July 12, 2019, 3:59 pm
Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our offseason International Spotlight feature where we will be taking a quick look at some notable players that successfully competed in Europe last year and will be making their bread and butter in the NBA next year.
The NBA offseason has been the most unpredictable one in recent years with a handful of top stars manipulating their way into the market they want to play and with plenty more second-tier guys switching teams and making the landscape, especially in the Western Conference, extremely volatile.
The load management issues will continue to affect the playing time for most of the guys around the league which is another reason why teams are looking to construct deep rosters ahead of training camps in September.
The FIBA World Championship in China, expected to take place from August 31st until September 15th, has contributed to teams already signing international talent, as most veterans want to avoid playing in the tournament without already having a guaranteed contract for next year. And even though it seems that, surprisingly, the NBA has fallen out of love with European players, as not even one European was selected in the lottery in this year’s draft, there are a few teams who traditionally like taking fliers on players from overseas, with that trend repeating itself this offseason again.
As a reminder, EuroLeague teams (along with EuroCup and FIBA Basketball Champions League teams, the other major European leagues) also compete in domestic competition each week during the season so the schedule starts in October and often ends in June, with grueling travel across the continent, daily practices and more than 50 games throughout the year.
Re-signed by NBA Teams
Brad Wanamaker, PG/SG, 29 years old, Agreement in place to re-sign with the the Boston Celtics
3.9 points, 1.6 assists, 1.1 rebounds on 48/41/86 splits in 36 games with the Celtics last year
Wanamaker had a quiet rookie season in Boston in a loaded backcourt where the minutes weren’t really there for him. He was heavily recruited by top EuroLeague teams this summer but he was poised to remain in the NBA and will get another chance.
At 6’4” with a 6’8” wingspan, he is expected to compete for the backup point guard position and there might actually be minutes for him after the departures of Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier. Wanamaker has the potential to provide solid veteran minutes but it’s unlikely he gains any fantasy value unless one of the top guys goes down with an injury.
Ryan Broekhoff, SF, 28 years old, Dallas Mavericks
4.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists and 0.9 triples on 45/41/79 splits in 42 games with the Mavs last year
The 28-year-old sharpshooter didn’t see much action in his rookie season but the Mavs missed out on their top targets during free agency and decided to guarantee Broekhoff’s deal for next year. His work ethic was deeply appreciated by the Mavs coaching staff and the Aussie will continue to remain a specialist at the end of the bench but we wouldn’t expect to see him earn major rotation minutes. Broekhoff will miss the FIBA World Cup this summer as his wife is soon due for their first child but he is already in Dallas working on his game.
New Kids on the Block
Nicolo Melli, PF/C, 28 years old, New Orleans Pelicans
8.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.8 steals and 1.2 triples on 46/41/80 splits in 78 games with Fenerbahce Ulker of Turkey last year
The 28-year-old Italian power forward has been a jack of all trades for EuroLeague powerhouse Fenerbahce in recent years, helping them reach back-to-back EuroLeague Final Fours. Melli isn’t a flashy creator but he is a sneaky athlete who can stretch the floor and make contributions on both ends due to his high basketball IQ.
He is big enough to defend the paint and looks to be an ideal fit playing next to Zion Williamson while, if the Pelicans indeed decide to play at a fast pace, he will surprise many people with his ability to finish in transition.
Melli has been one of my favorite guys playing in the EuroLeague the last few years and I expect him to even have some fantasy appeal if he’s able to solidify himself in the rotation and earn the backup PF/C minutes.
Marko Guduric, SG, 24 years old, Agreement in place to sign with the Memphis Grizzlies
9.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.0 steal and 1.5 triples on 51/41/88 splits in 75 games with Fenerbahce Ulker of Turkey last year
Serbian sharpshooter Marko Guduric is expected to sign a two-year contract with the Grizzlies and he will compete for the backup shooting guard minutes on a young, rebuilding squad. Guduric shot 47.7 percent from 3-point range in the 2018-19 while playing in Europe’s top league while he also won the 2019 Turkish League 3-point shootout. He has ideal size at 6’6” and is a crafty, left-handed shooter with high basketball IQ who plays within the system. Guduric is not very athletic and struggles against quicker opponents so I expect him to try and work himself into the rotation while I don’t believe his roster spot is guaranteed.
