Euro Gonna Miss if Eu Reach
The NBA draft is right around the corner and a few teams are ready to make a big mistake.
They just might not know it yet.
In the chronicles of NBA draft history, players selected straight out of other countries have not translated well to the NBA. No matter how many times teams reach on these development projects, they never seem to work out as well as imagined, and GMs never seem to learn.
This year it looks like three players from overseas are going to be drafted in the Top 10, but how much do we really know about them?
- Kristaps Porzingis the 19 year-old, 6-11 power forward out of Latvia.
- Emmanuel Mudiay the 19 year-old, 6-5 point guard out of China.
- Mario Hezonja the 20 year-old, 6-7 small forward out of Croatia.
Porzingis is currently playing in Spain, where he's averaging 10.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, and 0.4 apg in 22 minutes per game with his current club. From where does the hype generate?
Sure, he's 19, and he has a lot of developing to do. But if that's all he can muster against competition in Spain, how will he be able to handle competition on the highest level?
I want to go out on a limb and say that Bobby Portis out of Arkansas will turn out to be a better NBA prospect than Porzingis.
Let's take a look at the history of foreign lottery picks over the last 10 seasons:
- Drafted 11th overall by the Orlando Magic out of Spain.
- Never played in the NBA.
- Drafted 12th overall by the LA Clippers out of Russia.
- Played 34 games in the NBA over two seasons.
- Averaged 1.1 ppg.
- Drafted 1st overall by the Toronto Raptors out of Italy.
- 15 PPG, 4.8 rpg through nine seasons.
- Has only played in 68% of games since drafted.
- Drafted 10th overall by the Seattle Supersonics out of Senegal.
- Played 47 games in the NBA over three seasons.
- Averaged 2.2 ppg.
- Drafted 13th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers out of Switzerland.
- 5.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.5 apg through nine seasons.
- Drafted 6th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks out of China.
- 7.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg in five NBA seasons.
- Played for four different teams.
- Drafted 6th overall by the New York Knicks out of Italy.
- 14.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.8 apg through six seasons.
- Only played in 60% of possible games since drafted.
- Drafted 5th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves out of Spain.
- Did not make NBA debut until two years after he was drafted.
- 10.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 8.2 apg, 2.3 spg through four seasons.
- Only played in just 62% of possible games since drafted.
- Drafted 3rd overall by the Utah Jazz out of Turkey.
- 10.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg through fours seasons.
- Career average: just 21 minutes per game, spanning two teams.
- Drafted 5th overall by the Toronto Raptors out of Lithuania.
- Did not play the year he was drafted.
- 10.9 ppg, 8 rpg through three seasons.
- Drafted 6th overall by the Washington Wizards out of the Czech Republic.
- 3.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg over three seasons.
- Did not play in 2014/2015.
- Drafted 7th overall by the Charlotte Bobcats out of Congo.
- 4.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.6 bpg over four seasons.
- Averages just 21 minutes per game.
- Drafted 5th overall by the Utah Jazz out of Australia.
- 4.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 2.4 apg in his rookie season.
- Shot only 35% in 21 minutes pefr game.
- Drafted 12th overall by the Orlando Magic out of Croatia.
- Did not play.
Underwhelming, isn't it?
So over the last 10 years, we've seen 14 players drafted from overseas. Out of those 14, who's really worked out?
Sure, when Ricky Rubio is healthy, he has the potential to be a dangerous defender and one of the best passers in the league. The two big-men from 2011 -- Jonas Valančiūnas and Enes Kanter -- are also showing some decent promise and have been placed in good situations.
In hindsight, some of the home-grown products that these teams passed up look ridiculous.
In that 2011 draft where four foreign players were taken in the Top 7, they were drafted ahead of the likes of Klay Thompson, Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard, Kenneth Faried, Reggie Jackson, Nikola Vučević, and Jimmy Butler.
If this draft was done over, which of those players do you think would go Top 7?
Taking a look back at that 2005 draft, Orlando Magic selection Fran Vazquez decided he'd rather play in Spain. As recently as 2014, the Magic were still trying to get him to come to the United States. Then he signed a contract extension with his team in Spain, basically assuring he'd never play for the Magic.
Clearly, Orlando didn't learn from that mistake; they drafted Dario Šarić in 2014, who has yet to hit America's shores, foregoing his rookie season. Luckily, they shipped him off to Philadelphia immediately after drafting him.
Look at Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Bucks. Drafted just outside the lottery, and he's playing extremely well.
Even the Lakers were once savvy enough to draft Marc Gasol in the second round.
Late first round to second round picks seem to turn out better.
Maybe it's the lack of hype. They feel they don't have such big shoes to fill, and they're actually given more time to develop and translate their game without the constant cloud of questions looming over their heads.
Bottom line: Why take a gamble that history has proven rarely ever pays off, when you can get a sure thing?
Whether you know that sure thing is a starter, role player, or sixth man, odds are that the home-grown product -- who plays the same level of competition that all the other stars have -- will turn out better than someone you've hardly seen play in person.
It only makes sense ... right?
There's also the biggest example of all: 2003.
That's the draft year of the one, the only, Darko Miličić.
Drafted second overall after LeBron James, Darko was taken ahead of Carmelo, Chris Bosh, and D-Wade, respectively, before disappearing into the darkness of obscurity.
But hey, at least Darko earned a ring.