DraftExpress Mailbag (#1)

DraftExpress Mailbag (#1)
Dec 16, 2005, 08:59 pm
We’re introducing a new feature on Every week or so we will try to answer the best questions we are asked either by email or other methods. Questions about specific prospects, requests for features on the site, the policies, methods and principles we try to incorporate into the site, complaints, praise or anything else is fair game. If you would like to write an observation about a prospect, team or trend we are seeing lately anywhere in the world, feel free to as well. If you would like to participate, please “contact us” section or by send me an email .

Question: I loved the interviews you guys did last year with Danny Granger, Andrew Bogut and Chris Paul…are you planning on doing any more like those anytime soon?


We definitely are. Who would you like to see interviewed?


Hello. Thanks for all the great info on young European prospects! I have a question about the contracts of a few overseas players I am interested in…

What can you tell me about the buyouts of the following European players?

-Andrea Bargnani
-Tiago Splitter
-Rudy Fernandez
-Damir Markota
-Marco Belineli
-Marko Tomas
-Ante Tomic
-Nemanja Aleksandrov


Good question. Many times there is more to a player’s NBA draft stock than just how good he is right now and how good he is projected to be in the future. If there is uncertainty regarding if/when an international player will be able to make it over, teams could prefer to just move on to the next player on their draft board. The Fran Vazquez situation with Orlando, which I wrote about in length this summer in regards to its potential effect on future international players, makes things even more complicated.

Here is what I can tell you about the players you asked about from the research I have done. Because of the nature of these contracts, how difficult it is at times to get concrete information and how quickly things change in Europe, I can not guarantee that these figures are 100% accurate. The maximum that NBA teams can contribute towards a buyout is now $500,000 instead of the $350,000 it was last year.

Andrea Bargnani: Bargnani is reportedly in very good shape as far as his buyout is concerned. He is on very good terms with his team Benetton Treviso and complied with their request to stay for another season in exchange for a bump in his salary and a bigger role on their team this year. He’s definitely been playing more minutes this season, but his role in Benetton’s offense and Coach Blatt’s substitution patters have been confusing at times to say the least. From what we’ve been told, his buyout is “very manageable” and should not be an issue affecting his draft stock in June.

Tiago Splitter: We’ve spoken about this many times. Splitter does not have any type of buyout clause in his contract, meaning that he is at Tau Vitoria’s mercy if he is to leave the team. What is working in his favor is the fact that his contract is supposedly up next year, so if Tau does not set a price this summer, they will most likely lose him for nothing in 2007. History tells us that their strategy has been to cash in on buyouts to help them with their budget, so that would not make much sense. They also had a very good reason not to let Splitter walk last season, as they have to finish in a favorable position in the Spanish ACB to ensure landing a three year guaranteed spot in the Euroleague that is given to two Spanish teams once in three year cycles. Since the latest cycle depends on teams’ performance from 2003-2006, and Tau was one of the leaders for it, they had to do whatever they could to ensure that they would land it. We’re talking about millions and millions of Euros on the line here obviously. Just as a side note, that’s also why Splitter’s teammate Luis Scola was not given any breaks this past summer either with his outrageous buyout (rumored to be around 7-8 million dollars) to go and join the San Antonio Spurs. So even though nothing can be ruled out when it comes to Tau Vitoria and their president Josean Querejeta, Splitter should be in a much better situation this time around.

Rudy Fernandez: Here we’re working strictly off the info we had last June. At that point Rudy had to pull out of the draft because he was unable to secure a promise in the top 20 of the draft. The reason he reportedly needed that promise was because his buyout clause was set at a firm 1.7 million dollars and his team DK Joventut was unwilling to budge on that. Right now Fernandez is in the midst of an outstanding season in Spain where he has improved his outside shooting tremendously, been extremely consistent, and is ranked as the most efficient player in the league. With his improved draft stock (so far), a better Euro-Dollar exchange rate, the new rookie scale and the increased sum NBA teams can contribute to international buyouts--something that was not set or known at the time he pulled out last June--Fernandez should be in better shape this year. If his team wants to be nice to him, they will give their homegrown golden boy a break and come down on their demands as well. This is not out of the question at all. Worst comes to worse he takes 1.2 million dollars out of his 3-4 million dollar rookie deal in hopes of landing a bigger one down the road. As we’ve spoken about at length, this is something that both Fernandez and the team thinking about drafting him need to consider carefully.

