Every Wednesday during the NBA season, Interbasket takes a closer look at ten international NBA players that has caught our eyes, our good eye or our stinkeye. (This week is for period 01/02/2008- 01/08/2008)
This week Andrew Bogut and Yi Jianlian are performing in different directions, Tony Parker receives an important award, the pros and cons of dunking for both Andris Biedrins and Dirk Nowitzki, DJ Mbenga’s story, we begin to question Darko Milicic’s potential, and the NBA calls up a 7-2 Croatian and a Puerto Rican Superman from the NBDL.
Is Darko Officially a Bust at 22-Years Old?
So whoever still believes in Darko Milicic‘s ability to succeed in the NBA, raise your hand.
Man, I just don’t know anymore. I was a believer once but being a seeing-is-believing kinda guy, I need him to show me a little more. I know the Serb center with the foul mouth is only 22 years old, but he really hasn’t shown much this season to warrant any excitement for his future.
Milicic is averaging the most minutes in his career yet his stats aren’t reflecting the extra tick. After a while, if one doesn’t fulfill their potential, it’s either a bad-scouting or a lack of effort. I firmly believe, from the few minutes that I saw him play under the Pistons his first year, Darko thought he was better than garbage time. And on that 2003-04 Piston team, he wasn’t.
Now it’s Darko’s sixth season, his third NBA team, and his last three seasons look too similar. It would different if we were seeing a small increases in production season-over-season, but that’s not the case.
Considering the players drafted after Darko (Carmelo, Wade, Bosh, and Josh Howard) and Sam Bowie was riddled with injuries during his career yet still managed to put up respectable numbers (14.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in one season with the Nets) — if Darko continues down this mediocre path, he could go down as the worst draft pick than the infamous Sam Bowie.
Tony Parker: European of the Year?
Tony Parker was just awarded the European Player of the Year given by Gazzetta dello Sport, an Italian Newspaper focused on sports. The award marks the first time in six years that Dirk Nowitzki didn’t win the award. Mr. Longoria beat Nowitzki by 17 points this year (128 to 111). Andrei Kirilenko, who led Russia to the Eurobasket gold medal, finished third with 85 points. The jury that decides the award is made up of a total of 100 writers, coaches and players from 28 different countries.
This was Parker’s first Euroscar award, he finished 3rd in 2005. Had Nowitzki won again this year, he would have tied Arvydas Sabonis’s record with six EuroScar awards. Currently the German superstar is tied with Toni Kukoc, whom also has won five of these awards. Check out the list of winners here, along with second and third place finishers.
Andrew Bogut and Yi Jianlian
Milwaukee has quietly won three out of four (yeah it was against Philadelphia, Charlotte and Miami, but a win is a win!) and Andrew Bogut has played a large part in each of the wins. The Aussie center scored a season-high 25 points, including a short hook with 19 seconds remaining to seal a win against Charlotte.
In those four games, Bogut put up 15.2pts, 9.8 rebounds, 3 assists, and shot 53.1% from the field, all above his season averages of 12.1,pts, 8.8rebs, 2.2 asts and 50.6% FG.
On the other side of the coin, Yi Jianlian was either jinxed after winning NBA Rookie of the Month for December, by my comments last week that he could actually contend for Rookie of the Year honors, or a combination of both.
Since being awarded that honor on January 2nd, the same span that Bogut flourished, Jianlian hasn’t performed to expectations. In the last four games, the rookie from He Shan, China has chipped in only 6.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1 block per game and shot 30.3% from the field, including an 0-7 performance yesterday against Philadelphia. His rebounding average was the only stat that saw improvement during that week.
More Andris Biedrins Love
And here’s out weekly Andris Biedrins love — the Latvian center that just turned 21 last year has been leading the NBA in field goal percentage. AB is is currently way out in front of everyone at 65.4%, three full percentage points ahead of fellow center-of-the-future Andrew Bynum. THE current center of the future Dwight Howard is currently at third with 60.9%. Of the three, Biedrins is the oldest.
And I want to emphasize that Biedrins isn’t dunking everything or getting a ton of alley-oops lobs like Howard and Bynum. As of this writing, Dwight HOward leads the league in dunks and Bynum is #2. Where is Biedrins? All the way down at #36 with 27 dunks, tying his teammate, the 6-3 Monta Ellis.
Almost half of Dwight Howards made field goals (46.7% to be exact) are dunks (130 of 280). Same with Bynum, 48% of Bynum’s FGs have been dunks this year (80 of 166), while Biedrins dunk-to-FG ratio is at 16% (27 of 168). Watching Biedrins, there are times in which he can dunk the ball, but instead lays it in, but even so, not enough to even come close to being where Bynum or DHo are at.
The left-hander eastern European has a nice soft touch around the basket and picks his places. Many of his baskets come from rolling to the basket off a pick and roll or slipping in for offensive rebound tip-ins. Biedrins has a great sense around the hoop, great timing and springs off the ground faster than most small forwards.
Andris has seen his minutes steadily rise during the season, especially lately in which he has seen at least 23 minutes in the last ten games and has been averaging a double-double in that span 11.0 pts, 10.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. On the season, Biedrins is averaging 10.9 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Consistency, baby!
Who is the Top International NBA Dunker?
