NBA Free Agency 2012: Breaking Down the Top Available International Targets
The past two weeks of Olympic men's basketball play has given us fans a window into the best players the world has to offer.
Several NBA names—some bigger than others—shined for their respective countries, from France to Brazil to Russia to Spain.
The entire tournament was a reminder of how wide-ranging the world of basketball is, but it was also a showcase for players from different countries who are more than capable of being on an NBA roster and contributing.
There is still a fair amount of international free agents available for any NBA team. Here's a look at some of the best.
One of the stars of the Argentinean team, Delfino is a combo guard who has toiled in relative NBA obscurity with the Milwaukee Bucks for the past three years, following four mostly quiet seasons with the Detroit Pistons.
Delfino, who informed ESPN.com's Marc Stein in London that he will be signing with an NBA team following the conclusion of Olympic play, is a three-point threat who hit for 36.2 percent from long range for the Bucks while starting 53 games last season. And he is a career 36 percent shooter from the arc.
After averaging 11.5 and 11 points per game, respectively, in his first two seasons in Milwaukee, Delfino slipped a little bit this past year, down to nine a night. But he is still a dependable shooter and fringe scorer who has the lateral quickness to play solid perimeter defense as well.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers thinks Delfino would look great in a Boston uniform, but the C's can only offer him the veteran minimum, which likely won't get it done.
Another team thought to be interested, according to Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com, is the Houston Rockets, who could use all the help they can get.
Barbosa did a nice job for Brazil in the Olympics these past two weeks, proving that he's still got what it takes to help an NBA franchise.
He split last season between Toronto, the NBA bastion for foreign-born players, and Indiana, to where he was traded at the deadline to give the young Pacers a veteran offensive option off the bench.
He was okay for the Pacers after the deal, adjusting nicely to his minutes and points per game falling after moving from an also-ran to a playoff team. But he kind of disappeared in the postseason, managing just 5.7 points per game and shooting threes at a woeful 15 percent clip (he's a career 39 percent shooter from deep).
But that doesn't mean he can't be the Brazilian Blur once again. He's only 29 and led the Brazilian national team in scoring (15 points per game), including in an upset win over silver medalist Spain. He can play the point, spot up and shoot the ball or take it the rim.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN, the Lakers have shown interest in Barbosa, though it remains to be seen what they could pay him after getting Steve Nash and trading for Dwight Howard. Still, he's familiar with Nash thanks to all of their time together in Phoenix, as well as the Western Conference and the Pacific Division.
Don't be surprised to see Barbosa wearing purple and gold this season, aiding a bench unit that managed a league-worst 21.3 points per game last season.
One thing we know for sure about Pietrus is that he's not coming back to the Celtics.
His agent has been widely quoted as saying that Pietrus will not play for the veteran minimum. Since that's all the Celts can afford to pay him, he will not be wearing green this season.
But this guy can definitely still play. He's bound to get a job.
What his new team will get out of him is a max-effort guy who is not nearly the long-range shooter he once was, but he is a quick, agile and extremely effective perimeter defender who can stay with most wing players and get under their skin, too (see LeBron James, Eastern Conference finals, Game 4).
The Bucks, who will be without the previously mentioned Delfino, have been mentioned (h/t Journal Times) as a possible fit for Pietrus, who would bring depth and stability, as well as defensive intensity to their backcourt. That's a quality Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles will surely love.
Another team to watch—and this is complete, unsubstantiated speculation—is San Antonio. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich loves players like Pietrus, who would probably fit into the Spurs rotation nicely if they want to pay him more than the minimum.
Najera has always been a plugger, an energy guy who will rebound, play tough in the paint and provide energy and hustle while occupying valuable space.
He hasn't played since early April thanks to a bizarre injury: a broken frontal bone in his forehead. Still, that doesn't mean he won't have something to offer a team once he's fully healed.
Najera has spent his past two NBA seasons trapped in the sad, remote outpost known as Charlotte. Anywhere has to be better than there right now.
Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports (h/t si.com) reports the Nets, Rockets and Wolves are interested in the 36-year-old veteran power forward. However, Fox Sports South reports that Najera could retire and is looking at a coaching position in the Dallas Mavericks organization.
If he decides to keep playing, look for Najera to get a sniff closer to training camp and sign a deal for the veteran minimum.
Yi, the former lottery pick who quickly flamed out as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks, was seen most recently with the Dallas Mavericks, where he warmed the bench and played just under seven minutes per game.
He went on to be the flag bearer for China at the Olympics. Then he went out and dropped 30 points and 12 boards on Spain in the Chinese team's first game of the tournament, a 97-81 loss.
He injured his knee in a loss to Australia four days later and didn't play again in London. Whether or not he's healthy come training camp will likely determine his job status for the upcoming NBA season.
If his knee holds up, someone may well take a flier on Yi.
He can play at a pretty high level, as his Olympic performance showed. And he's still a seven-footer.
Size can't be taught, and it's not like players as big as Yi, who can step out and shoot from the perimeter, grow on trees.
His NBA career may be done, but Yi could still potentially help a team.
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