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Power Ranking Every International NBA Rookie

Daniel O'BrienChief Writer IVOctober 10, 2016

Power Ranking Every International NBA Rookie

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    The 2012 NBA draft didn't yield many blue chip international rookies, but the 2012-13 rookie class is nonetheless filled with talented foreigners.

    Through offseason signings, previous drafts and mid-season pickups, several teams made key acquisitions of overseas players.

    A couple of dangerous backup point guards are boosting playoff-caliber teams while a pair of Lithuanian power forwards work their way into the NBA rotation.

    Europe isn't the only hot spot for this year's international rookies. Impact newcomers also came from Canada, Africa, South America and Australia.

    Who's the best foreign baller? Find out as we break down each one.

16. Fabricio Melo, Boston Celtics C

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    Age: 22

    Height: 7'0"

    Country: Brazil

    The Boston Celtics reached to take Fabricio "Fab" Melo with the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, and he's not ready yet for substantial contribution to the team. Even in Doc Rivers' injury-demolished lineup, he's too underdeveloped to chip in.

    At Syracuse, he earned 2011-12 Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors, and its readily apparent that he's more comfortable on that end of the floor. His 14 blocked shots in a D-League game displayed his instincts, weak-side help and one-on-one stoppage.

    Offensively, Melo is still unconfident and possesses limited skills. His footwork, court sense and shooting are far from where they need to be.

    There's still time for him to prove his worth to the franchise, as they knew he wouldn't be an instant star. But he needs even more polishing than we thought.

15. Robert Sacre, Los Angeles Lakers C

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    Age: 23

    Height: 7'0"

    Country: Canada

    Although he was born in Louisiana, Robert Sacre was raised and went to high school in British Columbia and is a dual citizen.

    He took his Canadian talents back to America for college, as he dominated the West Coast Conference for Gonzaga.

    As a Los Angeles Lakers reserve center, Sacre has become better known for his enthusiasm than his actual skill. That's not too surprising, considering he's a mediocre athlete and lacks touch around the bucket.

    Sacre is a great teammate and brings truckloads of energy when he enters the game, but I'd be surprised if he became anything more than a benchwarmer as a pro.

14. Viacheslav Kravtsov, Detroit Pistons C

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    Age: 25

    Height: 6'11"

    Country: Ukraine

    With a total of eight NBA games under his belt, the jury is still out on Ukrainian center Viacheslav Kravtsov.

    The Detroit Pistons liked what they saw in his amateur and professional career in the Ukraine, and they're grooming him behind current stars Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

    His offensive future lies mostly in his ability to attack the rim. Kravtsov is a good athlete who can catch passes on the run and finish powerfully, and he's also shown a knack for crashing the offensive glass. In fact, all five of his career rebounds are offensive boards.

    The physical tools are there, but will Kravtsov be anything more than a reserve throughout his career?

13. Aron Baynes, San Antonio Spurs F/C

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    Age: 26

    Height: 6'10"

    Country: Australia

    Although he's less than a month into his NBA career, San Antonio Spurs power forward Aron Baynes is no stranger to American basketball. 

    The Australian native came to the United States to play college ball at Washington State, where he blossomed into a double-digit scorer and a strong post presence in the Pac-12.

    On the Spurs, he fits right in with their international lineup. Baynes is low on the depth chart due to San Antonio's stacked roster, but his brief cameos have provided Gregg Popovich with bright spots.

    Baynes can run the pick-and-roll effectively, and he displays good body control for a 260-pound bruiser. Defensively, he possesses good timing and hands, which helps compensate a bit for his mediocre athleticism.

12. Evan Fournier, Denver Nuggets G/F

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    Age: 20

    Height: 6'6"

    Country: France

    At 20 years old, French star Evan Fournier has a boatload of NBA potential.

    In Europe, he dazzled with his passing, scoring and quick hands on defense. As a member of the Denver Nuggets, he's doing similar things in the small window of time he sees on the court.

    Fournier can find the hoop as a spot-up shooter, pull-up scorer or slasher. He's shooting 47 percent from distance in 2012-13, including 50 percent on spot-ups, according to Synergy Sports.

