Not every player drafted in a given year signs an NBA contract right away. Each year, at least a handful of draftees are “stashed” either in the G League or in various professional leagues around the world. The NBA team that drafted the player retains his exclusive NBA rights as he continues to develop his skills elsewhere.
Some of these players never end up making it to the NBA, whether by choice or because they don’t turn into an NBA-caliber contributor. Their draft rights eventually become more useful as placeholders in minor trades than for the possibility of the player coming stateside.
But many draft-and-stash players do eventually turn into useful contributors. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Davis Bertans, Cedi Osman, Dario Saric, Willy Hernangomez, Raul Neto, and Furkan Korkmaz are among the current NBA veterans who were stashed for at least one year after being drafted before signing an NBA contract.
Another member of that group? Nuggets star Nikola Jokic, the 41st pick in the 2014 draft, who remained in Serbia for a year before signing with Denver in 2015.
None of the players currently being stashed overseas are likely to turn into a Jokic-esque superstar at the NBA level, but there are certainly a few who look capable of cracking a rotation sooner or later.
Here are five of the most noteworthy draft-and-stash played worth keeping an eye on at the moment:
- Current team: Anadolu Efes (EuroLeague)
- Drafted: 2014 (No. 52 overall)
- NBA rights held by: Oklahoma City Thunder
Long considered one of the best guards in Europe, Micic was the EuroLeague’s Most Valuable Player in 2021 and has been named the MVP of the league’s Final Four in each of the last two seasons.
It looked like there was a chance he’d make his way to the NBA for the 2022/23 season, but there were a number of hurdles to overcome. Micic was reportedly seeking a salary close to the full mid-level exception and wanted a real, defined role rather than just coming over to sit on the bench.
The biggest roadblock may have been the fact that his NBA rights are held by the Thunder — the Serbian would reportedly prefer to join a contender, and Oklahoma City remains very much in the rebuilding stage.
Despite some offseason trade rumors, the Thunder ultimately held onto Micic and he opted to re-sign with Anadolu Efes in Turkey. He’s once again thriving in EuroLeague play, ranking third in points per game (18.9) and second in assists per game (6.6) through nine appearances.
Micic will turn 29 in January, so if he wants to try to make his mark in the NBA, it probably has to happen soon.
- Current team: Olympiacos (EuroLeague)
- Drafted: 2017 (No. 57 overall)
- NBA rights held by: Sacramento Kings
Vezenkov is coming off his best season in 2021/22, having led the Greek Basket League in scoring en route to an MVP award and a championship. He also earned a spot on the All-EuroLeague First Team.
The 27-year-old forward has looked even better so far in the ’22/23 season. Through 10 EuroLeague games, he’s second in scoring (20.1 PPG) and first in rebounding (8.7 RPG), leading Olympiacos to a 7-3 record.
After acquiring Vezenkov’s rights from Cleveland in a draft-day trade, the Kings reportedly planned to meet with him during the Las Vegas Summer League to discuss his future. However, that meeting didn’t end up taking place and Sacramento ultimately didn’t sign Vezenkov for the 2022/23 season.
It’s unclear whether it was the Kings or Vezenkov who backed off a potential deal, but based on how this season has played out so far, there’s reason to believe both sides could be more interested in teaming up next summer. Sacramento is off to a 10-7 start and has one of the NBA’s most exciting offenses, while Vezenkov is making a legitimate case for a EuroLeague MVP consideration.
- Current team: Paris Basketball (EuroCup)
- Drafted: 2021 (No. 45 overall)
- NBA rights held by: Boston Celtics
Still only 20 years old, Begarin played a significant role for Paris Basketball last season during the team’s first year in France’s top league (LNB Pro A) and is doing so again in 2022/23. The French shooting guard is a long-distance threat who showed off his scoring ability in Las Vegas this July, averaging 18.2 PPG in five games for Boston’s Summer League team.
It makes sense that a team with title aspirations like the Celtics wasn’t necessarily eager to bring over a 20-year-old prospect right away, but it seems like it’ll be just a matter of time before he gets his shot.
Former NBA assistant Will Weaver, who is now Paris’ head coach, raved about Begarin last month, referring to him as an NBA-caliber player who “can make an impact in Boston.”