Matt Thomas, G, 24 years old, Agreement in place to sign with the Toronto Raptors
12.0 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 2.2 triples on 52/48/88 splits in 53 games with Valencia of Spain last year
Thomas is expected to exercise his opt-out clause and join the Raptors on a 3-year deal, adding more shooting and depth to the 2019 Champions. He went undrafted in 2017 after playing all four collegiate years at Iowa State where he made 254 3-pointers, the third-most in the school’s history. He has been making a name for himself in one of Europe’s top leagues, Liga ACB of Spain, where his percentages from behind the arc have been ridiculous (48 and 46 percent in back-to-back seasons).
Thomas is an incredible catch-and-shoot scorer who is likely to get hot throughout the season and even though he is strong enough, his size and length won’t do him any favors against the bigger guards he will be facing in the NBA. With Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard leaving Toronto this summer there will be plenty of minutes in the team’s backcourt but Thomas projects to be a triples specialist and his ability to stay on the floor will depend largely on whether he’s able to hold his ground against NBA talent.
Vincent Poirier, C, 25 years old, Agreement in place to sign with the Boston Celtics
10.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.0 block on 62/33/68 splits in 73 games with Baskonia-Vitoria of Spain last year
The Celtics have consistently turned to European talent for help in the last few years and they successfully added the EuroLeague’s top rebounder in their effort to mitigate the damage caused by the departure of Al Horford.
The French center is a big body that dominates around the rim with his exceptional athleticism while he has excelled in the pick-and-roll action either as a finisher or as an underrated passer who can command attention and draw multiple defenders on him. While I can see him being able to execute DHO actions for the Celtics, I am skeptical on whether his lack of speed will allow him to earn significant minutes as he doesn’t have the balance and quickness to adequately rotate in switches and often finds himself at the wrong place.
Still, he should have value as a drop-back big who protects the paint even though he is not an elite blocker and he fouls too often due to the fact that he is not very mobile.
Thanasis Antetokoumpo, F, 26 years old, Milwaukee Bucks
4.8 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.6 blocks on 52/26/47 splits in 55 games with Panathinaikos of Greece last year
The Bucks did a solid to Giannis as his older brother returns to the NBA where he was drafted back in 2014 by the Knicks. He only played in a couple of NBA games and spent most of his team in the G-League. At this point he is a known commodity and I expect him to simply provide depth insurance for the Bucks as a defensive specialist who excels above the rim.
His shot creation and shot-making ability are still his Achilles heels even though his stroke has improved and I can only see him making an impact if surrounded by shooters who can ran the fast break with him.
Adam Mokoka, G, 20 years old, on a two-way deal with the Bulls
11.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 triples on 41/32/64 splits in 32 games with Mega Bemax of the Adriatic League last year
French guard Adam Mokoka went undrafted this year but he joined the Bulls on a two-way contract and will try to work his way into the main roster. There are many questions about Mokoka’s game since he struggles on the offensive side the ball and is only a good finisher around the rim, but the Bulls have always liked defensive minded guards who can’t shoot so this looks like a perfect fit for me.
Departures and Miscellaneous Moves
In a stunning move that surprised NBA executives around the league, Nikola Mirotic opted to return to Europe and sign a lucrative deal with Barcelona B.C. but I wouldn’t rule out a possible return to the NBA at some point in the future. The Spaniards have been extremely aggressive in the open market this summer and they also agreed to bring back former Thunder guard Alex Abrines, who returns to his former team after three years in the NBA where he struggled with consistency.
Dairis Bertans’ stint with the Pelicans was ended last week and he reportedly joined Russian club Khimki so we should expect to only see the younger Bertans brother (now in Washington) next year. Khimki also reportedly agreed to a deal with Timofey Mozgov.
Former Spurs guard Nando de Colo parted ways with CSKA Moscow and explored the possibility of returning to the NBA, even forcing the Raptors, who own his RFA rights, to extend a qualifying offer to him, but he has agreed to sign with Fenerbahce in Turkey instead, while Jimmer Fredette is heading back overseas to play in Greece after another unsuccessful NBA stint, this time with the Suns.
Spurs first-round pick Nikola Milutinov had a strong year with Olympiakos but he is also expected to remain in Europe at least for the foreseeable future while CSKA Moscow is making an aggressive play to try and lure him away from the Greek powerhouse.
Thank you for reading this week’s article and please make sure to check Bruski’s 2019 Free Agency Tracker for all the transactions that have reshaped the league in recent weeks. Stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.