The NBA is lousy at drafting international players. The Bulls are not.

I was thinking about the New York Knicks pick of Kristaps Porzingis and whether he's likely to be a quality player. It got me to thinking there haven't been many quality international players drafted early in awhile.

The game is probably more international than ever. There are definitely quite a few international NBA players in the league right now. Most of them aren't so great though, and the great ones have mostly been in the league over 10 years or were drafted far away from the lottery.

Looking at the last decade of foreign born lottery picks, here's what we've got (I've gone 2005-2014 as the 2015 class obviously hasn't played):

2005 11 - Fran Vazquez - Epic Bust (never came over)
2005 12 - Yaroslav Koralev - Epic Bust
2006 1 - Andrea Bargnani - Bust relative to draft selection
2006 11 - Mouhamed Sene - Epic Bust
2006 13 - Thabo Sefolosha - Okay but not great
2007 6 - Yi Jianlian - Epic Bust
2008 6 - Danilo Galinari - Okay but not great
2009 5 - Ricky Rubio - Okay but not great
2011 3 - Enas Kanter - Trending towards good
2011 5 - Jonas Valanciunas - Trending towards good
2011 6 - Jan Vesely - Epic Bust
2011 7 - Bizmack Biyombo - Bust relative to draft position
2014 5 - Dante Exum - Wait and see
2014 12 - Dario Saric - Wait and see

Notable later selections:
2005 36 - Ersan Ilysova
2005 57 - Marcin Gortat
2007 18 - Marco Belinelli
2007 28 - Tiago Splitter
2007 48 - Marc Gasol
2008 24 - Serge Ibaka
2008 25 - Nicolas Batum
2008 31 - Nikola Pekovic
2008 36 - Omer Asik
2008 45 - Goran Dragic
2011 20 - Donatas Motiejunas
2011 23 - Nikola Mirotic
2013 28 - Rudy Gobert
2014 16 - Jusuf Nurkic (Early but looks really solid)

There are plenty of quality international players but most come late in the draft and the best of them still sit at that sub all-star level. It shows that the NBA is still pretty awful at scouting international players as far as I can tell.

Of the 12 guys whom have played enough to get a solid feel for, you've got five epic busts. Guys who were more or less entirely worthless. You've got two guys that were busts relative to their draft position and three guys who were okay relative to their draft position but not great.

You've then got two guys whom are trending towards good picks in Valanciunas and Kanter but haven't proven it yet. I guess the upshot of that is they're more recent of the group so maybe the NBA is getting a bit better.

The drafting of international players in the 20+ range has actually been fairly solid with a success rate that looked fairly similar to regular college players.

There are a ton of second round busts with internationals but it's frequently because teams will just grab and stash a guy and hope for the best because they don't want to waste the pick on a US player whom they will lose the rights to if he can't make the roster immediately.

The Bulls seem to do pretty well with internationals

The Spurs have always been known as the team with great international scouting as they picked up Ginobili, Parker, and Splitter, but the Bulls might be the best international drafting team in the past decade.

Looking at the above list of notable players the Bulls drafted Mirotic, Asik, and Sefolosha which is three of the 15 internationals which I'd list as solid picks.

As for the whole thought on whether Porzingis will pan out, who really knows. In the end, he's an individual and will pan our not based on his abilities not on what previous players have done.

That said, if I were a Knicks fan I'd not be real thrilled with the pick on the surface.

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  • Forgot Cameron Bairslow- Trending towards a trivia question

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    In reply to hgarbell:

    Well.....yeah. Bairstow in a foreign born (and raised) player. BUT....Bairstow played his college ball at U. of New Mexico.

    Paddy Mills played college ball at St.Mary's College.

    Matt Delevadova played at St.Mary's College.

    I could name more foreign ballplayers (who aren't even Aussies) with U.S. college roots, but no need. The bottom line is that it looks like the 'international' players as defined in this article are those players drafted directly off of club and national teams, and those who were playing in other professional leagues.

