Mitnick: Top Eurostash Players For NBA Deadline Deals

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Since the days of Arvydas Sabonis, NBA teams have been drafting European players with the intention of stashing these prospects in the mother continent before they make their NBA debut.

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.

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European Championship Qualifying Update – Part II

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11. Petteri Kaponen, Guard, Finland, (Dallas owns draft rights)

Kaponen has been moving up the food chain in European basketball since he was drafted in the first round back in 2007. Kaponen is the clear leader of the undefeated Finnish squad, pouring in 22.8 points a game to go along with 5 assists, as he prepares to take the step up to the Euroleague with the Russian giant, Khimki Moscow. He has excellent size for a point guard at 6’5”, and he has great decision making in the pick-and-roll to go along with his shooting touch. On sheer talent, he probably could have made the jump to the NBA a couple of years ago, but the decision to let him stay in Europe to let his game grow has worked wonders, as his development over recent years has been rapid. After another year or two, he should be ready to be a contributor in the NBA.

12. Milan Macvan, Forward/Center, Serbia, (Cleveland owns draft rights)

One of Europe’s most improved big men this past season, Macvan has become an important piece for Serbia as they struggle to compensate for a hobbled Nenad Krstic. He has an excellent shooting touch for a big man, and is a very good rebounder. His problem right now is that he doesn’t have the mobility to play the 4 in the NBA, or the length to play the 5, so unless he can find a way to grow his arms, he will need to gain some foot speed to make the jump. He definitely could make the Cavs roster right now, but it is clearly a better career move for him to head to Galatasaray, a Turkish Euroleague team with a very strong tradition.

13. Semih Erden, Center, Turkey, (Anadolu Efes)

Erden surprised people a little bit by showing he is more than just another big body in his short stint in the NBA. He may not have the upside to be more than a backup, but he showed with the Celtics that he can fit in as a backup on a quality team. However, he cannot lead a team, and this has been a main reason why Turkey is struggling and right now is in danger of not qualifying for next summer’s competition. His 15 points, nearly 7 rebounds and 2 blocks have been solid, but he will need to step up and carry a larger load for his team to qualify. He will spend next season with Anadolu Efes, where he will be teamed up with one of the best backcourts in Europe, featuring Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic and Jamon Gordon.

14. Tornike Shengelia, Forward, Georgia (Brooklyn Nets)

“Toko” Shengelia is continuing to show the same upside that convinced the Nets to bring him over this season, instead of giving him some time to develop in Europe. Averaging over 13 points and 7 rebounds, he has excellent speed and feel for the game for a player his size. The NBA style of play is more spread out than in Europe, and Shengelia should be able to make great use of his natural athleticism in the American game. It’s looks like the Nets may have found themselves a nice second-round steal.

 

15. Yogev Ohayon, Guard, Israel (Lokomotiv Kuban — Russia)

After battling in the Euroleague quarterfinals last season against Dimitris Diamantitis, Ohayon has proven he belongs among Europe’s elite guards. Bursting from small time Israeli player to Euroleague impact player in only a short time, it is no stretch to say he may have a chance to make the NBA next summer. Despite being a 6-3 point guard, he is one rebound shy of leading the team at 6.3 RPG, to go along with 4.6 assists vs. a mere 1.8 turnovers. His outside shot still needs some work, but his defense and penetration are at an NBA level right now. Getting a chance to spread his wings outside of Israel for the first time, with Lokomotiv Kuban, could possibly get him a look in the league.

16. Tomas Satoransky, Guard, Czech Republic, (Wizards own draft rights)

Satoransky has the type of tools that make scouts slobber, but he needs more seasoning to put it together. His shooting has been woeful throughout the last 2 weeks, but he has made up for it by contributing 6 assists and 6 rebounds. As a 6-7 point guard with excellent vision, he has loads of potential to have a big time career. Hopefully, some more experience in the Spanish ACB league will help him fare better than Marko Jaric — a similar sized European PG with a similar skill set.

 

17. Jacob Pullen, Guard, Georgia, (Hapoel Jerusalem — Israel)

This former Kansas State guard has gotten a Georgian passport that can go a long way towards helping him showcase himself for the NBA in the future. After a fantastic year in Italy last season, Pullen has signed with a Jerusalem team that just brought in NBA veteran Craig Smith. With NBA scouts surely keeping their eye on the holy city this season, Pullen will have a chance to remind folks that he is a super confident guard with an outstanding jump shot.

