Every year, a number of NBA teams turn to the same veteran retreads when it comes time to add a free agent. However, there are plenty of NBA-caliber players overseas who could help an NBA franchise if given the opportunity.
Skilled guards like left-handed Keith Langford, the reigning No. 1 Euroleague scorer, could’ve pursued NBA offers, including from the Philadelphia 76ers, but opted to sign a lucrative $3.8 million pact with Russian club Kazan instead.
Veteran star point guard Bo McCalebb, undrafted out of New Orleans in 2008, has won multiple MVP awards and championships in Serbia, Italy and Turkey. However, though he’s been in recent contact with multiple NBA teams, McCalebb signed a one-month deal with German powerhouse Bayern Munich, and it appears his NBA window is closing.
Serbian phenom point guard Milos Teodosic is a lock in terms of NBA talent, but his long-term, high-dollar contract with CSKA Moscow will keep him in Europe.
So, who is the next Patrick Beverley, who was playing in Russia just prior to joining the Houston Rockets? Or Brian Roberts, who won three German League titles before making the jump to then New Orleans Hornets, and is now with the Charlotte Hornets?
Here are some overseas players who could follow their paths:
This 25-year-old Baltimore native combo-guard is a European Championship ring collector. Delaney, undrafted out of Virginia Tech in 2011, is the only player in Europe to win back-to-back-to-back Championships in three different countries.
In 2012, he guided Chalon to the French title, averaging 15 points, 3.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds per showcase through his rookie season overseas. The following season Budivelnyk Kiev road Delaney to the Ukraine Superleague chip, as he was named Player of the Year. Delaney’s coming-out-season was the previous one with German muscle Bayern Munich, who ultimately won the German Bundesliga Championship, as Delaney, once again, took home another Player of the Year award.
He made a splash throughout his Euroleague season debut, registering 12 points per game, and ranked sixth among the top passers in Europe with 4.3 dimes per outing – behind ultra-skilled passers in Carlos Arroyo, Dimitris Diamantidis and Sergio Rodriguez.
Last April, Delaney – who was having a monster season – was close to making the jump to the NBA as the Houston Rockets reached out to strike a deal. However, Munich was battling for the gold in the German League, and vetoed the idea in a heartbeat.
During the offseason, Delaney signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract sheet in Russia with Lokomotiv Kuban. According to sources with knowledge of the contract agreement, Delaney has an escape clause he can trigger as late as July 22, 2015. From what I’m hearing, he’s mulling over opting-out.
Believe it or not, this kid is currently the No. 1 scorer in the world.
Errick, best known as older brother of Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum, is extremely overlooked. He’s even more underestimated. But, all that’s about to change.
After dropping 34 points in a preseason match up against highly projected NBA draftee Emmanuel Mudiay, who was held to just seven points before fouling out, even NBA officials are paying close attention.
McCollum, 26, is averaging 42.8 points per game in China and recently had an out-of-body performance, setting a worldwide season-record of 63 points. Last week, McCollum recorded his first career triple-double with 58 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in a 127-122 deficit against former Dallas Mavericks guard Josh Akognon and the Foshan Lions.
Here’s a list of the damage McCollum’s has done thus far in China: 63 points against Justin Dentmon and ex-Memphis Grizzlies center Hamed Haddadi, 49 points over Von Wafer and Jeremy Tyler, 48 points vs former CBA forward Al Harrington, 47 points on Pooh Jeter, 45 points (11 boards and eight dimes) versus Delonte West and Michael Beasley and 44 points (22-for-27 from the free throw line) against Metta World Peace.
McCollum played high school ball with his younger brother C.J. and current Grizzlies center Kosta Koufos. He went undrafted out of Goshan College of the NAIA, and his first gig overseas was such a bust he almost retired.
The 6-foot-2 Canton native bounced back and won scoring titles in the Israeli minors, the top Greek League and in the EuroCup (Europe’s second-tier competition) with an average of 20.2 points per outing, earning the league’s Import Player of the Year.
Before the Greek playoffs, I’m told, six-time European champs Panathinaikos, requested to buy-out McCollum, but his team refused.
Over the summer, the buzz around McCollum generated into an NBA Summer League invite from the Denver Nuggets, followed by a series of auditions for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets. He ended up signing a $700,000 deal with the CBA’s Zhejiang Banks.
