Gibson: Eurostash Trade Assets: Eastern Conference

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BARCELONA  When it comes to finding NBA talent in Europe, the Eastern Conference is admittedly a step or two behind the West.  General managers such as San Antonio’s R.C. Buford and Houston’s Daryl Morey have a knack for squeezing value out of overseas talent they’ve either drafted or acquired for picks and cash.

Now the East is making a comeback, hitching their wagon to quality instead of quantity. So while the Spurs and Rockets’ combined 12 rights-held players are more than half of the East’s total yield, today’s list has a better chance of producing an All-Star than the one published on this site yesterday.

Here are the top 10 Eurostash players whose rights are held by Eastern Conference teams.

1. Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto

European Club: Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania).

Odds He’ll Defect: 99.9 percent.

Last June, the Raptors drafted Valanciunas fifth overall, making him the second European to land in that slot in three years.  The other was Ricky Rubio, he of the dazzling first half and recently torn ACL. With Valanciunas, folks in Toronto  should expect all of the hubbub with half of the build-up, as Jonas is free to leave Lietuvos Rytas once the season is finished.

Also unlike Rubio, Valanciunas has ripped up the competition in his post-draft season, leading the VTB United League in rebounding and the Lithuanian League in scoring.

The only player better than Valanciunas in last year’s draft class was Kyrie Irving, and the Cavaliers could have had them both. Raptor fans will surely count their blessings as Valanciunas exorcises the Ghost of Rafael Araujo, one vicious slam at a time.

2. Nikola Mirotic, F, Chicago

European Club: Real Madrid (Spain).

Odds He’ll Defect: 75 percent.

Nikola Mirotic has eaten up quite a lot of Sheridan’s real estate this season, but not without damn good reason.  Real Madrid’s Montenegran marksman has started to fill out his frame just as quickly as he’s plugged the holes in his game, and now only his contract (which runs through 2015-16) stands between him and a Bulls uniform.

3. Fran Vazquez, C, Orlando

European Club: Regal Barcelona (Spain).

Odds He’ll Defect: 10 percent.

The Magic have enjoyed just two lottery picks since drafting Dwight Howard first overall in 2004.  Otis Smith spent the 11th pick in 2006 on JJ Redick.  He used that same pick one year earlier to select Vazquez, a 22-year-old spindly center who could soar.

Now Vazquez is 28, still gangly and just as much of a threat to sky for an alley-oop or throw a lazy floater into the seats.  He’s even cooked up a reliable little 15-footer, making his pump fakes that much more believable.  The Euroleague’s all-time blocks leader’s got the body and he’s got the game; the only thing missing is a desire to re-locate.

4. Kyle Singler, F, Detroit

European Club: Real Madrid (Spain).

Odds He’ll Defect: 90 percent.

As most locked out NBAers devised their travel plans back to the States in late November, Singler was more interested in swapping Spanish addresses.  So instead of flying to Detroit to sign with the Pistons, he parlayed his excellent numbers with Lucentum Alicante into a deal with Real Madrid for the remainder of the season, a choice he says he does not regret.

In Singler’s case, however, the whole Kyle is learning to excel in a more methodical, technical setting discussion flies out of the window, as Madrid is putting up 104 points per 48 minutes (European games are only 40 minutes).  Nobody’s transition between college and high-level European ball was as painless as Singler’s, and the jump from Madrid to the Motor City should go just as swimmingly.

5. Bojan Bogdanovic, SG/SF, New Jersey

European Club: Fenerbahce Ulker (Turkey)

Odds He’ll Defect: 80 percent.

Bojan Bogdanovic overcame a new role, a rough start and his head coach’s questionable decision making in the first year of a three-year deal with Fenerbahce Ulker.  The Nets want Fenerbahce to release Bogdanovic from his contract early, but I still can’t see any reason why the Turkish side would leave their most valuable asset on the curb.

Once in Brooklyn, Nets fans can expect a Mike Miller type, only before Mike Miller was not good.

6. Milan Macvan, PF, Cleveland

European Club: Partizan (Serbia)

Odds He’ll Defect: 20 percent.

