Euroleague Final Four Reunion in Canada
NBA GMs seem to be wising up when it comes to evaluating European prospects, moving away from spending draft picks on very young players with no practical game experience (Milicic, Tskitishvili, Podkolzin) and in the direction of picking up players who have proven themselves in the tough competition of the Euroleague (John Hollinger has shown (Insider) that Euroleague stats can be translated into NBA stats somewhat reliably).
I think that the three international guys drafted at the end of the first round who have experience performing well in the Euroleague - Belinelli, Rudy Fernandez, Splitter - will end up being three of the best value picks of this year's draft when all is said and done, and I also think that Juan Carlos Navarro will be a solid offensive weapon in the league, too (thanks to the guys at Bullets Forever for inviting us yayhoos to offer a quick JCN scouting report in their space).
Of course, no one is taking this concept further than the Toronto Raptors, who - with today's signing of Maceo Baston - are conducting a veritable Euroleague Final Four reunion in Canada.
Check out these box scores from recent Euroleague championship games:
2005 - Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Tau Ceramica Vitoria:
Current Raptors in game: A. Parker, J. Calderon, M. Baston
Also note: Warriors superfan S. Jasikevicious and T. Splitter
2004 - Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Skipper Bologna:
Current Raptors in game: A. Parker, C. Delfino, M. Baston
Also note: A young Belinelli and the ubiquitous Mr. Jasikevicious
2003 - FC Barcelona vs. Benetton Treviso:
Current Raptors in game: J. Garbajosa
Also note: A. Varejao, J.C. Navarro and Jasikevicious yet again (yes, he won 3 Euroleague crowns in a row - I still believe he can play in the League if he finds the right situation); Raptors VP/asst GM Maurizio Gherardini was Benetton's GM at the time, too
Throw in Rasho Nesterovic, who won a Euroleague title in 1998, and that's a full six Raptors with Euroleague Final Four experience, plus Bargnani, who helped Treviso to an Italian League title in 2006 while also getting some Euroleague experience. And Uros Slokar was on that Benetton team as well.
As much as I respect the Euroleague, I'm frankly surprised that Mssrs. Colangelo and Gherardini have decided to go *this far* in a Euro direction. I think it will be interesting to see in the future if Toronto starts to become a favored free-agent destination for top European players in the NBA, both b/c of the welcoming atmosphere of the organization and b/c the lifestyle in Toronto is a bit more Euro-friendly and easier to acclimate to than in the States.
P.S. While we're talking Euros, today's Darko signing by the Grizzlies just made this post even more entertaining to us....