NBA

Top 10 International NBA Free Agents (2009)

Marcin Gortat and Lamar Odom position themselves for a rebound

With Hedo Türkoğlu ready to sign on the dotted line with the Toronto Raptors tomorrow, there aren’t too many international NBA free agents left to be had.

Interbasket scanned the list of remaining foreign-born free agents and came up with our top ten international free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, still swimming about in free agent waters.

1. Linas Kleiza, Lithuania (r) – With Denver trying to re-sign the Birdman, Chris Andersen, the Nuggets may not have enough money in the tank to keep the restricted Kleiza from walking away without going into the luxury tax.  Kleiza’s ability to run the floor, attack the basket, and finish with momentum and strength reminds you of a Baltic Karl Malone.  On top of that, Kleiza is a reliable three-point shooter and can take other power forwards off the dribble in the half-court.  In the right situation (see: more minutes), Kleiza can have (another) breakout year.

2. Anderson Varejão, Brazil (un) – Varejao opted out of his contract last week and is testing free agent waters.  Varejao is obviously looking for more than the $6 million that the Cavs were going to pay him this coming season. Cleveland signed the 35-year old Shaquille O’Neal and still has Zydrunas Ilguaskas in tow, so will they go after Varejao?  Do the Cavs want to deal with another Varejao holdout as they did in 2007 when the Brazilian backup missed an entire month of games.

3. Marcin Gortat, Poland (r) – Gortat is a restricted free agent, despite being courted by the Houston Rockets, and reportedly offered a huge offer sheet by the Dallas Mavericks, the Magic can have the option to match the offer and keep the 7-0, 240lb Polish center.   With Turkoğlu likely out of the picture and if the Magic aren’t aiming for another free agent this year (or the next), Orlando has the money to match and keep Gortat.  Whether Gortat is worth the reportedly $5.6 million/year that Dallas is willing to give him is the real question.

4. Wálter Herrmann, Argentina (un) – Anyone need a three-point specialist with a long, silky, blond ponytail only seen on covers of romance novels?   The Detroit Pistons are reportedly letting the Argentine shooter walk without an offer. If Herrmann doesn’t get a NBA contract, he’ll be welcomed back, with open arms, in Europe where the 6-9 forward started his career.

5. Zaza Pachulia, Georgia (un) – The Hawks are close to signing David Andersen, a big man from down under and Euroleague star, as insurance in case Pachulia goes elsewhere. It will be a huge shock if the Hawks look anything like the team of this past season. With Mike Bibby, Flip Murray, Marvin Williams also free agents this summer and with Andersen possibly coming onboard, Zaza may not get the attention from the Atlanta Hawks he expects.

6. Pops Mensah-Bonsu, England (un) – The Toronto Raptors were happy with their late-season pickup, and extended Mensah-Bonsu a qualifying offer in late June. The high-energy journeyman averaged 5.1 points and 5.4 rebounds and 13.8 minutes in 19 games with the Raps.   As a restricted free agent, Pops can sign an offer sheet with another team, but Toronto now owns the right to match the offer.

7. Rasho Nesterović, Slovenia (un) – The once baby-faced center has moved into the category of “great veteran and locker room guy.” At 33 years old, Rasho’s basketball peak are several years behind him, but the 7-0 center has at least a couple years left in him as a solid backup for a team looking for a veteran with playoff experience, and uh…  a locker room guy.  Nesterović’s career averages are around 7 points on 50% FG shooting, 5 rebounds and one blocked shot a game.

8. Jamaal Magloire, Canada (un) – The long-armed Magloire played spot minutes as backup center for the Miami Heat last season and did a serviceable job. The 7-0 former all-star center from Canada has said that he would like to return to the Miami Heat, so much so that he would re-sign at a discounted price.  Whether or not that will happen for the 31-year old Magloire will play out over the summer. The Heat selected 6-9 Robert Dozier, who is may play a little center, but is definitely under-sized.

9. Sean Marks, New Zealand (un) – With Tyson Chandler injured, the 6-10 Kiwi played in more games in 2008-09 than in any other season of his 9-year career. Marks’ one-year contract with the Hornets, worth 1.1 million last season has expired and no word on whether the Hornets are looking to bring back the 33-year old (34 when the season starts). The 2009 NBA Draft yielded backcourt players, Darren Collison and Marcus Thorton, so unless the Hornets make a move to obtain another big man, Marks may be in New Orleans at least another year.

10. Johan Petro, France (un) – The 7-0 French center has played for two teams in three NBA season since being drafted by the Seattle Sonics in the first round of 2005.  It looks like the 23-year old will be looking to move onto his third team as the Nuggets aren’t expected to make a qualifying offer.  Without an offer, Petro becomes an unrestricted free agent.  My guess? Petro will be headed to Europe.

There are also international free agents that have left the NBA, but are free-agents in the eyes of the NBA nonetheless.  That list includes Carlos Delfino, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Ersan Ilyasova.

Many teams have already agreed in principle with some free agents (Turkoglu with Toronto, Gortat with Dallas), but cannot be announced or become official until tomorrow, Wednesday, July 8th, 2009.

* (r) = restricted (un) = unrestricted

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