  • In reply to Retired Army:

    RA, you're right of course. But how else was I going to get in a joke about the second "wonder from down under."

  • In reply to Retired Army:

    Yes, that's what I meant even though I didn't say it. Guys who were coming straight from international ball to the NBA rather than through the US college system.

  • The question is how many are like Mirotic-draft him and leave him there for 3 years?

  • Does anyone recall who the Bulls' international scout was in the years the Bulls drafted Dragan Tarlac and Dalibor Bagaric? If I were Jerry Reinsdorf I would ask that scout for a full refund of all wages paid plus bonuses. As a Bulls fan I would also petition the NBA for a revocation of his scouting license.

  • In reply to hgarbell:

    That would be 'Ivica Dukan' who was...and still is the Bulls 'Director of International Scouting' and 'Special Assistant to General Manager'. He was appointed by Jerry Krause I think specifically for Kukoc but stayed on after so he's been with the team for quite some time. So I guess if we're going to blame him for the picks of Tarlac and Bagaric, we should also be ready to praise him for suggesting players like Kukoc, Mirotic, and Asik.

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    In reply to EDouble:

    EDouble......I stand corrected.

  • In reply to EDouble:

    Right you are! Let's only dock half of his previous salary.

    I heard a rumor that Bagaric set back US-Croatian diplomatic relations back 20 years. It was like watching the "Terminator" play in the NBA.

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    In reply to hgarbell:

    It's entirely possible that they didn't even have an international scout back then.....few teams actually did.

    By and large, until around 2000, most international players were drafted based on reputation, a few film clips and how they performed on their country's national teams.

    In the case of these two draft picks, the Bulls simply snatch up two of the biggest players available. They just happened to be internationals who I doubt the Bulls really invested much time in looking at first hand.

  • Interesting post. The Bulls drafted Sefelosha and Asik yes, but Thabo was a much better player after he left the Bulls as was Asik. As for parlaying them into some prime assets..?

    So really you have Nikola as the lone potential good or better player of that group. He needs to start hitting his threes though or be a potent scorer in other ways as a PF which would work.

    As for the past regime,Toni Kukoc IMO was just a terrific clutch player and a great guy also. It says a lot about him that even though Jerry Krause made him the bad guy with his gushing Magic Johnson references before he even stepped a foot on an NBA court, and subsequently Michael and Scottie treated him like crap for some time, Tony still plays golf with Mike and speaks kindly of both the dynamic duo. I also thought the (Luc) Longley acquisition was a very nice get. Though Sam Smith does not seem to fond of the towering Aussie.

    I don't see Mirotic as being the kind of impact player Kukoc was though he may end up being a more prolific scorer. Plus he does a lot of the little things well on both ends of the court as did Toni. I hope he gets major minutes from the get go and sustained minutes not Thib's dog house rug pulled out from under you for one bad game minutes. Niko could be a very nice offensive player for Chicago just please hit your threes or lower the volume per minutes played i.e look elsewhere for your scoring.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    The Bulls were good at scouting those guys regardless. You don't get to take credit away from their scouting because the guys eventually left the team.

  • At first blush, maybe the reason for the phenomena that you highlight is structural in nature. Many of the high draft choices that bust come to the NBA as young players/teenagers while many of the lower picks that become successful are guys who stayed in Europe for a while and came to the NBA at an age when they would have been 4 yr college players or later. These guys get drafted later, in part/mostly, because it is known that they will not come to the NBA immediately, while the guys who get drafted higher are known to be coming to the league in their draft year.

    The pick of Saric this year at #12 seems to be one of the higher picks for a guy who wasn't coming over right away and he ended up with a team(Philly) that is actively punting away several seasons waiting to hit home runs in the draft.

    In addition to Porzingas, this draft also had Hezonja and Mudiay drafted in the lottery. I believe that they are all 19 or 20 years old.
    It will be interesting to see how this group performs. My gut says that none of them are busts. I'd be happy to have any one of them on the Bulls, particularly Hezonja instead of McDNP as our designated 3 point sniper. At a minimum he appears to be a more confident(some say cocky), taller and more athletic player, if not a better "pure" shooter.