- Current team: Crvena zvezda (EuroLeague)
- Drafted: 2021 (No. 50 overall)
- NBA rights held by: Philadelphia 76ers
Still just 22 years old, Petrusev already has an impressive international résumé. He was named Most Valuable Player of the Adriatic League (ABA) in 2021 as a member of Mega Basket, then won a EuroLeague title with Micic and Anadolu Efes in 2022.
The forward/center is currently playing for Crvena zvezda in his home country of Serbia and has been an effective role player in 10 EuroLeague appearances, averaging 7.0 PPG and 4.7 RPG on .543/.455/.625 shooting in 18.4 MPG. In five ABA games, his shooting percentages have been even better (.609/.800/.824).
Petrusev was reportedly interested in joining the Sixers this past summer, but there wasn’t room for him on a veteran-heavy roster. He has since expressed confidence in Philadelphia’s “plan” for him and said he believes competing in the EuroLeague will be a boon for his development.
- Current team: Alba Berlin (EuroLeague)
- Drafted: 2022 (No. 36 overall)
- NBA rights held by: Detroit Pistons
Procida is one of eight prospects who are playing in international leagues this season after being selected in the 2022 draft. The Italian wing was the first of those eight players to come off the board in June and may be the most intriguing of the bunch at the moment.
Although he’s only 20 years old, Procida is playing a rotation role for Alba Berlin in EuroLeague competition, averaging 7.2 PPG with a .351 3PT% in 16.7 minutes per contest.
Procida’s contract with Alba Berlin is a three-year deal and details about possible NBA outs haven’t been reported, so it’s unclear if and when we might see him in the NBA. However, he told Orazio Cauchi of BasketNews that the Pistons are in frequent contact with him and visited him in Berlin, so it sounds like he’s in the club’s plans going forward.
- External expectations for the Thunder were low entering 2022/23, particularly after No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren was ruled out for the season with a foot injury over the summer. However, ESPN’s Bobby Marks says Oklahoma City appears to be “on the right path” with the league’s youngest roster, which is led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is averaging 31.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 6.3 APG and 1.8 SPG on .519/.380/.917 shooting through 17 games (36.1 MPG). The Thunder are only 7-11, but they’ve been competitive and the players seem to trust each other, Marks notes.
Thunder big man Mike Muscala fractured his left pinky finger against the Knicks on Monday, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman relays via a tweet from the team’s PR department. Muscala won’t play for the next two weeks and then the injury will be reevaluated.
Muscala has appeared in 14 of Oklahoma City’s 17 games this season, averaging 6.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game. A forward/center capable of stretching the floor, Muscala is off to a slow start from the perimeter, making just 31.8% of his 3-point attempts.
Muscala, who is in his fourth season with the Thunder, averaged a career-best 42.9% from deep last season. He was re-signed to a two-year, $7MM contract this summer. He’s not eligible to be traded until Dec. 15 and also has the right to veto a trade. The team holds an option on his salary for next season.
Eugene Omoruyi potentially could pick up additional minutes in Muscala’s absence.
The 6’3″ point guard has been playing solidly since his return from an ACL tear that kept him unavailable throughout the 2021/22 season. Through 13 games, Murray is averaging 16.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, and 3.9 RPG on .429/.355/.767 shooting splits.
Two-time MVP center Nikola Jokic, who entered the league’s coronavirus protocols earlier this week, remains sidelined, and both he and Murray will miss tomorrow’s contest against the Mavericks, Wind adds.
The league’s updated coronavirus policy this season dictates that vaccinated players only need to test for COVID-19 if they exhibit symptoms of the virus. Unvaccinated players are now tested just once a week.
There’s more out of the Northwest Division:
- Third-year Nuggets power forward Zeke Nnaji would love more rotation minutes for Denver, and expects to make the most of whatever playing time he gets, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. Given the COVID-19 absence of Jokic, the 6’9″ big man has been able to get a bit more run in the short term. “A lot of the coaches said I had a great camp and made some huge jumps, so I’m just looking to apply that out on the court in an actual game,” Nnaji said. “I have to stay ready. I want to make it hard for them to put me back on the bench… I’m also a relentless rebounder and somebody who plays physical inside as well. I can promise that I will bring energy to the court.” Nnaji is averaging a career-low 6.3 MPG on a deep Denver club this year.