18. Adam Hanga, Swingman, Hungary, (Spurs own draft rights)

Hanga is a super athlete, with the potential to be an NBA player down the road. He just got his feet wet at the highest levels this past season, playing in the ACB, and he has shown steady development. His shot has been falling in this tournament (18.8 ppg on 50 pct. shooting), but some of that can be credited to the added confidence of being the sole NBA draftee on a relatively unheralded Hungarian team. In terms of size and raw athletic ability, Hanga has the tools to be another sneaky Spurs late draft pick if he continues the pace of his development for another couple years.

19. Tibor Pleiss, Center, Germany, (Thunder own draft rights)

While Pleiss may not be the next Dirk Nowitzki as many had hoped when he played in the juniors, he has proven to be a solid role player at the Euroleague level. An excellent rebounder and shot blocker, Pleiss will be making his debut in the Spanish ACB league this season with Caja Laboral. He may be a raw prospect, but at 7-1, he could possibly find a way onto a Nets squad that won’t have many draft picks or much cap space in the near future.

20. Viacheslav Kravtsov, Center, Ukraine, (Detroit Pistons)

Listed at No. 11 in our recent Top 10 EuroRookies column, Krestov will get a chance to rumble with the Pistons this year simply because you cannot teach someone to be 7 feet tall. What Krestov lacks in his feel for the game, or touch outside of 3 feet from the rim, he makes up for with incredible length and timing as a shot blocker. Throughout the tournament’s first 4 games, he is averaging a whopping 3.3 blocks in a mere 21.5 minutes, with only 1.5 fouls. On a team that turned Ben Wallace into one of the stars of the league, it is possible the Pistons could develop this raw gem into a defensive ace off the bench.

 

CONTINUE READING: Eurobasket ’13 qualifying Top 25 players, Nos. 21-25

 

Sunday’s Blog: The future of the Celtics’ Big Three, plus much more NBA news

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So it’s Heat vs. Thunder in the Finals.  The big question now is what happens to the Big Three in Boston, with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen unrestricted free agents and Paul Pierce a potential trade candidate.  We’ve got that, and all the latest news from around the NBA.

  • From Alex Kennedy at HoopsWorld, Doc Rivers doesn’t want this to be the end of the Big Three. “I don’t know,” Rivers said. “I think we’re going to wait and see what happens with free agency and all that stuff.  I honest to gosh hadn’t thought much about it. I’ve given zero thought to the whole thing. Danny [Ainge] has talked to me a couple of times recently. I probably didn’t hear much. We’ll find that out later. I just want to stick with this group if it’s a couple more days, a couple more weeks, or whatever. I just want to stick with them.”  Kennedy also writes that “Allen will likely test free agency, especially since he was nearly dealt at the trade deadline. Sources believe he’ll look to sign a multi-year deal with another contender. Garnett will also receive interest from a number of teams after his phenomenal postseason run. Pierce was almost traded at midseason for a lottery pick, and a similar move could be made before the draft if Garnett and Allen let it be known that they’re leaving. After giving this group one more shot, this will likely be the summer that Ainge decides to rebuild.”
  • Allen indicated that he wants to continue playing, even if it’s not as a Celtic, according to Paul Flannery of WEEI.com: ”There’s still a lot of basketball left in my legs,” Allen said. “I know that for sure. So it’s hard to say what can happen, what may happen.”
  • Pierce, for one, doesn’t want the Big Three era to end, according to Frank Dell’Apa of Boston.com: “It’s been tremendous to have [Garnett] around, just the culture he brought, you know? It’d be great to end my career with Kevin. I have a couple years left and, who knows what his future’s going to bring – management can do something to bring him back and get us the pieces we need to get over the top. If not, it’s been a tremendous run.’’
  • Brandon Bass wants to come back to the Celtics, writes Paul Flannery.  “Bass has a player option for next season and all indications are that he will exercise it after averaging career highs in points and rebounds. After the Celtics season ended abruptly in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, Bass said he hasn’t thought too much about the future but he also made it clear that he wants to return,” writes Flannery.
  • From Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, an idea of a player the Celtics could target this offseason: “An emerging player on the Celtics’ radar could be San Antonio restricted free agent Danny Green, who had a solid playoff stretch with the Spurs and is one of the league’s most improved players. Green started most of the postseason games for San Antonio, and because he is a second-round pick under the Arenas rule, the Spurs can match any offer to him. The Celtics will be seeking an athletic swingman who can play defense and has long-range shooting skills.”
  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted that the Warriors will possibly be deciding between Perry Jones III and Terrence Jones with the #7 pick.
  • Czech combo guard Tomas Sataronsky was the star of the first day of the adidas Eurocamp, writes NBC Sports’ Brett Pollakoff.  “Satoransky ran the point and played off the ball equally well, and whipped the ball around the perimeter with confidence, always looking to create the best shot for his teammates. When it was his turn to score, he showcased a smooth stroke from the outside, and was able to put the ball on the floor and finish in traffic, as well. Satoransky is projected as a mid-second round pick, but that could change quickly if he continues to perform as he did on the camp’s first day.”  Putting a bit of a damper on that is the fact that French guard Evan Fournier, the only European player projected in the first round, didn’t participate in any group activities, though he’s expected to later in the camp.
  • The Heat-Celtics Game 7 drew the highest rating for an NBA playoff game on cable since ratings started being kept (in 2003), according to an AP report.
  • From Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, another potential promise to a draft pick from a team with a lottery pick.  This time, “an NBA source told Yahoo! Sports that [Austin] Rivers has a promise late in the draft lottery.”
  • Lots of talk about the Bobcats shopping the #2 overall pick, and Rusty Simmons says that “would be perfect for the Warriors, who could draft the tough, defensive-minded Kidd-Gilchrist after New Orleans takes Anthony Davis at No. 1.”
  • If the Bobcats decide not to trade that pick, “[Thomas] Robinson and [Michael] Kidd-Gilchrist appear to be the top candidates to be chosen second,” writes Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

