Continuing our look at who the Toronto Raptors might select in the June 26 draft, I thought I’d focus on European players of interest. The risk/reward equation is higher on these guys than NCAA players. For every Tony Parker (#28 in 2001) who’s become a great player, I can toss out lottery-pick disasters like Jerome Moiso (#11 in 2000) or Nikoloz Tskitishvili (#5 in 2002). I don’t even need to bother with Darko or Bargs! Terrific players can be overlooked - Jose Calderon was undrafted.
Anyway, there are some intriguing choices available whom other teams may shy away from.
Dario Saric – A 6’10″ 223lb. Croat, Saric will probably be gone well before the Raps choose. If by some miracle he’s not, GM Masai Ujiri won’t let him pass. The fellow is only 20, yet already has a ton of international experience. He probably hasn’t filled out his body yet; if he adds muscle, he’s the most likely of this year’s crop to make a fast impact on the NBA.
Jusuf Nurkic – Taller and much heavier than Saric, this 19-year-old from Bosnia has probably played less ball than any other potential draftee. He could be viewed as serious insurance for Jonas Valanciunas, or even capable of competing for the starting gig, but not for several years. This fellow is all over the map (#11 on one well-respected mock draft, #32 on another), but could be another Omer Asik.
Kristaps Porzingis – I feel like a cradle-robber even mentioning Kristaps - he’s 18. However, the seven-footer from Latvia is already a pro in Spain, where he’s drawing attention for his prodigious shot-blocking. I love shot blockers. Kristaps would need at least 2 years to be physically developed in preparation for the pounding he’ll take in the NBA. Do we want to wait that long? If he’s still around at #37, I wouldn’t hesitate.
Bogdan Bogdanovic – A 6’6” shooting guard, this 21-year-old Serb has made advances in his skillset. He is now starting with top team Partizan, and is actually demonstrating combo guard capabilities. Bogdan is more likely a solid second-rounder, but Masai is known to have personally scouted him, and may regard him more highly than those who are only selecting from film.
Artem Klimenko – A flier pick if he’s selected at all, Artem is over 7′ tall, skinny and Russian. He’s playing in the minors currently, so projecting him against the world’s best is a mug’s game. “You can’t teach height” and we have two second-rounders. Why not?
Anyone like to suggest someone I’ve missed? Please drop me a Comment.