The 2014 NBA Draft was somewhat light with European talent, particularly following a 2013 draft that saw some of the biggest European basketball names in recent years (which you can view at the Darkometer) make the leap to the NBA. However, a few high-profile players did head to the NBA. With the season now underway, here’s a look at how the Europeans drafted in the first round (and one extra player) are doing so far.
After his name came up a few times in recent years as a potential NBA Draft entry, Croatian star Dario Saric finally decided to give it a shot in 2014. He was picked 12th by the Orlando Magic and promptly traded to Philadelphia. However, Saric is not with the 76ers just yet. The team is in the midst of a thorough rebuilding plan (and trying their best to lose a lot of games in order to secure yet another high draft pick in 2015), so it was inevitable that Saric would stay in Europe for a year or two to continue his development.
There are reports that Saric is currently unhappy with his situation at Anadolu Efes, but SB Nation’s Sixers blog, Liberty Ballers, recently wrote that his contract situation still makes it tricky to imagine him playing in the NBA any time too soon. The blog post suggests that the Sixers, Anadolu Efes, and Saric could conceivably work something out. But it’s a complicated issue with Saric under contract with the Turkish club, and Philadelphia is content to lose anyway. We’ll probably have to wait at least until 2015-16 to see Saric in the NBA.
Hulking Bosnian center Jusuf Nurkic wasn’t a name known to most casual NBA fans before the draft. He did receive some late hype, though, and was drafted 16th by the Chicago Bulls before being traded to the Denver Nuggets. At just 20 years old, Nurkic had very limited Euroleague experience before making the leap to the NBA, but he’s shown promise early in the 2014-15 campaign for the Nuggets. Per ESPN’s player profile page, Nurkic is averaging 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in just 11 minutes per game through the Nuggets’ first five games while shooting a healthy 52.4% from the field. These aren’t sensational numbers, but for a 20-year-old rookie playing 11 minutes in each outing, they’re certainly promising.
We’re cheating a bit here, because Mirotic was actually drafted in 2013 (23rd overall by the Houston Rockets before a trade to the Chicago Bulls). But because Mirotic remained in Europe for a year—earning All-Euroleauge Second Team honors for Real Madrid in the process—he’s only just getting a look at the NBA. Mirotic is something of a sneaky asset this year. At the outset of the season, the betting news and tips at Betfair betting made note of the Chicago Bulls as one of only a handful of true favourites for the season. Their preview pointed out the return of Derrick Rose, the acquisition of Pau Gasol, and the drafting of college star Doug McDermott as reasons that the Bulls will be formidable this season.
However, like many fans, the article forgot about Mirotic, who some believe has the potential to be one of the best European NBA players in years. He’s off to a slow start, but his versatility as a 6’10” player who can score inside and out should serve him well as he adjusts to the NBA game.
Another European product heading to the NBA at just 20 years of age, Clint Capela was drafted 25th overall by the Houston Rockets. With the team having lost Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans during the offseason, there is certainly a window of opportunity for Capela to establish himself in the forward/center rotation behind Dwight Howard. That being said, it will take time. An article from Space City Scoop recently revealed that Rockets coach Kevin McHale made the decision to keep Capela in the developmental league for the majority of the season.
Yet another player who will stay in Europe for at least a chunk of his current contract despite having been drafted to the NBA, Bogdanovic went 27th overall to the Phoenix Suns. He’s in the first year of a four-year deal with Turkish club Fenerbahce Ulker, after which (or possibly during which) he may still move to the States. Whether or not he ever suits up for the Suns, Bogdanovic announced himself loudly to a lot of NBA fans over the summer when he helped to lead a Serbian team that made a surprise run to the gold medal game (where it lost decisively to the United States).