Predicting the Next Wave of Foreign NBA Studs
Before Ricky Rubio brought hope to the Minnesota Timberwolves, he was named three times as the FIBA European Young Player of the Year.
Indeed, his overseas success was impressive enough to sell those Timberwolves on drafting him with the fifth-overall pick in 2009. Though Rubio didn't show up to play in Minnesota for a couple of years, he was having an exceptional rookie campaign before tearing his ACL.
Of course, Rubio is hardly the first international player to make good on the upside displayed overseas.
Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have made Argentina and France proud by winning three titles with the San Antonio Spurs, and Spain's Pau Gasol has earned himself a couple of rings with the Los Angeles Lakers.
His brother Marc is still attempting to do the same with the Memphis Grizzlies.
You also might have heard of some German guy named Dirk Nowitzki. He's not half bad.
Rubio looks to be the next in line. Let's take a look at the foreign players who'll be joining him among the next generation of the league's elite.
Alexey Shved, SG–Minnesota Timberwolves (Russia)
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Whether Alexey Shved joins Ricky Rubio as one of the league's elite players, he'll at the very least join him in the backcourt with the Minnesota Timberwolves this season.
The 6'6" shooting guard passes well for a guy his size, and he's a capable, though inconsistent, perimeter shooter. In other words, he's a lot like a bigger and less-talented version of Rubio himself. The good news for the Timberwolves is that the guy won't be relied upon to play heavy minutes from the outset.
That could change if Brandon Roy struggles to remain healthy, but Minnesota would ideally like to bring the 23-year-old Russian along slowly in the hopes he grows into a talented scorer amidst a young core of Rubio and Kevin Love.
Steven Adams, PF–Pittsburgh (New Zealand)
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Steven Adams is still too raw to be considered a guaranteed star-in-the-making, but that's typically the case with a guy who's only 19 years old.
Here's what we do know about him, though.
He has a sturdy 7'0" frame that was built for NBA competition, and he has exceptional athleticism to boot. If his skills catch up to his talent and physical tools, he could become a formidable big man in the not-too-distant future.
By the looks of it, all the important intangibles are there. Adams plays hard and has shown a penchant for mixing it up in the paint on the defensive end. Don't be surprised if his first year at Pitt is also his last.
There will be a number of pro clubs looking to get their hands on this guy.
Tomas Satoransky, SG–Washington Wizards (Czech Republic)
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The Washington Wizards took Tomas Satoransky within the second-round of June's draft, but don't let the seemingly low position fool you. The 20-year-old has the potential to be quite good.
At 6'7" he has the passing ability to play some minutes at the point, but his real value could be on the defensive end. He plays more aggressively than many of his overseas counterparts and has the versatility to match up against guards and small forwards alike.
Though he's not yet an especially consistent shooter, that's one thing that can be taught. If Satoransky can round out his offensive game and work on his mechanics, he should become an important part of the Wizards' rotation in time.
Augusto Lima, PF–Brazil
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Augusto Lima opted to stay out of the 2012 draft, but it probably won't be much longer before he makes it to the NBA. The young forward has all the makings of a guy who has what it takes to make it at the next level.
He's got good size at 6'10" along with the athleticism and mobility you like to see out of a power forward. More importantly, he runs the floor, plays hard and can impact games in a number of different ways.
While Lima is explosive enough to score in the paint, he's not yet skilled enough to create his own shot in half-court situations.
Assuming he works out those kinks, he could become a very promising prospect.
Evan Fournier, SG–Denver Nuggets (France)
It's too soon to declare Evan Fournier the next Manu Ginobili, but the Frenchman appears to have as good a chance as any international prospect to do just that.
That's what the Denver Nuggets were hoping when they selected him with the 20th-overall pick in this summer's draft. Though Denver's roster was already well-stocked with guys who can play on the wing, Fournier's upside was just too much to pass up.
For now, though, he's going on little more than that upside.
Fournier knows how to score and create opportunities for both himself and his teammates, but he still has a lot of work to do on his perimeter jumper and finishing ability in the paint. His ability to earn consistent minutes on a team like the Nuggets will require significant improvement, but there's reason to believe he'll get there.
He emerged as one of the most talented young players France has ever seen, and that's saying something. Hopefully it will translate into something more, too.