It is NBA Draft 2012, the day all the fans of the non-Playoff Teams are waiting for as they hope that their team will get new players that can turn around their franchise. Over the last years, European players have always been a major point of discussion, is it because they were overhyped or under the radar or simply good prospects. This year, the European Draft is a bit different as the number of prospects from the Old Continent that have a chance to get drafted in the first round is rather small.
In fact, the general consensus is that there are only 2 players who are currently targeted as first round picks: Evan Fournier from France and Jeffery Taylor from Sweden. While the first one has been scouted on a regular basis by this blog, the second one is more of an unknown for European followers. In fact, it is a bit the opposite way to the fan knowledge on both players in the United States. Taylor has an American background, grew up in Sweden but played High School and College Basketball in the US and was regularly present on national TV.
Fournier however played in a small French town that was not even present in continental competitions like the Euroleague. The city is not a major market and is not easily reachable for US Scouts travelling around Europe as no major airport is in the surroundings as one scout told me. Whatever… Any NBA team probably saw Fournier at least once, is it in the French League, the Adidas Eurocamp or in a Youth competition over the last years. And if not, his agents (the same than Nicolas Batum or Saer Sene) are known for doing an excellent job in promoting their clients when it comes to generate hype around the NBA Draft.
So has one of these two players a chance to get drafted in the first round or will there be the surprise European flying up the ranks in the last seconds? I have some doubts. I have seen Fournier play so many times but I still have some doubts about his NBA capabilities. He is a great slasher, very intelligent, has clear goals and he can play basketball. But are these qualities enough in the NBA, especially right from next season as it is his announced goal? His numbers in France look good but they were with a non-playoff team.
Just to compare, Nicolas Batum had similar numbers (12.3ppg, 5.0rpg, 3.6apg vs. 14.0ppg, 3.2rpg, 2.2apg) in the season before he was drafted in 2008 at the age of 20. However, Batum played in a Playoff and Euroleague team and showed his potential against the best teams in Europe while Fournier only played the bottom of the French League. Additionally, everybody has to agree that Batum has the way better physical and athletical skills to be a factor in the League. Comparing does not say everything, and I do not like to do that, but this is a factor that NBA teams should at least look at before they select the son of two former Judokas.
For me, it would not be a surprise if Fournier slips and falls into the second round when all is said and done. And there we come to what I call the “Top European Pick”, Pick number 31. Why do I like that pick so much?
In fact, the first round offers guaranteed contracts to the players but also pre-fixed salaries. And these salaries are nowadays lower than what a player can earn in Europe. This means, that if you get drafted lower than for example the 20th pick, you can make more money in Europe. I am surprised as well that so far, no American player seriously chose that way as he can earn eventually more money in Europe. But that is not the point here.
With the 31st pick, the chosen player can negotiate a contract that is not based on any pre-fixed terms. This is a big advantage as I explained above. And the NBA teams seem to have understood this as well, as 3 out of the 4 last 31st Picks were Europeans (Bojan Bogdanovic, Tibor Pleiss and Nikola Pekovic). I do not know if agents have a precise strategy to place their prospects in this spot but it seems to have worked quite well over the last years and it would not surprise me if it will happen again this year. The question is, who should land here? Maybe Fournier?