- Third-year Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski seems to be turning a corner in his development this year, writes Ethan Fuller of Basketball News. The 20-year-old is averaging a career-best 9.8 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. Fuller adds that Pokusevski has also improved as a more efficient scorer and that the seven-footer seems to noticeably more assertive.
- Jazz forward Rudy Gay continues to rehabilitate from a third finger MCP joint sprain in his left hand, Utah announced in a press release. The Jazz add that the 6’8″ vet will have his injured finger reevaluated in two weeks. In 12 games this season, Gay is averaging 4.5 PPG and 3.4 RPG across 15.8 MPG.
Victor Wembanyama led France to a pair of blowout victories in this month’s World Cup qualifiers, scoring 39 total points in 48 minutes as the French team beat Lithuania by 25 points and Bosnia and Herzegovina by 36. The performances on the international stage were the latest reminder why Wembanyama is ranked atop every draft expert’s big board for 2023.
That list of draft experts includes Jonathan Givony of ESPN, who unveiled his full top-100 list for the 2023 NBA draft on Thursday, with the usual suspects (Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson) leading the way.
Givony’s initial list features Overtime Elite’s Amen Thompson at No. 3, Arkansas’ Nick Smith Jr. at No. 4, and Villanova’s Cam Whitmore at No. 5. Keyonte George, Ausar Thompson, Dillon Mitchell, Kel’el Ware, and Brandon Miller round out his top 10.
In an Insider-only story for ESPN.com, Givony also shared his impressions on this year’s Champions Classic, evaluating Duke’s Kyle Filipowski as a lottery prospect and taking a closer look at Gradey Dick‘s strong start to the season for Kansas.
- Which NBA teams have the best collection of trade assets? Yossi Gozlan and the staff at HoopsHype rank the Thunder, Pelicans, and the Grizzlies as the top three due to their impressive mix of young talent and future draft picks. On the other end of the spectrum, the Wizards are considered the team with the least valuable trade assets.
- Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today takes a look at nine players who are making an impact this season after changing teams in the summer, starting with Donovan Mitchell in Cleveland, while Frank Urbina of HoopsHype singles out nine players who appear to be taking a major leap forward, including Lauri Markkanen and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
- In his latest look around the NBA, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer considers whether the Warriors and Bulls will have to turn to the trade market this season, explores Joel Embiid‘s ongoing evolution, and highlights some of the league’s most impressive three-point shooters.
- John Hollinger of The Athletic breaks out the “panic meter” to determine how concerned we should be about some would-be contenders who are off to slow starts. Hollinger isn’t too worried about the Sixers and Clippers, but has serious reservations about the Timberwolves, Nets, and Lakers, with the Heat and Warriors falling in the middle.
As the NBA’s 2022/23 trade deadline approaches, it’s worth keeping in mind which teams hold traded player exceptions that could come in handy to grease the wheels on an in-season deal.
As we explain in our glossary, a traded player exception allows a team to take on salary in a trade without sending out any salary in return. The amount of the exception plus $100K is the amount of salary the team is permitted to take back without salary-matching – either in a single deal or in multiple trades – for one year.
For instance, a team with a $10MM trade exception could acquire a player earning $4MM and a player earning $6.1MM without having to worry about sending out any outgoing salary.
In recent years, sizable traded player exceptions have been major wild cards that helped accommodate both pre-deadline and offseason deals. For example, after creating a $28.6MM trade exception in a sign-and-trade sending Gordon Hayward to Charlotte in 2020, the Celtics used that TPE to acquire Evan Fournier at the following deadline and then to acquire Josh Richardson during the 2021 offseason.
However, as our tracker shows, there are currently no trade exceptions worth anywhere near $28MM. In fact, the largest current TPE barely eclipses the $10MM mark.
