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NBA AM: Overseas Trio Ready For NBA Roles

Overseas stashes are often a mixed bag, but these three rookies could play large roles in 2017-18.

Ben Nadeau

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Drafting an overseas stash is always a risk for NBA front offices—sometimes they are more of a lottery ticket than a measured investment.

The number of overseas washouts far outweighs the list of the bonafide game-changers playing at the NBA level, but because of roster commitments or financial demands, a stash often becomes an appealing option on draft night. Despite that unpredictability, the long-awaited arrival of three talented International prospects could wind up playing a large role in next season’s playoff races. From a franchise looking to make their fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance to two up-and-comers trying to take the next step, these are the three America-bound newcomers that are ready to make a real difference in 2017-18.

Cedi Osman, Cleveland Cavaliers

Through mid-July, the Cavaliers have re-signed Kyle Korver, snagged Jose Calderon and are currently chasing the services of Derrick Rose, thus continuing their never-ending search for cheap, effective additions. The LeBron James-led franchise has been a near-guaranteed lock for the NBA Finals since he returned from Miami in 2014, but the Cavaliers have been met each time by the Golden State Warriors. Thwarted by their new rivals in two of the last three championship showdowns, Cleveland has left no rock unturned in their hunt for another X-Factor.

Turns out, in the midst of their slew of veteran signings, it’s Cedi Osman that could be the Cavaliers’ newest difference-maker.

For the uninitiated, Osman is a 22-year-old forward from Turkey, picked as the No. 31 overall selection in the 2015 NBA Draft. Just three days ago, Osman agreed to join the Cavaliers on a three-year deal reportedly worth $8.3 million. Last season, Osman averaged 13.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.6 steals in 34 games for Anadolu Efes, the Turkish club he’s spent much of his career with thus far. Osman is not going to be an All-Star, nor is he even a highly-touted prospect, but he could be the dose of youthful energy the Cavaliers need to climb the Eastern Conference ladder once again.

Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and James are one of the most formidable trios league-wide, but the rest of the roster is dotted with aging question marks across the board. The Cavaliers have done a superb job of surrounding their electric scorers with three-point shooters in every corner, but the creative Osman should bring a much-needed change of pace with the second unit.

It’s no surprise that a red-hot Cavaliers team is nearly impossible to outshoot from distance—Osman should some help in that regard—but when the well dries up, that’s when Cleveland starts sweating their large leads. The lean and lanky Osman will need to physically adjust to the all-around stronger NBA, but he’ll be a welcomed addition to the cavalcade of veterans chasing championship rings. Cleveland fans have waited quite some time for Osman to arrive and his ability to catch fire, lead the fast break or size-up athletic blocks will make him a favorite before long.

While the Cavaliers will look to squeeze the last remaining drops of effectiveness out of Richard Jefferson, Jeff Green and, if he returns, Derrick Williams, it’s not tough to imagine Osman usurping their roles by season’s end as the sprier, more explosive version.

Furkan Korkmaz, Philadelphia 76ers

It only took one season before Furkan Korkmaz made his jump to the NBA, but the 76ers are excited to add the Turkish athlete to their melting pot of process-related franchise pieces. Korkmaz was drafted with the No. 26 overall pick in 2016 but stayed overseas for another season, splitting his time between Anadolu Efes and Banvit. The teenager worked on expanding his game before moving to the far more physically demanding NBA. At 6-foot-7, Korkmaz could carve out an important role on a Philadelphia roster that has just about everything covered except for three-point shooting.

Working behind the one-year, big money signing of J.J. Redick, Korkmaz could not have stumbled into a situation with a better mentor than the former Los Angeles Clipper sharpshooter. Even at just 19 years of age, Korkmaz has showcased plenty of his NBA-ready potential as a playmaker with a knack for passing and an athletic prowess around the rim. Of course, his calling card is long-range shooting and Korkmaz knocked down 41 percent of his three-point attempts last year in Turkey. Korkmaz, who played with current teammate Dario Saric for two years in Europe, is likely a few seasons away from being truly unleashed, but a grand opportunity still awaits him in 2017-18.

