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Thread: Tiago Splitter (and Bargnani) have NBA eyes focused on Europe

  1. #1
    Administrator stuart's Avatar
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    Default Tiago Splitter (and Bargnani) have NBA eyes focused on Europe

    Insightful article from CNN/SI: Link to article

    The old world is new again
    Bargnani, Splitter have NBA eyes focused on Europe

    Andrea Bargnani's willingness to go hard to the basket and ability to hit from outside have made him a potential top 10 pick.

    Andrea Bargnani and Tiago Splitter have some important things in common. They are tall, athletic and immensely promising basketball players who play key roles for two of the best teams in Europe. Both reportedly are under contract to their respective teams through the 2007-08 season. Both have been heavily scouted by NBA teams. And both will eventually have to make the transition from European prodigy to high NBA draft pick, with all the inherent pressures that status represents.

    The good news for Bargnani, the 6-foot-10 Italian forward from Benetton Treviso of Italy, and Splitter, the 6-foot-11 Brazilian-born center from Tau Ceramica of Spain, is that when they come into the NBA, they will be joining a league that has evolved dramatically over the past two decades thanks to David Stern's vision of becoming a global sports brand. NBA teams today are better equipped than ever to guide international players through the gauntlet of cultural, linguistic and lifestyle adjustments that await them.

    In places like San Antonio and Phoenix, players with international backgrounds have flourished in systems that are similar to the brand of basketball they grew up with in Europe. Those teams demand that players big and small be able to pass the ball, shoot the ball with range and put team goals first. And that involves more than just feeling comfortable in a drive-and-kick offense as opposed to one relying on the pick-and-roll as the main course. It's about embracing a basketball philosophy that celebrates group achievement rather than individual expression. And it's about integrating the fundamentally sound games of well-schooled Europeans with the explosive, flamboyant style favored by most American players.

    Longtime NBA people chafe at the idea that these are "European basketball values." They would argue, correctly, that five-man basketball at its highest level was taught and practiced by American coaches such as John Wooden, Red Auerbach, Red Holzman, Pete Newell and Clair Bee for decades before any European player found his way to the NBA.
    San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told USA Today just this week, "The Euros and foreign players and coaches are doing things in some ways we have forgotten about and used to do."

    It's amazing how quickly the NBA landscape has changed. A scant decade ago, a basketball scout describing a player as "European" would most likely be criticizing him as lacking in athleticism and being soft defensively.

    Today, if a scout says a player plays "like a European," he's more likely complimenting his perimeter shooting or overall fundamental play.

    What has been the catalyst for this change? It's simple, really. The achievements of two generations of European stars have pulled NBA scouts, coaches and general managers in the direction of the new-old approach to the game. The success of early 1990s pioneers such as Sarunas Marciulionis, Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic paved the way for the second wave of European superstars to gravitate to the NBA in the mid-'90s: Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja and Arvydas Sabonis.

    When those stars, who were already established European veterans in their mid-20s, met with similar success in the NBA, the next logical step in the continuum was achieved: NBA teams started drafting unproven teenage European prodigies with the same breathless (and in some cases mindless) anticipation as they did young Americans.

    By 2001, a 20-year-old Spaniard with one good season in the ACB (Spain's top league and the best in Europe) was deemed good enough to be chosen with the third pick in the draft. In five seasons, NBA All-Star Pau Gasol has been everything the Memphis Grizzlies could have wished for. And no one needs to be reminded that Dirk Nowitzki of Germany, already a five-time NBA All-Star, is a perennial NBA Most Valuable Player candidate.

    But not every player born outside the United States has been a success in the NBA. If current Hawks GM Billy Knight is to be commended for wisely trading for the rights to Gasol when he was running things in Memphis, Denver GM Kiki Vandeweghe has to take his lumps for selecting Nikoloz Tskitishvili with the fifth overall pick in '02. And though Hedo Turkoglu, Vladimir Radmanovic and Nenê (a Brazilian player whose draft rights Vandeweghe slickly acquired from New York on draft night) have already validated their high selections in the draft, Bostjan Nachbar and Jiri Welsch have yet to do so.

    The high cost Tiago Splitter would likely have to pay his Spanish club to come to the U.S. may make drafting him a risky proposition.

    And then there's Darko Milicic, who had to endure hearing what a bust he was in Detroit while never being given any playing opportunity. As his late-season performance after a trade to Orlando suggested, Milicic just might turn out to be a top-flight NBA player after all. He doesn't even turn 21 until June.

