International Rookie Class Goes Well Beyond 2012 Draftees

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — When it comes to international talent entering the NBA Draft, this was a down year.

No international players were selected until the Nuggets took France’s Evan Fournier with the 20th pick. And at most, there will be four international rookies from the 2012 Draft on NBA rosters this season.

But there will be plenty of other new international faces in the league, five from previous drafts and four more free agents that have signed with teams this summer. Here’s what we might expect from each of the nine, listed in order of which guys could make the most impact.

1. Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto, 2011 Draft (No. 5 overall)
The 6-foot-11 Lithuanian had an underwhelming performance at the Olympics, playing less than 12 minutes per game and getting lost at times when trying to defend pick-and-rolls. He’s just 20 years old and may need a few years to make the jump, but there’s a lot of potential there, and he could eventually be the second-best player out of last year’s draft.

2. Mirza Teletovic, F, Brooklyn, Free agent
Teletovic, who turns 27 next month, probably won’t start for the Nets but he should have a pretty big role as a big man off the bench. He averaged 15.8 points and 6.3 boards for Caja Laboral last season, and was the leading scorer (21.7 ppg) in Euroleague play. He’s a bit of a gunner, but has a pretty complete offensive game. Defense may be an issue.

3. Donatas Motiejunas, F, Houston, 2011 Draft (No. 20)
The way the Rockets’ roster is shaping up, the team should be pretty bad, and Motiejunas should get plenty of playing time. He’s a seven-foot stretch four whose range doesn’t quite reach the 3-point line. Still, he had an impressive Rockets debut at Summer League, averaging 23.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per 30 minutes in Vegas.

4. Joel Freeland, F-C, Portland, 2006 Draft (No. 30)
Freeland is really a stretch four with a solid mid-range game. He’s a decent rebounder, but not great. Still, the only real center on the Blazers’ roster right now is rookie Meyers Leonard, so the opportunity is there for Freeland to come in and get playing time.

5. Alexey Shved, G, Minnesota, Free agent
Shved was the breakout player of the Olympics, capping an impressive tournament with 25 points, five rebounds and seven assists in Russia’s win over Argentina in the bronze medal game. He was 6-for-11 from 3-point range in that game, recovering from a slow start beyond the arc. Wolves GM David Kahn has said that Shved is more two-guard than point guard, and he has more size (6-6) than J.J. Barea or Luke Ridnour. Most important, his FIBA profile photo is a classic.

6. Victor Claver, F, Portland, 2009 Draft (No. 22)
Claver barely played for Spain in the Olympics and his numbers from Europe aren’t all that impressive. But Blazers GM Neil Olshey believes Claver is “more suited for the NBA than Europe,” and his best value may be on defense. He’ll be just 24 when the season starts, and if LaMarcus Aldridge plays some center this season, Claver could find some playing time next to Nicolas Batum.

7. Nando de Colo, G, San Antonio, 2009 Draft (No. 53)
The Spurs don’t exactly have an incumbent back-up point guard, so there might be an opportunity for De Colo to play behind fellow Frenchman Tony Parker. But it’s hard to believe that Gregg Popovich liked what he saw of De Colo at the Olympics. He shot 34 percent and had more turnovers (17) than assists (14).

8. Slava Kravtsov, C, Detroit, Free agent
Kravtsov is the big unknown of this international class, having averaged just 22 minutes per game in the Ukrainian league last season. His numbers aren’t going to stand out, but he’s an athletic seven-footer, and the Pistons believe he can make a defensive impact as a back-up center. So maybe he’s the next Omer Asik, but the Pistons’ frontcourt is pretty crowded.

9. Pablo Prigioni, G, New York, Free agent
The 35-year-old Prigioni will be the Knicks’ third-string point guard behind Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd. But Kidd isn’t going to play 82 games, so the Argentine will need to step up at some point. He’s likely to finish the season with more assists than field goal attempts, because you’ll have to dare him to shoot and dare him even more to attack the paint. But he’s a steady hand who will run the offense and get guys the ball where they want it.


  1. op says:

    I think the Raptors have to be extremely patient with Valanciunas, because he is still adjusting his game in any aspect that you can think of, he is athletic, runs the court and he’ll give them a lot of energy and if Dwyane Casey finds a way to teach him how to use and move on pick n’ roll on both ends. He has a chance to form a very dynamic duo with Bargnani(this guy can score but he has to start defend, even a lil’ bit)…but again patience is the main thing with this kid…..

