Olympic Basketball Players Who Have NBA Rights
The title may sound confusing, but all of these players, except one, have been drafted by NBA teams and are still possibly coming overseas in the near future. These guys may even be on your favorite team. Realistically this is just a random way to make watching teams that aren’t USA a little bit more interesting.
Jonas Valanccunias, C, 5th ovr 2011, TOR- The Lithuania big man will be one of the leaders of one of the top teams in the world, and has announced that he will be on the Raptors next season (not the best in the world). The 7-footer is definitely the top guy to watch on this list considering he was a top 5 pick. Valanccunias is still just 20, and will need to develop more in the post and add some muscle, but he is definitely one to watch in the Olympics.
Victor Claver, SF/PF, 22nd ovr 2009, POR- If you’ve watched the Spanish team play, you’ve probably seen a few of Claver’s highlight reel dunks. In Europe, Claver is known for his leaping ability, shooting, and defense. Sounds like a perfect fit for the NBA. Claver doesn’t have a true NBA position yet, but at 6’10 he has the ability to play both forward positions. He’s a bit lost in all of the NBA talent on Spain, but watch out for him in Portland next season.
Nando De Colo, PG/SG, 53rd ovr 2009, SA- The French combo guard has been shinning in the exhibition games heading into the Olympics. Next year, De Colo will join his French teammates, Boris Diaw and Tony Parker on the Spurs. Though he may not receive too much playing time next year with Ginobili and Danny Green ahead of him, De Colo is excellent at getting to the hoop whether it’s driving or slashing into the lane. Look for De Colo to be one of the leaders of the French team that has been beat up with injuries to key players.
Alexey Shved, SG, MIN- The only guy on this list that wasn’t drafted, Shved recently signed with the Timberwolves and will be playing for Russia in the Olympics. Last season Shved was the Russian League MVP, and lead his team to a championship. Shved is a 6’5, skinny combo-guard who has gotten comparisons to recently signed Phoenix Suns player, Goran Dragic. Shved is crafty off the pick and roll and is very effective shooting and driving off of it. Shved will be Russia’s go to wing scorer and ball handler next to former Jazz player Andrey Kirilenko.
Sergio Llull, PG/SG, 34th ovr 2009, HOU- Llull is starting to make a name for himself in Europe after winning MVP of the Copa Del Rey Tournament in Spain this past year. Llull, like every other guard on this list, is a combo-guard. He is a very gifted athlete who has become known in Europe for his superior speed and jumping ability. On the Spanish team, Llull has had to let NBA players Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez handle the ball more, but he has been pushing them for playing time with his impressive play. He is still set to play in Spain next season, but watch out for him in a Rocket’s jersey in 2013.
Alexander Kaun, C, 56th ovr 2008, CLE- You all may remember this guy as former Kansas standout, Sasha Kaun. He goes by Alexander now, as the Russian center has been playing in the Russian league since finishing up at Kansas. He is currently 27 and just signed a three-year deal with CSKA Moscow. Kaun and Nugget center, Timofey Mozgov, will be the duo down low for Team Russia. Kaun’s three-year deal in Moscow has likely ended any chance of him coming to the NBA, but I encourage you all to watch the old Kansas big man who helped KU win a National Championship.
Brad Newley, SF, 54th ovr 2007, HOU- Newley has been a top scorer for the Boomers of Australia in exhibition play so far. It’s been awhile since he was drafted by the Rockets, but with them completely rebuilding their team it wouldn’t be too surprising for them to sign a guy they drafted 5 years ago. If you find yourself watching some Australian basketball check out Brad Newley as well as random Australian players like ex-Hornet, Raptor, and Rocket David Andersen, former Washington State big man Aron Baynes, current Saint Mary’s College star Matt Dellavedova, and ex-Saint Mary’s player star and San Antonio Spur, Patty Mills.
Joel Freeland, C, 30th ovr 2006, POR- The English center will look to help the host country medal in this year’s Olympics. He’ll be a key player for England as he’ll have to play against NBA big men like Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, Nene, Anderson Varejao, the Gasol’s, and Serge Ibaka. Freeland considers himself a “stretch four”, but will be asked to play some center in Portland and with England. New Portland GM Neil Olshey recently compared Freeland to Nick Collison. Look for Freeland to play a big role for England, and compete for playing time behind Lamarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson next season in Portland.
Ejike Ugboaja, PF, 55th ovr 2006, CLE- Only things I could pull up on this guy was that he was the first NBA player drafted directly from Africa, and that he runs the Ejike Ugboaja Foundation for Youth Empowerment Basketball and American Football Camp. I couldn’t find anything about him actually playing basketball recently, but figured I’d put him on here. Ugboaja is on the Nigerian team that features ex-college stars like Ike Diogu and Alade Aminu and New Orleans Hornet, Al-Farouq Aminu.