- In other international basketball news, Olympiacos forward Sasha Vezenkov won the EuroLeague’s “MVP of the Round” award on Saturday for the fourth time in 10 weeks so far this season, per a press release. Vezenkov, whose NBA rights were acquired by the Kings this past summer, is one of five draft-and-stash players we highlighted on Friday as candidates to eventually make an impact in the NBA. He ranks second in the EuroLeague with 20.1 points per game.
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.
Former Rockets guard Michael Frazier has signed with the Illawara Hawks of Australia’s National Basketball League, the team announced in a press release. Frazier will serve as an injury replacement for another former NBA player, George King.
Frazier, 28, went undrafted out of Florida in 2015 and spent several seasons in the G League, plus one in Italy, before getting an opportunity to make his NBA debut in 2020 for Houston. He appeared in 13 games during the 2019/20 season as a Rocket, then returned to the G League before spending last season in Australia with the Perth Wildcats.
Having seen Frazier play for Perth last season, Illawara Hawks head coach Jacob Jackomas believes his team is getting a quality player: “He is a willing defender with great size and strength, and be it at the 3-point line or getting downhill and attacking the basket, we feel like he will make an immediate impact on the group.”
Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:
- The Kings, Trail Blazers, and Pacers look like some of the under-the-radar winners of the 2022 offseason, writes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (subscription required). Marks also highlights Magic big man Bol Bol, Bucks guard Jevon Carter, and Suns wing Damion Lee as some of the best value signings of the summer.
- Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report has updated his 2023 mock draft, projecting all 58 picks and providing analysis for each one. Next year’s draft will only be 58 picks instead of 60 because the Sixers and Bulls have forfeited their second-rounders due to free agency gun-jumping violations.
- Sam Vecenie of The Athletic ranks this season’s top 15 rookie performers to date, with Magic forward Paolo Banchero and Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin leading the way. The only second-round pick to crack the top 15 is Raptors big man Christian Koloko, who was selected 33rd overall but ranks eighth on Vecenie’s list.
Team personnel around the NBA are keeping an eye on Pistons forward Saddiq Bey, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, who says Detroit has received some calls from clubs inquiring about the third-year pro.
Bey has been considered part of the Pistons’ core since being selected 19th overall in the 2020 draft. However, his production has dipped so far this season and he was recently moved to a reserve role for one game before an Isaiah Stewart injury reopened a spot for him in the starting five. That brief demotion represented the first time Bey had come off the bench since the first half of his rookie season.
Still, while the Pistons may be more amenable to listening to inquiries on Bey than they have been in the past, Fischer says the team still seems intent on further evaluating the former first-round pick before seriously considering the idea of making him available.
- The Suns‘ interest in Rockets forward Kenyon Martin Jr., first reported by Shams Charania last week, has resulted in Houston getting involved in some three-team Jae Crowder trade discussions, Fischer reports. Sources also confirm to Yahoo Sports that the Bucks have tried to use Grayson Allen to acquire Crowder, but Phoenix and Milwaukee have yet to find common ground on a straight-up deal.
- There was “true momentum” toward a trade this past offseason that would have sent Hawks big man John Collins to the Kings, and the Wizards showed real interest in Collins prior to last season’s trade deadline, writes Fischer. However, Sacramento was happy to make a deal with Atlanta for Kevin Huerter instead, while Washington ended up landing Kristaps Porzingis to fortify its frontcourt. Fischer doesn’t say it outright, but the implication is that neither team is still pursuing Collins at this time.
- Fischer echoes a John Gambadoro report stating that the Suns aren’t interested in acquiring Collins, largely due to the long-term money still left on his contract (he’s in the second season of a five-year, $125MM deal). And Phoenix may not be the only team that feels that way — Collins’ contract could complicate the Hawks‘ efforts to find a trade partner, according to Fischer, who suggests that the deal is “perceived to be above market value.”
