponen (G, 30, Barcelona, Spain)
Koponen had been the face of Finnish basketball for years. I say had been, because now it is undoubtedly Lauri Markkanen. Petteri is still a quality EuroLeague-caliber shooting guard and he can run the point here and there, but he is simply not built athletically for the NBA.
Valuable: Vlatko Cancar (F, 20, Mega Bemax, Serbia)
Notable: Nikola Radicevic (G, 23, Crvena Zvezda, Serbia)
Danilo Gallinari, Evan Fournier, Timofey Mozgov, Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic. Denver has been a hot spot for top European talent recently. Would Vlatko Cancar match his predecessors? It’s early to tell for the 20-year-old Croatian, but he is in the right environment. Serbian club Mega Bemax is a machine for the development of future draft picks. After the departure of Dylan Ennis, Mega’s former leader, Cancar has gotten more and more opportunities to shine. He averages career-highs in points per game (13) and rebounds per game (5.2) in domestic Balkan ABA league. Nikola Radicevic is more of a long shot. It is very hard for him to find his niche with Crvena Zvezda, heavy-loaded Serbian powerhouse.
See Boston situation.
Golden State Warriors
At the age of 36, Mladen Sekuralac has already had coaching experience. And that is pretty much all we have to say about the Warriors’ overseas assets.
Valuable: Alessandro Gentile (F, 25, Virtus Bologna, Italy)
Notable: Sergio Llull (G, 30, Real Madrid, Spain)
This was a really hard pick between Llull and Gentile. Sergio Llull is absolutely a special case of a European player who, by any estimation, should’ve been in the NBA a long time ago. Even earlier than another Euro legend, Milos Teodosic. But Sergio has been clearly comfortable in Madrid while leading the club to many prizes and titles. With his recent gruesome injury, his NBA future is in jeopardy and the possibility for him to join Dejan Bodiroga and Demetris Diamantidis’ club is as high as ever. He is still rehabilitating and is far from his season debut. But even “not in his best shape,” Sergio will cool Doncic’s hysteria off. He is that kind of player.
On the other side of the spectrum, Alessandro Gentile enjoys reincarnation and all of his recent struggles are gone for good. Italian had really a nightmarish past season with bad blood spilling between him and his former club Olimpia Milano. His stint with another EuroLeague team, Panathinaikos, was a no-show and later he was released to join his third team in several months, Amar’e Stoudemire’s Hapoel Jerusalem. Now he is one of the top scorers in Italian league with Virtus Bologna (17.6 points per game). There is only one big problem with Gentile. His 3-point shooting is gone (just 22.2 percent so far), and everybody knows what that means for the Rockets’ organization.
Andrew Betts was selected in the 1998 NBA Draft. Not the oldest retiree on the list, we might add.
Los Angeles Clippers
Notable: David Michineau (G, 23, Cholet, France)
Micheneau was playing for Clippers at the most recent NBA Summer League but played a total of just 20 minutes in three games. And it’s really hard to blame Clippers, which found a lot of role players that performed well in Las Vegas. David is simply not on the level of Frank Ntilikina or Rodrigue Beaubois. And even Andrew Albicy’s path is not likely for him. He is progressing with his scoring ability (11.1 points per game so far in the French league) but passing and floor generalship are still leaving question marks all over the place.
Los Angeles Lakers
Chinemelu Elonu is a good option for some small-market team in Europe, but the NBA is long gone for him.
Valuable: Zhelin Wang (C, 23, Fujian, China)
TheChinese market will only grow bigger, and even if there won’t be another Yao-Ming-caliber center, it is worth having an up-and-comer with potential. What the hell do you think Zhou Qi is doing in Mike D’Antoni system? PR purposes aside, Wang is unquestionably the second-best Chinese big man in the domestic league right now. And there is no shame in relaxing in passenger’s seat when Yi Jianlian is driving. Zhelin is averaging a double-double for the season right now (18.2 points and 10 rebounds per game).
