Originally Posted by Hollinger
A few days ago I presented my draft rater, which looks at the pro potential of all of this year's collegians, but that doesn't mean our work is done.
There's also a group of Europeans to look at, and in this case they fall into three categories. The first category is the one that matters most for Thursday -- the group of Euros eligible to be selected in the draft, either because they've declared for it or because they turn 22 this calendar year.
But there are two other equally important groups. First are the ones whose draft rights are already held by NBA clubs, many of whom can expect to make the move this summer or in the years following. Second are those whose rights aren't held by any team and are true free agents. While several in that category are bound by contracts in Europe, they're nonetheless an intriguing source of free talent and many can wriggle free with buyout provisions.
With that in mind, let's bring back my European translation system for another go-round. As I've explained in previous years, the highest level of European basketball, the Euroleague, is where most of the continent's quality performers can be found. And the good news for NBA teams is that there's a predictable relationship between how a player performs in the Euroleague and how he'll fare in his first year in the NBA.
On average, switching from the Euroleague to the NBA does the following to a player's pace-adjusted per-minute stats:
# Scoring rate decreases 25 percent
# Rebound rate increases by 18 percent
# Assist rate increases by 31 percent
# Shooting percentage drops by 12 percent
# Overall, player efficiency rating drops by 30 percent
Because of that, we can draw some pretty good inferences about how valuable the prospects in Europe might be to teams in the NBA just by looking at their numbers in Europe this season.
Let's take a look at who's available and see how they graded out:
In this year's draft
Translated stats for players with at least 200 Euroleague minutes
Player Pts/40 Reb/40 Ast/40 FG Percent PER
Oguz Savas 15.0 8.4 3.2 47.0 14.76
Omri Casspi 14.9 8.4 1.3 44.4 12.06
Sergio Llull 11.1 2.7 6.2 41.2 10.14
Brandon Jennings 11.4 3.7 4.3 34.1 8.06
Milenko Tepic 10.1 5.7 6.0 34.2 7.90
Gasper Vidmar 7.4 12.3 0.9 41.3 6.56
OK, it's time to shine a harsher light here. There's one thing working hugely against Rubio's status as an A-list prospect that nobody seems to want to mention, so let me put it out there: There's very little evidence he can score at anything approaching an acceptable rate for an NBA point guard.
We have very little recent Euroleague data to work with from Rubio -- just a 66-minute sample from this year and a larger sample from two years earlier -- but both sets translate to scoring about five points per 40 minutes and shooting in the low 30s. Ugh. Rubio shot better in the Spanish ACB league this season, including 25-of-62 on 3-pointers, but he also shot only 39 percent on 2s against a lower level of competition.
Same goes for his alleged breakout in the Olympics -- as heralded as he was for his play, he made nine baskets in eight games and shot 28.1 percent for the tournament. And while one of those games was against a team full of U.S. All-Stars, he wasn't bedazzling the Germans or Angolans either. Obviously he's a Jason Kidd-like rarity in that he can have a heavy impact on the game without scoring, but if his shooting numbers don't improve, he'll make Kidd look like Rick Barry.
A draft-eligible Turkish big man who has generated no buzz whatsoever, my numbers show Savas as a mid-first-round talent. His translated PER from this season is 14.76, and while his numbers from the previous season aren't as strong (10.81), combining the two still leaves you with a decent backup center that has some potential for improvement. He doesn't wow with his athleticism but he is big and smart, can shoot and seems like a poor man's version of countryman Mehmet Okur.
Casspi projects as a late-first-rounder, which is exactly where he's expected to be taken. The 6-9 forward projects as a strong rebounder if he's playing the 3, and a pretty good scorer for a 4. His numbers are based on only 279 minutes, but he had similar results a year earlier for Euroleague powerhouse Maccabi.
Llull more than doubled his translated PER from the year before (4.54). Of course, that can be taken in one of two ways: either he's rapidly improving, or he was playing over his head and will bound back to Earth. He shot 38 percent on 3s and probably is at least worth a second-round pick to see if he develops any further in Spain.
Jennings' translated numbers from Europe were awful. While in his case we might take them with a grain of salt given the adjustment he was making, we should at least consider the possibility that he's just not that good. What stands out is that his performance translated to being both a bad shooter (34.1 percent) and a rotten playmaker (4.3 assists per 40 minutes). Most suspect he'll fare better in an NBA system, but the improvement would need to be fairly large for him to make an impact.
Gasper Vidmar and Milenko Tepic both played extended minutes the past two years and put up very poor numbers; at this point I'd say they're not even worth a second-round pick. Henk Norel played 116 rather uninspired minutes (translated PER 3.07), which isn't enough playing time to completely dismiss him, but doesn't help his case any. Brazil's Vitor Faverani played only 55 minutes but played fairly well, grabbing a translated 10.1 boards per 40 minutes.