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2007 International Draft Overview
by: Luis FernŠndez - Director of International Scouting
July 2, 2007
How should we appropriate the 2007 draft in the context of an increasingly globalized NBA? What can you expect from your teamís international mystery picks? Letís take a look at what happened in the draft concerning international players, with a special focus on the first round nominees.

An Average Class

This yearís international class probably wonít be remembered as one of the strongest around. A key factor to explain this circumstance was the very low amount of international early entrants. Only six players declared and didnít withdraw. Thatís the shortest list since 2002 (only five early entrants that year, but the Tskitishvili pick boosted the amount to seventeen in the following draft). Actually in the last four years, the amount always reached double digits.

At least, the 1985 crop was slightly stronger than your typical international senior class, thanks to the likes of Tiago Splitter and Rudy FernŠndez, both well-established Euroleague players.

It all resulted in only one lottery pick, five first-round selections and a grand total of thirteen international picks in the whole draft. Very average figures that donít support a growing trend concerning international basketball in the NBA.

Talent vs. Business

More than ever, this yearís draft has evidenced that the selection process for international players is not only about finding good players, but involves substantial economic and contract ramifications.

There has been as much talk about Yi Jianlianís marketability as his playing abilities. Yiís camp itself had a list of desired franchises and markets to land in. For a moment, you had the feeling that he wasnít really a player, but a product, and the NBA not a sport league but a businessÖ wait, it is a business, and Yi is a product after all. Refreshingly, it was a small non-Chinese-friendly market as Milwaukee the (apparently) final destination for Yi.

Still in the first round, the contract situation of players like Rudy FernŠndez and Tiago Splitter likely had a significant effect on their draft position. Concerns regarding their availability to sign for an NBA team probably scared away several teams, even if both are expected to join the League after only one more season. Still, in Rudyís case, some monster European offer might come across his way to the NBA. It will be very interesting to see if he eventually follows the VŠzquez route (to choose the European money over the NBA rookie contract), or whether Fran remains as an isolated accident.

On the other hand, what is usually perceived as a problem in the top-20, often becomes an attractive asset late in the first round or in the entire second round. Stashing international players overseas is a route to save money now and bet on the future, which ultimately might lead some franchise to artificially overrate some international player on its draft board. So ironically, the very same situation that could have ignited Rudy and Tiagoís fall in the draft, might have also stopped it.

Marquee Prospects?

Itís debatable whether this draft featured any single international super-prospect Ėin the line of Bargnani, Yao or Gasol-, but if we had to give out that consideration to anyone, it could only possibly rest on the shoulders of the lone lottery pick coming from overseas this year, Yi Jianlian. Nobody else shared the kind of potential he brings to the table, and still he raises way too many doubts about his game to be considered at this point on the top class of all-time international draftees.

Our personal guess is that the Chinese sensation wonít become a go-to guy in the NBA, a franchise player. He enjoys some certain potential in that regard, but doesnít seem to have the makings to transcend a complimentary role, as crucial as this role might become. Heís not a player you see taking over games, he suffers against physical competition, heís not always focused, and his skill repertoire is probably overrated at this point. Indeed, in his first years in the NBA you wonít likely see much more than mid-range jumpers out of him on the offensive end. Besides, there are serious concerns about Yiís defensive ability and competitiveness, which ultimately might jeopardize even his success as a contributor on an NBA team, although chances are he will likely be able to iron those issues to become a useful player.

The Bucks made a risky pick, thatís for sure. Forget about Yiís preferences for certain NBA markets and a possible trade demand (I donít see him pulling a Steve Francis); the main point here is whether Yi will be able to fulfill his potential. If we talk about money, just remember that as much marketability potential as a player might enjoy, itís useless without a certain amount of success in the League.

Off-Lottery First-Round

The first round was completed with other four international selections: three somehow proven guys at the very top international competition and a very young kid coming from a very minor league. And still the equation turns out to be shaped by two likely steals and two question marks.

Itís interesting to check how, despite the success of many foreign players in the past years, we can still identify international-friendly teams and franchises that wouldnít pick a foreign player to save their lives. Itís in this part of the draft when this division becomes more obvious, as teams donít fear to miss the boat on any superstar, but still expect to find a useful player for their rosters. Certainly the Nellie commanded Warriors, the Blazers and the Spurs fit the international-friendly category.