And this is when it gets really nasty. The Heat are still holding draft rights to 42-year-old Roberto Duenas and 45-year-old George Banks. Having your youngest draftee at 42 should have been a record, but…
It’s Milwaukee which took the nod. 44-year-old Eurelius Zukauskas and 45-year-old Andrei Fetisov were in the first waves of post-Soviet opportunists. Not the luckiest ones, obviously.
Valuable: Bojan Dubljevic (C, 26, Valencia, Spain)
Notable: Henk Norel (C, 30, Gipuzkoa, Spain)
It is really hard to believe but the current leader of Spanish league in effectiveness ranking is Henk Norel. And he is the only one with 20-plus points according to this system. But there should be no illusion, the 30-year-old Dutch center is doing this for a middle-class team with poor frontcourt. Bojan Dubljevic’s NBA future is much more realistic. Montenegrin has been a force in the paint for Spanish champion Valencia and even the signing of Tibor Pleiss hasn’t damaged his numbers much (10.1 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes per game in the EuroLeague). He is not fully developed into a modern center, but he can definitely stretch the floor and even give you some threes. Bojan has a short window and if Timberwolves might need a quality backup center in the near future they probably should gamble.
New Orleans Pelicans
Notable: Latavious Williams (F, 28, Valencia, Spain)
Latavious is the first ever high-schooler to skip college to sign with a G League team. He was ultimately drafted, but it was back in 2010, and there is not much interest left in his services. His age and recent tibia fracture made things worse and even after full recovery, he will need to find his niche in Valencia’s loaded frontcourt. Latavious is still an athletic freak, but without any other notable feature. These type of guys are not welcomed in the modern NBA anymore.
New York Knicks
Notable: Louis Labeyrie (F, 25, Strasbourg, France)
Talking about another draftee who’s made a big splash this season. Louis is now should be considered an elite power forward in the French league by any measurement. He is the third-best rebounder (8.2 per game) and holds a top-10 position in the scoring race with 15.2 points per game. Louis has also had pretty good showings for the Knicks at recent Summer League camps, so it is not a typical case of a forgotten second-round pick.
Oklahoma City Thunder
A bunch of 30-year-olds with no hope at all, so let’s keep it simple. OKC really has nothing.
Valuable: Janis Timma (F, 25, Baskonia, Spain)
Notable: Tyler Harvey (G, 24, Antibes, France)
Timma is one of the most complete unsigned draft picks there is. He can be described as an athletic, physical, rangy, unselfish wing who’s submitted healthy numbers throughout his whole career. Janis was a vital part of the Zenit rotation last season. The same applies to his current team, Baskonia. It is hard to overcome Tornike Shengelia and Rodrigue Beaubois’ numbers but Timma is doing well for himself with 8.6 points per game in the EuroLeague while shooting 40-plus percent from deep.
Valuable: Anzejs Pasecniks (C, 22, Gran Canaria, Spain)
Notable: Mathias Lessort (C, 22, Crvena Zvezda, Serbia), Vasilje Micic (G, 24, Zalgiris, Lithuania), Jonah Bolden (F, 22, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel)
The richest and the deepest overseas group, bar none. It looks like “The Process” has finally arrived in Europe. The Sixers have all kind of options starting with the first-round pick they received from Orlando last summer. Latvian center Anzejs Pasecniks is steadily developing alongside Marcus Eriksson in Gran Canaria while showing glimpses of greatness both in EuroCup and the Spanish league. Mathias Lessort is a less lucrative blue chip but is worth Sixers attention for sure. He might be the most athletic center in the EuroLeague right now with bad intentions on both ends of the floor. 8.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game is absolutely a legit stat line.
You need defense, you go after Jonah Bolden. The former UCLA forward has developed into an elite defender for major Israeli powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv. He is averaging 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks in the EuroLeague so far and really is a nightmare for every capable offensive player. Shooting is still an undeveloped part of his game, though. Finally, in Vasilije Micic you can find a very talented young point guard with a pass-first mentality. Sarunas Jasikevicius just doesn’t work with guys who can’t run the team properly.