Here are the all of the current trade exceptions worth more than $4MM, along with their expiry dates in parentheses:
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $10,183,800 (10/2/23)
- Utah Jazz: $9,774,884 (2/9/23)
- Los Angeles Clippers: $9,720,900 (2/10/23)
- Utah Jazz: $9,614,379 (7/6/23)
- Denver Nuggets: $9,125,000 (7/6/23)
- Boston Celtics: $6,907,815 (1/19/23)
- Utah Jazz: $6,745,122 (9/22/23)
- Portland Trail Blazers: $6,519,792 (2/6/23)
- Boston Celtics: $5,890,000 (2/10/23)
- Toronto Raptors: $5,250,000 (2/10/23)
- Washington Wizards: $5,220,900 (2/10/23)
- Atlanta Hawks: $4,564,980 (9/27/23)
- Minnesota Timberwolves: $4,374,000 (7/6/23)
- Oklahoma City Thunder: $4,220,057 (10/2/23)
- Sacramento Kings: $4,023,600 (2/8/23)
These trade exceptions aren’t useless. For instance, if Detroit made point guard Cory Joseph available, any of the top 11 TPEs on this list could be used to absorb Joseph’s $5,155,500 salary. The non-Utah TPEs in the top eight could be used to acquire Rudy Gay and his $6,184,500 cap hit from the Jazz. All 15 of them are big enough to take on the $3.5MM salary of Thunder big man Mike Muscala.
But these exceptions will ultimately be of no consequence when considering trade candidates who earn salaries well into the eight figures, since TPEs can’t be combined with other players or exceptions. There’s no scenario in which any of these trade exceptions could be used to take on the $18MM salary of Pacers center Myles Turner, for example.
That’s not the only factor working against the odds of most of these exceptions being used. All of the top 10 largest TPEs are controlled by teams that are rebuilding (the Thunder and Jazz), teams in the tax (the Clippers, Nuggets, and Celtics), or teams that are just below the tax line and likely want to stay that way (the Trail Blazers and Raptors). In other words, they don’t fit the profile of clubs that are looking to take on additional salary without sending any out.
That doesn’t mean that none of these trade exceptions will be used — after all, it sometimes makes sense to take advantage of them even in a deal that a team could complete using salary matching (for instance, a team with a $10MM trade exception that swaps one $8MM player for another could use the exception to take on the incoming player and create a new $8MM exception using the outgoing player). However, it does mean that it’s unlikely any TPEs will be game-changers on this season’s trade market.
The Knicks weren’t willing to part with a major portion of their draft assets to land Donovan Mitchell, but Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander might be worth the gamble, writes Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. New York fans will get to see the talented guard in person Sunday afternoon when Oklahoma City comes to Madison Square Garden.
Although SGA has often said that he prefers to remain with the Thunder — and repeated that sentiment Friday night — his trade value might be too tempting for a franchise that’s still in the rebuilding stage. Through 11 games, Gilgeous-Alexander ranks sixth in the league in scoring at 30.5 PPG and he’s averaging 4.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.0 steals as well.
Gilgeous-Alexander would fit the Knicks’ fascination with Kentucky players, and Sanchez states that team scouts saw plenty of him in college before New York took his teammate, Kevin Knox, with the No. 9 pick in 2018. SGA also has a connection with RJ Barrett as they’re set to join forces for Team Canada at the 2024 Olympics.
Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti has been willing to trade away stars in the past, and if he decides to move Gilgeous-Alexander in exchange for draft picks, New York is in a strong position to make the best offer, Sanchez contends.
There’s more on the Knicks:
- Jalen Brunson believes Barrett has All-Star potential, per Ian O’Connor of The New York Post. “I think he can be a very impactful player, I think he can lead a franchise, and that’s what he was picked here to do,” Brunson told reporters Friday after Barrett’s 30-point outburst in a win over the Pistons. “He can do it. I have the utmost faith in him. He works very hard. He has a great demeanor about how he plays. You never see when he’s frustrated, you never see when he’s having the game of his life. … It shows he’s not afraid of the moment, not afraid of anything. He’s capable of doing a lot of big things.”
- Former Knicks guard Kemba Walker is being patient as he waits for a chance to return to the NBA, relays Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Appearing this week on a podcast with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Walker explained what went wrong after he signed with New York last summer. “When the opportunity came about, I was über-excited,” he said. “But unfortunately, it just didn’t work out for me. Individually, I didn’t really fit the system and what those guys were trying to do over there. It just wasn’t for me.”
- Because the Knicks don’t have a true first option to lead their offense, they have to rely on effort and hard work more than other teams around the league, notes Steve Popper of Newsday. When that’s not present, like in Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Nets, the results can be embarrassing.
