As we all know, Geoff Petrie is over in Europe for a scouting trip until next Monday. The Kings will likely have the #10 pick in the June draft, and most mock drafts have the team selecting college stars Spencer Hawes, Roy Hibbert, or Mike Conley.
But as we saw last summer, the face of the draft can change rapidly. It's expected to be a fairly active offseason for numerous teams, and the deals could start on draft day. It's conceivable that the Kings could move around in the first round, or pick up an extra choice. So while we may focus on the likely choices at #10, it's smart to consider prospects slated to go further down.
Here are the potential draftees playing in Europe, in order of draft prospects:
Splitter is a 7-foot Brazilian playing in Spain. He's expected to be the second international player taken in this draft behind Yi Jianlin of China. Splitter is older than most Euro draft prospects at 22, but is seen as a rather polished center prospect. He's said to have strong post moves and solid defensive skills. There are some potential problems with his buyout for his Spanish club, though, and those issues kept him out of the 2006 draft (where he would've went top 10). He's in to stay this year, though, and should go in the late lottery. He's averaging 18.8 points and 9 rebs per 40 minutes for Tau Vitoria on 62% shooting. He's not a good free throw shooter, at 59 percent. His team (which is STACKED - Luis Scola, Zoran Planinic, Serkan Erdogan, Igor Rakocevic - really great talent) is undefeated in six Euroleague games and will play in the semifinals Friday and possibly the finals on Sunday. I would expect Petrie will be scouting multiple players at the Euro Final Four, with Splitter topping that list.
Fernandez is a skinny Spanish shooting guard who could have been a lottery pick the past two seasons, but the lack of promises has kept him playing in Spain. If I had to pull an NBA comparable... it'd be Kevin Martin. While the Kings seem set at shooting guard (and no other position) with Martin, Fernandez might still be a good fit if a) he slips to the end of the first round, and b) the Kings grab a late pick in a deal. Fernandez can shoot the damn lights out and likes to go to the rim. (Again, sound familiar?) We know Petrie isn't averse to skinny wing players... Fernandez is 22, and he won't be playing this weekend. That actually might be good for his draft stock, as he co-stars in the Joventut backcourt with 16-year-old Ricky Rubio, who will amaze future NBA fans when he makes the leap. Fernandez won't be an All-Star, but could provide a potent scoring punch behind Martin. No doubt Petrie has seen plenty of Fernandez already.
Tomic is this year's Euro mystery man. He's a 20-year-old 7'2 Croatian. He's a project in every way imaginable. He's considered to be a high-post type - he shoots well and is a pretty good passer for his size, according to reports. Scouts are down on his raw athleticism, especially his vertical leap. (Most 7'2 guys don't jump very high as it is.) As such, he's considered very raw defensively. Everyone expects him to stay in Europe for at least another season. But he has the potential to be a franchise changer if his body fills out and he can improve his rebounding and interior defensive instincts. One of those high risk-high reward types that make you cringe in the top 10 but make fanboys like me giddy in the 20s. Won't be playing this weekend in the Final Four. Petrie obviously scouts the Balkans well, and knows the ins and outs of player development there. Remember, Peja was drafted as a 19-year-old and Petrie left him to develop in Greece for two seasons before bringing him to the Kings. I think the Kings have too many glaring needs to stretch and select him at #10... but if the team trades down in a bigger deal in which they acquire stopgap frontcourt talent, Tomic would be a nice get for the future. You can't conjure up 7-footers with a jumper and basketball IQ everyday.
If you watched the Worlds last summer, then you know Marco Belinelli. He's a vicious shooter from the two-guard and a rather good defender. He's 21 and expected to go late first round. I'd compare him to a smaller Francisco Garcia. I can't see him fitting in the Kings' plans, though.
Soon, we'll look at potential second-rounders or veteran free agents Petrie could be scouting.