- Hawks wing Justin Holiday is worth monitoring as a possible trade candidate, per Fischer, especially if AJ Griffin continues to solidify a role in Atlanta’s regular rotation.
Many around the NBA thought it was a foregone conclusion that John Collins would be moved ahead of the draft this past summer, and Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack article that the Hawks power forward was “very nearly” dealt to the Kings in June.
Sources tell Stein that there’s “momentum building on all sides” for Collins to be traded during the 2022/23 season, so his name should be “right at the top of the list” of players most likely to be dealt before the February 9 deadline.
Stein confirms that the Jazz have shown interest in Collins, and that’s a noteworthy pivot for a team that many believed would be tanking and a frontrunner for a top lottery pick after dealing away Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell and other veterans.
Speaking of Utah, a rival executive tells Stein that he thinks the Jazz are more likely to extend Jordan Clarkson‘s contract than trade him. Michael Scotto of HoopsHype hears similarly, saying there’s “palpable buzz” about a potential Clarkson extension.
Here are a few more trade rumors from Scotto, who takes a look at the top trade candidates for each NBA team:
- The Knicks are reluctant to part with a first-round pick to move off Evan Fournier‘s contract, sources tell Scotto. Fournier has fallen out of New York’s rotation after a prolonged shooting slump and is owed $18MM this season and $18.9MM in 2023/24. In addition to Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley, rival executives also believe that second-year guard Miles McBride is available due to the team’s backcourt logjam, per Scotto.
- The Heat have made Duncan Robinson available in trade talks, sources tell Scotto. That’s hardly surprising since Robinson, like Fournier, has struggled and fallen out of the rotation at times in ’22/23. The problem is Miami would almost certainly have to attach assets to deal Robinson, who is owed $57.5MM over the next three seasons, and it remains to be seen whether the Heat are willing to do so.
- Echoing a previous report, Scotto writes that the Lakers were trying to offload Russell Westbrook to the Spurs for Doug McDermott and Josh Richardson before the season started. While LJ Ellis of SpursTalk.com stated that the Lakers were only willing to attach two second-round picks to Westbrook’s enormous expiring contract, Scotto hears the Lakers offered a lottery-protected first-rounder and the Spurs wanted that pick to be unprotected, which caused the talks to stall.
- Center Nerlens Noel is not expected to finish the ’22/23 season with the Pistons, according to Scotto. It’s unclear if Scotto means he’ll be bought out at some point or moved in a trade, since Noel’s $9.2MM contract doesn’t have positive value given how many injuries he’s dealt with the past couple seasons.
Fox, the Western Conference winner, led Sacramento to a 3-0 week while averaging 25.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists on .600/.417/.889 shooting. Through 14 games for the 9-6 Kings, Fox is averaging career highs of 25.4 points and 4.8 rebounds, plus 6.4 assists and 1.1 steals, along with a career-best shooting line of .558/.382/.845.
Fox’s former teammate Haliburton, the winner in the East, led Indiana to a 3-0 week while averaging 21.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 11.0 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 block on .532/.320/.833 shooting. The 22-year-old is having a breakout third season for the 9-6 Pacers, averaging career highs of 20.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, a league-leading 10.5 assists and 1.9 steals on a sparkling .493/.403/.854 shooting line.
According to the NBA (Twitter link), the other nominees in the West were Devin Booker, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Anthony Edwards and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, while Bradley Beal, Darius Garland, Myles Turner and Franz Wagner were nominated in the East.
- The Kings are in the midst of a six-game winning streak, the longest such streak the team has had in more than 17 years, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. While Sacramento’s second-ranked offense is certainly clicking, head coach Mike Brown knows that the team needs to be better on the other end of the court — the Kings are just 27th in the league in defensive rating. “So in order for us to win on the road, and win at the level that I think we can win at, we’re going to have to buckle down and take on the challenge of defending for as close to 48 minutes as possible,” Brown told Amick as part of a larger quote. “Too many times so far this year, we’ve done it in short stretches and we’ve found ways to get stops at the end of games — which is a good thing when we get a little desperate. But we’ve got to string some stops together throughout the game so at the end of the day we’re not just relying on our shot-making or our ability or our offense.”
