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Euro-Stashing and the Nets: Can Bojan Bogdanovic improve the record?

Ilkan Karaman via Twitter

Reed Wallach takes a look at how Bojan Bogdanovic fits into the Nets history of draft-and-stash, one that's longer than any other NBA team, but one with mixed results, particularly when compared with other the Spurs.

With news that Bojan Bogdanovic, the Nets 2011 second round draft pick, is likely going to be a Brooklyn Net next season, the Nets are excited about the Croatian’s prospects … now that he will finally get to prove himself.

Bogdanovic has the potential to be better than your normal 31st pick in the draft. He has a smooth stroke along with great size, at 6’8", that makes him dangerous at least on offense. He was the Euroleague’s leading scorer in the Round of 16, averaging better than 20 points a game. Also, he has been on the European circuit since he was 15, so he has a lot of experience playing the game.

In an interview Monday, Billy King said, "Bojan is someone who's had big games. He can shoot the three, has good size, is very physical so the goal is to get him over here this year," King said.

If he does, Bogdanovic will prove the value of the draft-and-stash, where a team will take a young European, usually in the second round and wait a year or two for him to develop.

Two years of knowing your next paycheck will come from an NBA team should help a European get a better idea of what’s expected when he does arrive. Following the team, studying the NBA game, talking to NBA team reps and planning for a new culture, even something as simple as learning the language, all become higher priorities. They can all reduce development time on arrival.

In the last two years, the Nets have drafted three Europeans, planning to leave them overseas. Toko Shengelia played well enough in summer league (and had a small enough buyout) to warrant a two-year NBA deal. Besides Bogdanovic, the Nets still have 23-year-old Ilkan Karaman, taken at #57 last season, playing in Turkey. He’s still a year or more away. As King said of the 6’9" power forward this week, "He still has some development to go through. He's had some good games and he's played well, made some progress but he still has some work to do before we bring him over."

But if only Bogdanovic works out, it will justify the Nets strategy of taking a chance on Europeans recommended by Danko Cvjeticanin, the Nets international scout.

It is a risk. That’s why teams usually don’t use first round picks. "Stashing" picks overseas is a game of devils advocate.

Some prospects are taken high in the lottery and don’t even end up playing in the league. The Magic are a notable team that took a risk on taking a player from Europe and had him haunt them. Orlando took Fran Vazquez with the 11th pick in the 2005 draft, only to have him opt to remain in the Spanish league.

Of course, some players have panned out in the pros even after making their team wait several years.

The classic case in Manu Ginobili. The Spurs did not have high expectations for the #57 pick in the 1999 draft. He wasn’t even guaranteed a roster spot. Ginobili signed his initial deal with San Antonio –two years at $2.8 million-- three years after his selection. Since then, he’s been part of three NBA championships, earned Sixth Man of the Year, in 2008, and become one of only two players in basketball history to have won an Olympic gold medal, a Euroleague championship and an NBA championship.

Tiago Splitter, the Brazilian center, had a bit more expectations when drafted in 2007, being taken at #28. It also took Splitter three years to take leave of his Spanish team (where he played with Mirza Teletovic and Pablo Prigioni). but has now become a key piece on a contending Spurs team.

The Spurs currently hold rights to nine international players, at least three of whom are likely to join the NBA. But it’s generally conceded that of all Euro-Stash, Bogdanovic is in the top three, alongside Nikola Mirotic of Real Madrid whose rights are held by the Bulls and Kostas Papanikolaou of Olimpiacos whose rights are held by the Blazers.

There are other issues besides talent that factor into the decision to join the NBA, particularly financial. The Nets, like any team, can only pay $570,000 toward a player’s buyout. Bogdanovic told NetsDaily in February his buyout was 1.5 million euros or $2 million. That would mean, unless it’s been negotiated down, he’d have to pay $1.4 million out of his own pocket to make the trip across the Atlantic. Mirza Teletovic had to pay nearly $2 million to join the Nets. Mirotic, the Bulls pick, doesn’t even have a buyout in his contract till 2016.

Clearly, it can work both ways. It has for the Nets. Prior to Mikhail Prokhorov taking over the team in 2010, the Nets had mixed luck as well.

Nenad Krstic, taken at #24 in 2002, stayed in Europe for two years and was becoming a solid big man when he blew out his knee in December 2006. Christian Drejer, a 6’9" forward out of Denmark was taken at #35 in 2004 and never played in the NBA, in large part because of ankle injuries. Mile Ilic, taken at #43 in 2005, was a bust. He was paid $1.6 million over two years and didn’t score a point. (The first draft-and-stash in NBA history was also a Net pick. Oscar Schmidt is a 6’8" Brazilian who the Nets took in 1984 but could never convince to join the NBA. He was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this year.)

Would the Nets do it again this season? Sure. They have the money. The cost of drafting-and-stashing is minimal after the pick is purchased. Who are some of the candidates? A look at the mock drafts’ second round projections identify three possibilities: Livio Jean Charles, a 6’9" forward from France; Alex Abrines, a 6’6" shooting guard from Spain; and Mouhammadou Jaiteh, a 6’11" 18-year-old center from France.

In hindsight, the idea of stashing European prospects overseas is risky, but for some it is worth it. The Spurs and the latest team with great success, the Timberwolves with Ricky Rubio, have reaped the benefits despite the waiting. However, some clubs don’t have the benefit of being a contender and can’t take a risk on a foreign superstar to make it in the pros, so the pressure is on these players from day one.

When he makes it to Brooklyn, Bogdanovic will be no different. He won’t be guaranteed playing time. Teletovic had a rough rookie season in Brooklyn. A fellow rookie, Sheneglia, rode the pine for a majority of the season. He’ll be looking to garner some more minutes with a new coach.

Bogdanovic may bring the Nets the spot-up shooter they need on the wing when he most likely suits up next season, but he has competition with fellow foreigners and the critics wanting to see if he was worth the two-year wait.