  2. RosstheBoss says:

    I like this young Houston Rockets team. They have a lot of talent across the board, question is if head coach Kevin McKhale can get them to all buy into a system and play hard in their designated roles. Otherwise Nate McMillan would be a perfect fit with this young bunch as he has proven to be able to mold young talented players (just not old disgruntled ones).

  3. youalreadyknow says:

    Got medals like JONAS VALANCIUNAS!!!! #17 is going to be hanging down from the rafters one day!! Raptors all daaaaeee!!!

  4. AWALRAPS says:

    The RAPS are a Championship team…this season will be the turning point for this team 4sho!!…



    • hirosh says:

      I am and always will be a raptor fan forever.

      but are you NUTS?????

      Raps should and will make to the playoffs this season but I dont expect them to go beyond 1st round. and thats only if somehow if we secure a home court.

  5. Tamas says:

    What about Tornike Shengelia from NETS?

  6. BIG CAT says:

    mark my words, jonas valenciunas will go down as one of the best international big men of all time, you heard it here first , raps big 5 lowry, derozan, fields, bargnani, big fella jonas valenciunas bench calderon, terrence ross, kleiza , amir johnson, ed davis , playoff team fo shizzle

  7. dork says:

    i think motiejunas will be good

  8. san says:

    Prigioni dont shoot much, because he is a real PG, like Rubio, they try to make teammates better. But if he have to, he is really good shooting 3´s, you cant just let him shoot. Probabily the knics wont use him much, but they should is a better pg then Felton, he dont lose many balls, make everybody better and you can sofocate him in all the field and you wont steal the ball.

  9. Azzamoot says:

    Joe Ingles should be getting some calls after the olympics. He’s got plenty of others on NBA rosters covered.


    I really hope that the spurs give Patty Mills a chance to back up Parker this year, after his performance at the Olympics he’s definitely shown that he’s ready to give a shot.

  11. Jeremy says:

    Joey Ingles get on it

  12. Anton Ponomarev says:

    Twolves this season will have the best tattoos and best hairstyles

  13. ivonavich says:

    Spurs don’t have a Backup PG? didn’t catch Patty Mills performance in the Olympics?

  14. Robert says:

    Nice breakdown John. I am intrigued by Schved but it doesn’t look to me like he really has a position, which doesn’t have to be a big deal as long as he makes shots and can defend a little bit. Also, if anyone is interested, there is a nice article about Avery Johnson and the new Brooklyn Nets here: Avery Johnson has an incredible life story.

  15. Cini says:

    A little word about Nando de Colo, he is not a real point guard. He’s better when he plays like a shooting guard next to a good PG.

    He often lead the French team in the Olympics beacause there were nobody good to back up Parker at this post.

    Patty Mils will be a better back up to Tony Parker than De Colo this year.

  16. I feel lIke shved will be a great back up 4 Rubio

  17. leggomymelo says:

    with rubio being hurt it definitely goes to show that the world has closed the gap between the u.s and everyone else. that being said, we were playing without the best defensive big man in the world, and without Derrick rose and dwyane wade, both of whom are considered to be 2 of the top ten players in the world on most lists. We also didn’t have our second best center, our first option at PF in Blake Griffin. That’s four of our best players not suiting up for this Olympics. I’d like to think that with them on the team we would have even been more dominant.

    • TA says:

      Blake Griffin would not have been USA’s starting/1st choice PF. Both Durant and Love would have been ahead of him, and if we’re talking injury hypotheticals, Bosh would have been also.

    • Bob says:

      Why don’t you write something completely off topic?

  18. Richard says:

    This is a great list. it shows how the talent has spread around the world>Sundays gold medal game show that Americans are not the only ones who can play basketball at an elite level.I think it’s great.When the UNITED STATES goes to the olympics WENOW HAVE TO PUT OUR BEST FOOT FOREWARD OR WE WILL NOT WIN THE GOLD MEDAL.

  19. charles says:

    Rockets remind me of the 2001 New Jersey nets where they basically cleaned house and brought in fresh faces. Then, they combined those fresh faces with the intelligence of Jason Kidd and went on to multiple NBA finals. I think if Houston plays it smart, this has the potential to be the seed for greatness in the future. Play the rookies and look for that one high IQ player like Chris Paul to take them to the championship.