A series of reports in recent months have suggested that Toronto and other teams around the NBA are monitoring Shai Gilgeous-Alexander‘s situation in Oklahoma City in case he becomes disgruntled and wants out. But after leading the Thunder to a blowout win over the Raptors on Friday night, the star point guard reaffirmed his commitment to the franchise, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca writes.
“It’s exciting,” Gilgeous-Alexander said of the future in OKC. “And knowing the guys in the locker room personally, makes it more exciting: Guys’ mentalities, guys’ work ethic, it just makes it fun to be around and I’m very excited for the future.”
While the Thunder are still very much in the midst of their rebuilding process, they’ve been relatively competitive so far this season, with a 5-7 record and a -0.8 net rating. That respectable start is due in large part to Gilgeous-Alexander’s All-NBA caliber play — he’s averaging an eye-popping 30.5 points per game to go along with 5.5 APG, 4.4 RPG, and 2.0 SPG.
Here’s more from around the Northwest:
- The Timberwolves lack leadership and maturity, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said on The Hoop Collective this week (YouTube link). According to MacMahon, while Minnesota is still trying to figure out “spacing and X’s and O’s,” one coach whose team recently played the Wolves said their biggest issues are “interpersonal.”
- Rookie head coach Will Hardy is happy to give his players and assistants credit for the Jazz‘s strong start to the season, but Hardy has earned his share of the credit for the impressive job he has done in Utah so far, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. “I think he’s done a great job,” Jazz center Kelly Olynyk said. “He’s been really personable and good with the guys. He’s really kind of put us in situations to help us be successful. He’s given us structure and organization, but not to a point where you feel robotic or you feel like you’re constricted. He’s still letting everybody play free, be themselves and play to their strengths.”
- In a mailbag for The Athletic, Jason Quick discusses Josh Hart‘s future with the Trail Blazers, how Chauncey Billups‘ coaching style differs from Terry Stotts‘, and the positive impact Jerami Grant has had in the team’s locker room.
Entering the 2022/23 season, it looked like it could be a historic year for tanking in the NBA, with Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson headlining next year’s draft class as prospects who have the potential to transform a franchise.
So far though, many of the teams expected to be involved in that race to the bottom have performed better than expected. The Pacers (5-6) and Spurs (5-7) have been hovering around .500, while the Jazz (10-3) have the best record in the Western Conference.
Still, front office executives who spoke to Sam Amick of The Athletic believe it’s just a matter of time before we see a handful of teams bottom out.
“It’s such a long season,” one executive said. “A lot of people that run and operate teams understand the risk of not winning games, as far as what it does to the fabric of your organization or your team. They do value teaching the right habits and making sure they’re putting their best foot forward and trying to win games, so I think that’s why you’re seeing teams perform better than what we thought coming out. But I do think at some point during the season, when teams realize where they’re at, they’ll adjust and do more things to try to procure the best position they can.”
Another exec put it more succinctly: “Nobody starts 0-10. You just can’t do that. But yeah, (the tanking) will happen.”
Amick spoke to 10 NBA front office executives about a variety of topics, with a focus on possible tanking teams. Here are a few more highlights from his article, which is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber:
- While some executives believe the Jazz remain open for business and will look to continue selling off veterans, others aren’t convinced the team will go into fire-sale mode. “I think (CEO) Danny (Ainge) won’t break it all the way down,” an exec told Amick. “I could see him keeping a guy like (Lauri) Markkanen, and (there’s a sense) that he doesn’t have the stomach for a true rebuild. That might be one team that doesn’t make moves to go that direction because Danny doesn’t believe in it.”
- Veteran center Jakob Poeltl is considered a “floor lifter” for the Spurs, so if San Antonio wants to bottom out, he’ll likely emerge as a prime trade candidate in the coming weeks and months — especially since he’s so highly regarded around the NBA. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up back there, but I also think he’ll be very much in demand (from other teams) in February,” an exec told Amick.
- Although Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has expressed confidence in the Thunder‘s future, people around the league are curious about how long he’ll remain patient if the losses continue to pile up. Amick says “quite a few teams” are monitoring Gilgeous-Alexander’s situation in addition to the Raptors, whose interest was reported in September. “You keep hearing that Shai is frustrated with the losing, and so I think that’s the Toronto thing that we’ve all heard about with their interest in Shai this summer,” one executive said. “But how far do (the Thunder) want to push this (tanking effort)?”