Once the season in China is up, McCollum is a virtual lock to enter either the NBA or Euroleague.
Last season’s Euro Cinderella was 27-year-old Boston College alumnus Tyrese Rice. Coached by current Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt, Rice struggled as a backup point guard for Israeli power-club Maccabi Tel Aviv. But the end result, however, paid off. I mean literally, with a monster $5.4 million deal in Russia.
Rice was crowned the 2014 Israeli League Final Four and Euroleague Final Four Most Valuable Player. He led Maccabi to its first European Championship in almost a decade following a game-high 26 points, including a perfect 9-for-9 from the free-throw line in the Finals against Spanish favorites Real Madrid.
Undrafted in 2009, Rice is a relentless bulldog with a great feel for the game. The 6-foot-1 human dynamite recorded 45 points and 11 assists during a two-game Finals series in Israel vs Maccabi Haifa. During the 2011-12 season, Rice was teammates at Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius in Lithuania with center Jonas Valanciunas of the Toronto Raptors.
Before taking his talents to Spain, to the best league outside the NBA, Goulding was the top shooting guard on the Australian continent.
In March, the Tasmanian-born assassin caught fire, shooting a career-high 50 points during a 92-82 win over their domestic rival the Sydney Kings. It was the NBL’s best individual scoring performance of the modern era. Goulding capped the season as the No. 1 scorer, netting 22.8 points per game.
Prior to that, at just 22 years of age, Goulding was named MVP of the NBL All-Star Game, leading all scorers with 24 points.
This offseason, Goulding signed a single-season deal with ACB club Zaragoza and has had a smooth transition to Europe. He’s averaging 9.1 points per showcase in 22 minutes in Europe’s toughest, defensive-minded league in Spain. In EuroCup play, Goulding leads his team in scoring with 15.1 points per contest in 26 minutes, including 45.2 percent from deep. His stroke is deadly from the free throw line, shooting 29-for-30 this season.
Goulding tested NBA waters during the latest Summer League with a strong showing for the Dallas Mavericks, registering 8.3 points on 50 percentage shooting from 3-point land.
Over the years the NBA has opened its doors to Australia’s finest as Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova and Aron Baynes were joined in recent offseason by Cameron Bairstow, Joe Ingles and pick No. 5 in the 2014 NBA draft in Dante Exum.
Goulding has emerged as the next Aussie to make an NBA splash.
ALBA Berlin’s all-around guard isn’t known for his shooting, but Redding is a real sleeper when it comes to the NBA.
Undrafted in 2010 out of the University of Villanova, Redding, as an overseas rookie, immediately claimed ownership of the cup and league title in the low-level Cyprus League. He then jumped to the up-and-coming German League and was nominated to the Bundesliga All-Star Game.
Redding was later acquired by ALBA, earned the German League Import of the Year award and now competes in Europe’s highest level in the Euroleague, where he’s averaging 11.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.
Redding’s club shocked the basketball world with a 94-93 preseason W over reigning NBA champs, the San Antonio Spurs. Redding was golden in the clutch with key 3-pointer to cut ALBA’s deficit to 93-92 win under five seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, Redding stole a Tim Duncan inbound pass that led to a game-winning prayer for the Germans. Redding had 12 points on 66 percent shooting from the perimeter, and recorded a game-high of five assists and four steals.
The 6-foot-3 floor Israeli floor general for Maccabi Tel Aviv is one the best old-school players in the game. Ohayon, a 27-year-old, four-year Euroleague veteran, is a quick left-handed, pass-first point guard who knows how to run an offense.
Before turning pro at 16.5, playing backup point guard for Hapoel Galil Elyon, Ohayon set an all-time Israel record with a quadruple-double of 34 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds and 10 steal during an 81-57 high-school victory.
Ohayon’s shooting has always been a liability, but he’s greatly improved and is a tab under 40 percent from distance this season. Ohayon, a longtime backcourt partner on the Israeli national team with former Dallas Mavericks guard Gal Mekel, is an elite on-ball defender.
Just last week Ohayon put up a career-high eight steals in a 79-73 road victory over French club Limoges.
The former Wisconsin point guard and pre-Draft Portsmouth Invitational Tournament invitee, is the biggest steal of the Israeli League this season.
Had he not been held back by injuries, the 6-foot-2 native of Minnesota was bound for the higher ranks in overseas competition. Still, Taylor is leading a low-budget Hapoel Holon club to the playoffs, as the No. 5 seed with a 5-3 record.