    This track record proves only that there are hits and misses when choosing European players in the draft, just as there are hits and misses when drafting players from the United States.

    And for all the hopes attached to Bargnani and Splitter, it's not certain that either will keep his name eligible for the '06 draft or, even if they do come to the NBA right away, that they would stay. Once drafted, both players will have to negotiate buyouts of their contracts from their clubs.

    While NBA teams can now contribute up to $500,000 to an international player's buyout from his team (the maximum before this year was $350,000), the player must pay the rest from his own pocket. To that end, it behooves Bargnani and Splitter to make sure they will be drafted high enough that it won't be prohibitively expensive to leave comfortable situations in Europe for the NBA.

    Just a year ago, the Orlando Magic spent the 11th overall pick on promising center Fran Vazquez of Unicaja Malaga in Spain. Vazquez didn't feel he was ready for the NBA limelight, however, and left the Magic at the altar by signing a lucrative contract with another Spanish team, Akasvayu Girona. Orlando retained his NBA draft rights, and the Magic rebounded nicely with the acquisition of Milicic, who might benefit from Vazquez's decision to remain in Spain.

    Bargnani and Splitter both have attributes that would make them attractive to any NBA team. Bargnani, who has earned increased playing time as his season has progressed, has the skills of a small forward despite his height and length. He is quick off the dribble and loves to take the ball to the basket. In addition, he's a high-percentage shooter facing the basket and has improved his three-point shooting to a respectable 37 percent. On a team blessed with scorers such as former college stars Drew Nicholas (Maryland) and Marcus Goree (West Virginia) and respected Lithuanian Ramunas Siskauskas, Bargnani has carved out a role providing instant offense off the bench. He is a big reason that Benetton (23-7) is tied for first place in Lega A with four games to go in the regular season.

    Splitter is a completely different type of player, but his list of attributes is just as long. Tau Ceramica (21-9) is a powerful team that for the second straight season has reached this weekend's Euroleague Final Four, the pinnacle of European basketball. It's the culmination of a season of play among the top teams in all the major basketball-playing countries in Europe, played outside of the teams' national league competitions. Despite his youth, the 21-year-old Splitter has already made his bones by playing well in many important European competitions, and he'll add two more highly scrutinized games to his portfolio this weekend in Prague.

    Splitter starts alongside Luis Scola, an '02 draft pick of the San Antonio Spurs and arguably the best power forward in Europe. While Scola gets most of the post-up opportunities and shots, Splitter is an opportunistic offensive player who can score by beating opponents to offensive boards and with an improving hook shot. He is averaging a solid 10.4 points in ACB play and 10 points per game in just 22 minutes against Euroleague teams. But it's on defense where Splitter really excels. He gets great position in close and uses his length to block and bother shots. He also plays exceptional help defense, with enough athleticism to switch out and challenge a perimeter shot.

    Bargnani and Splitter aren't the only international players that NBA teams will be looking at leading up to the draft in New York on June 28, just the ones with the best chance to be chosen early in the first round. In a change from recent years, a number of interesting international guards are in the mix this year. Rudy Fernandez, an athletic scorer from DKV Joventut in Spain, Thabo Sefolosha, a Swiss guard playing for Biella in Italy, and Yotam Halperin, an Israeli point guard playing for Union Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia, all are being carefully evaluated by NBA teams.

    For each of these players, receiving serious consideration from NBA teams is expected, given their attributes and potential. If NBA talent evaluators should describe them as "typical" European players, they can hold their heads high and smile. They are on the receiving end of a compliment from the architects who are reshaping the new-old NBA.

  2. #2
    Senior Member kukoc7's Avatar
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    May 2007


    Splitter is projected to be picked at #10 in this Yahoo Sports mock draft.

    Lottery mock draft
    By Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports
    May 23, 2007

    SECAUCUS, N.J. – Between the commissioner telling Greg Oden and Kevin Durant that they had to go to college for a year and the Florida Gators' three stars staying one more season, an intriguing confluence of events inspired one of the deepest, most talented NBA draft classes in years.

    And now, with the draft lottery complete Tuesday night, here's a scenario about how the lottery could play out June 28 in New York.

