Euros: A Risky Investment
Should teams should steer clear of Europeans in the First Round?
TIER 4: Slightly Better Than Horrible
Vladimir Radmanovic – Warriors – Yugoslavia – Drafted 12th Overall in 2001 by the Super Sonics
Radmanovic peaked pretty low and pretty early in his career, averaging above 9 points in all of his second through sixth seasons in the League. Recently he’s been even worse, though to his credit, he played in 74 games for the Warriors this season, but was limited to less than 16 minutes per game. For the record, Richard Jefferson was taken just one slot after him.
Sasha Pavlovic – Celtics – Serbia and Montenegro – Drafted 19th Overall in 2003 by the Jazz
Pavlovic has been lucky enough to spend most of his career on really good teams, but he’s pretty bad. His career-high in scoring is 9 points per game back in ’06-07 alongside LeBron, but for someone considered to be a primarily a scorer, that’s bad news. He surfaced on the Mavs, Hornets and Celtics this year, but is nothing more than a reserve player, backing up the backup’s backups. He’s about as bad as a player could be without qualifying for the dreaded fifth tier.
Bostjan Nachbar – Last Played For Nets – Yugoslavia – Drafted 15th Overall in 2002 by the Rockets
Nachbar looked like he was on track for a pretty poor career before producing with the Nets for a couple seasons in ‘06-07 and ‘07-08. He averaged nearly 10 points and 4 boards per game both of those seasons, and also proved to be a pretty solid shooter, averaging 1.4 threes per game between the two seasons. He eventually left to play in Turkey, but was the sixth man on 2006 Nets’ team that won 49 games before being bounced by the eventual champion, Miami Heat. In my book, that keeps him out of the bottom tier.
TIER 5: Each NBA GM Should Have A List Of These Guys On Their Fridge
Oleksiy Pecherov – Timberwolves (Sort Of) – Ukraine – Drafted 18th Overall in 2006 by the Wizards
Pecherov stayed in the Ukraine for a year after being drafted before coming to the Wizards in 2007. He was shipped to Minnesota after the 2009 season where he played an unproductive year and promptly bolted to play ball in Europe. He averaged 4 points and 2.5 rebounds in his brief NBA stint.
Fran Vazquez – Never Played – Spain – Drafted 11th Overall in 2005 by the Magic
Yikes. Vazquez was taken just a pick after Andrew Bynum (who might end up on the Magic anyway), and hasn’t exactly put up similar numbers. He did average 8 points and 4.5 boards last season, but, unfortunately for Orlando, he did it with Barcelona.
Yaroslav Korolev – Russia – Last Played For Clippers – Drafted 12th Overall in 2005 by the Clippers
Imagine how mad the Clippers must have been when Orlando grabbed Fran Vazquez just a pick ahead of them! It’s almost as bad as MJ going one pick ahead of the Mavs, who ultimately took Sam Perkins in 1984… Actually, the Clippers ended up doing pretty well for themselves, as Korolev scored 39 points over two seasons in the NBA compared to Vazquez’s goose egg.
Zarko Cabarkapa – Last Played For Suns – Serbia and Montenegro – Drafted 17th Overall in 2003 by the Suns
Just when you think it’s impossible to one-up Darko, Zarko comes along the very same year. Cabarkapa played sparingly for the Suns before getting shipped to Golden State in the middle of his second season. He failed to impress on either team and now plays… elsewhere.
Nikoloz Tskitishvili – Last Played For Suns – Georgia – Drafted Fifth Overall in 2002 by the Nuggets
Nikoloz is lucky that Darko came along in ’03, to say the least. The Nuggets seriously reached to grab Tskitishvili in ‘02, in a draft that ended up producing Nene, Amar’e Stoudemire, Caron Butler and Dan Dickau in the first round. Is it easy to imagine the sort of unlimited potential the Nuggets would have had if they took Dickau instead of Tskitishvili? Sure. But that’s not what I’m here to do. Despite playing his first two seasons for the Nuggets, Tskitishvili impressively played for five teams over his four-year career, and ultimately ended up with the Knicks, although he never actually stepped on the court for them.
Jiri Welsch – Last Played For Bucks – Czech Republic – Drafted 16th Overall in 2002 by the 76ers
Jiri was traded to Golden State on draft day and after an unsuccessful rookie campaign found himself on the Celtics. There he actually played pretty well, averaging 9.2 points and 3.7 assists in his first season with Boston. But it was all downhill from there, as he never hit the 8-ppg mark again. He’s currently playing in Spain and, assuming I read the league’s site correctly, is averaging 5.5 points per game.
Caution: If You’re A Pistons Fan, Do Not Continue Reading
TIER 6: Darko
Darko Milicic – Timberwolves – Yugoslavia – Drafted Second Overall in 2003 by the Pistons
Milicic is probably the biggest bust of all time considering the Draft he was in, and is hands-down the worst pick on this list. Detroit took him right in-between LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, and while he can’t be blamed for that, the rest is on him.
He played just three seasons for the Pistons, and failed to average 2 points or 1.5 boards in any of them. He went on to Orlando where he played respectable ball for a couple of seasons, averaging around 8 and 5 per game. He continued the decent play for a couple of seasons in Memphis, and wound up on the Knicks to start the ’09-10 season. He was simply a bench warmer in New York, but rediscovered his mediocre talent in Minnesota about two-thirds into that same season. There, he averaged 8.3 points and 5.5 boards in 24 games and somehow got a four-year contract worth a whopping $20 million from Minnesota and the, um, “interesting” mind of GM David Kahn.
TIER 7: The Jury’s Still Out…
Ricky Rubio – Timberwolves – Spain – Drafted Fifth Overall in 2009 by the Timberwolves
Weirdly enough, the TWolves took Rubio and fellow point guard Jonny Flynn with consecutive picks in 2009, and so far, neither has really worked out for them. Let’s focus on Rubio. The 18-year-old (at the time of the Draft) unsurprisingly had no interest in leaving his hometown to come play for a consistently horrible team in a really cold city. Finally, it seems that we’ll get our look at Rubio in the NBA next season, as he has officially signed on with the Timberwolves and will be playing with them as soon as the lockout is lifted. His numbers in Spain this season (around 6 points per game on 32 percent shooting to go along with 4 assists) are far from impressive, but draftniks have advised to ignore the numbers and just focus on his game. I’m no so sure.
So it’s clear there have been more than a few busts over the past decade. By my count, only three of the 16 players (excluding Rubio) have really panned out, leaving 13 with unsuccessful pro careers. The question is: Are European players worth the roll of the dice, or are teams best off playing it safe?