The European traffic started with Marco Belinelli in the 18th spot selected by the Warriors. It was a little surprise to see the Italian shooting guard going so high after his disappointing last season, but he certainly enjoys enough talent for a mid-first round draftee. Still, his game style raises some doubts. He displays a notable ability to create his own shot, but his effectiveness in this regard has been pretty underwhelming last year. He wonít be able to take as many shots as heís used to in Europe, and he should learn to maximize his scoring efforts, which means better shot selection and more emphasis on his passing game. Not a bad defender for European standards, still itís clear that he wonít make a living off that department, so how he figures out to make the most of his offensive talent will be crucial for his success.

Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers scored what looks like a home-run picking Rudy FernŠndez at the 24th spot. Getting a rising European star so late in the first round, while adding the obvious Oden pick (and other interesting assets later in the draft), built an excellent second edition of back-to-back superb drafts. Rudy might not turn into a big star in this league; he doesnít enjoy the best one-on-one skills around, nor does he have a great ability to create his own shot, but heís a terrific team player to fill a third offensive option thriving within the offensive flow, with his athleticism, activity on court, perimeter stroke, passing skills and decision making. A steal deep in the twenties.

Itís funny how the Blazers have built a greatly intriguing Spanish backcourt with Sergio RodrŪguez and Rudy FernŠndez, buying both picks straight up from the Suns in consecutive drafts. The stingy behavior of the Arizona franchise doesnít look particularly smart. They are giving up the possibility of reinforcing the team through the draft in order to replace some of the expensive contracts that are strangling their payroll. Moreover, they also gave up the opportunity of stashing talented players overseas and bringing them whenever they enjoy a more affordable salary situation.

Moving ahead to the next team selecting an international player, everybody raves about the drafting ability of the San Antonio Spurs, but the truth is they hadnít scored decently in the draft since coming away with Luis Scola in 2002, and still it might end up becoming a wasted pick if they donít manage to bring him over. Of course, we are aware they always pick very late due their perennial success in the regular season, but constantly watching on court the likes of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, huge steals several years ago, tends to result misleading when judging what they have achieved lately in the draft.

Anyway, five years after the Scola pick, they have found another gem in the very same team Luis plays, actually selecting the very same guy that shares the frontcourt with Scola in the starting five, Tiago Splitter. The Brazilian will likely emerge, at the very least, as a useful role big man, a guy to provide energy and defense on a regular basis, but also some serious scoring potential from the low post, which is a superb outcome at the 28th spot.

Finally, much like they did with Joel Freeland last year, the Blazers took a flier on another unproven international player in Petteri Koponen with the last pick of the first round, to stash overseas. Although the Finnish point guard looks pretty well rounded and more intriguing than the English big man, we donít have enough elements of judgment to fairly evaluate this pick.

Second Round Crapshoot

Once you hit the second round, itís a miracle to find any sure things. This year was no exception, but still some picks look on paper more interesting than others. NBA teams did a nice job selecting early two of the most intriguing international guys remaining.

Kyrylo Fesenko is likely not the best player amongst the second round crop, and perhaps neither will he be in the long term, but heís probably the best suited to play a useful role in the near future. The Utah Jazz added a very active big man that should be able to provide energy, crash the boards, run the floor and take advantage of the teamís offensive flow from the paint.

Right after the Ukrainian, the Indiana Pacers ended up selecting Stanko Barac, another intriguing big man, a long-term project to leave in Europe to develop. Perhaps a bit limited in terms of athleticism, Barac has the size and the skills to eventually emerge as a high quality frontcourt player.

Going through the second round, thereís one guy whose relatively low position results noticeable. An extremely solid seven-foot center such as Marc Gasol looks like a very nice investment at the 48th spot by the Lakers. At this point he still doesnít enjoy much of a NBA-friendly profile, but if he keeps working on his conditioning and polishes his scoring abilities, he might end up being a steal.

