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.
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