    I wonder how many teams, if any, will regret passing on Mudiay, Sacto, the Sixers, perhaps even the Lakers? The odds of the top 7 draft picks all being hits have to be close to zero. Mudiay's body looks physically mature for his age, and from what I've read about him seems emotionally mature also(apparently doesn't drink or party at all). Maybe, he's one of those guys with birth certificate issues, even his face looks older than a typical 19 yr old.

    As always, good to hear from you Doug.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Could be, I'm sure a lot of the successes are guys who are in their because of the auto draft eligible requirements too and a lot of teams will take Euros just because they don't have roster spots, so they just say "give me the best available international player" in the second round and hope to strike gold even if they know it's highly unlikely.

  • In other Bulls news, it appears that Rose has officially eliminated himself from making the 2016 Olympic team by not showing up for the this summer's mini camp.

    I doubt that he had much of a chance of making the team this time anyway, maybe he feels the same way, thus not bothering to show up.

    Should Bulls fans care? Probably not.

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    I dunno. I kinda look at this two ways. 1. There's been lots of draft lottery bust over the past decade, not just foreign born players. Every year Draft Express hypes up the next phenom and we fall for it until they're actually on the court playing against NBA competition. We rave about his length, reach, height, weight, and jumping ability, but as soon as the regular season begins and he's on the bench.
    2. Most Euroleaguer's have the option to get paid big bucks playing professional ball near their homeland vs the US so using a high lottery pick on them is a crapshoot. They could choose to stay overseas for their whole career and the NBA franchise passed on a potential game changing player from an American University in order to choose a guy they hope will decide to play for their team in two yrs. If he does join the team, he has two more yrs to shine before he hits the free agent market and another NBA team outbids for his services. Teams drafting in the later half of the 1st rd usually have a set rotation of players who are veterans to the NBA game.

  • I would say Kanter is ok, but not great. He is one of the worst defenders in the league and is trending toward stat stuffer...

  • In reply to bpmueller:

    Could be, I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt as a guy who at least isn't awful as a number 3 pick.

  • Let's not give the Bulls too much credit for adding foreign players to their roster. Besides the previously mentioned Dragan Tarlac and Dalibor Bagaric, let's not forget Kornel David. And the Bulls also got Viktor Khryapa as part of the ill-fated LaMarcus Aldridge/Tyrus Thomas deal, as if he was a sweetener to the trade.

    Off topic, just curious what everyone thinks about Derrick Rose not getting picked as one of the 34 invitees at the Team USA minicamp. Bulls PR man KC Johnson says Rose opted out, but every other writer states he was left off the team. I have no use for these international dog and pony shows and would rather see Rose (& Butler) focus on getting ready for the next NBA season. But it's distubing how Rose is eating up $20,093,064 of cap space and is not even considered one of the best 34 players in the league.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    Let's see what Derrick Rose has this year. For one he has to lower his turnovers and stop jacking up threes. The great guards like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant didn't jack up threes but were excellent midrange shooters. He needs to learn from them and focus on his strengths.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    DR13, agree with you about Rose. However, Kobe jacking up threes last year was a problem for the Lakers. He was 54/184 for a .293 clip- awful. Rose was 76/271 for .280-brutal. Niko was 99/313 for .316- mehx2.

    If Hoiberg's three-point centric offense is to succeed this year our perimeter players need to hit threes at a decent clip.

    My two big concerns for 2015-16:

    1. Defense regressing a la Mel Tucker and the Bears;

    2. Inability to hit shots.

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    In reply to hgarbell:

    Well remember that half the battle when it comes to making threes is the set up for a good look at the basket and the confidence in your shot. Thibs offense focused on neither of those things. I used to frustrate my friends in 2k when I would play with the 70 something rated bulls, pull the mayor off the reserve list and beat the lakers with a 62 rated bald guy who could barely get the ball over the half line in time. And then drain six threes. Hoiberg is going to run plays that put our guys in position to take threes. And just as important, he's going to praise guys for taking them and keep them shooting.