When Maccabi loaned Milan Macvan to Partizan at the start of the season, the Euroblogosphere (it’s a thing) raised a collective eyebrow.  Turns out it was worthy of both our eyebrows.  Macvan joined forces with Nikola Pekovic to complete a scary Euroleague front court, leading the Euroleague in rebounding in Partizan’s ten games.  He has never and will never blow you away athletically, and his body’s still got more chub than chisel, but put him in a pick and roll and he’ll pass the eye test every time.

Macvan could sign up with an NBA team and be good for some scoring and boards off the bench, but he would be more comfortable and successful in a Euroleague setting which fits him quite snugly.

7. Sasha Kaun, C, Cleveland

European Club: CSKA Moscow (Russia).

Odds He’ll Defect: 25 percent.

His 7-foot-6 wingspan puts him in the top 25 of Draft Express’ measurements database, level with NBA starters like JaVale McGee and DeAndre Jordan and fractions of an inch ahead of cult hero and Russian countryman Pavel Podkolzin.  Unfortunately, his history of injuries is just as long.  Kaun’s left knee kept him out of the Euroleague entirely in 2010-11 (he did play in 25 Russian League games that year), and groin surgery interfered with last summer’s EuroBasket in Lithuania.  Now, CSKA has installed so much talent around him that Kaun doesn’t even make the team’s Top Three Players Whose Names Begin With ‘K’ list; Andrei Kirilenko, Nenad Krstic and Viktor Khryapa have him bested.  Less dynamic than he was before his legs starting losing their screws, the former Kansas Jayhawk rarely misses from in close (73 percent in Euroleague play this season) and still has plenty to offer an NBA team defensively. Especially a Varejao-less Cleveland.

8. Emir Preldzic, G, Washington

European Club: Fenerbahce Ulker (Turkey).

Odds He’ll Defect: 40 percent.

This Preldzic is making me thirsty.  Istanbul is just as parched, as the Euroleague’s most harmfully addictive enigma puts up one checkered performance after another.  The 6-foot-9 guard makes it impossible for the opposition to get clean looks, and his combination of height and creativity make him a dangerous passer.  Consistency, or lack thereof, has been a bugaboo for the Bosnian and Herzegovinian who competes internationally for Turkey.  He’ll follow up a double-digit assist night with donuts or something close, and though he attacks the lane aggressively, he’s usually stonewalled by the weak side bigs who are licensed to camp out in the European paint.  If the Euroleague instituted a penalty for defensive three seconds, it would be too soon for young Emir.

It should go without saying that D.C. isn’t the best place to shed bad habits these days, so Preldzic’s undulating progression will likely make Fenerbahce fans scratch their heads a little longer.

9. Stanko Barac, C, Indiana

European Club: Anadolu Efes (Turkey).

Odds He’ll Defect: 15 percent.

A very standard, old school center who can bring his man out about as far as the foul line.  He’s still in the first year of a three-year deal with Anadolu Efes, however, so Indianans may never have the pleasure of saying “Stanko” in everyday conversation.

10. Vladimir Veremeenko, PF, Chicago

European Club: UNICS Kazan (Russia)

Odds He’ll Defect: 10 percent

Veremeenko’s talent runs deep enough that even steady production has earned him the bust label, but one can only hope it was written in pencil.  The Belarusian 27-year-old has been pivotal for UNICS Kazan this season, finally turning all of that talent into double-doubles and weekly MVP awards.  Though while Vlad’s trending upward, his game isn’t attractive enough to garner much NBA attention.

Nick Gibson, editor of EuroleagueAdventures.com, covers Euroleague and other European basketball developments for SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear each Friday. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

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  1. Nick do you think Fran Vazquez will be in the NBA next year? I’ve read a number of reports saying he will take the plunge. FINALLY. Should that be higher than 10% now and more like 80-90%?

