Chicago Bulls: 5 Olympic Standouts the Bulls Should Seriously Reach Out To
The Chicago Bulls are no strangers to testing the international basketball waters for unique talent. After the 2012 Summer Olympics, there are five foreign standouts who should be on the team's radar in the next few years.
And no, Usain Bolt did not crack the list (although if that dude learned how to handle the rock, he could be a devastating point guard).
The United States was not the only country to display high-level talent in London. Each country in the quarterfinals had at least one player who is playing or has played in the NBA.
Spain pushed the Americans until the final minutes of the gold medal match, and the silver medalists received major contributions outside of their main core of Pau and Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon. It's no surprise that two of the five players on this list have Spanish roots.
The other three players have also turned heads with their Olympic performances, and NBA scouts will likely be in touch soon.
The Bulls already own the rights to one European project in Nikola Mirotic. Here are five other Olympic standouts that Chicago could reach out to in the future.
5. Ike Diogu, Nigeria
Last team: Xinjiang Flying Tigers, China
Does Ike Diogu deserve another chance at the NBA? He didn't have the greatest Olympic performance, but he was surrounded by a bad team.
Diogu was the reason Nigeria made the Olympics in the first place. He led the team past the Dominican Republic with 25 points and 10 rebounds to clinch Nigeria's berth in the London games.
Diogu has played for the Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers, Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs in his seven-year NBA career. The 6'8" Arizona State product also made stops in Puerto Rico and China during the 2012 season.
Diogu will start next season in Puerto Rico once again as he attempts to play his way back into the NBA. If he can return to his old form, Diogu could become a low-risk, high-reward acquisition this season.
If the Bulls run into injury problems on the front line, Diogu could be an inexpensive veteran option in the middle of the season. That is enough for Chicago to keep tabs on Diogu in the near future.
4. Vitaliy Fridzon, Russia
Team: BC Khimki, Russia
Fridzon played a major role in helping his country win the bronze medal. The 26-year-old shooting guard was often overlooked because his teammate, Alexey Shved, is considered Russia's top prospect, and Shved lived up to the hype in London.
But Fridzon exploded for a 24-point outburst in an upset victory over Spain in the qualifying round. His 9-of-15 shooting performance was the main reason why the Russians won the game.
Fridzon also had one of the most memorable shots of the London Olympics. With his team trailing 74-72 to Brazil with 6.1 seconds left, Fridzon nailed a long trey to give the Russians a miraculous 75-74 win.
Fridzon possesses good size for a shooting guard, standing at 6'5" and weighing 198 pounds. He has the strength and shooting ability to potentially develop into an NBA rotation player. However, Fridzon lacks the quickness to keep up with speedy NBA guards, which might be enough to keep him out of the league for good.
Still, the Bulls should keep Fridzon on their radar in the upcoming Euroleague season. Maybe Fridzon will make some more noise and demand attention on draft day next summer.
3. Sergio Llull, Spain
Last team: Real Madrid, Spain
The athletic, 24-year-old Llull didn't do much against the U.S. in the Olympic final, but he has turned some heads with his brilliant performance in the Euroleague over the past few seasons.
In fact, Llull was the 34th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets, and then had his rights bought by the Houston Rockets. The 6'3" guard has never made an appearance in the NBA, however.
Llull is a similar player to teammate Rudy Fernandez: a long, athletic wing with big hops and a skinny frame. But the shorter Llull is a true guard with a decent outside shot and above-average ball-handling skills.
Llull has the potential to be a combo guard that could defend smaller opponents who do most of their damage from the outside. Now that he has spent three years with Real Madrid since being drafted, the Bulls could likely acquire Llull for almost nothing.
From there, the Bulls could attempt to develop Llull into a Kirk Hinrich-type player. That is about the ceiling to his potential, and it would take plenty of time to get there.
2. Joe Ingles, Australia
Last team: FC Barcelona Regal, Spain
Ingles clearly separated himself as Australia's second-best Olympic performer behind San Antonio Spurs point guard Patty Mills.
The 24-year-old lefty forward had double-digit points in all six of Australia's games, including leading the squad with 20 points in an 82-80 victory in the team's final qualifying game against bronze-medalist Russia. The win pushed the Aussies into the quarterfinals.
In Australia's quarterfinal loss against the U.S., Ingles had 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists. He knocked down 6-of-8 shots, including 2-of-4 from beyond the arc.
The smooth 6'8" forward may lack the overall athleticism to compete regularly at the NBA level, but he has the skills, size and long-range shooting ability to possibly earn a spot at the end of a team's bench. However, not many NBA teams are in the market for a small forward with limited athleticism.
However, if Ingles has a big season in the Euroleague after his strong Olympic performance, he could boost his draft stock and sneak into the second round. If that is the case, the Bulls should strongly consider him as a late second-round pick.
1. Juan Carlos Navarro, Spain
Last team: FC Barcelona Regal, Spain
The veteran Navarro played one of the best games of his international career in the gold medal match against the NBA's top superstars, and it was nearly enough to help Spain pull off the upset.
The 32-year-old guard played in the NBA for just one season, appearing in all 82 games with the Memphis Grizzlies in 2007-08. He started 30 of those contests and averaged 10.9 points per game for the season.
Maybe it's time that Navarro re-thinks this whole NBA idea. If his 21-point outburst (with an injured foot) against the U.S. was any indication, Navarro has enough skills to become a scoring point guard off the bench for any solid NBA team.
Navarro was clearly Spain's best perimeter option during the 2012 Summer Olympics and was arguably the team's second-most important player behind Pau Gasol.
If the Bulls had not signed Nate Robinson, then Navarro would have been an excellent addition as a backup point guard to Kirk Hinrich until Derrick Rose returns from injury. Chicago should still keep an eye on the 6'3" veteran in case the team suffers any more injuries in the backcourt this season.
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