Barnes is averaging 11.6 points, his lowest output since the 2014/15 season, when he produced 10.1 points per game for Golden State. Barnes has started all 14 games this season, averaging 30.9 minutes, 5.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
We have more from the Pacific Division:
- Clippers forward Paul George exited the team’s game against San Antonio early due to knee soreness but it shouldn’t cause him to miss any games, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times reports. George told owner Steve Ballmer he was “OK” on his way to the locker room after Saturday’s win. George is listed as questionable to play Monday against Utah.
- Chris Paul sat out again on Sunday and the Suns point guard will be reevaluated during the coming week, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets. Paul hasn’t played since November 7 due to a heel injury.
- The Suns’ final offer to Cameron Johnson in preseason rookie scale extension negotiations was for four years in the range of $66MM, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Phoenix refused to go higher to sign Johnson, who is currently sidelined for one or two months after undergoing surgery to remove part of his right meniscus. A previous report stated the Suns’ offer was in the range of $66-72MM. He’ll be a restricted free agent after the season.
7:00pm: The Jazz have also shown recent interest in Collins, Charania said in an appearance on The Rally (Twitter video link).
3:06pm: John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 disputes Charania’s claim that the Suns are a potential suitor for Collins, tweeting that Phoenix doesn’t have interest in the veteran forward.
Gambadoro adds (via Twitter) that the Suns and Kings had a discussion about Barnes over the summer, but with Sacramento playing well and Mike Brown a fan of the veteran forward, the Kings don’t intend to move Barnes.
According to Charania, the Hawks have opened “preliminary” trade talks involving Collins, with the Suns among the teams showing interest in the 25-year-old. Sources tell The Athletic that a Collins trade doesn’t appear imminent, and Charania cites executives who believe it could take weeks or months for the Hawks to find a deal they like — if they move him at all.
Collins was considered a trade candidate during the year leading up to his restricted free agency in 2021, but signed a five-year, $125MM contract to remain in Atlanta. That deal did little to quiet the trade rumors surrounding him though — those rumors popped up again at the 2022 trade deadline and during this past offseason, prompting Hawks general manager Landry Fields to tell reporters on Media Day in September that Collins was “still here for a reason.”
In 15 games so far this season, Collins has struggled to produce consistently. His average of 12.6 points per game is his lowest since his rookie year, and his .493 FG% is a career-worst mark, as is his .227 3PT%. Still, given his track record, the power forward should bounce back and will be an intriguing trade target for any team looking to acquire an impact frontcourt player.
As Charania notes, the Hawks have been one of the primary suitors for Suns forward Jae Crowder and have been engaged with Phoenix in trade talks in recent weeks, so it’s plausible the two teams could come together for a bigger deal involving both Crowder and Collins.
In order to match Collins’ salary, Phoenix would have to include at least one more mid-level type contract besides Crowder’s expiring deal. Dario Saric ($9.24MM expiring contract) and Landry Shamet ($9.5MM in 2022/23, plus $21.25MM across two more guaranteed years) would be the top candidates.
However, the Suns may be averse to the idea of taking on Collins’ long-term contract, according to Charania. He’s owed $23.5MM in 2022/23 and nearly $52MM in the following two seasons, with a $26.6MM player option for ’25/26. With the Suns facing a possible ownership change, it’s unclear how comfortable they are adding more big long-term financial commitments to their books.
In addition to Collins, the Suns have expressed interests in forwards such as Harrison Barnes of the Kings, Kyle Kuzma of the Wizards, and Kenyon Martin Jr. of the Rockets, sources tell Charania. Phoenix has also reportedly engaged in Crowder-related trade talks with the Bucks, with one report suggesting Milwaukee is the frontrunner to land the veteran forward.