Ryan Broekhoff and, most recently, Dairis Bertans are two players that cashed in on phenomenal shooting sprees in Europe by signing the first NBA contracts of their career. Two seasons ago, Darius Miller also saw a fine EuroLeague run pay off when the New Orleans Pelicans called him back to their team.
The NBA will continue perusing players, especially shooters from Europe. Let’s take a look (in no particular order) at some who might follow a similar route to the ones mentioned above. For some, it would be a homecoming, while possibly a dream come true for others.
Should NBA teams give Dorell Wright another chance? Considering the shooting prowess he’s shown in Europe these last couple of years, the former NBA champion brandishes an appealing combination of 3-point excellence with a veteran’s experience that could be useful on and off the floor.
Wright finished the season in EuroCup with 44.9 3-pointers. (40-out-of-890; and this number would’ve been better if the player didn’t ruin it a bit with a 16 percent slump during the quarterfinals.) In VTB League, where Lokomotiv still plays, the forward drained 3-pointers with 44.6 percent on 106 attempts. Now, contrary to most European leagues, VTB is an offense-first championship, with high-paced attacks. It’s notable that Wright is so efficient in a league where the game’s tempo can beguile players into potentially hasty attempts.
Actually, he thrives on that.
Wright can massacre any defense from a spot position, but he’s much more than that. He can create his own shots, using his vast experience. More importantly, he can bury the three even under pressure and regardless of who might stand in front of him. If any NBA club decides to give him a homecoming ticket, Wright looks ready to legitly deliver primo floor-stretching that could be of use to any team.
At first glance, Jeff Taylor’s overall numbers look unremarkable at best, weak at worst. The thing is that the stats sheet also lies big-time regarding his contribution as a “glue guy” for Real Madrid. And that includes an ultra-solid “3 and D” output.
NBA fans might remember Taylor as a swingman of strong athletic skills but somewhat inconsistent showing when it came to making buckets from range. A 2014 domestic violence suspension simultaneously hurt his NBA chances as well.
This season, the Swedish player has been in the best shooting form of his career, draining 41.5 percent on 3-pointers (22 of 53) in EuroLeague and 45 percent (17 of 38) in the Spanish ACB League. He’s excelling at being a considerable threat from the weak side and thus integral to the “Blancos'” offensive strategies.
This is a role he can undertake in a possible NBA return. If Taylor carries these percentages in the league, he could be a more than useful two-way asset.
After seeing his NBA career cut short mainly due to a bone injury in the 2012 Summer League, Trey Thompkins emerged as one of the most prominent stretch fours in EuroLeague—for a club like Real Madrid, no less.
Providing floor spacing has been good business for Thompkins, who shot a combined 44.75 percent on 161 3-point attempts from 2016-18 in EuroLeague. His presence has been essential to a team packed with players who can, among other things, slash like there’s no tomorrow. This includes Sergio Llull—yes, the “best international players outside the NBA according to league executives and the one Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey is so passionate about—Facu Campazzo and former NBA-er Rudy Fernandez.
Thompkins has especially specialized in corner threes. His stroke can’t be considered quick, for NBA standards at least, but he makes up with a high release and a skyscraping arc that allow him to shoot and bank it in even with a hand on his face While he can serve as a reliable weak-side option for NBA teams, he also has size (6’10”) to provide in other areas, such as rebounding.
We’re talking about a guy who grabbed the “rebound of the season” in 2018 during the final minute of the EuroLeague Final to help Real win the title.
You should look beyond Matt Janning’s EuroLeague career percentage of 38.7 percent on 3-pointers when judging his shooting efficiency. Not that this is a bad number, of course, but it’s somewhat misleading if you haven’t actually seen him taking and making triples.
Janning is a professional sniper, and that means learning to take and hit shots in any way and under any circumstances imaginable. Lethal from a spot position and very dangerous when coming off the screen to receive the handoff pass, Janning is patient to not let his streak carry him away. He’s also skilled enough to get rid of opponents to create shooting situations for himself.
What makes Janning NBA-attractive? How agile and fleet he is—almost airy when he moves off the ball. He has demonstrated that plenty these last two seasons with Spanish side Baskonia, a team that executes offensive systems, (particularly for its shooters), with rapid speed. He has learned to play fast, and this could be of great use in the NBA. It’s also why he’s not that guy to stick in the corner as a “3-point hitting statue” since teams get the most out of him by integrating him into various systems while giving him a certain executing freedom.
Oh, and he also has a knack for game-winners.
We saved Eriksson for last in the list, not because of his value in comparison with the rest of the players but because we’ve analyzed his game plenty before. You can check some of the pieces we had on Eriksson here and here.
There are many things to be impressed with: An impeccable shooting technique, fast execution, beautiful form and fearless attitude when nailing the bucket from afar. However, the element that perhaps stands out among the rest is how comfortable he feels taking shots from really-really deep. The 6.75 m. line? Cute. But Eriksson looks even happier at a serious range. Perhaps he’s already wetting his feet on what it would be like from NBA floors?
On March 30, Eriksson delivered nothing less than an exhibition with 8 of 11 triples in just 19:35 minutes to help his team rout Valencia 111 – 92 in ACB. The latter is one of the top four teams in Spain and currently also a EuroCup finalist. Eriksson basically hit a couple of triples from 7 meters of distance and two from 8 meters.
Eriksson is currently the best shooter outside the NBA. He has the credentials for it, especially after also translating his game to EuroLeague competitiveness and defenses. It’s now just a question whether the Atlanta Hawks (who own his rights) decide to give him a phone call. He’s already killing it in an NBA range.
Photos courtesy of EuroLeague.net/EuroCup Basketball.
When the Greek national team won the EuroBasket 1987, its accomplishment gave birth to a “basketball renaissance” in the country that also bred a generation of young people who simply couldn’t help but feel a special connection with the sport. One of those kids was yours truly, and this relationship went from “devouring” every piece of basketball information provided by magazines and anxiously waiting for NBA coverage on television, to experiencing hoops from a journalist’s point of view. Now the action for me happens on all things European basketball, especially EuroLeague. Yes, that’s where Luka Doncic was bouncing a ball, apparently behind closed doors, before coming to the NBA.