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Six Overseas Draft Picks Who Could Contribute in NBA

David Pick looks at six NBA draft picks who are overseas and whether they could join the NBA soon.

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Contrary to what some fans may believe, there is competitive basketball being played outside of the NBA. The mere fact that a bunch of NBA rotation-caliber players have tested the overseas waters in China and Europe proves this to be true.

In an era when the roster for the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs features nine non-U.S. born players, foreign talent is becoming highly coveted. Which begs the question, who are the next overseas prospects who will make the jump to the NBA?

Basketball Insiders has decided to focus on six former NBA draftees whose rights are owned by teams across the league, looking at whether these prospects could contribute in the league now and whether they should receive a call-up to the NBA in the near future.

Vasilije Micic – Point Guard – NBA rights owners: Philadelphia 76ers

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He’s no Ricky Rubio but this 20-year-old Serbian floor general was mentioned during the latest NBA Draft as, “one of the best passers in this draft,” according to scout guru Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.

Micic was selected late in the second-round at No. 52 and stayed overseas, signing to play for German power-club Bayern Munich. After four consecutive seasons with prospect-development club Mega Vizura in his native country of Serbia, Micic averaged 11.8 points per game, ranked third in the league in assists with 5.8 dimes and second in steals with 1.7 per game. He also contributed three rebounds per outing.

During the offseason, Micic made the jump to the Euroleague competition, registering 4.7 points and 3.3 dimes in about 15 minutes per game over three appearances off the bench.

He’s a skilled passer and superb ball handler. His size, 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, allows him to view the court from all angles. Micic is a classy pick-and-roll playmaker who stood out at the 2014 Adidas EuroCamp. The 76ers aren’t competing for anything right now and are just focused on developing their young players, so it would make sense for Philly to give their draftee a shot in the league during this rebuilding phase.

But the question remains – being slow on his feet and far from athletically gifted, who is Micic going to guard in the NBA? How consistent is his shooting? Although Micic shoots 42 percent from the perimeter in the German League, he has struggled in the Euroleague and hasn’t made a three-pointer yet.

 

Alex Abrines – Shooting Guard – NBA rights owners: Oklahoma City Thunder

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The former 2013 second-round pick by Oklahoma City continues his draft-and-stash development overseas as a phenomenal perimeter shooter. At 21 years of age, Abrines is entering his second season with Spanish ACB champions Barcelona. Only this time, he is seeing significant floor time.

One of the top international prospects in the 2013 class, Abrines is on fire from beyond the arc, shooting almost 70 percent in Espana and 53 percent in the Euroleague through 10 games.

Abrines’ season highlights thus far include firing a perfect five-for-five from distance versus Italian powerhouse Armani Milan, scoring 21 points in 23 minutes. Beyond his ability to torch opponents, Abrines is extremely smart, confident and capable of playing above the rim.

His skinny frame and sub-par handles could cause him to struggle in the NBA and become a victim for low-post bullies. Also, Abrines can jump, but he’s not an elite class athlete. Why bring him over to OKC? He’s proven to be a legit force in Europe, and the Thunder could use another shooter on their roster along with Anthony Morrow and Jeremy Lamb.

 

Davis Bertans – Small Forward – NBA rights owners: San Antonio Spurs

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Aside from the fact that this Latvian kid almost has an awesome forename, Bertans has the ability to become a legit sharp-shooting small forward in the NBA.

Bertans’ shooting mechanics are excellent and he owns an ultra-quick release to his stroke. The 2011 draftee is a pure shooter who can knock down shots running off screens or creating off the dribble (even though the latter element is still a work in progress).

Bertans improved his passing game and dished out a number of eye-opening dimes this season. Yet, he’s still averaging just one-or-fewer assist per game. The 22-year-old Euroleague veteran signed a long-term deal with Spanish club Laboral Vitoria this offseason, and is playing significant minutes in the Spanish ACB — the toughest league in Europe.

Bertans’ coach is Italian tactician Marco Crespi, who once served as director for international scouting for the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns. Bertans is shooting 100 percent from the free throw line and over 40 percent from beyond the arc this season. His range is probably the deepest in Europe since Mirza Teletovic left for the NBA.

He’s ranked 11th in the Euroleague in three-pointers made and seventh among the Top 10 ACB scorers with 14 points per game, just 2.3 points shy of No. 1.

Despite standing 6-foot-10, Bertans isn’t considered an elite rebounder, grabbing a total of 3.5 boards per game this season. His feet-movement is slow and figure is slim, though he’s added a few pounds of muscle. Bertans isn’t a brilliant athlete, but has some bounce and could defend the small forward position. He’s by no means an NBA stretch four-man. Bertans also has a history of knee injuries.

He’s a player who can spread the floor, and could end being a contributor for San Antonio down the road.

 

Dario Saric – Power/Small Forward – NBA rights owners: Philadelphia 76ers

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“One hundred percent, I will come to the NBA in two years (2016).” It wasn’t clear if Dario Saric meant what he said ahead of hearing his name called with the No. 12 pick overall in the recent NBA Draft.

