Some of these players go on to be stars, such as Manu Ginobili, Ricky Rubio and Marc Gasol. Others, such as Milos Vujanic and Frederic Weis, never even smell the league.
Vujanic, one of Europe’s best scorers in the last decade, managed to leave his mark on the NBA without ever playing a single minute by being a part of the big trade that brought Stephon Marbury to the Knicks from the Phoenix Suns.
While teams may draft these players with the intention of bringing them over in the future, the rights of a European player can be included in trades with only minor salary cap implications. Teams looking to take on additional value in a trade without committing any additional salary this season would be wise to do their homework on these mystery men.
With the NBA trade deadline Thursday, here is a look at five of the most valuable Eurostash prospects.
Born 1991, 6-10 power forward, Real Madrid (Spain)
Euroleague: 23.8 MPG, 11.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG
Spanish ACB League: 22.9 MPG, 13.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG
An extremely smart player with an excellent outside shot, Mirotic has the ability to move and shoot like a guard despite his height. He has excellent legs in the open floor and great percentages on spot-up jump shots thanks to his high release. His skill set is reminiscent of a less ball-dominant version of Toni Kucoc, although he doesn’t have the same presence Kukoc had on the floor when he played in Europe.
While Mirotic is an excellent finisher and a shooter, he does little in terms of creating offense for his teammates. He is not in any way a selfish player but he is not enough of a initiator to be a focal point of a team.
Mirotic has a large buyout that will not allow him to come to the NBA for another two years, so there is little doubt he will arrive stateside with the capability to play 25-30 minutes per game on a contending team. He may not have All-Star potential because he is not a first-class athlete, but he can for sure be an important rotation player the Bulls or another title contender.
Born 1984, 6-10 power forward-center, Regal Barcelona (Spain)
Euroleague: 20.2 MPG, 9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 53.1% 2PT, 52.9% 3PT
Spanish ACB League: 21.6 MPG, 10.4 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 63.2% 2PT
A seasoned veteran, Lorbek has been playing at the highest level of Europe since 2003. Establishing himself as one of the top big men on the continent, Lorbek has a very fundamentally sound approach to the game, with excellent mechanics on his post moves and plenty of consistency on his jumper.
Lorbek’s ability to knock down corner 3-pointers and his proficiency in the paint and on the defensive end would make him a more well-rounded option than shooting specialist Matt Bonner.
After playing so many years on big European teams – including Barcelona, where players need to share minutes and be willing to sacrifice personal glory for team success – Lorbek would be an excellent fit for a contending team.
Whether he would be willing to leave Europe, where he is always in the mix for accolades and championships, remains a big uncertainty. But he undoubtedly could make an impact for a top NBA team.