Americans act shocked whenever decent basketball players develop outside of the 50 states. And yet, every time an international tournament occurs, a handful of players manage to prove themselves to people on this side of the Atlantic.
Some of the following players have already been drafted by NBA teams, while others just hope to ink their first American contract. Either way, these 17 men have helped their NBA candidacy by shining at the FIBA World Championship.
Ricky Rubio – Minnesota still holds Rubio's draft rights while Barcelona has his John Hancock. And depending on how desperate he is to avoid the NBA's rookie salary scale, Rubio could make his way stateside for the 2011-2012 season or perhaps even later. Off-court business aside, Rubio has left little doubt that he is the premiere non-NBA player in the world. In wins over New Zealand, Liberia and Canada, Rubio dished out a total of 26 assists. His shooting is still sub-par, but he is certainly an NBA-ready defender.
Raul Neto (Brazil) – Neto has logged all of eight minutes in the tournament thus far, but the 18-year-old point guard is NBA-bound nonetheless. He averaged 15.4 ppg and 5.2 apg in the FIBA U 18 Championship, but struggled in the finals against Duke recruit Kyle Irving. He has the athleticism and creativity to make eye-popping plays. Neto still has to prove he can make the smart play.
Marclo Huertas (Brazil) – The Brazilian point guard, who plays professionally in Spain, delivered an eye-popping performance in the win over Slovenia. Huertas had 10 assists and only one turnover while scoring eight points in 32 minutes of action. Huertas doesn't have the electric potential of Neto, but he is a sure-handed point guard who can run an offense. His defense is the major reason he does not play in the NBA.
Pablo Prigioni (Argentina) – South America and Europe are very familiar with the 33-year-old playmaker. Sure, if he was going to make an NBA roster, he would have done it by now. Still, if some NBA team suffers a major injury at point guard, who better to fill that role than the former Spanish Cup MVP? Prigioni hasn't played up to his usual standards (he's averaging just 5.75 apg in the tournament), but he still plays solid defense and remains one of the best passers in the world. Arvydas Sabonis was over 30 when he made his NBA debut, so why can't Prigioni do the same? The issue could be moot. He is signed to play with Real Madrid and isn't likely to trade in a staring role on that team for a backup job in the NBA.
Vassilis Spanoulis (Greece) – The 6-4 combo guard scored a combined 37 points in impressive wins over China and Puerto Rico, but completely disappeared in a loss to Turkey. Spanoulis didn't set the world on fire while scoring 2.7 ppg for the Rockets in 2006-2007, but has transformed into one of the premiere players in Europe since then. While he never won over Jeff Van Gundy, Rockets fans should appreciate Spanoulis' role in bringing Luis Scola to Houston. Don't be surprised to see another NBA team take a flyer on Spanoulis before it's too late.
Kirk Penney (New Zealand) – The former HEAT and Clippers guard has probably seen the last of the NBA. He is currently playing professionally in his home country, but Penney has been one of the best scorers in the tournament. He is averaging 25.4 ppg over five contests, and scored 37 points against Lithuania despite making 1-of-9 3-point attempts. Penney is a respectable outside shooter and playmaker, but at almost 30 years old, it's hard to see him contributing in the NBA.
Marcus Vinicius (Brazil) – A former Hornets forward, Vinicius went 4-of-5 from 3-point range to finish with 16 points in a two-point loss to the United States. He currently plays for Sutor Basket Montegranaro of Italy's Lega A, but he has NBA and NBDL experience. At 6-9, he plays like a poor man's Tayshaun Prince, and could make for a nice addition for an NBA team if he improves his defense and rebounding.
Victor Claver (Spain) – The second of three Spaniards taken in the 2009 NBA Draft, Claver's rights are held by the Portland Trail Blazers. But if Oregonians thought Claver could play his way into being a major trade chip, their hopes were dashed by his limited playing time. Claver hasn't done anything to distinguish himself since over the last year, but still holds value because of his athleticism, height (6-9) and ability to finish at the rim. He might have a great NBA future ahead of him, but international play is not the best showcase for the 22-year-old Claver.
Bostjan Nachbar (Slovenia) – Nachbar has reached 30, but his shot is as accurate as ever. The 6-9 forward has made 9-of-22 3-pointers in the tournament, which is essentially a home game for him considering he plays professionally for Efes Pilsen of the Turkish League. He has more value in Europe, but Nachbar is still a tough cover for most NBA defenders.
Mickael Gelabale (France) – Gelabale has made 10-of-17 3-point attempts in the tournament and that type of production could earn him a return to the NBA. A superior athlete, Gelabale doesn't have anything to prove defensively. However, he does need to prove himself as a scorer. He made over 50% of his 3-pointers last season for Cholet Basket while averaging 10.8 ppg. Gelabale did himself another favor by scoring 16 points in a loss to Spain. His recovery from ACL surgery is another issue, but that has been in his rearview mirror for three years.
Sergey Monya (Russia) – The former Portland Trail Blazer and Sacramento King seems happy to stay with Dynamo Moscow after leaving the NBA during the 2005-2006 season. Regardless, his ability should keep his name floating in NBA circles. Monya has hit 14-of-28 3-pointers in the tournament and finished with 17 points in the win over China. He's 27 now and it isn't very likely he would return to the U.S.
Zaid Abbaas (Jordan) – Jordan hung with Argentina in large part because of Abbaas' performance. He finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds in a nine-point loss. Abbaas, who plays for Jordan's ASU Sports Club, represents the difference between American and non-American hoops. In the NBA, he would have a hard time out-muscling big men for rebounds. In international play, however, he is gritty enough to throw his weight around near the hoop.