This draft didnít render big surprises on the international front. With your logical variations, everything played out more or less as expected. Still, if we had to identify the most unexpected move, we would probably go all the way to the last pick in the second round, right where Milovan Rakovic was selected. You can argue that itís hard to criticize the single last pick of the draft, but when a talented guy such as Zoran Erceg goes undrafted, itís hard to understand why the Orlando Magic settled for such a limited player as Rakovic. Yes, heís strong, fairly big and somehow athletic, but heís a very mature player with little potential, a limited skill repertoire and an average feel for the game.
 


Feedback for this article may be sent to luisfernandez@draftexpress.com .

 

Tiago Splitter
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 0"
Weight: 233 lbs.
Birthday: 01/01/1985
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Spurs , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #28 in 2007 Draft
by the Spurs
Positions:
Current: PF/C,
NBA: C,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
Pts, Rebs, Asts


Rudy Fernandez
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 6"
Weight: 172 lbs.
Birthday: 04/05/1985
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Real Madrid , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #24 in 2007 Draft
by the Suns
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: SG,
Possible: SG
Quick Stats:
8.0 Pts, 2.5 Rebs, 2.0 Asts


Yi Jianlian
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 0"
Weight: 246 lbs.
Birthday: 10/28/1984
30 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Guangdong , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #6 in 2007 Draft
by the Bucks
Positions:
Current: PF/C,
NBA: PF/C,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
25.9 Pts, 9.0 Rebs, 0.8 Asts


Steve Francis
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 195 lbs.
Birthday: 02/21/1978
36 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Montgomery Blair
Previous Team: Maryland , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #2 in 1999 Draft
by the Grizzlies
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
5.5 Pts, 2.3 Rebs, 3.0 Asts


Marco Belinelli
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 192 lbs.
Birthday: 03/25/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Spurs , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #18 in 2007 Draft
by the Warriors
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: SG,
Possible: SG
Quick Stats:
6.0 Pts, 2.3 Rebs, 1.3 Asts


Luis Scola
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 245 lbs.
Birthday: 04/30/1980
34 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Pacers , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #27 in 2002 Draft
by the Spurs
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
8.0 Pts, 5.0 Rebs, 1.8 Asts


Tony Parker
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 177 lbs.
Birthday: 05/17/1982
32 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Spurs , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #28 in 2001 Draft
by the Spurs
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
17.1 Pts, 1.9 Rebs, 5.3 Asts


Joel Freeland
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 11"
Weight: 225 lbs.
Birthday: 02/07/1987
27 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Trailblazers , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #30 in 2006 Draft
by the Trailblazers
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
2.8 Pts, 2.9 Rebs, 0.3 Asts


Petteri Koponen
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 194 lbs.
Birthday: 04/13/1988
26 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Khimki , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #30 in 2007 Draft
by the 76ers
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG/SG
Quick Stats:
13.6 Pts, 3.0 Rebs, 2.4 Asts


Kyrylo Fesenko
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 1"
Weight: 270 lbs.
Birthday: 12/24/1986
27 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Saratov , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #8 in 2007 Draft
by the 76ers
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
17.0 Pts, 9.0 Rebs, 1.0 Asts


Stanko Barac
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 1"
Weight: 230 lbs.
Birthday: 08/14/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Siroki , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #9 in 2007 Draft
by the Heat
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
4.5 Pts, 3.0 Rebs, 1.0 Asts


Marc Gasol
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 7' 1"
Weight: 265 lbs.
Birthday: 01/29/1985
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Grizzlies , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #18 in 2007 Draft
by the Lakers
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: C
Quick Stats:
19.8 Pts, 8.3 Rebs, 3.1 Asts


Milovan Rakovic
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 10"
Weight: 269 lbs.
Birthday: 02/19/1985
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Turk Telekom , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #30 in 2007 Draft
by the Mavericks
Positions:
Current: PF/C,
NBA: PF/C,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
5.5 Pts, 2.0 Rebs, 0.0 Asts


Zoran Erceg
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 11"
Weight: 196 lbs.
Birthday: 01/12/1985
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School:
Previous Team: Galatasaray , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: PF/C,
NBA: PF/C,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
17.2 Pts, 5.0 Rebs, 0.7 Asts


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