    As a sort of side note I remember arguing with bulls fans of bleacher report about mirotic. He was the top player in Europe. Everyone wanted him traded for this guy or that. When a guy is over 6'9 and can SHOOT he has a spot in the nba. You could see he was fit, he could pass and he could handle the ball. He has all the skill you need to be an all star. He wasn't at all the kind of player thibs liked. He also was a rookie and I believe he felt he was a factor in letting deng go. Now that he knows the nba game and a coach who believes in him, if he gets the mins he's going to be an all star in two years.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    Ah yes, Kornel David- the "Hungarian Michael Jordan." Actually, more like the "Hungarian JamesOn Curry." (IMO, Curry's twin brother JamesOff was the better player.)

    I'm sure the legendary international scout, Ivica Dukant, touted both David and Khryapa.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    Hahahahahaha!!!!! LMAO

    I can't find one single writer who says that Rose "was left off the team". I did find quite a few (NBC and CBS to name a few) who say is is debating whether or not he wants to particpate, however.

    Not that one can even be "left off the team" this summer. It's a mini-camp.

    USA Basketball chairman (Jerry Colangelo) has said repeatedly that the Olympic team will be composed of players who attend this upcoming minicamp. Injured players like Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony are expected to attend, even if they're not going to do anything on the court. "It's not a competitive camp," he told Yahoo Sports' Marc Spears. "Really, it's a show and a sign that you're interested in USA Basketball and wanting to continue to represent your country in 2016." If Rose skips it, then, it means that he has already made his mind up about next year.

    I guess Jerry Colangelo is covering for Rose as well?


    Funny stuff.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    Guess we read different sources.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    Well that's certainly possible.

    The difference is, I named my sources and even provided a link to one of them.

    If it's true that "every other writer states he was left off the team", I'm sure you won't have any problem with sharing your sources with us.

    I'm sure I'm not the only Bulls fan here who would be quite interested in reading the thoughts of "every other writer who states that he was left off the team".

    Assuming these other writers actually exist, of course.

  • In reply to Vic Nardozza:

    The Bulls only drafted Tarlac and Dalibor at #31 and #24. That's a range where busts are fairly likely either way. We're also going back to the previous regime when looking at them.

    You'd have to credit the Bulls for Nocioni as well if you want to ding them for David (and of course Noc was current regime while David was previous).

    Khryapa was fine as a throw in.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    True, but Tarlac was clearly not an NBA player. Shockingly so. I don't think he could even compete at a D-League level. Dalibor was a threat to himself and to others. More frightening than the guy who played "Jaws" in that Bond movie. Less skill than my vacuum cleaner.

    Nocioni was ok when younger but he should be the poster boy for why the Euroleague is so overrated. He was actually the MVP of the Euorleague Final Four. I saw some of those games. Duke or Kentucky could have won that title handily. Noc at 35 years old, could not make an NBA roster, IMO.

    The Bulls got cleaned in that Aldridge for Typhus deal. To trade the second pick for the fourth pick should have netted the Bulls at least a heavily protected first rounder. And then to have to cough up a second rounder for garbage like Khryapa was embarrassing. The Bulls had to buy him out in mid-season just to get rid of him. Btw, I seem to recall he was in that Final Four also- LMAO.

  • Speaking of recently drafted international players, Dante Exum drafted at No.4 or something just blew out his ACL playing for the Australian national team. The ACL injuries just keep coming. I wonder if next year's Finals will have another Kyrie Irving aka supposed major star out due to injury..? Really puts a damper on things.

    I agree with those who think Mario Hezonja will be a success in the NBA. It's too bad that like the one and done's some of these Euro kids who are so young they don't really have time to develop before they are tossed into the grind that is professional basketball.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Yeah I'm surprised that more Euros don't pull a Mirotic and enter the draft knowing that they are going to play 3 more years in Europe.