As the 76ers push for their first playoff appearance since 2012 in a weakened Eastern Conference, there’s certainly room for Korkmaz to bloom alongside the exciting talents of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz. He’ll start the season behind Nik Stauskas and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot on the depth chart, but if Korkmaz hits consistently from deep, he can be the type of wild card off the bench that Philadelphia lacks at this time. The 76ers converted on just 34 percent of their attempts in 2016-17, as Robert Covington was the sole member of the franchise to finish the season with an average of two or more three-pointers per game.

The addition of Redick will certainly help mitigate that glaring weakness, but there will always be available minutes for a silky stroke like Korkmaz’s should he quickly find his feet in the NBA.

Bogdan Bogdanović, Sacramento Kings

The last name belongs to Bogdan Bogdanović, the Sacramento Kings’ Serbian savior that’s finally arriving after he was selected way back in the 2014 NBA Draft with the No. 27 overall pick. At 24 years old, Bogdanović is the most polished rookie on this list, a 6-foot-6 guard with loads of experience at some of the sport’s highest levels. With Fenerbahçe, Bogdanović led the perennial contenders to their first-ever EuroLeague title in 2017, tallying 17 points, five rebounds and an assist as they defeated Olympiacos in the final. Cashing in on his status as one of Europe’s best shooters, Bogdanović signed a contract worth three years and $36 million in June, but with a majority of the roster’s guards filled out by either newly drafted prospects (De’Aaron Fox, Frank Mason) or well-aged veterans (Vince Carter, Garrett Temple) there’s space to grow, as well.

Bogdanović is a smooth operator offensively, frequently opting to create his own shot rather than wait around the perimeter. Additionally, the Serbian was locked in from deep in 2016-17, hitting his three-pointers in EuroLeague competition at a healthy rate of 43 percent—a skill set that should work well in tandem with free agent signing George Hill. And, unlike Osman and Korkmaz as of now, Bogdanović has the potential to evolve into one of the league’s highly sought after 3-and-D contributors with his ridiculous 6-foot-11 wingspan.

As the Kings look to leapfrog the rebuilding process after trading away franchise centerpiece DeMarcus Cousins during the All-Star break last winter, Bogdanović could play a large role off the bench in the tougher-than-ever Western Conference. Even as a potentially undersized small forward, head coach Dave Joerger may like what the lengthy, proficient Bogdanović can offer at the position in lieu of Malachi Richardson and Justin Jackson—two guys that have exactly 22 games of professional basketball experience combined.

If that’s not enough of a case for a strong rookie campaign in 2017-18, take his performance in the 2016 Rio Olympics as a good indicator of future successes. Serbia, who hadn’t medaled in Olympic men’s basketball since 1996, marched convincingly to the final before bowing out against the United States. Alongside budding superstar Nikola Jokic and NBA-newcomer Milos Teodosic, Bogdanović and the Serbians were the surprises of the tournament, igniting a silver medal run that included a quarterfinal victory over Croatia in which the Kings’ new rookie poured in 18 points, five rebounds and three steals in 26 minutes.

With the rising expectations in Sacramento likely initially overwhelming for many members of the young roster, Bogdanović and his experienced, reliable play could be a major game-changer out West this upcoming season.

For the most part, we typically pay most attention to the established names that change zip codes over the offseason. In this case, however, it could be three overseas studs that make quite the difference.

Ben Nadeau is a Boston-based writer in his second year with Basketball Insiders. For five seasons, he covered the Brooklyn Nets for The Brooklyn Game.

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NBA Daily: Georges Niang’s Big Break

After dominating the G-League for a year, Georges Niang has more than earned this big opportunity with the Utah Jazz, writes Ben Nadeau.

Ben Nadeau

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For Georges Niang, reaching professional stability was always going to be a tall order.

Even after four dominant seasons at Iowa State, the tweener forward was viewed as a draft risk. At 6-foot-8, the versatile playmaker has always scored in bunches but also struggled to find his place in the modern NBA. Despite excelling as a knockdown three-point shooter, the fundamentally sound Niang has bounced around the country looking for a long-term opportunity.