Fran Vazquez (Spain) – The Magic have popped up in trade discussions for Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. Inevitably, though, the focus shifts to the lack of trade assets in Orlando. Thankfully for Magic fans, Vazquez is finally tapping into his potential. He scored a total of 34 points in wins over Liberia and Canada while blocking five shots along the way. The 6-10 big man is Rubio's teammate in Barcelona, and like the young point guard, Vazquez has dragged his feet since being taken in the NBA Draft. He won't land Orlando Anthony or Paul by himself, but he's kicked the "bust" label aside and might make for a decent trade chip.
Jan Jagla (Germany) – Jagla's talents are rare in the United States, but seem to be the norm in Europe. He is a seven-footer whose main offensive trait is long-range shooting. The former Penn State center was 1-of-6 from two-point range in Germany's loss to Argentina, but scored 23 points against Angola thanks to a 7-for-12 mark from beyond the arc. Despite his aversion to the paint, he's not a terrible rebounder and his size would present some matchup problems in the NBA. On the down side, he's not terribly athletic and wouldn't be more than a situational player in the U.S.
Sasha Kaun (Russia) – Like Jagla, Kaun played college basketball in America. The former Kansas Jayhawk has the distinction of being the last player ever drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics, but he may be known for more than that when his playing days are over. The Cavaliers currently hold his draft rights, which should be encouraging to Clevelanders after Kaun had 16 points, 14 rebounds and a block in Russia's win over China. He is entering his final season with CSKA Moscow.
Ante Tomic (Croatia) – Tomic isn't likely to leave Real Madrid anytime soon, but the Utah Jazz still made an astute decision by taking him in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft (okay, maybe Goran Dragic would have been a better decision). The seven-footer scored 12 points in the loss to the USA and had a 15-point, nine-rebound night against Tunisia. The Jazz always seem to be holding the rights to numerous foreign big men, but Tomic's technical skill sets him apart. His footwork in the low post looks sharp, but at 23, he's running out of time to prove he can bulk up (he is listed at 260 pounds). Big men tend to have a longer shelf life, though, which means Tomic still might have a future in the NBA.
Mamadou Lamizana (Ivory Coast) – The Ivory Coast was able to pull off a major upset of Puerto Rico thanks to 17 points and five blocks from Lamizana. He didn't have the best career at Rutgers, but the 6-10 big man has decent ups and surprisingly nice shot away from the basket. He currently plays for Sporting Beirut, but could be a nice option at the end of an NBA bench. He has blocked 16 shots over five games in the tournament.
very well written but i think milos teodosic should also be signed, as well as nick calathes, and somebody should give diamandtis (or however u spell it) a shot
I'd add Ali Traore, definitely could provide an extra body and defense.
I think sun yue, and ioannis bourousis could do some good on the right team
the maybe guys
Tomic could definitely bulk up, but I think a lack of lower body/core strength is the main problem. His balance is weak and he doesn't hold position on offense or defense very well.
I want to see him in the NBA. I agree with the Pau Gasol comparison... More like a poor man's Gasol.
Does Sun Yue even get minutes with Team China? The one time I watched I swear I never saw him on the court & for another game I checked the box score & he got 3 minutes of playing time.
& Isn't Nick Calathes rights owned by the Mavs? I think they're the team that traded with the T-Wolves.
I´d say - two guys are clearly missing from this (quite adequate) list
guard Dimitrios Diamantidis, 6-6 2-guard, who can also play some point. He has superior shooting abillity and is defensive specialist, on of the best defending guards in eurobasket. He is´nt young stud anymore (30 y), but is still in extraordinary shape and has enormous amount of experience. I´d think, he may be a liitle bit better all-around player than Juan Carlos Navarro (although Navarro may be a little more versatile scorer), but Diamantidis surely fits NBA better thanks to his size, much better defence etc. Basicly - he reminds me of Chase Budinger, less athletic, but faster, much more experienced with a good consistency behind the arc. Diamantidis is a better clutch player, who has won gold for his country, making 3 pointer in the last second from 2 point deficite, everyone knowing he gonna shoot. I think, he could make an instant impact, if he would land to the right team - for example
- Charlotte Bobcats - he is better than Matt Caroll, Gerald Henderson or Shaun Livingston, even better than Larry Hughes in a not so good condition as 5 years ago.
- Cleveland - He´s better than Christian Eyenga, Danny Green and Anthony Parker - he has been better than Parker in europe.
- Minnesota - there is only Martell Webster, who may be better at the position.
- Sacramento - he´s better than any guard except Tyreke.
Kosta Perovic - 7-2 Center. He has to bulk up at least 15 - 20 pounds, but he has solid offensive skills and lond arms. He has been on the same level with teammate Nenad Krstic, occasionally even more effective. He is a little bit slow and not very athletic, but competes well, works hard, is effective due to his size and good basics. Being 25, he is better right now than Ante Tomic, Timofey Mozgov or Omer Asik.
Yeah, Sun Yue is the 2nd best player on team china. Bob Donewald has been messing with the lineups a lot. But Sun has shot pretty well from 3 in this tournament.
great post my man..you really did your homework..
Rubio will be able to score more in the NBA ..
Tomic can be a solid big man in the NBA...
i thought Kaun should've been on someone's roster last year..but teams these days seem to be looking for super atheletic guys..some have no knwledge at all about how to play the game...
Did he write this himself or is it from Hoopsworld?