It sounded ever more fishy when his father, Predrag Saric, voiced his opinion over a pair of Dario’s DNP-CDs: “We’re thinking about leaving (Turkish club) Anadolu Efes.”

Had Dario committed to playing in the NBA when drafted, he’d probably be a top-five selection.

Nonetheless, after dominating in the Adriatic League last season, Saric’s transition to the Euroleague action has been shaky. It’s something he said was bound to happen. Following a bumpy start to the season where he took a backseat to former NBA center Nenad Krstic – who has since gone down with an injury – Saric had his Euroleague coming-out-party last week with 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting from within the arc, six boards, two assists and two steals in 22 minutes.

Once a stud for Cibona Zagreb in his native land of Croatia, Saric is adapting to life off the bench in Turkey. Although he’s just 20 years old, Saric can handle the rock, has good court-vision and shoots from all over the floor. He is a versatile forward with a great feel for the game and has sharp instincts. Saric is an energy bomb waiting to explode.

His liabilities include being a streak shooter – as he has attempted just nine shots from the perimeter over 124 minutes this season and made just two. Saric also falls between the cracks on the defensive end.

As previously stated, Philadelphia is developing their young core so bringing over Saric makes sense since he could be a key player for them moving forward. When Saric is able to enter the NBA, he’s a virtual lock to be in race for Rookie of the Year.

 

Nikola Jokic – Center – NBA rights owners: Denver Nuggets

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Serbian center Nikola Jokic, who at 19 years old is the youngest kid on this list, could make an impact in the league right because he’s straight up dominating overseas.

Jokic, the 41st overall pick in the latest draft, has taken over prospect-development club Mega Vizura and has been messing around these last couple of weeks with a pair of MVP performances.

In his Adriatic League season debut, Jokic led his club to a nail-biting, 103-98, win over MZT Skopje, registering 27 points (8-for-12 from the field, 5-for-5 from the line) and 15 rebounds. Worth MVP honors, right?

On November 3, he recorded 17 points, 12 rebounds and season-high eight assists during a 90–84 triumph over Zadar. Jokic, again, was named MVP of the week. By the way, in between, he also has a 19-point, 13-rebound game against Cibona Zagreb.

However, with Denver’s roster flooded with bodies in the paint – Kenneth Faried, J.J. Hickson, Timofey Mozgov and Jusuf Nurkic – Jokic would be left with spotty minutes if he were with the Nuggets this season. Thus, an additional two-to-three years in Europe would help strengthen his NBA rookie status down the line.

According to sources, officials for Real Madrid are closely monitoring Jokic’s progress in Serbia, as their club’s general manager flew out to witness the kid’s recent MVP outing. Another source claims there’s a strong possibility Jokic lands an offseason deal next summer with reigning Espana champions Barcelona.

Jokic has shown great development this season, along with an arsenal of offensive moves from pick-and-pop (37 percent from the perimeter this season) to nifty passes to creative finishing around the rim. His limitations include his athleticism, ability to defend quicker big and below-average shot blocking. (Video interview from NIKE Hoops Summit)

 

Bogdan Bogdanovic – Shooting Guard – NBA rights owners: Phoenix Suns

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One of Europe’s high-volume scoring guards, Bogdan Bogdanovic opted to remain abroad for two more years before testing NBA waters. Was this a good idea? It doesn’t appear so, but time will tell.

Check out the resume of this 22-year-old Serbian: four-time Serbian League Champion, two-time Serbian League Cup Winner, two-time Adriatic League ring-holder. Bogdanovic wasn’t a role player on these teams. Last season, he emerged as “the man” with the right to jack up shots – good or bad – at will, shooting his way to the 2014 Serbian League Final MVP and Euroleague Rising Star honors.

Now that we’ve established that this kid can shoot, Bogdanovic is capable of playing anywhere on the perimeter from point guard to shooting guard to small forward. He’s a clutch shooter with an advanced feel for the game, though he could get wild at times.

Bogdanovic is locked in to a long-term four-year deal in Turkey, but can opt-out after his second season. Could he help the Suns now? He’s inexperienced and not explosive, and he hasn’t proven he could bring it on a bigger stage with Fenerbahce, but all-in-all he’s a versatile athletic wing who can handle, pass and shoot from anywhere on the floor. He’ll fit in perfectly when he does join the team.

His 2014 FIBA World Cup campaign was brilliant, earning a silver medal for the Serbian national-team, averaging 12 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists, while shooting 47 percent from the field. Bogdanovic currently leads his team in three-point percentage with 40 percent from distance in the Turkish TBL competition, yet his numbers have dropped now that he’s backcourt buds with former Lakers guard Andrew Goudelock and reigning Euroleague champion Ricky Hickman.

David Pick has extensively covered European basketball and American players abroad since 2010. His work can be found at Eurobasket.com and ONE.co.il. Follow him on Twitter @iamdpick

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