    His passing skills are also promising. In the future, he could be a Nicolas Batum or Alexey Shved-type of wing, a lanky player who can dish a half-dozen assists or more on any given night.

    Even if superstardom isn't in his future, Fournier will at least be an impact player who can help his team in a myriad of ways.

11. Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets F

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    Age: 22

    Height: 7'0"

    Country: Lithuania

    He hasn't made a huge impact on the Houston Rockets yet, but Lithuanian power forward Donatas Motiejunas could have a bright future in the low post.

    The 7'0" lefty already exhibits the kind of assertiveness that he'll need once his skills expand. He's comfortable taking a couple power dribbles, spinning and using either hand (although he's much stronger with his left).

    Just before the All-Star break, Motiejunas dropped a career-high 13 points on the Los Angeles Clippers. In just 16 minutes on the court, he showcased several positive traits: mobility, aggressiveness, battling for position and finishing in transition.

    According to, Motiejunas is scoring 22.1 points per 36 minutes, which means he's ambitious and effective when he's on the court. His jump shot extends out to NBA range, and once his consistency there improves, he'll be a difficult player to slow down.

10. Mirza Teletovic, Brooklyn Nets F

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    Age: 27

    Height: 6'9"

    Country: Bosnia

    The only active Bosnian in the NBA is Brooklyn Nets forward Mirza Teletovic, who played professionally in Europe for 10 years before crossing the Atlantic.

    His role on the Nets is primarily as a shooter, but there haven't been too many opportunities for him since he entered the league.

    During his sporadic appearances on the court, Teletovic wastes no time demonstrating his unlimited range and soft touch from deep.

    January was his best month, as he connected on nearly half of the 29 triples he attempted. 

    He probably won't be a major part of Brooklyn's postseason game plan, but Bosnia would go bonkers if he hit a couple big-time shots in the playoffs.

9. Victor Claver, Portland Trail Blazers F

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    Age: 24

    Height: 6'9"

    Country: Spain

    Victor Claver is infinitely more athletic than fellow countrymen Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Ricky Rubio, but it remains to be seen whether he'll become another Spanish NBA star.

    The Portland Trail Blazers forward has jumped in and out of Terry Stotts' rotation and even started a few games. Unfortunately, he's not effective enough on the perimeter to earn a substantial swingman role. Claver is shooting 23 percent from beyond the arc and 34 percent from the field.

    If you want explosiveness, Claver's got it. Just ask Greg Stiemsma of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    That's entertaining for now, but it will get old fast if he can't hit wide open jump shots.

8. Joel Freeland, Portland Trail Blazers F/C

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    Age: 26

    Height: 6'10"

    Country: Great Britain

    One of the best post players from the United Kingdom is Portland Trail Blazers power forward Joel Freeland, who represented Great Britain in the 2012 Olympics.

    He was drafted in 2006, and after six years of playing in the Canary Islands and Spain, he finally signed with the Blazers.

    Terry Stotts has leaned on his starters for much of the 2012-13 campaign, so Freeland's opportunities have been sparse.

    According to Synergy Sports, he's 10-of-20 on post-ups, which is great, but he's just 4-of-14 on pick-and-rolls.

    Since he's not a tremendous athlete, it's vital for him to upgrade his versatility moving forward.

7. Nando De Colo, San Antonio Spurs PG

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    Age: 25

    Height: 6'5"

    Country: France

    Tony Parker's French national team comrade is now his NBA teammate as well.

    Even though Nando De Colo made his San Antonio Spurs debut in 2012, he's been on the franchise's radar for years, as he was drafted in 2009.

    De Colo is a bold playmaker in relief of Gregg Popovich's front line. He's a confident outside shooter and makes some terrific passes in pick-and-roll scenarios.

    Earning a featured role in San Antonio is harder than it looks, and De Colo needs to clean up his game a bit if he wants to spend less time on the bench. If he can limit the turnovers, his efficiency and playing time will increase.

6. Festus Ezeli, Golden State Warriors C

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    Age: 23

    Height: 6'11"

    Country: Nigeria

    For a guy who didn't learn the game of basketball until he was 15, Festus Ezeli is doing pretty well for himself.