Just for the record: Cenk Akyol’s draft rights were traded five times. Ron Ellis will celebrate 50 this year. Dwayne Collins is retired at the unknown age near his mid-20s. You guessed it. No help for the Suns whatsoever.
Portland Trail Blazers
Notable: Daniel Diez (F, 24, Unicaja, Spain)
You can’t really expect a lot from Dani Diez anymore. It’s his third season with Unicaja and he is still the same role player he was two years ago. He hasn’t shown up once for the Trail Blazers at Summer League. Maybe it is time to drop him from any comeback conversations.
Valuable: Arturas Gudaitis (C, 24, Olimpia Milano, Italy)
Notable: Luka Mitrovic (F, 24, Brose Bamberg, Germany)
Gudaitis is enjoying the opportunity of a lifetime with Olimpia Milano. He has shown respectable numbers with Zalgiris, but now it’s a different story. The Lithuanian is shooting 70 percent from the field in the EuroLeague (only Walter Tavares has a higher number) and has already collected two monstrous double-doubles (17 points and 20 rebounds, 17 points and 17 rebounds) in the Italian league. His output would’ve been even higher, but Kaleb Tarczewski took his own piece of the pie.
San Antonio Spurs
Valuable: Adam Hanga (G, 28, Barcelona, Spain)
Notable: Nikola Milutinov (C, 22, Olympiacos, Greece), Cady Lalanne (C, 25, Enel Brindisi, Italy)
The Spurs are the Spurs and you should never sleep on their assets, even though some of them are still locked in Europe. Adam Hanga is the most valuable one. A complete all-around player, he’s doing everything he can to lift Barcelona up in the EuroLeague rankings. But does it really count with the recent saga between the Hungarian and the Texas franchise? According to reports, Hanga was almost on the roster, but in a stunning fashion signed a three-year deal with Barca only later to blame Spurs for mishandling the situation. This is not looking good for either side and their future partnership.
The Spurs can look the other way with bigs. Cady Lalanne is a liability under the rim and has been posting double-doubles effortlessly so far. He is just 0.3 rebounds per game shy of averaging a double-double for the season in Italy (16.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game). Nikola Milutinov could bring even more value. The Serbian took a huge step forward with Olympiacos this season and can finally hope for a breakthrough year. He has already almost doubled his scoring numbers with 8.4 points per game in the EuroLeague and we are just midway through the season.
The Raptors are exactly like the Spurs in their love for Europeans, only they don’t win. Emir Preldzic was once a solid rotation guy for EuroLeague teams but his NBA window is long gone.
Valuable: Nigel Williams-Goss (G, 23, Partizan, Serbia)
Notable: Ante Tomic (C, 30, Barcelona, Spain)
Williams-Goss is one of the best American rookies in Europe, period. His transition from the college game to European play has been absolutely amazing. The former Zag is doing wonders for Partizan at the point, contending for the top position in assists ranking in Balkan ABA League with 7.1 assists per game. And that’s not all. His 16.7 points per game are good enough for fifth place in the scoring race. He is also the current leader in EuroCup with 6.6 assists per game, but Partizan has been already eliminated and he may lose that spot. It’s Zach Collins who made it to the NBA, but it’s Nigel who shines the brightest from last year’s Gonzaga squad. And as for Ante Tomic – I think everybody’s done with his NBA aspirations.
Notable: Aaron White (F, 25, Zalgiris, Lithuania)
Aaron White is a poor man’s Jan Vesely. Or is he? He’s done some quality work for Zenit last season and almost made it to the VTB league finals. This year, he is competing for surprising Zalgiris in the Euroleague and providing some necessary help from the bench. The athleticism is there, and 38 percent from three is no joke for a power forward. Aaron is a workhorse, and a very effective one with 8.6 poi ts and 4.2 rebounds per game so far.