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NBA Draft 2011: the Euro-Review

June 24th, 2011 · No Comments

The NBA Draft 2011 is in the books and before we move on to other things, we go first for a quick overview of the different European picks with a short analysis of their situation.

#3 Enes Kanter – Utah Jazz

After a stellar career in European Youth Championships, Kanter decided to move to the United States in order to prepare for the NBA. After two years of doing not much except a big game at the Nike Hoop Summit, he gets drafted at #3 and you can assume that it was the right choice. I remember him from the first time I saw him at the Albert-Schweitzer Tournament back in 2008 where he dominated already as a 15 year old. Since then, he crashed anyone in Youth Competitions and had his glory days with the Turkish U18 National team in 2009 during the European Championships in France. Since then, nothing really worthy has been put on the table by the Turkish big guy. So the main question is how quickly he will find his way back into game rhythm and how to come up with the lost game experience after missing out nearly two years against top level competition. With the lock-out looming, it could even be that Kanter will not play for three consecutive seasons which would be a big hit for his future. But his overall talent level is so good that he will in any case develop into a future top-level player in the NBA.

#5 Jonas Valanciunas – Toronto Raptors – Lietuvos Rytas

Same age group but different career choices are the first things that come up to your mind when you hear the name of Jonas Valanciunas after Enes Kanter. The Lithuanian big guy put up huge numbers in nearly every youth competition that he played as well. Additionally, he started to have an impact on Euroleague level from 2010 on next to all the other senior competitions he has played in. The next stop of Valanciunas will be the U19 World Championships in Latvia in one week and we are already looking forward to follow him there. Before joining the NBA, Valanciunas will play at least another year in Europe with Lietuvos Rytas . His impact on NBA level will be great even if he might not develop into an All-Star one day. But his great sense for rebounding the ball is one of the best assets a player can have together with his athletic abilities and potential to score in the paint.

#6 Jan Vesely – Washington Wizards – Partizan Belgrade

The next European to be drafted was the Czech forward Jan Vesely. Shortly after the Draft, we had the possibility to speak with Jan’s father who told us the following:

I am very glad that Jan was drafted by the Washington Wizards. I think it’s a very good choice for my son. Washington Wizards is a very good team and the cooperation with John Wall will be very good and interesting for the team and for the fans.

The result in the Draft is a success not only for the Czech Republic, but also for the city of Příbor where Jan began with basketball and for the basketball team of Snakes Ostrava, where Jan worked before his departure to Slovenia. I believe, that Jan’s results will help the whole Czech basketball to get to the level on which our basketball should be. I am pleased with the success of Jan. He worked very hard for 5 years and what happened to him is like a big dream coming true.

There is not much to add to this except that you have a player who chose to leave home at the age of 17 to play in a foreign country (Slovenia) and slowly climbed up the ladder to become one of the most spectacular players in Europe when he played for Partizan Belgrade. He should be able to develop into a similar representative for basketball in his country than Dirk Nowitzki is for Germany even if they can not be compared as players. Be prepared to see him in lots of Top 10 plays right from his Rookie season.

#7 Bismack Biyombo – Charlotte Bobcats (from Kings) – Fuenlabrada

Bismack Biyombo came into the NBA Draft with only having played 232 minutes of division 1 basketball with his former team of Fuenlabrada in Spain. He arrived there after having spent several months abroad from his native Congo touring around the Middle East to land in Spain in 2009 and play for Illescas Urban in the 3rd division LEB Silver. From there, his development was exponential and was crowned by a first ever triple-double in the Nike Hoop Summit 2011. Since then, he has not played one game anymore and was only preparing for the NBA Draft. Pretty limited in terms of offensive moves, Biyombo excels with a fantastic athletic and physical package that seems enough to make him a lottery pick. We are really looking forward to see if he can have an impact right from the start on the NBA level and how much development is possible for the Congolese native. One thing is sure, he is willing to learn and wants become the best player possible.

#16 Nikola Vucevic – Philadelphia 76ers – Southern California

The Montenegrin forward is a true success story when you know where he is coming from. After having developed steadily over his years in the United States, Vucevic has become one of the most versatile and physically strong Europeans in this Draft. He knows the American game style very well and he should not have any problems in order to adapt to the NBA. If there will be a lock-out, I would not be surprised to see him play in Europe next season before going to Philadelphia, an option that might even happen for the full season if the lockout finishes before.

#20 Donatas Motiejunas – Houston Rockets (from Wolves) – Benetton Treviso

Donatas Motiejunas is a player that has probably the most amazing tools of all Europeans in this Draft. However, he trails a reputation that is not that great and when seeing him play in reality, you can only imagine where this is coming from. Ups and downs, questionable body language but what a bag full of talent. Now, how will this translate to the NBA? His post-up game will probably suffer in the United States but his capability to stretch the court through his shooting talent is certainly an asset that gives him a roster spot for several years. If he can ever live up fully to his potential is what he has to show to his distractors.

#23 Nikola Mirotic – Minnesota Timberwolves (from Rockets) – Real Madrid

Mirotic was in fact my personal favorite for the #31 Euro Pick but he ended up in the first round which makes him a really long reach. In fact, he probably earns already more in Madrid right now that he would earn with his NBA Rookie contract which makes him a tough target for the future. As Mirotic will stay in Europe for at least 2-3 more seasons, I do not really know how the Rockets want to sign him one day. But anyhow, they would get an excellent basketball player who showed this season that he can be a decision maker in clutch moments of the game.

#31 Bojan Bogdanovic – Minnesota Timberwolves (from Heat) – Cibona Zagreb

It has been quiet around Bojan Bogdanovic since his team Cibona Zagreb got eliminated in the Euroleague with a poor 0-10 record. However, the Croatian forward nearly finished in the first round of the Draft where he was targeted during certain moments of the season when he was leading the Euroleague in scoring. But before coming to the United States, Bogdanovic will first play with Fenerbahce Ülker and try to bring them to the Final Four organized in Istanbul in 2012.

#42 Davis Bertans – San Antonio Spurs (from Pacers) – Union Olimpija Ljubljana

Supposed to be drafted in the first round for a long time, the San Antonio Spurs have made a great move by getting one of the most talented players in Europe in the middle of the second round. Bertans, who is the youngest player drafted this year will grow slowly with Olimpija Ljubljana next season and he could be ready to come to the United States in 2-3 years, when he is still only 21. I think, this was the best pick of the whole Draft on a long-term perspective and we are really looking forward to see how far he can go with his U19 National Team at home during the World Championships.

#54 Milan Macvan – Cleveland Cavaliers – Maccabi Tel Aviv

Nobody spoke about Milan Macvan as a potential NBA Draft pick anymore. However, some Cavaliers scouts may have remembered what Macvan did in the Nike Hoop Summit back in 2009 where he dominated outrageously. Through the website of his agent, Macvan declared that he is very happy with the pick.

I really can’t hide the excitement… I am happy that a team like Cleveland decided to choose and include me in the list of potential members of their future team. This is a very big thing for me and my family, as well as for all the people who worked and took care of me all along these years.

We are looking forward to see if this is more than just marketing talk as we have always been a big fan of Macvan’s game.

#59 Adam Hanga – San Antonio Spurs – Albacomp

And the Spurs do it again, grabbing up a European prospect very late in the second round. This time, it is not your typical European talent but an athletic swingman that you are more used to see coming out of the US. Hanga played an excellent Adidas Eurocamp recently but has never really competed against top-level player as he did not leave Hungary so far. He will play in the ACB next season and that will show how far he rally can go in the future.

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