    • Such Sweet Thunder says:

      Dan:

      The early chatter out of Barca is that they’re going to make re-signing Lorbek their number one priority and have written off Vazquez as NBA bound, so yes . . . there’s more than a 10% chance he’ll play for the Magic next season. Not to speak for Gibson, but I imagine part of the reason he put Vazquez at that percentage is because Vazquez doesn’t have the star potential of the other players on the list considering his age (which to me, at least, is not an especially strong reason not to bring him over.)

      As to the other parts of the article, I’m really pleased to see Singler getting a mention. He looks to me like a player that could be better suited to the NBA than Euro ball and, well, he’s playing pretty damn well for Madrid. If Singler could just gain a little more consistency on his mid range and 3 point shot, he there wouldn’t be a ceiling on what he could accomplish.

    • Going to the Barcelona-Kazan playoff game tonight and will see what I can dig up on Vazquez. Thanks for the comments, y’all.

      • Any word on Vazquez? I want to pick him up in my league and stash him on my bench for next season.

      • Hey Nick do you have any word on Euro’s coming to the NBA? Vazquez, Llull, Freeland, Lorbek, etc? I know Jonas Valanciunas and Kirilenko will be in the NBA next season. Is anyone else coming over?

  2. I agree to a point with this guy. But to be honest I only care about guys that are coming to the NBA. Can you create a NBA Rights Held only list? That would be interesting. Another site use to do it but they discontinued it

    • Just to clarify I understand this is a similar list but I think another list of the players you feel will be the best overall (not only factoring in if they will came to the NBA tomorrow). For example, I think we can all agree that Nikola Mirotic will be a better player than Joel Freeland in the long run at the NBA level.

    • Hey Dan. As a matter of fact, we’re getting together a complete list soon with an actively updated top 20 or 25 over at Euroleague Adventures. I’ll be sure to shout it out on Sheridan when it’s up. No more than a week or two.

  3. These are the best power forwards in Euroleague (not in order):

    Lorbek
    Fotsis
    Savanovic
    Khryapa
    Printezis
    Reyes
    Teletovic
    Macvan
    Banic

    After that would be guys like Veremeenko, Mirotic, Hines, and Stonerook.
    Realistically, the only power forwards in Euroleague that are clearly better than Printezis are Teletovic, Fotsis, and Lorbek.

    You say he would have been in your top 5 players two years ago – well, he is a much better player now than he was then.

    Also, Nick, I have a question for you. Why not make just a best players in Euroleague list? I always see these lists on websites that cater to Americans and NBA fans and talk about European basketball, and the articles are always talking about players that NBA teams own the rights to, or “players that I think want to play in the next year”, or this kind of stuff.

    For once, it would be nice, just one time, if some US basketball fan demographically aimed sites actually talked about the real stars in Euroleague.

    You know, in all these years, I have never even one time, seen a US basketball directed site write seriously about Navarro, Spanoulis, Diamantidis, Huertas, Teletovic, and players like that. It’s almost crazy, but you can simply not find any articles anywhere about Spanoulis, Navarro, or Diamantidis, whom everyone in Europe thinks are the best Euroleague players of the recent years. The same with the best players from awhile ago, like Papaloukas, Siskauskas, Bodiroga, and so forth

    But you could find 500 articles on guys like Rubio, Sergio Llull, Freeland, etc. Players that in actuality, have had practically no impact at all in Euroleague.

    From the American viewpoint, mostly everyone in the USA thinks these types of players that are always being written about are the best players in Europe, no matter how wrong this is, because that is all they ever see talked about. I know it is always explained as, “from the NBA perspective”, but that’s just wrong. Because for example, Navarro would be a better NBA player than Rubio is, and so would Spanoulis and Diamantidis.

    But it’s always the, “their game won’t translate” nonsense excuse that is used to claim why some Euroleague players are not talked about regarding the NBA. That stuff is just wrong on so many levels and makes it seem like an agenda is at work. It would be nice if just once, there was actually some discussion about the actual best players in Euroleague. Because it never happens, ever. It’s like if the NBA articles never ever once talked about Kobe, Wade, Durant, LeBron – that is how all the Euroleague articles are.

