NBA Draft: The Best From Abroad
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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When you hear all the talk about how great the 2012 NBA Draft could be, it’s not because it’s overflowing with international talent. In fact, the opposite is the case. It’s the homegrown talent that has this draft class being projected to be one of the deepest and best ever.
After seeing four foreign-born players drafted in the top seven of the 2011 draft, chances are we only see half that many taken in the entire first round this year. The majority will likely be taken in the second round and allowed to stay with their respective clubs overseas. Then, a few years down the line after developing and polishing their games, they may have the opportunity to come stateside. That formula has worked out quite well for Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio, who is a potential Rookie of the Year candidate, and Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, who signed a four-year $57 million deal this summer.
However, Rubio and Gasol are the best-case scenarios, and somewhat of a rarity, when it comes to drafting an international player and waiting to bring him over. For instance, the Orlando Magic drafted Rubio and Gasol’s Spanish teammate Fran Vasquez 11th overall in 2005. He’s never come close to joining the Magic, enjoying the life of luxury and superstardom overseas as opposed to the 82-game grind and move that comes with playing in the NBA. Then there are guys like Sergey Lishchuk, a 2004 second round selection of the Memphis Grizzlies, whose names are said on draft night and never heard again unless it’s as a filler in a trade, but never in regards to potentially coming to the NBA.
There are risks that come with every draft pick, but international players tend to test team’s eyes for talent more so than players from the NCAA, who teams see regularly and know everything about. Every team misses at some point, but there are some teams whose track record contains more hits than misses.
Hit and miss best describes this year’s crop of international prospects. There’s definitely some talent, however, it’s up in the air as to how much of an impact they’ll have in the league. In our latest NBA Draft feature, we take a deeper look at them:
The Top Five
Evan Fournier (France) – 6’7, 206 lbs. Shooting Guard
Hailing from the French League where NBA players such as Charlotte Bobcats forward Boris Diaw, San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker and Dallas Mavericks guard Roddy Beaubois played prior to getting drafted, Fournier has a chance to be a first round pick. He has good size for a swingman and an adept skill set out on the perimeter that makes him a viable threat to score any time he touches by either getting to the rim or shooting from mid-range. His shooting percentages from beyond the arc (22%) are far from flattering, but the mechanics on it are actually not that bad. He should improve with hard work and better shot selection. The major area of concern with Fournier that could keep him out of the first round is his defense. He’s not a standout athletically and his wingspan is below average for someone of his size.
Augosto Cesar Lima (Brazil) – 6’10, 235 lbs. Power Forward
Don’t be surprised if very early on in the second round you hear Lima’s name called because he has an impressive combination of size, length, athleticism and speed that make him well worth the investment. Whichever team ends up selecting him will do so with the hopes that he turns into Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka down the line. They certainly have a lot of similarities. The key for Lima will be improving his understanding and feel for the game. He’s not much of an offensive and will probably never be a guy you can depend on for more than just scrap buckets, but if Lima can develop a mid-range jump shot and at least one go-to post move, there will probably be a spot for him in the league come 2013 or 2014.
Furkan Aldemir (Turkey) – 6’9, 220 lbs. Power Forward
A first-team selection in the 2011 U20 World Championships, Aldemir has put himself on the NBA radar by being a stellar rebounder at a young age. He averaged 15 a game in that tournament and it’s on the glass where his impact is felt the most with his club team Galatasaray Café Crown. Aldemir is locked up with Galatasaray for another three years, so it will be a while before we ever see him in the NBA if ever. For there to be a major demand for Aldemir, he’s going to have to improve offensively and add some strength to his frame that looks to be supportive of additional muscle. He’ll be best suited for a team that likes to play in the halfcourt as he is not overly quick or athletic.
Tomas Satoransky (Czech Republic) – 6’6, 190 lbs. Shooting Guard
An intriguing talent with serious point guard skills at 6’6, Satoransky is the kind of guy who a team picking in the late first round could fall in love with. He’s shown a wide-ranging set of abilities and is also an explosive athlete. In today’s day and age, though, chances of him playing point guard are slim. The Derrick Rose’s and Russell Westbrook’s of the league are going to be too quick for him to guard. At shooting guard he’ll have to adapt to a different mentality and be more aggressive, but the tools are all there for Satoransky to play in the league for many years to come if he desires and develops accordingly.
Tornike Shengelia (Republic of Georgia) – 6’9, 220 lbs. Forward
Another classic example of a tweener stuck between playing small forward and power forward, it’s going to be really interesting to see how Shengelia’s career plays out moving forward. While he may be able to get away with playing the three overseas, odds are in the NBA he’d have to become a full-time four. Despite being stuck between positions, Shengelia will win you over if you watch him. He gets after it and at the young age of 20 there’s no telling where someone with his heart and work ethic will be two or three years from now. Early second round isn’t out of the question for Shengelia based on how well he’s played this year for Charleroi.
Also Worth Mentioning
Three names you are also likely to hear on draft night 2012 are Nihad Dejdovic (Bosnia), David Jelinek (Czech Republic) and Nemanja Nedovic (Serbia). Dejdovic and Jelinek primarily play off the ball and provide major scoring punches for their club teams. Nedovic meanwhile plays more point but has enough size to where he could play some two also if needed.
Senior NCAA and NBA analyst Yannis Koutroupis will be hosting his weekly chat this Friday February 3rd at 11 am EST. You can get your questions into him here!