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No one knows how to draft international NBA prospects.
--By Saul Hutson
This year’s NBA draft is low on homegrown college superstars and high on mysterious foreign-born teenagers. That means the league’s worst teams will have to gamble on overseas talent to restock their rosters. If history is any indication, most teams will lose that bet.
A quick look at recent foreign draft picks shows that experts can get awfully carried away assessing talent based on grainy video footage and amateur all-star games. Here are the most erroneous talent evaluations of the last fifteen years. Consider yourself warned, Minnesota - you’re one Bismack Biyombo away from winding up right back in the lottery next year.
What They Said Then: “He’s one of the unique talents throughout the world, really. Pistol Pete was a very similar player.” - Tony Barone, Jr., Director of Scouting, Memphis Grizzlies
Where He Got Picked: #5 overall, 2009, Minnesota Timberwolves
What Happened: The all-world talent refused to play for the Timberwolves for two years. Now Rubio has finally decided to bring his career 40 percent shooting percentage from Euroleague play over to the Great Lakes. Maybe the lockout will give him the extra time he needs to straighten out that jumper.
What They Said Then: "Yi will end up being the best player in the NBA from China, and I know that's saying a lot. He has much more body control than Yao, and he's a much better jumper. I'm real high on him, and I think I'm right." - Pete Newell, NBA legendary big man and Hall of Fame coach
Where He Got Picked: #6 overall, 2007, Milwaukee Bucks
What Happened: He’s seven feet tall and averages .7 blocks per game. With one career 30-point game, Eazy Yi has had about as much of an impact on the NBA as the dead rapper he’s nicknamed after.
What They Said Then: “Though more of a PF than a true C, he rebounds and blocks shots, and at 22 he might be ready to step in and help immediately.” - Marty Burns, SI.com
Where He Got Picked: #11 overall, 2005, Orlando Magic
What Happened: Vazquez still hasn’t logged a minute for the Magic. Instead, he’s spent the prime of his career bouncing around the Euroleague and he just signed on for another year in Barcelona. Maybe Orlando can lure Vazquez over with one of Florida’s beautiful retirement communities when he’s done with his playing career?
What They Said Then: “Korolev has quickness and ballhandling ability that belie his height. He showed his vast repertoire of offensive skills in a game for juniors played at the Euroleague Final Four. In addition to his guard-like passing abilities, his shot is getting better all the time.” - USA Today scouting report
Where He Got Picked: #12, 2005, Los Angeles Clippers
What Happened: Over 47 games, Korolev averaged 10 points and 6 rebounds…in the Development League.
What They Said Then: “Personally, I would take Darko ahead of LeBron James because he has more skills and can play more positions. There are very few can’t-miss players, but I have no doubt that Darko is a can’t-miss player.” - Alberto Dal Cin, Director of International Scouting, Utah Jazz
Where He Got Picked: #2 overall, 2003, Detroit Pistons
What Happened: He’s averaged 6.1 points per game for his career and never topped 6.1 rebounds per game for a season. Then again, he has won more championships than LeBron, so maybe Dal Cin was on to something.
What They Said Then: "Pau Gasol, Toni Kukoc, Dirk Nowitzki-type big point-forward that's so fashionable these days, with excellent outside shooting skills. And he's a Polish kid. Which means he's a blue-collar worker who's not full of himself, with a truly great work ethic." - Kevin Wilson, Knicks international scout
Where He Got Picked: #1 pick, 2nd round, 2003, New York Knicks
What Happened: He never saw the court as a Knick. Lampe bounced around with Phoenix, New Orleans and Houston before eventually turning into another in a long line of unfunny Polish joke punch lines.
What They Said Then: “Eventually he'll put on weight and muscle and turn into a devastating four. In five years, he may be the Kevin Garnett of this draft.” - Chad Ford, ESPN
Where He Got Picked: #5 overall, 2002, Denver Nuggets
What Happened: The eternally skinny Skita finished his career with averages of 3.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game, numbers that sound more like KG’s averages per quarter.
What They Said Then: "He has to learn the American game, but I think he has the potential to be a quality starting center in this league."- Ed Tapscott, former Knicks GM
Where He Got Picked: #15 overall, 1999, New York Knicks
What Happened: When you’re best known for gargling with Vince Carter’s chode sweat, your NBA career as a big man probably didn’t pan out as expected.