TREVISO, Italy – The very intriguing Bismack Biyombo went through the motions of an individual workout in the afternoon and the conflicting Donatas Motiejunas staged the same audition in the evening, but the only real potential draft shakeup from the first day of the adidas Eurocamp on Saturday was the uncertain contract status, and lottery position, of Jonas Valanciunas.
While some NBA front offices rate Valanciunas the best of the European prospects who will dot the top 10 on June 23 – some still prefer Enes Kanter, by way of Kentucky, or Jan Vesely – Valanciunas has not reached a buyout agreement with the team in his native Lithuania in unwanted drama for teams who want to know with certainty whether a first-round pick will deliver a player for next season or an international headache.
As one general manager put it, reminding in the universal language of messy contracts: “It goes back to Ricky Rubio.”
Cue the ominous organ music.
Plus, one NBA executive said Saturday he was told by someone who would know that a separate buyout is being negotiated to allow Valanciunas to play in Italy if the work stoppage in the United States scheduled to begin July 1 drags into the 2011-12 regular season. Under that complicating scenario, Valanciunas joins an Italian club with a clause that he gets out of that contract as soon as the lockout ends. Allegedly.
NBA clubs are understandably concerned and factoring the great unknown into their calculations. But most executives polled Saturday believe the problem will be resolved before the draft, and not with the $3-million buyout that has been reported. The more-likely outcome, they believe, is that the Lithuanian team gets a percentage of Valanciunas’ salary for a set period, meaning the higher he goes on June 23, the better it is financially for both sides.
Meanwhile, another European prospect, Nikola Mirotic, could get knocked from the first round because of a buyout so exorbitant that another general manager calls it a “nightmare.” That is not nearly the issue of the Valanciunas uncertainty, though, because Mirotic would have been considered a bubble first-rounder even with a clean move to the United States.
Other news, notes and observations from the opening of the largest annual international gathering of teams preparing for the draft:
- The Biyombo workout was interesting as a rare public look at a prospect who has not played in months, after splitting with his team in Spain, and was barely known in the United States even when he was in a lineup. It just wasn’t good. The entire premise was a bad idea. Biyombo, a power forward from the Republic of Congo, is a stud athlete who blocks shots and rebounds. That would have come out in a game, where he could light up the gym by flying around the rim and overpowering opponents. In one-on-none drills, NBA evaluators got to observe bad hands and an offensive game that everyone agrees will be a non-factor in the league, all the way to a bad showing at the line. Dibs on trademarking “Hack a ‘Mack.” Opponents will foul Biyombo every time he has the ball within dunking distance, also known as his maximum shooting range. The encouraging news is that an executive with one team said Biyombo did much better at a recent individual workout in Spain by catching balls a club official purposely threw wild to gauge reaction and hands. But nothing hides the zero offense of a player tracking to the top 10.
- The Motiejunas workout was better but hardly worth the top of the resume either. While he showed the agility and a shooting touch uncommon at 6-feet-11 power forward, the lottery-bound power forward appeared tired to those who had watched him during the season.Davis Bertrans, on the bubble for the first round and guaranteed money, pulled out of the camp because his team had a game in the Slovenian playoffs about a three-hour drive away. He may come for an individual workout on Sunday.
- Texas power forward Tristan Thompson is starting to pull out of workouts with teams picking late in the lottery, citing nagging injuries. He is either very confident of being picked higher or has been told by an interested club he will go sooner.