The Nina, The Pinta and The Santa Maria, 519 Years Later (Or, The Euro Players Of The 2011 NBA Draft)

(Editor's note - From the FanPosts, a little Euro knowledge.)

I wanted to share with you all I know about the European players that will be in this year draft weeks ago, but the work I'm doing on my thesis is draining every little second of my free time, so I'm going to write this thing now that I can.

Before I begin, I apologize for every error you may find in my writing. English is not my natural language, so, consider you warned.

Jonas Valanciunas (19 years old, 6' 11", 240 lbs, Lithuania, PF/C):  I have decided to start with Valanciunas because he is, by far, my favourite prospect from this group of players. I've seen him the first time during a Euroleague match against the best italian team, Montepaschi Siena (Siena finished 3rd in the Final Four) and he surprised me a lot, because I hadn't heard a lot on him until then, so I took every chance I had to see him again (always in the Euroleague), and I think I can say I have a good idea about the type of player he is. First, he sure is too thin to be as effective in the NBA as he is in Europe now, but he is very big, with a gargantuan wingspan, and I think he can easily add some more weight and muscle to his frame.

He is skilled. A lot. Even if he is light years far in terms of development, he reminded me a lot Pau Gasol in terms of basketball IQ and body control in the paint. He lacks at this level the post moves to be an offensive force, but, in my opinion, he could easily become a constant low-post threat in future years. He is quite active on the offensive board, is a very good free throw shooter (89% in the Euroleague) and he never tries to force when he recognize a bad situation. On defense he is very active, a good rebounder, with good quickness and lenght. He is very athletic and, if he manages to add more weight, I can see him being a Joakim Noah-type of player on defense, while having a lot more potential than Noah's on offense.

Other than this, I must say I love the way he plays, with a lot of energy. He clearly loves to play, and that's a quality you can never enjoy too much in a player. His young age leads him to some mistake here and there, but, on an experienced and famous team such as Lyetuvos Rytas, you could clearly see that he was the best player on the court, and his team clearly lost a step or two when he wasn't on the court. I don't think he'll be there for the Kings to pick at 7, but if he will and GP decides to pick him, I would be very happy.


Donatas Motiejunas (20 years old, 7'0", 215 lbs, Lithuania,PF): Going on with the Lithuanian prospects, here come Donatas Motiejunas, the secret, unconfessable dream of our Aykis. Jokes aside, I must say I'm totally with Aykis on him. I don't think he'll be a bust, and I actually watched him a lot this year (he plays in Italy for Benetton Treviso), but, still, I don't see how he could fit on our roster. Last season he kind of disappointed scouts, so he wisely chose to remain in Europe one more season before declaring, and I must say he really took the chance to improve a lot this year.

Since the beginning of the season he took the lead of his team, and he was quite a good leader, bringing Benetton to the 5th place in the Italian league, with averages of 13 points (55% from 2, 44% from 3, 72% free-throw) and a constant offensive presence. He refined his outside game, and he also learned to improve his low and high post game. I must say he is one of the better player I've seen playing a pick & roll in Europe in recent years, and he could really become devastating in the NBA with the right system.

This said, he'll never be a good rebounder and defender, and there's very little that can be done about this. It seems like he decides to not give a damn about defending most of the time, and his body language on defense is quite a mess. If i should compare him to an NBA player, I could put a poor-man Dirk on him on the offensive side, and a Bargnani on defense, and that's not good.At all.


Jan Vesely (21 years old, 6' 11", 240 lbs, Czech Republic, SF/PF): In 4 words: Worst Shooting Andrei Kirilenko. Like Motiejunas, Vesely decided to remove his name from last year's draft, but unlike the Lithuanian, he started the season horribly, shooting bricks and doing badly overall. He started to put it all together halfway through the season, and he clearly showed why he is considered an NBA prospect.

Vesely has got nice all-around skills, with elite athleticism, good defense and rebounding, good quickness and good offensive intelligence. He clearly isn't a good shooter for a small forward (33% from 3-pt range,, 43% from free-throw line), and that's why I don't think he would be a nice fit for the Kings, but he clearly can be an useful player in the right team. I don't see him being able to play constantly as a power forward but, with the right mismatches, he clearly has the lenght to play that position. I don't think he'll be a starter in the NBA, but he could have a nice career as energy guy/defender from the bench.


Nikola Mirotic (20 years old, 6' 10", 210 lbs, Montenegro, PF): Playing little minutes all season long, Mirotic was clearly the most important player on his team, Real Madrid, this year, while starting the season as a garbage time player. Real Madrid faced a difficult season, with coach Ettore Messina quitting during the season, but they still managed to reach the Final Four in the Euroleague (finishing 4th after losing to Maccabi and Montepaschi Siena), and Mirotic played a fundamental role in this.

Mirotic is a power forward who'll need to add more weight to be able to defend his position in the NBA and who is still a few years from being able to contribute at the next level, but still he has remarkable skills, with a nice touch which extends out to the 3-pt range (39% shooter from distance, 56% from 2-pt range, 86% from the free-throw line), nice defensive skills (0.5 blocks in 15 minutes of play) and a very nice talent in playing pick & roll situations, both as a spot-up shooter and cutting to the basket. If he'd be still on board when the Kings pick in the 2nd round, I think he could be a good choice, but the best thing at that point should be leaving him to play in Europe a few more seasons (he also has a 2 millions buyout clause) to improve and develop his skills.


There are some more european players in this draft, such as Bismack Biyombo (he's not european, but he played in Spain) and Davis Bertans, but I never saw them in action, so I'm not able to tell anything on them.

Thanks for reading!

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)

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