In the two seasons since he was drafted, Niang has played in 50 G-League games for three separate franchises and had his non-guaranteed contract waived twice.

As a summer league standout for the second straight offseason, Niang’s determined efforts officially paid off last week after he signed a three-year deal with the Utah Jazz worth about $5 million. Now with a fully-guaranteed contract under his belt for 2018-19, Niang has been eager to prove his worth both on and off the court — a newfound skill-set he happily attributes to Utah’s excellent system.

“In the Jazz organization, from top to bottom, they do a good job of nurturing guys and forming them into good leaders and things like that,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, it was really easy to transition to summer league, [I’m] really just trying to lead by example, not with just my words.

“And I think playing hard, being a good teammate and doing the right thing –I think those are three things that the Jazz really stand for.”

But his meandering path toward year-long job security wasn’t destined to end up this way — no, not at all.

Selected by the Indiana Pacers in the 2016 NBA Draft with the No. 50 overall pick, Niang was correctly projected as a hard-working, high-IQ contributor that could put up points on almost anybody. Unfortunately, following a low-impact rookie year with the Pacers — and some short stints with their G-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, as well — Niang was waived the ensuing summer. Shortly thereafter, Niang latched on with the Golden State Warriors, where he participated in training camp and four preseason games — but, again, he was waived before the season began.

With the Santa Cruz Warriors, Niang flat-out dominated the competition for months, up until he grabbed a two-way contract from Utah in January. In total, Niang played in 41 games between Santa Cruz and the Salt Lake City Stars in 2017-18, averaging 19.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals on 45.7 percent from deep over 33.9 minutes per game.

Once attached to Utah’s affiliate franchise, Niang averaged a team-high 22 points per game and finished the campaign as the 13th-best scorer in the G-League. On top of all that, Niang was both an All-Star and honored with a spot on the All-NBA G-League First Team at season’s end.

Although he would ultimately play in just nine games for the deep Western Conference roster, Niang was simply laying important groundwork for the days ahead.

This summer, Niang averaged 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in three contests during Utah Summer League. Given the golden opening to impress his future would-be-employers, Niang kept things rolling in Sin City and posted similar numbers over five games. On the back of a 20-point, eight-rebound performance early on in Las Vegas, Niang embraced the chance to fight and compete for his team — five full days before the Jazz signed him to a guaranteed deal.

“It was a real physical game, but those are the games you want to play in during summer league,” Niang said. “You want to play in those types of environments, where every possession matters and you gotta make plays down the stretch — and I think we did a really good job doing that.”

Those scrappy aspirations have been a staple of Niang’s since his collegiate days at Iowa State, too. During an ultra-impressive senior year, Niang tallied 20.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the Cyclones, leading their roster to 23 wins and an eventual trip to the Sweet Sixteen. That season, Niang took home the 2016 Karl Malone Award as Division-I’s top power forward and finished with 2,228 points, the second-best mark in school history.

Any way you slice it, whether at college or in the G-League, Niang can play, the moment just needs to reveal itself — and maybe it finally has.

Of course, this new contract — one that’s only fully guaranteed in 2018-19 — doesn’t ensure Niang any playing time and he’ll have some stiff competition. Just to get on the court, he’ll need to squeeze minutes from Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder and Joe Ingles — a tough task in head coach Quin Snyder’s defense-first rotation. No matter what his role or obligations end up amounting to, Niang is ready to meet that challenge head-on.

“In the NBA, everyone has a role,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, obviously, things are gonna be peeled back and you’ll have a defined role. My role is just when I get the ball, and if I do, play-make for others or get guys open, defend multiple positions, play multiple positions on offense and knock down open shots.”

Although his past resume certainly speaks for itself, it’ll be up to Niang take his big break even further. But given his efficiency and execution at every other level, there’s little reason to doubt the forward now. Days before they signed Niang, he was asked if Utah was somewhere he could see himself for the foreseeable future — his response was precise and foreboding.

“I’d love to be here — what [the Jazz] stand for is what I’m all about. I’ve had a blast with all these guys and I’d love to keep it going.”