    After finishing high school in Nigeria, he played on a few AAU teams and practiced with a community college. His size and potential then landed him at Vanderbilt, where he battled in the paint and earned himself first-round NBA draft stock.

    As a Golden State Warrior, his rawness on the offensive end limits his involvement on a game-to-game basis, but his strength and effort on the offensive glass are critical to the Dubs' attack.

    If the next eight years of his basketball development are as productive as the first eight years, Ezeli will have a solid NBA career.

5. Jeffery Taylor, Charlotte Bobcats F

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    Age: 23

    Height: 6'7"

    Country: Sweden

    Born and raised in Sweden, dual citizen Jeffery Taylor moved to America to play high school and college hoops.

    The move paid off, as he became an SEC star at Vanderbilt and made the NBA.

    Taylor's vertical aptitude and long-range shooting are his best qualities. Even though he hasn't enjoyed a banner rookie campaign, he's arguably outplaying fellow newbie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He's shooting 43 percent from the field and 36 percent from deep in 21 minutes per game.

    As long as he knocks down long-range bombs, finishes in transition and continues to exert himself on defense, he'll be a respectable role player in the league for years.

4. Pablo Prigioni, New York Knicks G

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    Age: 35

    Height: 6'3"

    Country: Argentina

    A year ago, Argentinian point guard Pablo Prigioni was unheard of by most American hoops fans.

    After leading the 2012 Olympics in assists and earning a key role on the New York Knicks, he's become a favorite foreign player in the States.

    The long-time Spanish league star utilizes his quickness and precision passing to direct the Knickerbockers attack when Raymond Felton is resting. He can penetrate and dish or orchestrate the pick-and-roll better than many starting NBA guards.

    But he doesn't just hit threes and toss lobs to Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire. Prigioni is also a master thief, swiping 2.3 steals per 36 minutes according to

    Out of all the foreign rookies on this list, Prigioni has the best chance to impact the 2013 playoffs as New York seeks to win the East.

3. Andrew Nicholson, Orlando Magic F

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    Age: 23

    Height: 6'9"

    Country: Canada

    Born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario, Andrew Nicholson is one of the great young Canadian ballers taking the torch from fellow countrymen Steve Nash and Samuel Dalembert.

    He played collegiately at St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10 Conference, so he's quite familiar with American hoops.

    Nicholson made himself at home in Orlando, and his per-minute productivity led to a spot in the BBVA Rising Stars game during All-Star weekend. His low-post poise and mid-range shooting is generating a 54 percent shooting clip and a 16.0 PER.

    February has been his best month yet, as he's getting 25 minutes per game and scoring nearly a dozen per night. Is this just the tip of the iceberg of his career?

2. Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto Raptors F

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    Age: 20

    Height: 6'11"

    Country: Lithuania

    It's tough being one of the most highly anticipated European players, but Jonas Valanciunas is holding his own and is on track for a productive career.

    He's not exceeding everyone's wildest expectations, and that's okay. The Toronto Raptors have several superior options on offense and know that the Lithuanian youngster's prime might be in 2017 or later.

    That being said, he's not a pushover at age 20.

    Valanciunas has scored in double figures 11 times and notched double-doubles in back-to-back games earlier in February. He knows when to cut to the basket and is always ready to finish above the rim.

1. Alexey Shved, Minnesota Timberwolves G

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    Age: 24

    Height: 6'6"

    Country: Russia

    Topping our list is Russian combo guard Alexey Shved, who outshines the competition with his playmaking skills on the perimeter and in the open floor.

    With 10.5 points and 4.4 assists per game, the Minnesota Timberwolves newcomer is a threat to score or burn defenders by passing. His outside shooting is streaky, and he occasionally drops three or four triples in a single game.

    Shved is most dangerous when he puts the ball on the floor and creates, because he can dish, pull up in traffic or elevate and finish at the cup.

    He made waves in the Olympics alongside Andrei Kirilenko, but we didn't know how his skills would translate to the NBA. His first few months in the league suggest he'll be a key piece to Minnesota's future title runs.


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