NIKOLA MIROTIC – CHICAGO BULLS
The Bulls spent the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft on Montenegrin power forward Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic was fresh off winning the 2011 Euroleague Rising Star award, an award won in the past by players like Ricky Rubio, Danilo Gallinari, Rudy Fernandez & Andrea Bargnani. He would sign a 5-year contract with Spanish team Real Madrid shortly after being drafted with a massive buyout of 3.15 million dollars in any season before his contract ends in 2017. However, during the 2014 offseason the Bulls will no longer have to abide by rookie scale contract amounts and may treat Mirotic as a free agent. That would allow them to offer him much more money to make up for the buyout amount.
So why is the 6-10, 220 pound big man so highly regarded 2 years after being drafted? Well, a few weeks after being drafted, Mirotic led Spain’s under-20 team to a European championship averaging 27 pts & 10 reb per game en route to MVP honors. He won a second consecutive Euroleague Rising Star Award at the end of the 2011-12 season but it was last year where he made his mark. He led Real Madrid to the Spanish ACB title and was named the youngest season MVP in league history. He also made the All-Euroleague 2nd team while Real Madrid finished just shy of winning the Euroleague title. For a comprehensive breakdown of his game check out this prophetic article by @SJacas - The Evolution of Nikola Mirotic that was written prior to Mirotic’s MVP season in Spain.
As you can see from his ACB MVP highlights video, Mirotic has an advanced offensive game already and another year of development will make it hard to keep him out of a Bulls uniform in 2014. That could mean amnestying Carlos Boozer’s 16.8M dollar deal next year to make room as well as allowing Luol Deng to hit free agency after this season. Mirotic has the added bonus of playing on an extremely talented roster with former NBA players Rudy Fernandez & Sergio Rodriguez that should provide more help should he decide to head stateside after the season. The only thing that could possibly keep him out of a Chicago uniform for years to come would be a midseason trade if the Bulls feel they could get the missing piece for a title run this year. If he does survive the trade deadline then the summer of 2014 will be very interesting for Bulls fans.
BOJAN BOGDANOVIC – BROOKLYN NETS
Bogdanovic was originally drafted as the first pick in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft by the Miami Heat. Miami shipped him to Minnesota for the rights to Norris Cole on draft day before the T’Wolves sent him to the Nets for a 2013 2nd round pick that wound up being Lorenzo Brown. Bogdanovic had reportedly signed with Brooklyn in July but details later emerged that his current Turkish team, Fenerbahce, refused to reduce his 2M dollar buyout. He, however, will become a free agent after this season which should make joining the Nets much easier next summer. That is, of course, if he and Fenerbahce can’t reach an agreement on a contract extension which has reportedly been in the works all offseason.
Bogdanovic will play for the legendary European coach Zeljko Obradovic this year, an 8x Euroleague champion with 4 different teams from 4 different countries, on a stacked team that includes 5 other players that were NBA draft picks. Among them is NBA veteran Linas Kleiza who should help guide the young small forward who has had some red flags in regards to work ethic and following the rules which led to his dismissal from the Croatian National Team in 2012. All that aside, Bogdanovic is a very intriguing talent. He was named to the 2013 EuroBasket All-Tournament Team, the youngest and lone non-NBA player to make the team. Last year he improved his shooting marks across the board while averaging 15.9 pts per game in 21 Euroleague games including 40.5% from downtown.
He began this year with 19 points in an exhibition game vs. the OKC Thunder and followed that up with 22 points in the Turkish league opener against Mersin. He led Fenerbahce with 21 pts as they secured the victory over Budivelnik to kick off their 2013 Euroleague campaign. Bogdanovic had a subpar Turkish league campaign last year but really stepped it up in Euroleague competition. He should be in a Nets jersey this time next year if he continues his progression as there is mutual interest from both sides and no contract buyout to get in the way this time around.
KOSTAS PAPANIKOLAOU – HOUSTON ROCKETS
The Knicks made Papanikolaou the 48th pick of the 2012 draft after Kostas was name Greek A1 Young Player of the Year and being part of an Olympiacos team that won the Euroleague title. His rights were traded to Portland in the deal to bring Raymond Felton back to New York and he was then traded to Houston in the deal for Thomas Robinson that helped clear cap space for the Rockets to sign Dwight Howard. But many have said that Houston dumped Robinson for nothing, Houston in fact got one helluva prospect and also secured the rights to Papanikolaou’s Barcelona teammate Marko Todorovic as well.
Last year, Papanikolaou really emerged as a future star winning the Euroleague Rising Star Award as Olympiacos won their second consecutive Euroleague title. In 31 games, Kostas shot 52.1% from 3-point range and played heavy minutes for a loaded team at just 22 years of age. Spanish league juggernaut FC Barcelona bought out his contract for 1.5M euros and signed him to a 3-year deal worth 5.5M euros with an optional 4th year. His buyout amounts of 1M euros for 2014 & 750K euros in 2015 are pretty reasonable and it’s possible we’ll see him in the NBA next season. Whether or not that’s in Houston remains to be seen as he will definitely be a good trade chip for a team looking to make a lot of noise in the Western Conference this year.
