Sixers, other teams scanning the globe for the next Nowitzki

Jonas Valanciunas (rear) of Lietuvos Rytas
Jonas Valanciunas (rear) of Lietuvos Rytas (PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP / Getty Images)
Posted: May 29, 2011

Second of a five-part series

 A decade ago, you could discover a diamond in the rough.

A grunge band that had yet to be signed, a fashion designer who hadn't gone mainstream, a coffeehouse only for the locals, a foreigner playing on some remote island with enough size and talent to make your NBA team relevant.

If you did the legwork, you could have the latest, coolest thing that no one else possessed - not even the San Antonio Spurs.

No longer.

Now, as with most things on this planet, everyone's information is similar, bordering identical.

Enes Kanter, Jonas Valanciunas, Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo, Donatas Motiejunas - these are the names of the most promising international players eligible for the 2011 NBA draft.

They're on the 76ers' draft board. And they're on the draft boards of each of the other 29 teams as well.

Even though this knowledge has gradually become common, the Sixers have never drafted an impactful international player. Other teams have.

In a draft-day trade, the Dallas Mavericks essentially snagged Dirk Nowitzki with the No. 6 pick in the 1998 NBA draft (Nowitzki was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks, who officially selected Nowitzki with the No. 9 pick.) The San Antonio Spurs found future stars Tony Parker (No. 28 in the 2001 draft) and Manu Ginobili (57th pick of the 1999 draft). The Phoenix Suns found a gem in Leandro Barbosa (acquired on draft day from the San Antonio Spurs, who drafted him with the 28th pick of the 2003 draft). And the Detroit Pistons scooped up center Mehmet Okur with the 38th pick of the 2001 draft.

The Sixers' overseas draftees include Marko Milic, Jiri Welsch, Paccelis Morlende, Petteri Koponen, and Kyrylo Fesenko. In the 2006 draft, the Sixers selected Thabo Sefolosha with the No. 13 pick - Sefolosha currently starts for the Oklahoma City Thunder - but immediately traded his rights to the Chicago Bulls for Rodney Carney.

The Sixers' international drafting record is about as impressive as a Ford Pinto. That is to say, it's not at all impressive.

But the team's setup is quite similar to other NBA teams.

When Rod Thorn become team president last summer, he hired Marin Sedlacek as the team's sole, full-time overseas scout. Sedlacek, a native of Serbia and Montenegro, primarily covers Europe and Africa, while for South America the team relies on information provided by a handful of coaches and connections.

In addition, director of player personnel Courtney Witte twice traveled to Europe during the season and serves as the team's primary liaison with Sedlacek. General manager Ed Stefanski made one trip overseas, and Thorn speaks with Sedlacek about once a week, with more or less communication depending on the time of year.

Some NBA teams have multiple scouts, one for Europe, one for Africa, one for South America.

With Witte serving as a part-time international scout, and with information on players often being communal, the Sixers feel comfortable with their international setup.

For example, perhaps the hottest name on this season's draft board is Biyombo, a relentless physical presence who exploded onto the scene in early April with a triple-double (12 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 blocks) at the Nike Hoops Summit in Portland, Ore.

Before this performance, NBA teams knew of Biyombo, but with averages of 6.4 points and 5.6 rebounds in 16 minutes a game playing in Spain's top league, he was considered a young player to watch, but was hardly burning up the draft charts.

With YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and dozens of must-attend international games and camps, the job of foreign scouts is now less about discovering talent and more about knowing the right people - youth coaches, former teammates, friends of friends - who will speak candidly about a potential international draft pick.

How is his attitude? How is his English? (Which is quite a serious consideration.) How is his work ethic? What's his background? How does he blend in new environments?

Thorn, while president of the New Jersey Nets, had one strong international selection with center Nenad Krstic, the 24th pick of the 2002 draft, who was traded to the Boston Celtics earlier this season.

The Sixers feel strongly that they have all of the important information if one of the aforementioned international players drops to their spot at No. 16.

Everyone in the league feels that way - now.

Likely gone are the days when a future NBA star, playing in a league nobody gets on cable, can be found in the bottom half of the draft.


About This Series

As the 76ers watch a crop of young teams that seem ready to ascend the NBA heights, The Inquirer's Kate Fagan explores in a five-part series what the Sixers need to do next

to reach that level.

If the Grizzlies and Hawks can make playoff runs, why not the 76ers?

Last Sunday, Part 1, Centerpiece:

Quest for a go-to player.

Part 2, Euro Tour: Tapping

the talent pool overseas.

Next Sunday, Part 3,

Tall Order:

The right big man.

Part 4, Growing Gains: Maturing together.

Part 5, Puzzle Piece:

Options in the NBA draft.


Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at kfagan@phillynews.com, or @DeepSixer3 on Twitter. Read her blog, Deep Sixer, on Philly.com.

 

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|