For our other previous blog entries, click here.

Dan Malone just completed his sophomore year at University of Kings College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and is spending the summer in Baltimore, where he covers the Single-A minor-league baseball team the Aberdeen IronBirds for OriolesHangout.com.  He will be blogging for SheridanHoops this summer.

Mitnick: Five early-entry gems in 2012 NBA draft – Internationals

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TEL AVIV — With the announcement of this year’s early entry candidates for the NBA draft, now is a good time to take a look at this season’s international crop.

There are no clear cut stars coming from abroad in this year’s draft, but there are a few names that have a good chance to be solid contributors to teams down the line.

(Click here to reach Tommy Dee’s column on 5 Hidden Gems among the Americans who ar entering the draft early).

Furkhan Aldemir – 6-9, 230 lb, PF/C, 1991, (Galatasaray) Turkey

Projected Draft Position – Late first roundhttp://bit.ly/JLm0aK


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Of the Europeans in this year’s draft, Aldemir is the only guy who is a definite first-rounder. Aldemir has a nice touch around the basket, works hard to get positioning for rebounds, and has strong defensive fundamentals for a big man. With experience as a contributor on a strong Euroleague team, Aldemir is ready to contribute 15-20 minutes off the bench for a playoff team, and has the upside to be a full time starter down the road.

In a normal season, Aldemir likely would be gone by the 20th pick, but due to the depth of talent coming out of college this year, he likely won’t be selected until roughly the 25th pick. This scenario actually bodes well for Aldemir, as he currently would fit in much better in a backup role, where he can adjust to the NBA under the watch of strong veteran leadership, than he would on a rebuilding team.

Tornike Shengelia – 6-10, 220 lb, PF, 1991, Georgia (Spirou-Belgium)

Projected Draft Position – Late first round to early second round.

Shengelia probably won’t get picked in the first round, but he also is capable of stepping in and playing a role with a team right away. Playing for Spirou in Belgium, Shengelia has put up some big games in a strong league with a lot of foreign players. Shengelia is a crafty big man inside, although he probably could put on a bit more muscle, and like many European four men, he has range out to the 3-point line.

In a normal year, he would be a lock for the late first round, early second round, due to his combination of size, athleticism and skill, but in this draft, he may not get picked until the 40’s. To top it off, it is unlikely Shengelia will get an NBA offer bigger than what he could make in Europe right now, since European teams cover a player’s taxes and agent fees, so any team picking him likely would be looking at him as a prospect for down the road. Look for a Euroleague team or a Spanish team to try to secure his services if he slips out of the first round.

Evan Fournier – 6-7, 200 lb, SG/SF, 1992, (Poitiers) France

Projected Draft Position – Late first round to early second round

While Fournier’s game is suited for the NBA, he doesn’t appear to be ready to contribute immediately to a team. With his ability to create his own shot and get to the free throw line, he fits the mold of a successful wing player in the post hand- check era NBA game. However, at 19 years old, Fournier is not ready to be a major contributor to an NBA team, and likely will spend the next two or three years overseas.