All this talk about dunks got me wondering which international NBA player has accumulated the most dunks this season. My immediate thoughts considering the height and minutes played, that Yao Ming would be on top and Nowitzki would be somewhere near the top-five, but I found something much different…
Dunk Totals and Stats for the NBA season thus far (International Players):
1. Samuel Dalembert, Haiti/Canada 62 dunks (6th overall)
2. Yao Ming, China 59 (7th)
3. Pau Gasol, Spain 39 (23rd)
4. Andrei Kirilenko, Russia 29 (35th)
5. Andris Biedrins, Latvia 27 (36th)
5. Yi Jianlian, China 27 (36th)
7. Linas Kleiza, Lithuania 25 (44th)
8. DeSagana Diop, Senegal 20 (59th)
9. Ronny Turiaf, France 17 (69th)
10. Luol Deng, Sudan 15 (74th)
Linas Kleiza is a nice surprise to be found on the list, considering his minutes and that he isn’t a seven-footer like 5 of guys ahead of him. Says a lot about the Lithuanians aggressiveness towards the basket and his ability to run the floor on the break.
No Dirk Nowitzki even in the top-100 of dunkers in the league? I find that a bit odd, I swear I’ve actually seen 5 of his dunks on highlights this year. Nowitzki is tied with Hilton Armstrong with 10 dunks and right above Julian Wright. Not looking at how many games he has played, that’s less than a dunk every three games.
Outside of Nowitzki’s pathetic dunk numbers, Dirk has slowly and surely brought his scoring touch back in the last month, as Josh HOward’s numbers have also returned to normal levels. In the last nine-games (Dallas has won eight), Dirk has put up 28.4 points per game, 10.2 rebounds, 3.9 assists and shot 48.4% from the field. That’s compared to his season averages of 22.2ppg, 8.6rpg, 3.8ast, and 47.3%.
Back to Golden State: One International In, One Out.
Late last week, the Golden State Warriors called up Serbian center Kosta Perovic from the NBDL. The 7-2 Perovic, who was the 38th overall selection in the 2006 NBA draft has yet to play for the Warriors. Kosta has been developing for the Bakersfield Jam in the NBDL. Perovic is looking forward to the cushier and more consistent surroundings of the NBA ” “We don’t have a practice facility (with the Jam), we practice one day at a high school, one day at the arena, and our lifting room is away from the gym on the other side of town, so it’s all spread out.” Perovic said.
Kosta had played 19 games this season for the Jam, and averaged 8.9 points (on 48.8% from the field), 5.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks in 22 minutes a game.
One in, one out. Hard-working and all-around great guy Didier Ilunga (DJ) Mbenga was waived by the Golden State Warriors today. The 7-0, 255lb Congalese center played 16 games this season and was brought in by Don Nelson because the two had a great relationship in Dallas.
I’m sure Mbenga’s interesting path to the NBA was another factor that Nelson considered. Mbenga’s story is one that mimic those of other African NBA players such as Luol Deng.
Didier Mbenga was born in Zaire and his father was involved in the former Zaire’s government. When his father’s term was over, the reigning regime hunted the old government’s leaders, putting the Mbenga family on the run. The father died mysteriously to unknown causes, but many suspect the obvious.
DJ spent nine months on Hutu death row after being mistaken for a Tutsi, but eventually escaped with the help of a prison guard that was bribed by his brother. The Mbenga family had enough and escaped to Belgium where they received political asylum and eventually, Belgian citizenship.
With the help of Belgian basketball legend and his mentor Willy Steveniers, Mbenga spent five years developing on several Belgian teams, moving from youth division to second division to the first division before finally signing with the Dallas Mavericks at the start of the 2004-05 season.
Mbenga signed a conditional-guaranteed contract on November 17th that would have become guaranteed tomorrow, Thursday. Unfortunately for the native of the Congo, backup point guard Troy Hudson’s career may be over, so they had to make room for another point guard so they brought in D-League star guard CJ Watson.
Clippers Call Superman
Guillermo Diaz is a 6-2 Puerto Rican combo-guard nicknamed “Superman” that has been toiling in the NBDL this season, until he was called up to the NBA yesterday. The 22-year old is espected to sign a 10-day contract after Brevin Knight had a minor injury and Richie Frahm was waived. Diaz played college basketball for the University of Miami, spending three seasons there before being named All-ACC second team and declared early for the NBA draft.
He was made the 52nd overall pick in 2006, but was eventually cut. Since then Diaz has bounced around the world playing basketball — Diaz spent the 2006-07 season with CEZ Basketball Nymburk, a club team in the Czech Republic, averaging 20.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 15 games. In 2007, Diaz moved on to Greece, playing in five games with AEP Olimpiada Patron in the Greek League, putting up 13.0 points per game.
After being waived by the Clippers right before the start of this NBA season, Diaz has played 14 games for the Anaheim Arsenal and was averaging 16.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 33.1 minutes for his minor-league team before being recalled up by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Guillermo Diaz was the 100th player to be called up from the NBDL… well, technically both Diaz and CJ Watson were called up on the same day, and NBA.com didn’t make any distinction into who was the actual 100th call-up from the NBDL. It’s taken over 6 years for the NBA to reach bring 100 NBDL players into the league.
Sources: Parker named European Player of the Year (AFP), Parker wins 2007 Euro Thread (Interbasket Forum), Full List of Euroscar Award Winners from La Gazzetta dello Sport (Interbasket), Darko’s Post-Game Threats Draws 10,000€ Fine (Interbasket), CBS’s Dunk-O-Meter (CBS Sportsline), Sam Bowie’s Career Stats (Basketball-Reference), Warriors waive C DJ Mbenga, recall C Kosta Perovic from D-League (Yahoo), DJ Mbenga Wikipedia Profile (Wikipedia), Another D-League gem? (InsideBayArea), Clippers Sign Guillermo Diaz to 10-Day Contract (Nba.com) (1542)