Coming attractions? Teams waiting on draft picks playing overseas
Every general manager would love to add an immediate contributor through the draft. But executives who are willing to be patient also employ the "draft-and-stash" approach, which, when used well, can be gold for an NBA franchise.
For instance, Oklahoma City center
Looking back even further, the likes of
Until they are signed, these players do not count against a team's salary cap or take up a valuable roster spot. Their draft rights are held in perpetuity -- that is, until a team decides to relinquish them or sign the player. (Similarly, if an NBA restricted free agent elects to go overseas rather than sign his qualifying offer -- such as Denver's
There are a number of "rights held" prospects who could emerge as significant signings for their NBA teams this summer or beyond. Let's explore the most interesting among them.
Rubio is still only 19 but already has experience playing in an Olympic gold-medal game, a Euroleague Final Four, a EuroCup Final Four, a Copa del Rey final and a Spanish ACB league playoff finals series. His maturity, creativity and feel for the game are exceedingly rare for a teenager, making him arguably the most hyped European talent ever.
Rubio said recently that he will not play in the NBA before 2011, when he can exercise a 1 million euro buyout in his Barcelona contract. The point guard remains noncommittal when discussing his desire to play for the Timberwolves, as opposed to the NBA in general; Minnesota -- which drafted another point guard,
But there's no guarantee that you'll see Rubio in any NBA uniform in 2011. In fact, in large part because of a potential lockout and money considerations, the more likely scenario for now is Rubio's arrival in 2012.
Rubio will not be inclined to terminate his contract with Barcelona next summer if there's no new collective bargaining agreement by then. Also, if Rubio waits until 2012 -- three years removed from his draft year -- he'll no longer be bound by the rules of the NBA rookie scale, which, under the current CBA, would pay him an average of about $3.6 million his first two years, a sum that will likely be below market value. Freed from the rookie scale, Rubio could negotiate like a free agent with the team that holds his rights, receiving anything from the mid-level exception ($5.85 million this season) to a maximum contract if a team has the requisite room under the salary cap.
Another factor to consider could be Rubio's contract with Nike, which expires in two years. The company has made no secret of its preference to see Rubio in a bigger NBA market than Minnesota, according to sources, and it will be interesting to see whether the dollars Nike throw into the equation sways things. His agent,
Fresh off an ACB championship and Finals MVP award with Caja Laboral, the 25-year-old Splitter has never been more ready to come to the NBA than he is now. He's clearly the best center in Europe, averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds, shooting 58 percent from the field and showing promising defensive ability in the ultracompetitive ACB. Splitter is a mobile center with a good frame, great hands, excellent fundamentals and a high basketball IQ. He could step in and start for many NBA teams immediately and, unlike a lot of international prospects, will have few issues making the transition to the league's style of play.
Splitter finally could be poised to jump to the NBA: He can opt out of his deal in Spain this summer, and because he's three years removed from being drafted, he is eligible to be paid like an NBA free agent. Splitter will likely ask capped-out San Antonio to pay him the full mid-level exception, and he'll be worth every penny considering how desperately it needs him.