And now, he’ll get at least 82 more games to make his case.

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NBA Daily: The Carmelo Anthony Trade is a Rare Win-Win for All Involved

It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation.

Shane Rhodes

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The Big Three Era in Oklahoma City came and went rather quickly.

On Thursday, the Thunder reached an agreement to trade Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks for guard Dennis Schröder, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. As part of a three-team deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Thunder will also walk away with Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot while the Hawks and 76ers swap Mike Muscala and Justin Anderson.

It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation. Just as well, the trade is perhaps even more beneficial for the players involved.

While Anthony may have wanted to stay with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, the trade is more than beneficial for him. After the trade goes through, the Hawks plan to buyout Anthony’s contract and he will reportedly receive the entire $27.9 million he is owed next season. Even better still, Anthony is free to join any team he wants, whether it be the Houston Rockets and friend Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Lakers and friend LeBron James, or elsewhere.

With his money already in hand, Anthony could sign on the cheap as well, making negotiations with any franchise that much easier.

For the Thunder, clearing Anthony’s massive salary from their books was of paramount importance. Staring down a $150 million luxury tax bill, Sam Presti managed to move Anthony and improve the team or, at the very least, make a lateral move depending on how you look at Schröder. Even as they take back the remaining $46.5 million owed to Schröder, the Thunder will save more than $60 million next season alone. That makes the trade worth it for Oklahoma City all by itself.

Still, the move allowed them to fill a need, perhaps more important than the cash savings as they look ahead to next season. Schröder not only fortifies the Thunder bench but the point guard position behind starter Russell Westbrook as well; he is another athletic playmaker that Oklahoma City can play on the wing with confidence. And, after averaging a career-high 19.4 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists last season, Schröder provides the Thunder offense with more firepower to compete against the other top teams in the Western Conference, a necessity if they hope to make a long playoff run.

For Schröder, the move to Oklahoma City is just as beneficial for him as it is for the team. Schröder is no longer the starter (he was unlikely to be the starter in Atlanta with Trae Young in the fold), but he can still make an impact and now he can do so for a contender.

The Hawks, as they should be, are playing the long game here. They acquired Jeremy Lin, an expiring contract, from the Brooklyn Nets earlier this offseason. After drafting Young, their guard surplus afforded them the chance to move Schröder’s deal off their books, netting them a first-round pick in the process and opening up playing time for the Young right away.

While the pick is top-14 protected (the pick becomes two second rounders if it doesn’t convey in 2022, every asset counts as the Hawks will look to add talent through the draft for years to come. With the addition of the Thunder pick, the Hawks now are owed an extra three first-round picks between the 2019 and 2022 drafts, a benefit for the Hawks whether they use those picks or trade them for already established talent. Meanwhile, Anderson, 24, presents another intriguing, and more importantly, young, option alongside the core of Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins and Taurean Prince.

Anderson will almost certainly receive more playing time in Atlanta as they figure out who and who can’t help the team. His time in Philadelphia was mired by injury and he never had the opportunity to show what he could do. So, whether they use him as an asset in a future trade or plan to keep him on the roster, Anderson, at the very least, will have the opportunity to show what he can do.

For the 76ers, Muscala is essentially insurance for the reneged deal with Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the team but the stretch-four never signed his contract and backed out of the deal. With him out of the picture along with losing Ersan Ilyasova, Muscala was one of the few remaining options for the 76ers in that specific, stretch-big role.

Muscala doesn’t have the same shooting chops that Bjelica has, but he is younger and might have more upside alongside Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and co. Last season, Muscala, in addition to career highs in points and rebounds, averaged a career-high 3.2 three-pointers per game and hit 37.1 percent of them. While he likely won’t see the playing time he saw in Atlanta, Muscala should easily slide into a role off the bench for the 76ers. Moving Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot clears a logjam on the wing as well and will afford more minutes to Markelle Fultz (when he is ready), T.J. McConnell and rookies Zhaire Smith and Furkan Korkmaz.

As it stands, this trade made sense for all parties involved, and that alone is reason enough to consider it a win all around. While things could certainly change and hindsight is 20/20, this deal is beneficial for all three teams right now and could positively impact all three squads both next season and beyond.

