This is an article I wrote during the Ricky Rubio Draft. But with this years Draft coming up and European and African prospects once again taking the spotlight I felt that this would fit.
Sidenote: I know I was wrong about Rubio, don’t remind me.
Throughout the modern history of the NBA there has been a certain stigma about European players, especially those that are entering through the NBA draft.
They are said to be less athletic; a product of weaker competition, unable to adjust to the style and pace of the NBA, and unable to adjust to American life.
While that may be true, the downfall of most NBA teams is that they think all European players will be busts if they are picked high. This is furthest from the truth.
While there have been examples of this throughout history, when you look through the history of the draft, many European players have had solid NBA careers.
In the 90′s players like Vlade Divac, Deltef Schrempf, the late Drazen Petrovic, Arvydas Sabonis, and Toni Kucoc had solid seasons with Schrempf becoming athree time All-Star.
Most of these players developed a stigma of Europeans being reluctant to leave Europe, the most famous being Kucoc, who is mentioned in the great book The Jordan Rules as being nicknamed “The Waiter” by his Bulls teammates.
This decade has given us Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Big Z, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jose Calderon, all who have became starters on playoff teams. These players have brought the European style of basketball to the forefront and many teams are using it in their playbooks.
With all these star European players in the NBA, why do Europeans still have a mark on their record? I feel maybe it is because they are less marketable, but are they really, or is it just the NBA pushing us the college star who played in the Final Four before jumping to the NBA?
Why can’t it be the European, who as a teenager played against men, leading his team to the Euroleague title before jumping to the bright lights of the NBA?
What is more impressive, Stephen Curry’s performance in the 2008 NCAA Tournament or Ricky Rubio’s performance agianst the Redeem Team in the Olympic Final with a injured wrist?
I would take Rubio over any other player in this years draft due to the fact he proved he could play against NBA players already.
While yes, some European players have been busts in the NBA, haven’t players who have played in the NCAA turned into busts? Just because you played in the NCAA, which somehow is the second best basketball league in the world, you become better than any other prospect.
Did teams shy away from picking players straight out of high school in the lottery? These players played against far weaker competition and still managed to become lottery picks, without proving that they could perform against players at or above their skill lelvel.
Plus the level of international basketball has became more competitive with the U.S. completley missing the Final at the Olympics and losing in the 2006 FIBA World Championships against Greece.
So then what is the proof that Europeans are at a lower level than college players? Is it that there are more college players than Europeans? Is it the amount of publicity the college players receive through the NCAA? I think so, and is that a valid reason to pass on a potentially elite player?
What the NBA needs is a hyped up Junior World Championship, much like what hockey has through the IIHF, in which the world’s best basketball nations compete in an Under 20 tournament with the best players.
This could take place before or after the college season, and it would give scouts an opportunity to look at the best European players and the best North American players compete against one another.
This would likely also include the other powerful basketball nations and give their young players a chance to further develop their games and improve parity across the board.
This has worked well with hockey and would allow scouts to gauge talent more effectively while letting the casual NBA fan to become more familiar with foreign players who otherwise would be enigmas on mock drafts.
The European influence on the NBA is never going away, and the best move would be for the basketball community to embrace it and build the game globally.