Taylor, who played a year and a half in the Italian SeriaA for Rome, averaging double-digits in scoring before hurting his hip, was ranked first earlier this season in Israel in efficiency, and second in points.
Taylor, a strong-built playmaker with quick hands (ranked sixth in steals with 2.3 per game) and a solid stroke, didn’t show out for the Milwaukee Bucks at the recent NBA Summer League, but did in fact turn down a pair of NBA Western Conference camp invites to jump start his career in Israel. Meaning, he’s still on the radar of NBA teams.
Mitchell Taking Things Day-By-Day, But Loving ‘Whirlwind’ Experience
It’s been a special year for the Utah Jazz rookie sensation.
Four-and-a-half months into the first season of his NBA career, Donovan Mitchell has accomplished some incredible things.
He won back-to-back Rookie of the Month honors between this past December and January. He leads his class with 19.6 points per game and nearly 17 field goal attempts per contest. Due much in part to his contributions, the Utah Jazz are the hottest team in the league, riding an 11-game winning streak after falling far below the .500 mark.
To top all that off, he won the slam-dunk competition just a few days ago in an event for the whole world to see. All of this has been nothing short of amazing for the 21-year-old, and even he didn’t see this coming.
“This whole thing’s just been a whirlwind for me,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend of his first-year experience. “Just enjoying the process. There are games where I’m just like, ‘Wow this happened’ or ‘Wow that happened’ and it’s a credit to my teammates and the coaching staff and the organization for believing in me.
“Without them, none of this would be possible, so I really thank them for giving me this opportunity.”
Believe it or not, Mitchell wasn’t always so sure about where his life would go. He played for a couple of seasons at Louisville and ended up declaring for the 2017 NBA draft, a night where the Jazz stole him away from every other team by executing a deal with the Denver Nuggets to land the 13th overall pick in Salt Lake City.
“I tell people all the time this wasn’t my plan,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend. “After two years of college, being here for All-Star and even being in the NBA wasn’t entirely my plan, so I’m just taking it one step at a time, one day at a time, praising God for this opportunity he’s given me.”
So far, Mitchell is picking things up on the go. As he keeps improving and solidifying his game on the court, he’s also bettering himself mentally.
“If I just continue to be humble and continue to learn, that’s the biggest thing is learning and understanding the game,” Mitchell said. “I make the joke that it’s easy to study film and watch all the games when you don’t have five classes to study for throughout the day. So it’s been fun and I’m just taking it day by day.”
It’s pretty awesome that he’s doing what he’s doing with friends by his side. Most of us think of this class of rookies as a special group because of their talents as players, but it’s a tight-knit inner circle of friends who are enjoying every second of life in the NBA together.
Kyle Kuzma, John Collins, De’Aaron Fox, and Dennis Smith Jr. are friends Mitchell mentioned that he’s been close with for a while, and to see all of their hard work culminate so quickly at the Rising Stars game in Los Angeles is something special.
“I’ve known a lot of these guys, pretty much everybody on this team since high school for the most part,” Mitchell said. “Kinda hanging the same way we did in high school just a lot more cameras, a lot more downtime, bigger city.
“It’s fun. Just gotta treat it like it’s fun, go out there and just be kids. Live a dream of ours since we were younger.”
After the weekend he had, Mitchell accomplished that goal.
Whether the next step in his career has a Rookie of the Year award written into it or not, we’re seeing spectacular things from the one they call “Spida.”
And it’s about time people are taking notice.
NBA Daily: Tobias Harris Thrives at Every Stop
Tobias Harris was traded yet again, but thankfully for the Clippers, he’s gotten better every stop he’s made.
When Tobias Harris was a 19-year-old rookie for the Milwaukee Bucks, he faced a lot of the same issues that other 19-year-old rookies before him had faced, most notably the ones dealing with a lack of playing time.
He only saw the floor in 42 games, playing on 11 minutes per contest when he did get out there.
Despite that, it was somewhat of a surprise that the Bucks gave up on his talent so early in his career, trading him to the Orlando Magic just 28 games into his sophomore season as part of a trade for J.J. Redick.
The Magic immediately tripled his minutes, and he’s never been a 30 minutes-per-game guy ever since. He also has never said a negative thing about any team he’s ever played for. As far as he’s concerned, every opportunity is a blessing and a learning experience.