Damir Markota: Our Balkan scout wrote an in-depth article this summer about Markota, calling him a true breakout candidate for this present season. Right now it looks like he was right on the money, as Markota has to be considered the frontrunner for the top U-22 player award in the Euroleague with the season he’s having so far, along with Marco Belinelli. From what I was told by his American agent Marc Cornstein, Markota does not have a buyout clause in his contract with Cibona right now. That’s not expected to be a huge problem, though, at least by the people on Markota’s side, as they supposedly have a great relationship with the team and expect to be able to negotiate a buyout that is favorable to all sides.

Marco Belinelli: This one is a bit more complicated. Belinelli has been rumored to be close to signing with a well known American agent, but we haven’t gotten confirmation on that end either way. Right now he is reportedly represented by his brother in Italy and has a complicated contract that may or may not be a problem. Considering that he could very well be the top performing International player so far in the Euroleague and Italy, this is something that needs to be studied more closely. With no buyout problems, Belinelli could be a lottery prospect, but that is probably not the case as of right now. People with knowledge of the situation and Belinelli (quoted in an interview with himself have said that he wants to come to the States as an established player that is ready to contribute meaningful minutes in the NBA. That’s yet another reason to consider him more of a 2007 draft prospect.

Marko Tomas: The situation here is probably more grim than anyone else on the list. Tomas signed a long term contract with Real Madrid this past summer and is not expected to be a factor in the 2006 draft, unless a team is willing to wait a couple of years on him. Considering the uncertainty of the situation compared with where he probably should be drafted based on his talent, he is likely going to have to wait for the 2007 draft when he becomes automatically eligible as a 1985 prospect.

Ante Tomic: According to his agent, his contract is “real complicated”. Tomic is probably a lottery pick based on his size, athleticism and upside, but he’ll likely have to continue to put up numbers in the Adriatic league and wait his turn to make it over to the NBA.

Nemanja Aleksandrov: This is an interesting case considering that Aleksandrov was definitely one of the most highly touted international prospects of the past few years. He’s fallen off the radar a bit because of a lack of playing time when he was healthy, showing a lack of fire when he was playing, but mostly because of a torn ACL he suffered about 8 months ago. He was cleared to start practicing in early December, and is expected to start playing sometime in January. The plan is to bring him along slowly. According to his American agent David Bauman, his buyout is $650,000, which is very favorable for him since Nemanja will only have to pay $150,000 out of his own pocket. Aleksandrov will reportedly come to the States in May to prepare for the NBA draft and for private workouts, and they are hoping that he won't have to work out for too many teams.


If J.J. Redick is drafted over Randy Foye or Allan Ray (in the top 10 no less) that GM will be fired within a year.

Allan Ray at No. 59? I mean seriously.


Gotta disagree about Redick unfortunately. I’m not sure he is going to end up as an NBA star, but I do think he will get drafted at least in the late lottery if he keeps playing the way he has so far this year. I can think of at least a dozen NBA teams that could use his ability to spread the floor right now. He’s shown the ability to get his shot off against anyone he’s gone up against as the absolute focal point of every defense Duke has faced, so I have little reason to believe he won’t be able to do it in the NBA. His footwork, balance, body control and off the ball movement are all nothing short of fantastic. He is a much better slasher than people want to give him credit for, thanks to his excellent footwork, but also just because of how smart he is. You don’t have to have an incredibly fast first step to get shots for yourself in the NBA, at least not as a great third offensive option which is how I see Redick as a pro. NBA teams run so much pick and roll and all he needs is an instant to get his shot off. He’ll be absolutely fine in the NBA, and I don’t believe he’s done developing as a player yet either. There have been guys with much less natural ability to have made big in the NBA. We’ve doubted Redick incessantly for the past three years, but he’s improved tremendously upon every weakness he has.

