Top 5 NBA players who might be eyeing their returns to Europe after this season
Either some players are too old to continue their careers in the United States or too young and couldn’t find the consistency they were striving for in the NBA, they are plenty of reasons why some international athletes might consider to return to where they first became stars.
We can think of many European talents who returned to their continent after a succesful spell in the NBA like Nikola Mirotic, as we can also think of many current players like Evan Fournier who aren’t anywhere there yet, but who might make the comeback at some point.
As of now, the NBA is going through a fervent phase as it’s mid-season and the trade deadline approaches. It’s the time when teams think of the unthinkable and beyond to find a way to improve their chances of contending for the title and upgrade their roster. The Euroleague is at a different stage, but they are always considering big targets for the next campaign.
This means that European teams are always eyeing up to fetch back any international athlete who isn’t playing enough as they should in the NBA or who would still be a strong asset before the player decides to retire.
Some honorable mentions of these potential profiles are Simone Fonttechio, Dario Šarić, Vit Krejci, Vlatko Čančar, or even youngster Marko Simonović who has barely played this season but is just living his first season in United States basketball and deserves time to develop.
Here is our Top 5 of players who are likely to consider a return to Europe at this point in their careers:
5. Leandro Bolmaro, Utah Jazz
The 22-year-old Argentinian has already been neglected by his current team, as the Jazz decided not to renew his contract for the next season. This means the shooting guard won’t be shooting much more for Utah for what’s left of the campaign, as he’s only played 5 minutes average in 13 matches so far.
Although the youngster still might be picked up by another NBA team during the next off-season, we haven’t noticed him on any team’s radar during this current transfer window. His 0.5 point average isn’t impressing anyone and this might be the time to consider returning to where he showed his potential at Barcelona.
4. Juancho Hernangomez, Toronto Raptors
After reports that many players are dissapointed in the Toronto camp, some press speculation suggests that many key players will migrate at the end of the season. Although Juancho Hernangomez’s current stats aren’t unbelievable (3.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 0.6 assists per game), he is a regular player for the Raptor’s rotation.
Just last summer, he led the Spanish national team to win the 2022 FIBA EuroBasket competition in the final against France. You can watch his highlights below:
The thing is, the Canadian team decided only to sign him for a one-year contract, and as the 27-year-old’s only playing 15.4 minutes per game, this might be the chance to return to Spain where he is truly praised. However, the foward has shown his quality and a potential move to another NBA team is always on the cards.
3. Goga Bitadze, Indiana Pacers
After three long season in Indianapolis, this last one has been his worst. Maybe Goga Bitadze hasn’t been given the right opportunities to flourish, but the truth is the press have reported that the Pacers have been looking to trade the Georgian center with no luck during this transfer window.
The Indiana Pacers are open to moving Goga Bitadze for a star player, per The Athletic. pic.twitter.com/lLoFjPPiku
— WOJ ARTEST🇦🇺 (@NbaWoody) January 31, 2023
As it seems he won’t be extended by the Indiana team, it means the big man will be free to chose where he will continue to play basketball during the off-season. But as no suitors have appeared to trade for his skills, we can’t help but wonder if the 23-year-old will consider a return to Europe to recover his best version.
The Georgian has averaged 3.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in 9.6 minutes per game (21 in total) this championship.
2. Goran Dragic, Chicago Bulls
Is Goran Dragic’s time as an NBA player finally coming to an end? The 36-year-old is in his 15th season in the United States, and he’s still scoring for the Bulls, averaging 7.2 points per game. Nevertheless, it was Goran the first to open up to the press about the possibility of retiring in European soil.
“I kind of miss the atmosphere of the European arenas,” he mentioned recently in an interview with Greek journalist Christos Tsaltas. “I’ve been playing for 15 years in the NBA and I’m used to it here. Every time I go back to Europe to play things are a bit different because the fans are more… crazy, in a good way. They always support you and bring positive energy.”
After playing for the Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat, Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors and now for Chicago, will this be the final season we enjoy Dragic’s basketball?
1. Danilo Gallinari, Boston Celtics
Yet another veteran who is living his last years as a professional player. Danilo Gallinari has already played 728 NBA games since he started as a New York Knick’s player in the 2008/09 season. However, the 34-year-old hasn’t played a single game for the Celtics this season as he suffers from a torn ACL.
It wasn’t until the beginning of the year that he started to take his first steps and is already starting to get fans excited over the possibility of him returning back to action at the end of the season. “My mind-set is that I want to play, and that I’m going to play at the end of the season…,” he said. “I want to play in the playoffs. So that’s the mind-set that helps me every day get better and motivates me even more.”
It really hurts not to be able to help the team in its time of need. Fortunately, we are an incredibly strong team and every misstep is just extra motivation for the next game 💪🏻🍀#NBA #BostonCeltics pic.twitter.com/tceCJGIbQK
— DANILO GALLINARI (@gallinari8888) January 25, 2023
As he still has another year of contract once he returns from injury this summer, it might not be the moment Gallinari finally makes his grand comeback to Europe. Nevertheless, he has said in the past that it’s a possibility.
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