More often than not, NBA teams get spooked. After Darko Milicic, the second overall pick in 2003, flamed out, no one wanted to be fooled again. Playing in a faraway land, perhaps against lesser competition. Why take the risk? The guys here in America work out most of the time… don’t they?
There are too many factors that go into what makes a good NBA player to count. Preparation, skillset, situation, motivation, character. None of these characteristics are attached to players in specific parts of the world.
Talent is distributed evenly. Opportunity may not be.
There are tons of European flameouts and success stories in the NBA’s history, just as there are Asian, Austrailian, African, and American. There’s just something about the Europeans, though. That specific descriptor makes them untouchable to certain NBA executives.
Back in 2013, a lanky, uniquely skilled 6-foot-11 Greek kid was selected 15th overall in the draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. To some, the Bucks may have gotten a steal. To others, they reached. Why take a chance on the Greek when you could take the sure-fire American wing prospect like Solomon Hill or Tony Snell? It’s too bad they just missed out on Shabazz Muhammad.
Oh, that’s right. Hill and Snell are decently-paid backup wings that don’t ultimately make much of a difference. Muhammad is out of the league. That Greek kid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is averaging 27.6 points, 13.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game and is near the top of many early-season MVP ballots. All 14 players selected ahead of Antetokounmpo were American and are nowhere close to as good.
And now, it’s Luka Doncic. By 19, Doncic led Real Madrid in Spain to a EuroLeague title and won the league’s MVP — the youngest to do it.
Sacramento Kings executive Vlade Divac, a Serbian, just didn’t see it with Doncic, though. That non-shooting, non-defending forward from Duke that doesn’t know he has a right hand should do fine, though.
And what about Atlanta? Doncic wouldn’t have been the right fit, right? I wish someone told me when near-40 percent three-point shooting, elite vision, and the ability to defend went out of style.
Maybe it will take a lifetime or two for these guys to get it. Maybe the chance at missing Giannis or Doncic will finally become scarier than taking Darko.