NBA: The Top 6 Former Players We Hope Return from Overseas
There are a handful of players in Europe who could still play NBA ball, but no more than a handful, and none worth getting all too excited over.
Most times, the players who could play NBA ball but choose not to leave before ever entering the NBA. It's commonplace for second round picks to bolt for the leagues of Europe, China, and the various other random places where hoops are played (namely, Central and South American countries).
But it begs the question: Are there any guys we'd like to see return to the NBA?
Which guys could still contribute to an NBA roster and fill valuable roles on teams?
Make no mistake, there are very few that could even start on an NBA team. Outside of Stephon Marbury, none of them ever did, and unless they've vastly improved in their time overseas, we're not going to see any of them return to star for an NBA team.
Still, let's take a brief look at some guys who could come back to the NBA and make an impact.
"Boki" is now 32, but his game was never reliant on athleticism. He's a spot-up shooter, and a very good one. Over his five-plus seasons in the league, Nachbar shot 37.5 percent from three-point range, hoisting 2.7 threes per night on average.
Spot-up shooters remain valuable into their mid-30s, usually, and he was never all that great of a defender, anyway.
Nachbar currently plays for the Brose Baskets of the German league, a team he rejoined after spending the 2012 campaign playing in Russia. He's not putting up outstanding stats—under double-figure scoring—but could still hit some threes off the bench and provide a lift for second units in need of outside shooting.
Juan Carlos Navarro
"La Bomba" is actually now getting up there in age, but he played very well in the Olympics for Spain, showing he could still play well at an NBA level. He came in as a 27-year-old rookie for the Grizzlies in 2007-08 and posted very good numbers. Per-36, Navarro averaged 15.2 points, 3 assists, and 3.6 rebounds.
He saw 25.8 minutes per game that year and appeared to have a future in the league, but decided to head back to his home country to play for FC Barcelona, one of the top clubs in Euro basketball.
At nearly 6'4", Navarro has the size to cover shooting guards, as well. He should consider heading back to the NBA before it is too late—before he is long past his prime and unable to play in the world's top league.
Ronald "Flip" Murray was a throw-in in the Ray Allen trade back on February 20th, 2003. At first, he appeared to be just that, a throw-in. In his first 11 games in the 2003-04 season, Murray averaged 23.9 points per game, but his minutes began to gradually (and perhaps inexplicably) dwindle once Antonio Daniels returned from injury.
Murray remained a productive bench player long after, though, averaging double-figure scoring for six more seasons, the most recent of which was the 29 game stretch in the 2009-10 campaign as a member of the Chicago Bulls when he posted 10.1 points per game.
Murray is still "only" 33, so he's getting past his prime now, but could still provide some nice scoring off the bench for an NBA team.
Expectations for May were high coming out of UNC, where he played for three seasons and averaged a double-double, posting highs of 17.5 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game for the NCAA champion Tar Heels. May was a 2002 McDonald's All-American and he won Most Outstanding Player of the tournament in 2005 with the Tar Heels.
The potential is there.
Weight, however, derailed May's career and while he is generously listed at 6'9" 266, I have to figure his actual height is closer to 6'7", while his actual weight is closer to 290. Few players are able to overcome that kind of disadvantage, and May never seemed to assume the relative success of someone like Glen Davis, or even a more extreme example, Oliver Miller.
May is only 28 so he has time to shed some weight and get back in the NBA, but right now he seems content to play for Paris-Levallois Basket in France. It just seems at this point he may never get his weight under control—not while he is making millions to play mediocre basketball overseas.
CDR was drafted 40th overall by the Nets in 2008. He drew some comparisons to Kerry Kittles, a former Nets player who was a high scorer like CDR. Douglas-Roberts has the skill set to make a perfect sixth man—a player who could come off the bench and score in bunches.
Per-36 for his three years in the NBA, he averaged 13.5 points, which is above replacement-level for an NBA bench player. He shot the ball well enough (44.3 percent from the floor for his career, and 32.6 percent from three in 2010-11 with the Bucks).
CDR has the talent to play a significant role on most clubs coming off the bench, but is currently playing for Virtus Bologna in Italy. He decided to head overseas during the 2011 lockout and never returned.
Starbury's days in the NBA are over.
He's the only former All-Star spending time overseas, but those All-Star appearances came at the early part of last decade (2001, 2003), so it's not like we're talking about a guy who is toiling his prime away in China.
By age 31, when he was on the Boston Celtics, he was a shadow of the player he once was. He shot 34.2 percent from the floor and averaged 3.2 turnovers per-36.
Would some fans love to see Marbury back in the NBA? Sure, I am certain a few Starbury fans would love to lace up his $20 shoes and throw on a Knicks jersey and cheer rabidly. But the majority of fans, and certainly most coaches and GMs, realize Marbury has very little left in the tank now at age 35.
He is best left to spend his days in the Chinese league, still putting up pretty amazing numbers from time to time…but it is China.
The Best of the Rest
Seven-footers, and those close to seven feet are a rare commodity, and there are several capable big men playing in Europe. Among them are Hilton Armstrong, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Josh Boone, Rasho Nesterovic, and David Andersen. While none are starting material, many teams are currently forced into playing undersized centers (or over-sized power forwards!) just to get by. All five of these guys could adequately step in and play bench minutes for a team in need of another big body.
A few other eyebrow-raising players are still playing overseas, but like the guys mentioned in this slide show are either slightly or way past their respective primes.
Ricky Davis and Marko Jaric are the two of most value, but Davis is 32 and relied a lot on athleticism to get the job done. Jaric is 33, and a former lock-down defender that can probably no longer defend that well at all.
Many will object to leaving Allen Iverson out of this slide show, but for that faction of people, Iverson did play in Turkey, but isn't currently. However, he recently announced he may be joining Marbury in China.
All things said, there are just not that many guys playing overseas that were once in the NBA who should return to the NBA.
There's a reason they bolted in the first place, and usually that reason is because they are getting past their primes and still want to play basketball, and make millions doing so. The only notable exception of the six players I featured is Chris Douglas-Roberts, who I figure will return soon enough…
1) Statistics: Basketball-reference.com
2) Biographical Info: Wikipedia
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