The NBA Draft had a definite international flair this year with four of the first seven picks from overseas and five of the first seven from a foreign country. In all, nine players with foreign ties were drafted in the first round and another eight in the second round. 28 percent of all draft picks were either international players or players with foreign birth certificates.
Although many of these players, particularly those drafted in the mid-to-late second round, will likely never see an NBA floor, it is an interesting trend. It's something USA early eligibles should consider as they decide whether to enter the draft. With that in mind we'll look at some of the international draft picks and how we feel about them.
Jan Vesely (#6, Washington Wizards). Vesely is a very athletic combo-forward with size who will get down the floor for John Wall's passes. They will enjoy playing together and look for Vesely to have more transition dunks than possibly anyone in the league before too long. Vesely was a great pick for the Wizards.
Jonas Valanciunas (#5, Toronto Raptors). Valanciunas likely has the most upside of any pure center in this year's draft. He needs to get stronger but has actual skill, can run the floor, has a soft touch outside and is very long (7'6 wingspan) and will block shots. The big gamble is his contract with Lietuvos Rytas and how long it will take him to get out of it. Hopefully the Raptor front office won't have to wait two years to see him in a Toronto uniform. If so, the front office personnel might not be with the team by that point. The latest news is that Toronto may be working a deal to get Valanciunas to the NBA for the 2012-13 season.
Bismack Biyombo (#7, Charlotte Bobcats). Whether Biyombo is 19 years old or not, the Bobcats need his defensive presence. I'm not sure how long he'll take to develop any semblance of an offensive game, but Biyombo will get his share of offensive putbacks with his cat-like quickness on the boards. It seems like Biyombo has the right attitude and character to succeed in the NBA. He certainly has the body to succeed.
Enes Kanter (#3, Utah Jazz). Most experts had Brandon Knight in the #3 slot. While the Jazz may still need a point guard, Kanter will be a solid center for them as long as they can keep him in Utah. He should be able to contribute with a minimum of adjustment time. He was a solid pick for the Jazz.
Tristan Thompson (#4, Cleveland Cavaliers). Cleveland surprised everyone with their selection of the Canadian Thompson. They could have traded down 4-6 spots and still have picked Thompson and received something in return for moving down. Regardless of how well Thompson performed in his Cleveland workout, he is quite some time away from contributing offensively, and is not the defensive presence of someone like Biyombo, who was picked at #7. In fact, Biyombo is bigger, stronger, a much better rebounder and defender, a better shot-blocker and seems to be more of a leader. So why did Cleveland pick Thompson three slots before Biyombo? Cleveland outsmarted themselves with this pick.
We'll discuss the rest of the international draft picks as well as give our winners and losers of the draft in subsequent articles.