With BallinEurope’s profile piece on Jan Vesely in, today we’re adding a bit of a primer on some other names certain to get increasing mentions in NBA culture from your team’s elimination from the playoffs through to the draft and into the 2010 FIBA World Championships in August/September. NBA fans who want to get in the know early might want to start paying attention to the following names:
• Donatas Motiejunas. As probably the top international player taken in the entire NBA draft (though a few mock drafts recently have Vesely drafted before Motiejunas), BallinEurope.com profiles the big, assumed NBA-ready Lithuanian here. Chance he’ll play NBA ball in 2010-11: 99.9% (unless drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers, for which Motiejunas will instantly shred an ACL or two before October tipoff).
• Tiago Splitter. Motiejunas may be the sole top-10 pick in the 2010 draft and some young Spanish point guard may be getting all the hype, but Splitter is clearly the favorite among incoming international players to make the biggest impact in the NBA in 2010-11. If he plays there.
The Brazilian-Spanish citizen has been playing pro ball in the ACB since 2001 (he was 16 years old) and has since developed into, to put it succinctly, one of The Continent’s top four or five players. In Euroleague play this season, Splitter’s going for 13.5 points and 6.0 rebounds over 27 minutes per game; in the ACB, those numbers are 15.5 and 6.6 in 28 minutes per game, as he bucks for Spanish MVP nods.
To list all of Splitter’s career accomplishments would, well, it would take a long time, but among the highlights are certainly his All-Euroleague First Team and Second Team nods in 2008 and 2009, respectively. His two FIBA Americas gold medals and his one Pan An games gold (on two occasions knocking Team USA out of tournaments) are also of note, particularly since his Team Brazil will be grouped with the NBA’s All-American Finest in the FIBA World Championship this August.
His current contract with Caja Laboral Baskonia runs through 2010 and San Antonio Spurs officials have reportedly recently met with the big guy. So … any problems? Well, most recently Splitter has missed some 10 games with an ankle injury; despite refusing last Tuesday to give media a timetable for his return, Splitter did play 10-plus minutes in yesterday’s game against FC Barcelona.
Barring worsening injury (and it will be interesting to see what Spurs team officials might have to say about Tiago playing in the FIBA Worlds if the ankle is still an issue after the ACB tournament and Euroleague Final Eight play), San Antonio fans might see the rebuilding of the twin-tower lineup soon enough. Chance he’ll play NBA ball in 2010-11: 75%, depending on Real Madrid’s interest. (Go ahead, Spurheads: Watch the highlight clip below and tell me how easily you can imagine this guy teaming with Tim Duncan.)
And if you want more on Splitter, Draft Express has some 16,000 words devoted to the man’s progress over more than two seasons now.
• Vladimir Dasic. Dasic actually drew a modicum of attention before the 2009 NBA draft by announcing that he wouldn’t make himself eligible after three dominating seasons with back-to-back-to-back Montenegrin champions and Eurocup qualifier Buducnost. (For 2008-09, Dasic went for an average 13.0 ppg/5.3 rpg in Adriatic League play and 12.3/8.3 in EuroCup games.)
The jury’s still out on whether Dasic’s “nay” turned out to be the right decision in the medium- and long-term, as the 2.06-meter tall big man got with Real Madrid, for whom he averaged 3.3 rebounds per game in just 10 minutes of playing time per game. Two weeks ago, Dasic was sent on loan to Gran Canaria 2014 to assist with that team’s title chase. Clearly, Dasic hasn’t been integrated into that offense however, as the Montenegrin saw just 6-1/2 minutes of playing time in last weekend’s all-important game against his contracted club.
On the other hand, Dasic has risen to the #1 rank among international players born in 1988 at the usually very reliable Draft Express. Chance he’ll play NBA ball in 2010-11: 25%, but the chance he’s drafted this year is probably 50-50.
• Alexey Shved has had NBA scouts salivating since he was 18, yet American clubs have been very patient indeed in courting a point guard who carries the standard knock on the young would-be European NBA prospect, i.e. a lack of size and strength.
After riding the bench for a season or two with CSKA Moscow behind J.R. Holden, Team Russia’s starting point guard, 20-year-old Alexey was sent on loan to Eurocup team Dynamo Moscow, where he has happily been able to show his stuff: This season, Shved has put in an impressive line of 11 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 stocks (blocks plus steals, courtesy Bill Simmons) per game in 11 Russian Superleague games
In terms of NBA interest, some team may take a gamble on Shved in the 2010 Draft, but odds are he won’t be coming to America just yet. Unless someone can talk him into a trip to Las Vegas for Summer League ball, the guess is that CSKA will be calling him back to play Red Army ball next season. Chance he’ll play NBA ball in 2010-11: 10%.
• Nikola Pekovic. Pekovic’s NBA rights are currently owned by the Minnesota Timberwolves, who managed to remember this guy’s name just before the 2008 Draft closed up shop. And 2009 for Pekovic represented little less than a season any basketball player might dream about: At the age of 23, Vladimir Dasic’s Team Montenegro teammate was named to the All-Euroleague First Team thanks to his outstanding year-long performance on a Panathinaikos squad that took Euroleague, Greek League and Greek Cup titles.
Now. With no indication on Timberwolves management’s part other than a vague promise of “maybe signing [the] European big man,” what are the odds that Pekovic will be itching to leave a decent situation (not to mention a much-needed chance at revenge after this season’s way-too-early bouncing from the Euroleague) with a perpetual title contender (PAO) in one of basketball’s great environments (Greece) in a gorgeous country (Greece again) to play small fish in the big frozen pond of Minnesota, a club that appears dangerously close to an epically long run of mediocrity?
BiE has said it before and will surely say it again: Bad time to be a Timberwolves fan.