With the NBA Draft only two days away, I made some more reflections about this annual ceremony that is the hope for NBA fans to get additional talent for their team.
The trend of drafting Europeans has slowed a bit in recent years after some casting errors and refusals to join the big league. As a European prospect, unless you are an extraordinary talent entering the lottery, it is no longer worth getting drafted in the first round.
I’ve already addressed this in terms of salary in a previous article, but I’m trying to look at this from an NBA executive’s point of view today. If you draft a top European talent like Ante Tomic or an already-confirmed Euroleague starter like Nikola Pekovic at the end of round one, your team will probably never see this guy jumping the ocean to join the NBA.
The contracts that such players are currently signing in Europe are beyond the amount they can ever earn in the United States, due to the rookie salary restrictions. There is, of course, the fame factor of playing against the best, but for many young European basketball players, the NBA is not the top priority anymore.
So can we say that the Euro Draft now begins only in the second round?
This year, the Minnesota Timberwolves have the first choice of this recently undervalued part of the NBA Draft. So are they the real winners of the draft evening, as they can select the best available prospect from Europe?
According to various mock drafts, only Danilo Gallinari is sure to be drafted in the lottery. All the other Europeans are end-of-first-round or second-round projections right now. All of the teams drafting between 20-30 are probably not taking a European player, as they are unlikely to sign him and the pick would become a bust. An exception may come for the French guys in the selection process, as they are in surprisingly low demand in the crazy European market and are more focused on an NBA career.
So the Timberwolves will most likely have the choice between a massive 6’11” center with outstanding positioning and a good arsenal of offensive moves (Nikola Pekovic); a 6’10” athlete with tremendous upside (Serge Ibaka); or even a Boris Diaw/Scottie Pippen-like swingman from France (Nicolas Batum).
Thursday night, we’ll know more about who was drafted where and which NBA teams made the good choices. But for me, the Euro Draft will only start with the 31st pick. Let’s see if this happens…