“I didn’t look at Milwaukee as a team giving up on me. I looked at it as Orlando valuing me and seeing me as a piece of the puzzle,” Harris told Basketball Insiders during All-Star Weekend, where he participated in the three-point contest.
“The NBA is about opportunity, so when you get the opportunity you have to make the most of it. Going from a rookie not playing to where I’m at now, it takes a lot of hard work, focus and determination,” he said. “You have to have the confidence in your own self, to understand you can break through in this league.”
And break through he did, in large part because those first 18 months as a professional were so challenging.
“Adversity helped me to work hard,” he said. “I always envisioned myself as a primetime player in this league. I have a ways to go to get there, but that’s the best part about me. My best basketball is ahead of me, and adversity has helped me get there. It’s motivated me, and I want to be the best player I can be. I’m trying every single day to fight for that.”
This season, most of which came as a member of the Detroit Pistons, was a career-best for Harris.
Between the Pistons and L.A. Clippers, Harris has averaged a career-high 18 points per game, and while he wasn’t voted to the All-Star Team this year, his name popped up in the conversation. He’s never been closer.
It was bittersweet for him, though, leaving a Detroit team he liked so much.
“My favorite part was being around those guys [in Detroit],” he said. “It was a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. Coach Van Gundy is a great coach. At the same time, when I first got there, we had a chance to make the playoffs and we got in the playoffs. That was nice for me, to put that pressure on myself and get it done.”
Now, he’s ready to accept his next challenge in Los Angeles with the Clippers.
“I look at every new opportunity as a new chance,” he said. “My first trade from Milwaukee to Orlando was a situation where I just wanted to prove myself to the league. When I was traded from Orlando to Detroit, it was a situation where I wanted to help the team get to the playoffs, and that’s similar to this one here, too… I really like the group of guys that are on this team. I like our demeanor and our approach, so after the break I look forward to building that chemistry and moving forward.”
Of course, moving forward is all he’s ever done.
After everything he’s proven to date, it seems like a given that he’ll continue to make strides with his new team.
2018 NBA All-Star Sunday Recap
Michael Petrower recaps the All-Star Game from Sunday in Los Angeles.
The 2018 NBA All Star Game had some added appeal this year, with Captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry selecting playground style from the pool of All-Stars. Although it was not televised, it drew a lot of interest to say the least.
Team Lebron was headlined by Kevin Durant (the alleged first pick), Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving. Sadly, Team Lebron suffered big losses with John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Kevin Love and Kristaps Porzingis going down with injuries. Team Stephen was led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Joel Embiid and Demar DeRozan.
NBA fans were ready to indulge on the highlight real of plays to commence…That was, until the NBA inflicted a marathon-like performance that seemed a bit unnecessary, to say the least. Kevin Hart was at the center of theatrics that had NBA fans scratching their heads questioning what was on their television screen. Fergie topped off the saga with what was one of the more questionable national anthems we’ve seen in recent years. However, if you stuck around long enough, the game started at 8:40 PM EST and the flashy plays that we hoped for, began.
Joel Embiid made his first A;l-Star game appearance and kicked off the scoring festivities for Team Stephen with a ferocious and-one dunk. Team Stephen led all of the first quarter and won the quarter 42-31. Karl Anthony Towns led the first quarter scoring with 11 points. Team LeBron, however would storm back and cut the lead to two, 78-76 at half. LeBron came into his 14th straight All-Star game and lead his team at the half with 15 points. Klay Thompson also lead Team Stephen with 15 points at half.
The second half ensued and after some back and forth between the two teams, Team Stephen was leading by three going into the fourth quarter, 112-109. Team Stephen grew their lead to 11 while LeBron and KD got some rest. But after the two came back in, the 11-point deficit was erased after a LeBron three and the teams were now tied at 144 with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter.
DeRozan would make a free throw to put Team Stephen up one point, but Lebron followed with a strong two-pointer to put his team up one. DeRozan tried to answer, but threw away a pass which resulted in an easy two points for Russell Westbrook to ice the game. Team LeBron was the 2018 All Star Game winner with a score of 148-145.
LeBron James went on to win his third All Star MVP after finishing with 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds, eigh assists and a steal on 12-17 shooting. DeRozan and Damian Lillard lead Team Stephen with 21 points each.