    We never even see the best players even mentioned one time in years and years. But we could see endless articles on Brandon Jennings, or Jan Vesely, etc. Bit part role players of Euroleague are always being hyped to the nth degree, while the best players of Euroleague never even get mentioned.

    It’s a bit odd. I think your articles would get a lot more traffic if you actually started talking about the stars of Euroleague, instead of always trying to push the next NBA hyped up prospect. Believe it or not, Lorbek is a much better player right now than Valanciunas or Freeland are.

    So why not just come out and admit that? Maybe you get some interest and hits from Raptors and Blazers fans. So? You will get a lot more hits if you actually start writing about the Euroleague the same way the NBA is covered. The NBA covers it stars and its big teams. It does not spend all of its time talking about players that no one really knows, follows, or cares about.

    Just a friendly suggestion. Believe it or not, it will work better than just hyping the NBA marketing line with every article.

    • I agree to a point with this guy. But to be honest I only care about guys that are coming to the NBA. Can you create a NBA Rights Held only list? That would be interesting. Another site use to do it but they discontinued it.

  4. Zarko, I don’t like Bjelica’s game to be honest. His basketball I.Q. is one of the lowest I have ever seen in Euroleague. I am sure he can play in the NBA any time he wants, because they fawn over 6-10 guys that can handle the ball. But he does not really meet Euroleague standards, because his basketball I.Q. is just awful.

    Nick, I am totally in complete disagreement with your assessment of Printezis. I have to believe that no way have you seen an Olympiacos game this year with such an assessment like that, when he has been easily one of the best power forwards in Euroleague this year.

    • A couple years ago—pre-Unicaja—I’d have put Printezis in my top five favorite players in Europe. And he’s had some great moments this year, to be sure (I’ve watched all but one or two Olympiacos games this season, actually). But would one of the best power forwards in the Euroleague go without a rebound in three of 16 games?

    • Wow, plain awful IQ huh…That’s a surprise for me, will try to see that for myself in the future.

  5. No mention of Nemanja Bjelica as well, tho I can see why. I’m just interested in what you’d have to say about his NBA perspective. I think he’d fit NBA well, still young, long and great defensively (for example, he recently had your number 4 up there contained well), excellent court vision and ball handling skills for a 6’9”, tho tending to get in foul trouble too easily…I don’t think Caja is exploiting him nearly enough, having him substitute San Eme and Mirza, being only 7th or 8th attacking option there, and not having ball in his hands enough.

  6. OK, so no Becirovic, Halperin, Mavrokefalidis, Tomic, Printezis, Sanikidze, Siebutis, in either conference list? You have definitely omitted some players that are better than guys you listed.

    • Thanks for the comment, RT. Would you care to single out someone in particular who doesn’t belong? Halperin’s star has faded steadily in the past few years, injuries have sapped Becirovic of the quickness that would make him special, Printezis doesn’t seem to care about playing outside of Greece and is still wildly erratic, and have you seen Ante Tomic play recently? He doesn’t defend and he still turns to finesse in situations that beg for power. Seibutis loses his slot to Hanga in the West because while Renaldas can shoot and Adam can’t, Hanga can defend two positions.. NBA edge: Hanga.

      But Hell, I can’t lie: I love Viktor Sanikidze. Hope that helps, RT.

  7. Ryan Richards duh says:

    Adam Hanga was in the last draft Gibson, so back off on you Jonas “2nd best player” please. It’s about to be Hanga-splosion, just eat your words and jump on the bus.

  8. If Kevin Love can be more than effective in the nba, I think Macvan begs the attention. It’s not groundbreaking to suggest that there are glaring similarities between the two on a number of levels. Won’t jump out of the building or run the best fastbreak, but will operate in the high – or lowpost, will knock down the 3, will make the right play, will make the outlet pass, will clean the glass. Macvan stated regretting not entering the ’09 draft after being named Hoop Summit MVP recently and hopes to suit up in the Cavs uni.

  9. All that being said, San Antonio still holds the draft rights of the best player in Europe right now: Erazem Lorbek.

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