    1. Portland Trail Blazers – Greg Oden, 7-foot center, Ohio State. With the first pick in the 2007 NBA draft, the Blazers select … Sam Bowie, Mychal Thompson and LaRue Martin. Nah, not this time. The Blazers are getting a franchise center for the next decade.

    2. Seattle SuperSonics – Kevin Durant, 6-9 forward, Texas. This is some spectacular consolation prize. Durant is the most gifted and complete offensive player to come out of college in years, and maybe, just maybe, he can save the Sonics in Seattle.

    3. Atlanta Hawks – Yi Jianlian, 7-foot forward, China. Two years ago, the Hawks made a terrible mistake passing on point guards Deron Williams and Chris Paul high in the draft. They still need a playmaker, but they can get a solid point later in the lottery. Jianlian is an athletic, slashing forward who has blown scouts away with perimeter talents.

    4. Memphis Grizzlies – Corey Brewer, 6-8 guard, Florida. Brewer is the Tennessee kid who can help ease the disappointment of missing out on the franchise stars, Oden and Durant. Brewer's 7-foot wingspan makes him a menace on defense. He's a shot-maker, too.

    5. Boston Celtics – Brandan Wright, 6-10 forward, North Carolina. Doc Rivers will be gone by the All-Star break, but Wright, with those condor arms, is a long, fluid offensive talent who will block shots and score around the basket. He isn't Durant, but he'll be a major scorer in the pros.

    6. Milwaukee Bucks – Al Horford, 6-9 forward, Florida. The Bucks are desperate for some toughness around the basket, and Horford is an easy choice for general manager Larry Harris. Horford will develop offensively, but he will arrive an accomplished defender and rebounder.

    7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Mike Conley, 6-1 guard, Ohio State. Conley is the purest of point guards, forever thinking pass-first. As much as his longtime teammate Oden, he was the reason the Buckeyes made a run to the national title game. He needs to shoot it better, but he's a leader and a winner.

    8. Charlotte Bobcats – Joakim Noah, 6-10 forward, Florida. So much for improving his stock by staying in school. Noah would've gone higher in the 2006 draft. Nevertheless, the Bobcats are desperate for a star to complement Emeka Okafor on the inside. Noah could sell a few tickets for this fledgling franchise.

    9. Chicago Bulls – Spencer Hawes, 7-foot center, Washington. Hawes is a skilled low-post player with a tough attitude and a relentless disposition. He fits perfectly with the Bulls' terrific nucleus of young players who bring it every night on the floor.

    10. Sacramento Kings – Tiago Splitter, 7-foot center, Brazil. With Roy Hibbert going back to Georgetown for his senior year, Splitter has developed a reputation for his tough, physical presence near the basket. With Oden going to Portland, size matters even more in the West.

    11. Atlanta Hawks – Acie Law, 6-3 guard, Texas A&M. Law isn't going to be a star in the NBA, but he's a tough, smart guard with the guts to make big shots. Most of all, he's a leader. He'll be a good complement to franchise star Joe Johnson.

    12. Philadelphia 76ers – Julian Wright, 6-9 forward, Kansas. The 76ers are believed to be enamored with Georgetown's Jeff Green, but it will be a tough call if Wright survives this deep into the lottery. Wright is more athletic and has more upside.

    13. New Orleans Hornets – Jeff Green, 6-9 forward, Georgetown. Green does a little of everything well, and he fits into the winning culture that G.M. Jeff Bower and coach Byron Scott are determined to infuse into the Hornets on the way back to New Orleans.

    14. Los Angeles Clippers – Thaddeus Young, 6-8 forward, Georgia Tech. Young is a long, athletic talent who is just too talented to pass up and slide out of the lottery.
    Aricle here - Yahoo Sports Mock Draft.

  3. #3


    Splitter at #10? Hilarious.

  4. #4
    Senior Member kukoc7's Avatar
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    May 2007


    I've never followed Splitter's career. I'd appreciate it if you can explain why you think it's so funny that he can be picked at #10. What other 7 footers do you think are better suited to be picked at that selection, seeing that the author is giving consideration to height to match up better with all the tall guys in the NBA's Western Conference? Thank you.

  5. #5


    I guess because i wouldn't even include him in Top20 of Euroleague forwards. He is mediocre and weak in defence.

  6. #6
    Senior Member kukoc7's Avatar
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    May 2007


    If you're right, then these guys who wrote the 2 articles above deserve to be hanged, or at the very least fired!

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