Best Landing Spots for Top Unsigned FIBA Stars
During the 2014 FIBA World Cup, we've been treated to some great performances from players still without a home in the NBA.
That's not entirely uncommon, but it seems more profound this year. As international scouting gets better and better and technology makes things easier, it's more surprising than ever to see players look dominant in this setting and not find a spot in the NBA.
Sometimes, it's a matter of convenience or preference. Spain's Juan Carlos Navarro briefly played in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2007-08, and even though he was plenty qualified to stay, he decided to take more money and spend his career in Spain.
You'll see that happen every now and then, but these five FIBA stars are currently unsigned and should land in the NBA before the season begins. Let's take a look at where they could end up.
Out of all the international players with no NBA experience in this tournament, Zoran Dragic has probably turned the most heads.
In combination with Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic, his older brother, Zoran has been electric for Slovenia both on and off the ball.
There are a number of teams out there that could use his pick-and-roll abilities and perimeter shooting, and so it's no surprise that Zoran is generating a lot of interest this offseason.
Here's what Goran told Marc Stein of ESPN.com about his brother:
"He was awesome," Goran Dragic told ESPN.com that night. "He was our best player on the court. It means a lot to play with him. We don't see each other so often. OK, on Skype, but it's not the same. Now it's a perfect situation for us to play together with the national team.
"We can share the court and maybe do some damage [with the national team]. And hopefully someday we can play each other in the NBA."
Although Phoenix probably isn't a great landing spot given their already crowded backcourt, a team like the Indiana Pacers would be ideal.
There's a huge need for backcourt scoring in Indiana, and Zoran would get the kind of real playing time and opportunity he likely desires.
Andray Blatche was spectacular in group play during the World Cup for the Philippines, and it's a little surprising he hasn't landed anywhere yet in free agency.
Here's Chuck Myron of HoopsRumors.com with his take:
There could easily be more than meets the eye to Blatche’s locker room issues, but those reports may also be the extent of it. His continued free agency might stem simply from a demand for more money than the market is bearing. He turned down a player option to stay with the Nets for a salary of nearly $1.438MM, slightly more than the minimum, so he probably envisioned a raise, which wouldn’t be easy to find at this stage of free agency.
Blatche has proven very recently that he's easily worthy of a rotation spot as a backup big man on nearly any team, as he's been incredibly productive as of late. His defense has improved, and offensively he's very skilled.
It's possible that Blatche may be holding out for a bigger role or payday, but it would be a shock if he doesn't return to the NBA.
A good landing spot would be with the Miami Heat. Blatche could play the 4 or 5 in Miami's system and provide valuable insurance behind Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts.
Gustavo Ayon once again played some of his best basketball for Mexico, showing off more scoring instincts than he has in stops around the NBA.
Ayon recently signed a contract with Real Madrid in Spain, but it's been reported by David Pick on Twitter that he'll have outs in his contract. Whether any of them pertain to the NBA has yet to be seen.
While it's incredibly unlikely that Ayon inks a deal with an NBA team before the season, he could be a candidate to be bought out halfway through the year or next offseason.
Ayon is worth keeping an eye on for sure, as he's an excellent passer and good cutter off the ball. He has an incredible basketball IQ, and that should lead him back to the NBA at some point.
When that time comes, keep an eye on the San Antonio Spurs. They love passing bigs who know how to work in an offense both on and off the ball, and the Mexican big man can do just that.
Serbian center Miroslav Raduljica has been pretty impressive in the World Cup, using his superior size and surprising touch around the rim to be an effective player.
Raduljica played with the Milwaukee Bucks last season, and was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers this offseason. The Clippers subsequently waived him, making him an unrestricted free agent.
While it's possible that Raduljica plays overseas this season, especially since he'll be getting paid his full NBA deal after being waived, there should still be some suitors in need of raw size out there.
A good fit might be the Houston Rockets, as Omer Asik was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans this offseason and there's a lack of size behind Dwight Howard. Raduljica isn't a great defender, but he'd at least be a strong body inside who could provide some surprising offensive production when given the chance.
Aron Baynes played some great basketball for Australia during the World Cup, showing off a scoring prowess that wasn't seen during his time with the San Antonio Spurs.
Baynes is a big body who is an effective post defender and rebounder, and given the lack of depth on the free agent market for legitimate centers, he should find a home rather easily.
It's hard to tell where Baynes will end up, though. He's currently a restricted free agent, so the Spurs have the right to match any offer. Teams may not want to deal with that game, particularly if they don't view Baynes as being worth much more than a minimum deal, which San Antonio would obviously just match.
Baynes could end up playing for his one year qualifying offer and be unrestricted next year, which might be the most likely scenario at this point. He's a valuable bench piece for the Spurs, so it makes sense they'd keep him around.