Regarding Allan Ray, I will try to watch him a little closer next time I watch Villanova. For some reason he never stood out to me that much in the many times I’ve seen them play. Maybe I'm crazy, but I look at that team as basically being unscoutable. Nothing they do is remotely close to anything that goes on in the NBA, all their players are playing out of position, they run so many gimmicks and wreak so much havoc with those 4 combo guards that it’s almost impossible for me to get a read on any of them properly. That's why I’m kind of hoping that Ray and maybe Foye come to Portsmouth and/or Chicago. Ray especially is a tough guy to scout.


I was wondering why you don’t have any 1988 European prospects listed on your mock draft. For example Tim Ohlbrecht, isn’t he some sort of Nowitzki? Alexis Ajinca is being compared to Garnett. Why are you guys missing the boat on these awesome prospects?


First off, this site is more than just a mock draft. Look around, check out our archives and use the search engine on the left hand column of your screen to find out everything we’ve written about any prospect in our database. Second, we’re not missing the boat on anything, trust me. Our Director of International Scouting was at the U-18 Junior Championships in Belgrade this past summer and he wrote about these players you are talking about and much more in depth. We have tapes of all these guys and scouts who live in their home countries are able to go watch them in person if need be. It’s not out of ignorance that we are ignoring them, it’s out of respect to the players themselves, the intelligence of our readers and the draft process as a whole.

The 2005 draft taught us a lot about the direction that the NBA is heading in. The trend is definitely away from the Martynas Andriuskeviciuses, Pavel Podkolzines and Ersan Ilyasovas of the world. Those three were hyped up beyond control because of their supposed upside, but none of them had played any meaningful minutes or accomplished anything in the career when they decided to keep their name in the draft. All fell in the draft and fell hard. We were always considerably lower on all these types of players, never thought it was a good idea for them to declare for the draft so early, and in fact said so many times.

In a nutshell our policy in regards to teenage European players is that if they aren’t contributing minutes to a team that plays in a serious European league, they probably aren’t ready for the NBA. Take a look at our Euro-roundup on the DX Daily every Monday or Tuesday to see who is contributing. Ajinca plays for the worst team in the 3rd division of France and isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire. Tim Ohlbrecht has played 20 minutes total all season long in Germany. There is nothing wrong with that, since they are just kids, but at the same time there is no reason to compare them with NBA superstars like Dirk and Garnett or give them or our readers the idea they are going to be top 10 picks based off what they’ve shown so far.

Now, I am not saying that Ajinca and Ohlbrecht are the next Pavel Podkolzine and Martynas Adriuskevicius, but keep in mind that those two were drawing similar comparisons from the same folks. When those two go cold for a month, they’ll be discarded in the waste bin and replaced in the top 10 by another skinny 7 footer with a nice jumper. The fact that every word that has ever been written about a draft prospect on our site can be found via the links section of their scouting report means that we need to be accountable for the things we say. It’s a shame that we can’t say the same about anyone else in this business.


Why do you rank Mohamed Kone so low? Haven’t you noticed the type of numbers he is putting up this year?


13 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks are decent numbers playing for a mid-major team, but for us it never has and never will be just the numbers that we look at. That might be the case for some of the many draft analysts who don’t have the time, ability or patience to watch these guys play as much as we do, but that’s still not an excuse if you expect to be taken seriously.

Regarding Kone, I think his age is the major thing that is scaring people off. The research we’ve done indicated that he’ll be 25 in March, the same age as many seasoned NBA veterans. If he is just a decent player now in a run of the mill mid-major conference, how much better do you think he is going to get in the NBA?