With Barcelona, Papanikolaou joins a team with 4 ex-NBA players including Bostjan Nachbar & Juan Carlos Navarro, 8 former NBA draft picks including two 2013 draftees Alex Abrines of OKC & the aforementioned Marko Todorovic. So far he has hit 7 of 16 threes while leading the club in points scored & minutes through the team’s first 2 games of the 2013-14 campaign. It wouldn’t be surprising to see his rights dealt this year if Houston can secure another piece for a title run but either way Papanikolaou looks to have a promising NBA future. Here's a look at some Papanikolaou highlights.
RECENT DRAFT RIGHTS HELD PLAYERS FROM THE LAST 3 YEARS W/ EARLY 2013-14 STATS
- Mike Muscala (ATL, 2013-44), 22, F/C, Obradoiro (Spain) – 1 gm, 22 min, 16 pts, 9 reb
- Lucas Nogueira (ATL, 2013-16), 21, C, Estudiantes (Spain) – hasn’t played yet
- Colton Iverson ( BOS, 2013-53), 24, C, Besiktas (Turkey) – 1 gm, 25 min, 6 pts, 2 reb, 2 stl
- Ilkan Karaman (BRK, 2012-57), 23, F, Fenerbahce (Turkey) – hasn’t played yet
- Milan Macvan (CLE, 2011-54), 23, F, Galatasaray (Turkey) – 1 gm, 6 min, 0 pts, 2 reb, 2 ast
- Erick Green (DEN, 2013-46), 22, G, Montepaschi (Italy) – 2 gms, 23.7 min, 13.0 pts, 2.0 ast
- Joffrey Lauvergne (DEN, 2013-55), 22, C, Partizan (Serbia) – 4 gms, 30.8 min, 9.0 pts, 8.0 reb
- Jon Diebler (HOU, 2011-51), 25, SG, Karsiyaka (Turkey) – 2 gms, 25.7 min, 8.5 pts, 5.0 reb
- Marko Todorovic (HOU, 2013-45), 21, C, Barcelona (Spain) – 2 gms, 4.0 min, 1.0 pts, 1.0 reb
- Janis Timma (MEM, 2013-60), 21, SF, Ventspils (Latvia) – 7 gms, 28.5 min, 10.9 pts, 6.9 reb
- James Ennis (MIA, 2013-50), 23, G/F, Perth Wildcats (Australia) – 1 gm, 30 min, 25 pts, 4 reb
- Bojan Dubljevic (MIN, 2013-59), 21, PF, Valencia (Spain) – 2 gms, 17.0 mins, 14.0 pts, 5.0 reb
- Alex Abrines (OKC, 2013-32), 20, G/F, Barcelona (Spain) – 2 gms, 22.5 mins, 7.0 pts
- Furkan Aldemir (PHI, 2012-53), 22, PF, Galatasaray (Turkey) – 2 gms, 16.5 mins, 6.5 pts, 6.5 reb
- Alex Oriakhi (PHX, 2013-57), 23, PF, Limoges (France) – 1 gm, 10 min, 4 pts, 2 reb
- Davis Bertans (SAN, 2011-42), 20, F, Partizan (Serbia) – hasn’t played yet
- Marcus Denmon (SAN, 2012-59), 23, G, Tofas (Turkey) – 1 gm, 35 min, 25 pts, 5 reb, 2 stl
- Adam Hanga (SAN, 2011-59), 24, G/F, Laboral Kutxa (Spain) – hasn’t played yet
- Livio-Jean Charles (SAN, 2013-28), 19, SF, ASVEL Villeurbanne (France) – currently injured
- DeShaun Thomas (SAN, 2013-58), 22, F, Nanterre (France) – 3 gms, 15.3 min, 7.3 pts, 2.3 reb
- Tomislav Zubcic (TOR, 2012-56), 23, F/C, Cedevita (Croatia) – 4 gms, 17.7 min, 7.0 pts, 4.0 reb
- Raul Neto (UTH, 2013-47), 21, PG, Lagun Aro (Spain) – 1 gm, 22 min, 5 pts, 4 ast
- Tomas Satoransky (WAS, 2012-32), 21, G, Cajasol (Spain) – 1 gm, 30 min, 13 pts, 5 ast, 3 reb
- Sasha Kaun (CLE, 2008-56) went for 27 pts, 9 reb & 2 blk for CSKA (Russia) in their VTB United League win against VEF Riga (Latvia)
- Petteri Koponen (DAL, 2007-30) is averaging 17.3 pts through his first 3 games of the year for Khimki (Russia)
- Nemanja Bjelica (MIN, 2010-35) had 15 pts & 9 reb in his season debut for Fenerbahce (Turkey)
- Ahmad Nivins (NY, 2009-56) is averaging 23.0 pts, 8.5 reb & 1.5 blk through 2 games for Pau-Orthez (France)
- Latavious Williams (OKC, 2010-48) debuted with 16 pts & 9 reb for Cajasol (Spain)
- Milovan Rakovic (ORL, 2007-60) had 19 pts, 10 reb & 4 ast for Triumph (Russia) in their season opener