Each major international competition brings opportunities for players to showcase their skills in front of NBA scouts and a worldwide audience. With the first three games of the FIBA World Cup in the bag, here’s a look at some of the tournament's standouts who don’t reside on NBA rosters.
Note: We omitted Dario Saric, who’s averaging 13.7 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists for Croatia, since he’s a shoo-in to make the Sixers when he eventually arrives stateside. The European super-prospect caught a wayward elbow from Argentina’s Andres Nocioni on Sunday and lost a couple teeth, but ranks tenth overall in PER for the tournament.
Petteri Koponen, Finland
Mark Cuban may not be a fan of NBA players competing internationally, but he has to be enthused with Koponen, whose rights belong to Dallas after a 2011 draft-night deal. The 26-year-old point guard possesses good size at 6-foot-5 and has performed well for Finland (1-2), averaging 16.3 points on 47.2 percent shooting (7-of-15 behind the arc) and leading the World Cup in assists with 7.3 per game (to just 2.3 turnovers). With one year left on his contract with BC Khimki in Russia, Koponen told ESPN this week that he hopes to make the leap across the pond for the 2015-16 NBA campaign. He’s athletic, can make shots and distribute, a combination of traits that lend themselves well to the NBA, be it with Dallas or elsewhere.
Joe Ingles, Australia
After spending time with Golden State in the 2009 and 2010 NBA Summer Leagues, Ingles is back on NBA radars once again. You might know him as the guy who notably poked Jon Scheyer in the eye during a game in the summer of 2010, seriously hindering the former Duke guard’s playing career. The 26-year-old has been part of the the Australian setup since the 2008 Olympics and ESPN reported Tuesday that a handful of teams including Philadelphia and Memphis are showing real interest. Versatile at 6-foot-8 with ball-handling skills, the left-handed perimeter expert led the Boomers in PER through three games and is averaging 15.7 points, shooting 5-of-8 from deep. Ingles posted 18 points in a key victory over Lithuania and will continue to figure prominently for Australia (2-1) the rest of the way. He’s got experience with two of Europe’s top teams, Barcelona and Maccabi Tel-Aviv (where he played under Cleveland head coach David Blatt last year), and looks likely to find a contract in the U.S. sooner than later.
Zoran Dragic, Slovenia
No, that's not a typo. Goran’s little brother, Zoran, has shown well and turned some heads, with the Pacers reportedly interested in his services and Slovenia undefeated through its first three games. The 6-foot-5 guard was perfect from the field (8-of-8 FG, 4-of-4 3FG) for 22 points in a win over Mexico and has been one of the catalysts behind his team’s success. Dragic spent time with the Rockets in the 2012 summer league and currently sits under contract in Spain, where he just signed a two-year extension with Unicaja Málaga — but an NBA job would surely be tempting. He’s also got one of those awesome European mixtapes set to a rap song by…boxer Roy Jones Jr, naturally.
Pooh Jeter, Ukraine
You probably deducted by now that Eugene "Pooh" Jeter wasn’t born in Ukraine. The Southern California native, who starred in college for Portland during the mid-2000s has played all over Europe, rode the Sacramento Kings’ bench in 2010-2011, and has become Ukraine’s top player, averaging 16.7 points and 5.7 assists at the point guard spot and propelling them to a 2-1 start. Ironically, he’s the younger brother of American sprinter and gold medalist Carmelita Jeter. He was also the subject of this somewhat-bizarre 12-minute mini-doc leading up to the World Cup.
Hamed Haddadi, Iran
The former Grizzlies and Suns big man has been the bright spot for an 0-3 Iran team and the centerpiece of their side. At 7-foot-2, the 29-year-old Haddadi has averaged 16.3 points and 9 rebounds despite throwing up a dud against Brazil. He dropped 29 on Serbia (10-10 on two-point shots) and 16 against Spain. The first Iranian to play in the NBA, who knows if or when Haddadi will return (he’s currently signed back in his home country after playing in China last season). Still, he’s been solid in this tourney.
Renaldo Balkman, Puerto Rico
It’s been a tumultuous ride for Balkman, the former Knicks first-rounder best remembered for the jokes about Isiah Thomas trying to draft former All-Star Rolando Blackman. Since the 30-year-old was last in the NBA in 2011-12, Balkman was banned for life in the Philippine Basketball Association for an altercation in which he grabbed a teammate by the neck (stay tuned as Puerto Rico and the Philippines square off on Wednesday). He’s since played in Venezuelan, Mexican and Puerto Rican leagues, and the 6-foot-7 forward has averaged 18 points and 5.3 rebounds in the World Cup.