I think we’ll have a better idea about the kind of prospect he is on Sunday when his team goes up against Duke on FSN.


Please tell me you don’t really have Leon Powe in the 2nd round this year…that’s a typo, right?


You read it right, but I can see how that might be tough for some college basketball fans to swallow. There is a good reason for that, though.

The obvious one would be his injury history. We saw guys like Kennedy Winston and Alan Anderson drop completely out of draft consideration largely because of the red-flags that came up in private workouts. Kennedy Winston had serious concerns about his knee. This was the main reason he declared, stayed in the draft and eventually went undrafted, but it’s never brought up by whiny college basketball analysts who find easy scapegoats in agents or elsewhere. Alan Anderson had a great Chicago pre-draft camp, but back problems tanked his stock. Wayne Simien had a fantastic college career, measured out taller than expected and looked terrific in private workouts, but the fact that he had “knees of a 35 year old” according to one NBA scout I spoke with made him undraftable as far as their doctors were concerned. He ended up slipping to the end of the first round, where he was picked up by a team that never worked him out and therefore never got to take an up-close look at how serious the issue might be. In all fairness to Simien and the Miami Heat, he could end up having a long and fruitful NBA career. That’s not the point, though. NBA teams look at their first round draft picks as being substantial long term investments in terms of the money and time they put into them. Once you get past the top 5 or 10 potential “difference makers” in the draft, there is very little separating the 5th best power forward from the 6th best on their draft board. The number of operations Powe has already had on his knee is already cause enough for concern, although its quite possible and nothing would actually make us happier than to see him come out of NBA workouts with absolutely no redflags at all.

That’s not the only thing hurting his stock. Powe is also officially caught in tweenervile, USA as a 6-7 power forward. We saw the effects of this all too well last Saturday when he was asked to go up against 6-11, long and extremely athletic Kansas sophomore C.J. Giles. Powe was absolutely stifled in the 2nd half, having his shot blocked or changed numerous times and basically being dominated on both ends. Powe is probably going to put up monster numbers in the run and gun and big man depleted Pac-10 this year, but I’m not sure how sold we’ll be until we see him do it against a legit NBA big man prospect. With all due respect to C.J. Giles and his outstanding potential, even he would probably be considered excellent D-League material at best if he were in the NBA right now.


Nice article on Gabe Pruitt from USC. He reminds me more of a George Gervin type with the long arms, and ability to glide to the basket. Floyd, will slowly build this program into a national power with the new arena, and big recruits next year in Galloway, Cunningham, Dwight Lewis, and Taj Gibson. The most talented player to watch is Nick Young, a 6/6' NBA potential scoring guard who reminds of all of a young Harold Minor, except he has the potential to play defense in the NBA. We are all excited about Francis who will definitely be a top point guard in two years, and lead this team to the next level.

USC will be on the map next year in college basketball. The players assembled could match our greatest team ever (Paul Westphal, Mo Layton, Ron Riley, Joe Mackey, Chris Schrobolgen) which went 24-2 losing twice (one in overtime) to the Wicks, Rowe, Patterson, Bibby team.

It won't be long until the basketball program gets to a level matching the football program. USC has always been a sleeping giant in college basketball because of poor facilities. Floyd, has the recruiting base, and the new Galen Center will be one of the best facilities in the West (OPENS FOR THE 2006-2007 SEASON). UCLA, has always feared a strong basketball program at USC especially because of its inner city campus location. Facilities held back recruiting for many years. LOOK OUT FOR TROJAN BASKETBALL. Thank goodness we did not get Majerus as our new Coach.


Great to see some non-football optimism coming out of USC. Pruitt and Young are two great building blocks for a program to have. I’ve watched them both this year and it seems like they both definitely need their junior year. They are both extremely talented, though. I kind of agree with you about Majerus. He’s a great coach, but I really don’t think he’d be able to put up with most of the SoCal kids he would have to recruit. That didn’t ever seem like a great match.

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