Draft Express: International Men of Mystery

Draft Express: International Men of Mystery

Postby JSM on Sun May 22, 2011 2:10 pm

Jonathan Givony of Draft Express wrote:While this crop of prospects leaves a lot to be desired in terms of star power, seeing how the pecking order of international prospects unfolds might be the most interesting storyline of the draft.

There are five international players - all 6-9 or taller - who are expected to be selected in the lottery a. How they rank in terms of NBA potential is one huge source of debate amongst talent evaluators, but how much is known about their situations off the court will ultimately decide where they're selected.

While only one of them, Enes Kanter, was actually in Chicago, the rest were constantly being discussed.

The main topic: Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania. He is considered by most teams to be the most intriguing of the bunch. At 6-11, with a reported 7-6 wingspan and a Joakim Noah(notes)-type motor, he's the type of prospect NBA teams have a difficult time getting their hands on outside of the draft. He has repeatedly indicated his desire to move to the NBA and only the NBA, which separates him from the Ricky Rubios and Fran Vazquezes of the world.

Seeing solid playing time for a BC Lietuvos Rytas team that made the top 16 of the Euroleague, and leading the competition in rebounding per minute, he's been seen by everyone. For him, it's his buyout, or lack thereof, that has teams worried.

Rytas has taken a major step forward in resolving the buyout issue in recent days by hiring a European lawyer with significant experience in NBA buyout negotiations. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Rytas will attempt to structure the buyout on a sliding scale depending on where he gets picked, and are willing to be flexible with Valanciunas on when he can leave the team in case of an NBA lockout, even giving him the opportunity to stay with the team until he signs his rookie contract.

If his buyout situation will be resolved in a timely fashion, look for Valanciunas to be drafted somewhere between Nos. 3 and 8 overall. He's ahead of Enes Kanter on both Cleveland and Toronto's boards according to reports and has huge fans in Detroit's front office as well.

Valanciunas has three more years on his contract after this current season, with no buyout option. His American agent Leon Rose of CAA has been negotiating with the team for the better part of the year Most of the dispute revolves around when the buyout will be paid. The team, which is in serious financial trouble, wants the money now, not when he joins the NBA. It's asking for a percentage of Valanciunas' rookie contract. An agreement could have already been reached some time ago but the team has sent mixed messages.

Most expect a deal to be struck no more than a week before the draft. Valanciunas falling in the draft will only hurt Rytas' cause as not only will it lose significant respect from fans and constituents in basketball-crazy Lithuania, but it'll also hurt its chances of landing the next great young local prospect with NBA aspirations. Furthermore, being drafted lower results in a smaller contract.
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