The three top European prospects this season may join NBA teams next season ... Or they may not in what is becoming a trend of Euros deciding to stay put, disappointing NBA fans while thrilling their teams in Europe.
Nikola Mirotic, a 6'10" power forward whose been compared to Toni Kukoc, is considering whether to join the Bulls next season, but he and the Chicago front office has to figure away around his $3.5 million buyout. In recent days, it's begun to look like Mirotic, a Montenegrin with a Spanish passport, will sign a new deal with Real Madrid, delaying his arrival in Chicago. Mirotic is the best NBA prospect in Europe and maybe the best player, having won the Spanish League MVP at 22 last year. Picked at No. 23 in 2011, he'd likely go top five this year.
Dario Saric, a 6'9" small forward and a projected top 10 pick this June, has decided to opt out and sign with Anadolu Efes of Turkey. His father thinks the 19-year-old isn't ready for the NBA and even if he changes his mind, he'll be stuck in Istanbul for two years. He won't have a buyout until the 2016 post-season. A Nets fan growing up --his idol is fellow Croatian Drazen Petrovic-- Saric has had off-court issues, like a public feud with his father and another between father and his now former agent.
Bojan Bogdanovic, the 6'8" swingman, also has an uncertain future as we've reported (ad infinitum). Last July, it looked like he'd join the Nets but the two sides couldn't reach a deal that would permit him to pay off his $2 million buyout and make an NBA salary competitive with his European salary. He's switched representation since and he's a free agent. So, there's no buyout to worry about. However, the Nets will need to rebuild their relationship with him and his agent, then find a way with their limited resources to sign him and Shaun Livingston. He hasn't said definitively whether he'll stay with Fenerbahce, join the Nets or go elsewhere in Europe. It appears at least for now that he's staying with Fener. Of course, the Nets could trade his rights but if he decides to stay in Europe, the value of those rights will drop. Also, his performance has dropped off a bit in 2014. (In a blowout win Monday, he scored eight points, handed out three assists, grabbed three rebounds and blocked a shot in limited minutes.)
Is there a common thread? If anything, it's that European teams have become more aggressive in keeping homegrown talent on the continent, offering salaries competitive to what NBA clubs are willing to pay for untested talent. And NBA GM's are losing patience with difficult situations.