If Fournier is smart, he will pull out of the draft and wait until he has the breakout season he appears destined for in the next season or two before trying to make a push at the NBA. If he keeps his name in the draft, he would be a clever gamble for a team with a late first round pick that is trying to avoid taking on salary, as he has lottery-type potential and could pay dividends down the line.

Tomas Satoransky – 6-7, 200lb, PG/SG, 1991, Czech Republic (Cajasol – Spain)

Projected Draft Selection – Mid to late second round

Satoransky has the ability to see the floor like a point guard, but the size of a two guard. Getting a chance to play in the ACB in Spain has given him a chance to learn the game at a very high level, and he is poised to have a big career in Europe. This guy has the physical tools and the natural talent to make it to the league, but isn’t ready to be an actual contributor to a team. With the recent success of big lead guards in the Euroleague, look for Satoransky to work through the ranks in Europe over the next few years before he even considers playing in the NBA.

Nemanja Nedovic – 6-4, 195 lb, PG, 1991, Serbia (Crvena Zvezda)

Projected Draft Selection – Mid second round to undrafted

Nemandja Nedovic is going to be a stud in Europe and is probably the most underrated player in the draft right now. He had a solid year in Serbia, where coaches are far more strict with their young players than they are in the US, after an outstanding performance in the 2011 U20 European Championships. He has good size for a point guard, and displays natural leadership ability. He has an excellent jump shot, can get to the rim and finish over big men, and can run the offense.

If a team is looking for immediate impact with their late second round pick, Nedovic isn’t the player for them. However, if a team is looking to roll the dice to hit it big down the road, Nedovic is a great bet in the 50’s. He likely will end up having a long career in Europe, but he has the upside to be an impact player in the NBA with some more seasoning.

AJ Mitnick is an American currently living in Israel and working for Maccabi Rishon Lezion of the Israeli Basketball Super League. A recent graduate of IDC Herzliya, Mitnick also maintains a  basketball blog, http://mindlessdribble.net, and is pursuing a professional basketball coaching license from the Wingate Institute in Israel. Follow him on Twitter.

Gibson: Freeland Could Join Blazers; Andy Rautins Update

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BARCELONA — Joel Freeland could be a Portland Trailblazer next year after all.

Reports surfaced last week that the 25-year-old British power forward and Trail Blazers draftee (30th overall in 2006) had signed an extension with Unicaja Malaga of Spain, lending serious doubt to his NBA future.  After a 75-65 loss to Banca Civica Sevilla in the Copa del Rey, Joel Freeland said those reports were untrue.

“We’ve always been talking since day one but there’s no agreement at this point,” said Freeland.

When another reporter asked Freeland if Portland could do anything to sway him, Freeland went on the defensive.

“I’ve never said that I didn’t want to be [in Portland]. I never have said that,” he responded.

“If the situation’s right and I feel like I’m ready, then I’ll make that step obviously. But you know, I’m here, I’m focusing on [Unicaja] at the moment.”

The situation looks like it will be right from Portland’s point of view; with Marcus Camby, Greg Oden, Kurt Thomas and Craig Smith all coming off the books this summer, Portland is currently only scheduled to return two bigs: LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace.

As for readiness, anyone that’s seen Freeland play basketball over the past two seasons could tell you this guy’s a contributor at power forward on a contending NBA team with starter upside.  When coaches use him correctly (his current boss, Chus Mateo, does not), Freeland’s an inside-out 4 who’s a deadly finisher on the pick-and-roll and a smart, if imperfect, defender.

If Blazers acting General Manager Chad Buchanan is still around by summer—a very big if—the smart move is also the obvious one: You ask Freeland, very politely, to accept a large sum of money to be your sixth man. And if you or Buchanan still need proof that Freeland’s the real deal then—well, the Olympics start July 27.  Playing for Great Britain in his own backyard, we might get a glimpse of the most motivated Freeland yet.

Joel talked about the Olympics, the Copa del Rey and, of course, his contract situation in the full interview below.

The Andy Rautins “Flu Game”

On Michael Jordan’s birthday, the lights were lit and the stage was set for an ill Andy Rautins to channel his inner MJ and overachieve while under the weather.  The former New York Knick was so sick, in fact, that he had to receive a shot at halftime just so he could drag himself to the finish line.

Oh, the drama.  Andy Rautins Flu Game, here we come.

Barcelona’s Euroleague-best defense wouldn’t hear of any such heroics, and the reigning Copa champs crushed Andy’s Alicante side 75-54.  Whereas Jordan managed 38 in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals in spite of the flu, Rautins finished with just five.