    That way they aren't bound by the salaries of the rookie scale, and more importantly (IMHO) they have a better chance of being drafted by a good team.

    The bad teams, drafting in the lottery, don't want to draft a guy who they know is committed to spending three more years in Europe.

    It's much easier for a "good" team, picking in the 20's, to wait three years for a player to come over from Eurpoe.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    There's perhaps a tiny downside in that if you aren't a scale pick teams have to have cap room or use an exception on you, but I'd say that downside is small relative to the upside.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Teams can still use the scale, even in a Niko situation where he doesn't sign for 3 years (I hadn't considered that until you mentioned it, good call. I just looked it up and the team has that option).

    In that case, a Euro has absolutely nothing to lose by declaring for the draft as soon as he's old enough. (Assuming he's not coming over for 3 years).

    There's a chance a team could refuse to offer you more than the scale after those 3 years, but the player can always stay in Europe if he's any good and can make more money over there.

    Of course you could always go in the 2nd round and the team doesn't even have to offer you the scale, but again if you're any good the team is going to want to get you over here (or they wouldn't have drafted you in the first place).

    Then again, you could always put your name in the draft and have your agent tell every team that you're not coming over for 3 years, and you probably never will - hoping of course that you don't get drafted, which means you're a free agent whenever you decide to come over.

  • Interesting article by Cody Taylor yesterday on Basketball Insiders about top NBA GMs. Guess what? The FO of the Bulls did not make the top ten! Here is the link if you wish to read it:

  • In reply to rustyw:

    Wouldn't argue about his top three, but I don't find the list all that good. Ignore the Bulls potential placement on it.

    The Blazers GM got lauded for losing a shit ton of talent and replacing them with crappy players while extending a guy who would have had to take the QO to leave (who is the last star to give up the max? Oh that would be "sir it's never happened in the history of the NBA"). Almost all the players they added have been in the league long enough to know they aren't anything special. They're back to a lotto team.

    Morey has been hit or miss, his off-season last year was a disaster where he let Parsons out of his contract and then lost him for nothing. They traded Lin and Asik to ultimately pay a ton of money for Ariza who then wasn't any good. His acquisitions of Howard/Harden were great of course, but he had a long line of crap before that.

    David Griffin's only success is based on the fact that LeBron wanted to come home. If it isn't for that, he'd be talked about as one of the worst GMs in the NBA.

    Lindsay and Hennigan are both thrown in there for having lots of good draft picks and then picking lots of young players thus acquiring up and coming teams which haven't gelled or accomplished anything yet. Let's see if either team pays off before giving them any props for their skills.

    Doc Rivers has had almost all of his moves backfire so far since given power. He isn't responsible for any of the key decisions that actually made the Clippers good by acquiring the key players there.

    This isn't to say all these guys are bad or undeserving just that I wouldn't put them on my top 10 necessarily. I could find a lot of holes in Morey, Presti, and Ainge too, but I think they belong in the top 10. I'd also say Mark Cuban belongs in the top 10.

    Rivers, Griffin, Lindsay, and Oshley have no business being on this list at all IMO. The inclusion of those four is just laughable to me. Hennegan is off to a good start, but let's see where that team goes, I think he might be a great executive, but I think it's too early to put him in the top 10 too.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Outstanding post Doug, that's pretty much exactly the way I see it.

    Presti? He gave away Harden to avoid the Luxury Tax, but then they wound up paying the LT last season anyway. And then he gives Kanter 4/70 this summer? Hell, Harden right now only has 3/50 left on his deal. And they are at $97 million this season.

    If GarPax had pulled those moves, someone would have gone Oswald on them already.

    Morey makes a lot of moves, but where has it gotten them so far? Winning one game in the Conf Finals, same as GarPax has done. And the way so many Bulls fans continue to say "they let XXXX go for nothing" whenever a free agent leaves, can you imagine the uproar if they let someone as good as Parsons go for nothing?

  • So, would you put the Bulls FO in the top 10?

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