Foreign big men have been bad gamble in NBA draft
There’s a dangerous trend showing up in the prelude to the June 26 NBA Draft. Foreign big men with no American basketball experience are littering many of the mock drafts.
The Bulls own picks No. 16 and 19, and could use some depth inside. But before falling in love with Clint Capela video, remind yourself how little Bismack Biyombo has accomplished during three NBA seasons.
When a big man hasn’t played college basketball in the U.S., it feels like he hasn’t been properly vetted and therefore, predicting NBA success becomes very difficult.
Here are some of the names popping up on mock drafts: Jusuf Nurkic, a burly and supposedly polished Bosnian; Kristaps Porzingis, a scrawny outside-shooter from Latvia; Walter Tavares, a 7-foot-3 basketball newcomer from Cape Verde; Capela, an athletic 6-11 forward from Switzerland; 7-1 Artem Klimenko, who played in the Russian second division, and others.
Obviously, there have been some very good big men who came from overseas without playing at a U.S. college. But NBA teams have not done a great job of predicting success.
Let’s look at the past 10 years of NBA drafts. Here’s a list of overseas big men who were chosen in the second round: Marc Gasol, Marcin Gortat, Anderson Varejao, Omer Asik, Nikola Pekovic, Jonas Jerebko.
Here are some overseas big men selected in the first round during that same time period: Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo, Alexis Ajinca, Yi Jianlian, Mouhamed Sene, Fran Vasquez, Pavel Podkolzin.
Sure, it’s easy to pick out the bad ones, but there haven’t been very many good ones chosen in the first round: The success stories would include Jonas Valanciunas (No. 5 in 2011), Serge Ibaka (No. 24 in 2008), Tiago Splitter (No. 28 in 2007), Ian Mahinmi (No. 28 in 2005) and Andris Biedrins (No. 11 in 2004).
So to recap, I counted five decent overseas big men chosen in the first round during the past 10 years. Not a great track record.
Some might say (including me before looking it up), isn’t Nikola Vucevic playing well in Orlando? Yes, but he not only spent three years at USC, he also went to prep school in the U.S.
In recent drafts, there were more foreigners who made a stop in college before turning pro, such as Joel Embiid, Alex Len, Steven Adams and Gorgui Dieng. Len is coming off an injury and didn’t play much as a rookie, but Adams and Dieng both made the all-rookie second team.
If I’m picking for the Bulls, I’d plan to stay away from Capela, Nurkic, Porzingis and friends. A better time to take a chance on a guy like that is in the second round, where the Bulls pick No. 49.
Here’s a more complete list of overseas big men who went into the NBA draft with no college experience. This includes everyone drafted in the first round since 2004, along with successful guys chosen in the second round. There are dozens of second-round “draft and stash” players you’ve never heard of.
One guy worth mentioning is Atlanta’s Pero Antic, who had a decent season for the Hawks and missed making the all-rookie team by two spots. He was never drafted and turns 32 this summer, so he played a long time in Europe before making the jump.
2013 Lucas Nogueira, BOS, No. 16
2013 Rudy Gobert, DEN, No. 27
2011 Jonas Valanciunas, TOR, No. 5
2011 Jan Vesely, WAS, No. 6
2011 Bismack Biyombo, CHA, No. 7
2011 Donatas Montiejunas, MIN, No. 20
2010 Kevin Seraphin, WAS, No. 17
2009 Victor Claver, POR, No. 22
2009 Jonas Jerebko, DET, No. 39
2008 Alexis Ajinca, CHA, No. 20
2008 Serge Ibaka, OKC, No. 24
2008 Nikola Pekovic. MIN, No. 31
2008 Omer Asik, BULLS, No. 36
2007 Yi Jianlian, MIL, No. 6
2007 Tiago Splitter, SA, No. 28
2007 Marc Gasol, LAL, No. 48
2006 Mouhamed Sene, SEA, No. 10
2006 Oleksiy Pecherov, WAS, No. 18
2006 Joel Freeland, POR, No. 30
2005 Fran Vasquez, ORL, No. 11
2005 Johan Petro, SEA, No. 25
2005 Ian Mahinmi, SA, No. 28
2005 Marcin Gortat, PHO, No. 57
2004 Andris Biedrins, GS, No. 11
2004 Pavel Podkolzin, UTA, No. 21
2004 Anderson Varejao, CLE, No. 31