“If you play in these games, it’s no type of excuse,” Rautins said afterward, his face jaundiced and his voice tired.

A dead-eye shooter who also sucked down steals in Jim Boeheim’s famous 2-3 zone defense while at Syracuse University, Rautins’ career as a Knickerbocker never really got off the ground.  Drafted with the 38th overall pick in 2010 (one spot above current starter and YouTube buddy Landry Fields), injuries limited the 6-foot-4 guard to just five games in his rookie year.

Once the NBA opened for business post-lockout, the Knicks sent Rautins to Dallas as a pawn in the trade which brought Tyson Chandler to New York.  The Mavericks released him, and boom; here he is playing in the Spanish ACB League for Lucentum Alicante.

Now he’s on a mission to prove he’s more than just a jump shooter, as he’s platooning at the point with Spaniard Pedro Llompart.

“If I play well here, I go back to the NBA next year.  Or maybe I stay here, stay with this club,” Rautins said when we spoke in January after only his third game in Spain.

Over his last three, he’s put up 10.6  ppg in only 15 minutes per game. Hyper-efficient numbers like those have been known to slap some extra Euros on contract offers when the Spanish offseason rolls around, but it’s unclear at the moment whether he’ll hold out for another shot in the states or look for that second European deal.

Draft Prospect Tomas Satoransky Needs Some Space

Four of the first seven players taken in the 2011 draft were non-NCAA internationals.  Six had gone by the end of the first round, and the Spurs took Hungarian Adam Hanga with the second-to-last pick (59th overall), making him the 13th and final foreigner off the board.

It was a dream year for overseas prospects.

This June, don’t be surprised if David Stern lists Tomas Satoransky when calling out the names of first rounders.

If there is one prospect that could sneak into the first 30, the smart money might be on a 21-year-old 6-foot-6 point guard from the Czech Republic (French wing Evan Fournier and Turkish center Furkan Aldemir have also generated some buzz).  Instead of plopping Satoransky down in some lesser league to pad his stats and look pretty for the scouts, his agency signed him up for a challenge: Spain.

So far it’s looking like the right choice, even though Satorasnky hasn’t taken the leap everyone was anticipating after his strong finish to 2011 with Sevilla and his impressive showcase at the Treviso Eurocamp last June.  But in Spain, where statistical variance is rarely an indication of growth or regression, his 6 ppg and 2 apg should not come as a serious concern.

The whispers around Satoransky’s play are similar to those surrounding Ricky Rubio’s in his second season with Barcelona: with so much natural ability at his fingertips, why isn’t this guy attacking more often?

After the game, I asked Satoransky this very question.  It seems as though the Czech youngster would welcome both a boost in tempo and, more than anything, some space to operate. (Scroll to the 2:00 mark to hear his thoughts on the matter.)

“I like a little space, then you can attack you know, one-on-one,” said Satoransky after Banca Civica Sevilla’s 75-65 win over Joel Freeland’s Unicaja squad.

“European basket is pretty difficult, and they prepare a lot of defense on the pick and roll. So, you know, you gotta play first for the team, and after if I have a little space I will try to attack for sure.”

Sevilla’s got a date with Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semifinals on Saturday night, and nobody likes to push the ball more than Madrid’s head coach, Pablo Laso.

Does this mean we’ll get to see Satoransky let his hair down and slice to the cup more often?  Maybe, but nothing too crazy.  If Sevilla signs up for a track meet against Sergio Rodrguez, Nikola Mirotic and Real Madrid then they’ll be left in the dust.  Satoransky’s more Shaun Livingston than he is Jan Vesely anyways, and despite his affinity for wide open basketball, I think he’s got more than enough poise and polis to successfully run a European offense.

Now if we can just get Tomas thinking the same way.

Huertas vs. Prigioni In Possible Olympic Preview

Bo McCalebb is the best guard going right now in Europe, but as far as passing in concerned, nobody outshines Barcelona’s Marcelinho Huertas.  One man who’s been a constant thorn in the Brazilian’s side is Caja Laboral’s Pablo Prigioni, the  sneaky old veteran from Argentina.

Between FIBA play and the Spanish League, these South American floor generals have gotten far too familiar with one another.  After another heated exchange in this Summer’s FIBA Americas earned both Brazil and Argentina Olympic bids for London 2012, this is officially a rivalry of which we haven’t seen the last.

Huertas talked to me about how the pesky 34-year-old fools the refs, gets under his skin and how he plans on bottling Pablo up in the Copa del Rey semifinals Saturday night.

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