The NBA Finals are nearly upon us and full attention is soon to turn to the NBA draft. There are sure to be many players drafted who will continue their careers overseas as they develop more with the hopes of joining an NBA team in the coming years. Meanwhile, what about those past draft picks? Who might be ready to come over next season and potentially lock down an NBA roster spot? Let’s take a look at 10 recent first-round and high second-round picks, how their seasons are going and what kind of chance they have of being in the NBA next year.
Alex Abrines (G/F) — 2013 pick No. 32: Rights owned by the Thunder
Abrines dramatically improved his shooting this season for Barcelona of Spain. The 21-year old has put up 48-48-94 splits during ACB play. He’s hit 52 of 109 three-point attempts this season over 26 games. However, during Euroleague play, he was just 29 of 85 (34.1%) from deep. He was named to the ACB All Young Players Team for the second consecutive season and is clearly a rising star in the top European domestic league. It’s all great news for OKC except for one small problem: Abrines signed a four-year contract extension last week that could keep him in Spain until 2019. The silver lining is that his contract includes NBA buyouts after each season. It’s likely we won’t see Abrines in the NBA for another season or two as he should get a much bigger role in Barcelona’s rotation next year, but rest assured he has a very bright future that will include the NBA at some point.
Nemanja Bjelica (F) — 2010 pick No. 35: Rights owned by the Timberwolves
Bjelica had a career year for Fenerbahce of Turkey, leading his team to the Euroleague Final 4 and being named Euroleague MVP. At 27 years old, this might be the time for Bjelica to make the NBA jump after being rumored to do so over the past couple of seasons. He’s a skilled combo forward who’s a solid rebounder (8.2 in 26 minutes per game across all leagues) with three-point range (46.4% in Turkish TBL play). Bjelica has one more year on his contract but it’s hard to believe he could improve his stock any further, and he could very likely be a solid rotation piece on the rebuilding Timberwolves next year. The timing is right, but it might come down to whether or not the price is right.
Bogdan Bogdanovic (SG) — 2014 pick No. 27: Rights owned by the Suns
Bogdanovic is a teammate of Bjelica’s with Fenerbahce and has also been integral to their success this season. He signed a four-year deal with the Turkish team this year after spending the last few seasons with Partizan. He has dramatically improved his three-point shot to the tune of 43.1% in TBL play and was named Euroleague Rising Star for the second consecutive season. His contract includes NBA outs starting in 2016 and upon being drafted he was expected to stay in Europe until then. However, given his continued success, it’s quite possible that the Suns make a run at him this offseason and at least see how much it would cost to buy him out early.
DeAndre Daniels (SF) — 2014 pick No. 37: Rights owned by the Raptors
Fresh off a national championship with Connecticut, Daniels moved to Australia and joined the Perth Wildcats. He missed three weeks early in the season with an elbow injury but returned to help his team reach the playoffs. He put up 14.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest, but his shooting numbers left much to be desired. Daniels is an excellent summer league candidate who will need to show that his shooting woes were mostly a result of the elbow injury. If he can prove himself there, he could become a cheap reinforcement for the Raptors next season.
Josh Huestis (SF) — 2014 pick No. 29: Rights owned by the Thunder
The Stanford grad is best known for being the 29th overall pick because he agreed to spend the season in the D-League, a fact that sparked great controversy after the draft. The OKC Blue were said to be molding him into a “3 and D” type player and while the defense was there, the three-point shooting (31.6%) has been slower to come along. Huestis will undoubtedly join the Thunder’s summer league team but will likely have a tough time finding an open roster spot with OKC as the Thunder already have 13 players under contract for next season. Plus, there are restricted free agents Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler to consider, and that forthcoming lottery pick.
Livio Jean-Charles (F) — 2013 pick No. 28: Rights owned by the Spurs
Jean-Charles is a raw forward who plays for ASVEL Villeurbanne, the French team owned by Spurs point guard Tony Parker. He missed the entire 2013/14 season after undergoing knee surgery and returned this year to mixed results. He played limited minutes off the bench and didn’t shoot particularly well in the process. He has no three-point range for someone who’s supposed to be a combo forward, which would seem to limit his NBA potential, given his skinny frame. He should get a look at summer league, but it’s likely that he’ll return to France for at least another season.
Nikola Jokic (F/C) — 2014 pick No. 41: Rights owned by the Nuggets
Jokic is a 6’11”, 250-pound brute who managed to dominate the very tough Adriatic League while leading a team basically filled with young prospects. He finished with 15.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game for Serbia’s KK Mega Vizura en route to winning MVP honors at just 20 years old. There have been rumors throughout the season that the Nuggets are already working on a deal to sign the Serbian prospect prior to summer league. He could eventually form quite the frontcourt tandem with rising star Jusuf Nurkic.
Tibor Pleiss (C) — 2010 pick No. 31: Rights owned by the Jazz
Pleiss is a 7’2″ monster in the middle who played this past season as a teammate of Alex Abrines with Barcelona of Spain. Pleiss left a starting role with Spain’s Laboral Kutxa to come off the bench and so his numbers aren’t a very fair reflection of his talents. In ACB play, he shot 65% from the field and 88% from the free throw line. He was acquired by Utah from Oklahoma City in the Kanter trade and there were rumors shortly thereafter that the Jazz were trying to buy him out of his contract. It’s safe to say that he has a place in the Jazz’s future, though the apparent mutual dissatisfaction between Pleiss and Barcelona that reportedly fueled talks between Utah and Pleiss earlier this year is rumored to have resulted in a different outcome. Barcelona is expected to convey him to Germany’s Bayern Munich, according to Nikos Varlas of Eurohoops.net.
Dario Saric (PF) — 2014 pick No. 12: Rights owned by the 76ers
Saric moved from Cibona of Croatia to Turkey’s Anadolu Efes this season and is averaging 10.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 24.2 minutes per game over 54 contests. He was named Euroleague MVP of the Month in November while also picking up his second consecutive FIBA Europe Young Men’s Player of the Year Award. Saric’s contract doesn’t have a NBA out until 2016, but the Sixers have been in constant contact with him, and he won’t dismiss the idea that he might play for Philadelphia next season. His past has been riddled with contract controversy, so it would be quite a feat for Philly to make that happen. Even so, Saric is improving rapidly and, whether he comes over in 2015 or 2016, he figures to be a big piece of the 76ers’ future.
Tomas Satoransky (G) — 2012 pick No. 32: Rights owned by the Wizards
Satoransky is a 6’7″ combo guard and yet another player for Barcelona. Last summer, Satoransky refused to play in summer league for the Wizards unless the team signed him to the regular roster. He failed to receive the money he sought from Washington and signed for two years with Barcelona instead. He excelled this season, with shooting splits of 58-49-81, and he has the ability to fill up the stat sheet. It’ll be interesting to see if he’ll change his tune and join Washington this summer, but regardless, he’s just 23 and another year with one of the top international teams will only aid his improvement.