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NBA Daily: Grayson Allen Ready for NBA Challenge

Making it in the NBA alone is quite an impressive feat, which is why Grayson Allen is doing the best he can to prepare for the big stage.

Matt John

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Grayson Allen may not be the most hyped-up prospect to come out of this year’s draft, but he is one of the more experienced rookies coming into the league this season.

Allen spent four years learning under the tutelage of Coach K at Duke University while also playing with the likes of Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum, and Marvin Bagley III. He’s been through it all at the collegiate level, but he knows that if he’s going to make it in the pros, he’s going to have to adapt as quickly as possible.

“I have to set the tone for myself where I have to know playing in the NBA as a rookie, guys are going to be physical with you,” Allen said. “They’re going to come at you, they’re going to test you and see what you got. You’re gonna get beat. You’re gonna fail, but you gotta come right back at ‘em the next time.”

Since debuting in the summer league, Allen’s been the perfect storm for the Jazz. His shooting numbers have not been encouraging, but his numbers across the board have shown how impactful a player he can be. These have been his stat lines in both the Salt Lake and Las Vegas summer leagues.

July 2 vs. San Antonio: 11 points on 4/16 shooting including 2/6 from three, eight rebounds, seven assists
July 5 vs. Atlanta: 9 points on 2/13 shooting including 0/2 from three, six rebounds, eight assists
July 7 vs. Portland: 16 points on 6/17 shooting including 2/9 from three, six rebounds, six assists
July 19 vs. Miami: 17 points on 7/17 shooting including ⅕ from three, seven rebounds, three assists

Maybe it’s been the dry climate, or maybe it’s been the high Utah elevation that has caused Allen’s struggles shooting-wise, but the fact that his all-around game has shined despite his shooting woes should excite the Jazz. After his summer league play, Allen says the biggest adjustment he’s had to make offensively is acclimating himself with the pace of the game.

“Offensively, it’s a lot easier when you slow down,” Allen said. “I’m starting to see the space of the floor a lot better and finding the open guys. There’s still a few plays out there where I think I got a little antsy but it’s human nature and I’m trying to fight it right now. As a rookie playing in his first couple of games, I’m trying to fight that and play under control.”

On the other side of the ball, Allen says the biggest adjustment is the increased level of physicality in the pros.

“Defensively, it’s physical,” Allen said. “You gotta fight guys. You gotta get through screens. I mean, the bigs, they really set great screens, so you gotta be able to fight through that… If you’re tired on defense, they’ll find you.”

Allen knows that he needs to commit if he’s going to make it in the NBA, which requires eliminating all bad habits. In order to eliminate any habit that Allen has, which in his case is fatigue at the moment, Allen believes that he needs to be more mindful of himself when he’s physically drained.

“I try to be really self-aware of my habits when I get tired out there,” Allen said. “On defense, I have a habit when I’m tired, I stand up and my feet are flat. On offense, I’m not ready for the shot… I try to be really self-aware of that stuff so that in practice or in August, September, October, leading up to the regular season, I can have good habits when I’m tired because we got a short leash as a rookie. You don’t have many mistakes to make.”

In Utah, Allen will be playing for a team that exceeded all expectation last year and has a much higher bar to reach this season. He believes the summer the league should serve him well as he fights for minutes in the Jazz’ rotation.

“I’m joining a playoff team, so I gotta carve out a role with the guys they already have,” Allen said. “When I’m playing in summer league, I’m trying to play the right way. Don’t take too many tough shots, find the right guy, make the right pass.- Because when you come and play for Quin Snyder, that’s what he’s gonna want. He’s just gonna want you to play the right way.”

When Adam Silver announced that Utah was taking Allen with the 21st overall pick, the general masses laughed due to Utah, a state with a white-bread reputation, took a white player. Given that Allen just played four years of basketball at one of the best college basketball programs in the nation and will be starting his career playing for one of the most well-run organizations in the league, he may be the one laughing when it’s all over.

In other words, Grayson Allen playing in Utah could be quite the trip.

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