EuroCup is widely considered as the second-tier pan-European basketball competition. It includes the best non-EuroLeague teams in the continent among 32 clubs overall. The winner takes home a rather large trophy, but the ultimate prize is a guaranteed spot to next season’s EuroLeague.
Competitiveness-wise, this isn’t EuroLeague per se. Still, there’s always plenty of talent in the championship.
Well-known NBAers that had previously participated in EuroCup include Kristaps Porzingis, Boban Marjanovic and Thabo Sefolosha. There are also hoopers like former Memphis Grizzlies guard Nick Calathes or former Brooklyn Nets forward Justin Hamilton who signed NBA contracts directly following successful seasons in EuroCup.
Here are five additional players that will be available this summer and could potentially spark NBA interest:
*The following list has players of teams that made it at least to the Top 16 stage of the competition. Players who are already expected to declare for the 2019 Draft like Limoges’ Sekou Doumbouya or ASVEL’s Amine Noua weren’t included.
Pierria Henry (Unics Kazan)
2018-2019 stats: 11.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.6 steals over 25:09 minutes
What makes him attractive to NBA teams: Versatility
Triple-doubles are fairly common in the NBA but are a rather rare spectacle in European basketball. There might be 4-5 each season in all leagues combined, both continental and domestic. The higher the level, the harder it is to see a player finishing with double figures in three different statistical categories.
In fact, there have only been two triple-doubles in modern (post-2001) EuroLeague era, and both by the same player: Croatian center Nikola Vujcic. Even coming remotely close to being a triple-double threat is a badge to wear proudly.
Pierria Henry has flirted with the achievement a couple of times this season after actually notching a triple-double last year while he was playing in the Turkish league with Tofas Bursa.
He was just the seventh player to have a triple-double in the history of BSL.
It’s one of the many things that distinguishes the Henry among the rest of the EuroCup players: The Unics guard contributes heavily in all areas of the game. He has the expected playmaking flair for his position; the tenacity, athleticism and awareness to fight for a rebound, even against much bigger bodies; and he is also a skilled scorer, both as a slasher and a long-range threat. He’s 42.5 percent on more than three attempts per game, including shots off the dribble and under pressure.
Henry has already been named MVP of the EuroCup regular season and, if he remains this productive and Unics makes it at least to the semifinals, he’s a frontrunner for the 2018-2019 award.
In 2018, Henry participated in the Summer League with the Boston Celtics but wasn’t signed. If he continues like this, however, he’ll enter the offseason from a position of strength.
Dylan Ennis (Andorra)
2018-2019 stats; 12.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.5 steals over 26:08 minutes
What makes him attractive to NBA teams: Two-way contribution, athleticism
The brother of former NBA-er Tyler Ennis, Dylan Ennis found himself beginning his career in Europe after not being selected during the 2017 NBA Draft. He got a taste of EuroLeague with Serbian club Crvena Zvezda before moving to Spain and Morabanc Andorra.
So far in the 2018-2019 EuroCup, Ennis has been leading Andorra to some unprecedented success, averaging 16.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in the Top 16. That’s helped propel his team through a 5-0 record and has already granted them a ticket to the quarterfinals. Andorra had never made it past the regular season in continental competition throughout club history.
Numbers reveal only one part of Ennis’ contribution. The other comes on defense where he can provide some “lockdown” action and helps when needed.
Ennis may be an appealing case to NBA teams looking for a tough player and hard worker on both ends. He has all the necessary physical tools to defend in the NBA and the mandatory “team-first” attitude that can make him an asset off the bench.
Dorell Wright (Lokomotiv Kuban)
2018-2019 stats: 11.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists over 22:28 minutes
What makes him attractive to the NBA: Shooting/Experience
Honestly, I expected former NBA champion Dorell Wright would have a strong chance of returning to the league following his 2017-2018 EuroLeague stint with German side Brose Bamberg.
Wright finished his maiden EuroLeague campaign with 11.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He told me his goal is to make it back in the NBA, where he spent eleven seasons prior to 2017. Instead, he stayed in Europe to sign with Russian EuroCup powerhouse Lokomotiv Kuban.
Following the departure of former Brooklyn Nets guard Isaiah Whitehead from the team, Wright’s offensive responsibilities have seen an increase as did his numbers. He’s expected to assume a leadership role now that Loko is heading to the quarterfinals with the ambition to win the title.
And what comes after? Well, there can never be enough shooters on an NBA team and that’s where Wright should fit the picture.
He’s one of the elite snipers in Europe, with 48.7 percent on 5.2 attempts per game. Wright has become “money” from beyond the arc and can easily translate his current shooting potency to some extremely reliable 3-point action in the NBA.
Sergey Karasev (Zenit St. Petersburg)
2018-2019 stats: 16.8 points, 3.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds over 27:30 minutes.
What makes him attractive to the NBA: Raw offensive ability
Just because Sergey Karasev doesn’t have the fondest of memories from his 20143-2016 NBA stint, doesn’t mean he doesn’t plan to return to the league.
Though the path back to the NBA might be different than the one he originally had in mind, Karasev has said he wants to lead Zenit to EuroLeague and prove his worth by playing in the top-tier continental competition. But Zenit won’t compete in EuroLeague before 2020-2021 and Karasev becomes a free agent this summer.
The Russian swingman has refined his game with Zenit St., Petersburg, coached by his father, former player Vasily Karasev. He has grown into a certified offensive flame-thrower, able to send the ball through the hoop in any way imaginable. Karasev has additionally shown these last couple of years that his vision has been upgraded from a “tunnel” to a “view” that involves the rest of his teammates as well. Now he can also influence the offense via creating for his teammates apart from just himself.
Karasev is much more mature than the 20-year-old rookie that joined the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013 and still young enough to have plenty of potential yet untapped.
Bojan Dubljevic (Valencia)
Season stats: 12.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists over 22:41 minutes
What makes him attractive to the NBA: Great skillset for a big guy.
Have the Minnesota Timberwolves simply “forgotten” their 2013 second-round pick? I doubt it.
Maybe Bojan Dubljevic has, though. Playing in the NBA is a dream for every player, but the Montenegrin forward/center isn’t exactly sold on the idea.
You read that right. That’s the only reason I left him last in the article.
But while Dubljevic appears perfectly happy right where he is, an attractive NBA offer may change his mind. The Timberwolves still own his rights, and such a complete offensive package will always look appealing.
Standing at 6’9″, Dubljevic is an offensive threat from every possible range, facing the basket or attacking an opponent at the low post with his back to the rim. He loves his jump shots and is one of the most efficient bigs in Europe from beyond the arc, hitting 46.3 percent on more than three attempts per game. He has the size necessary to push his way to the basket, then gracefully finish the play.
The one defect? While he’s a force to be reckoned with in “5 vs. 5” offenses, he’s not the quickest guy on defense. He can be exploited by opposing pick n’ roll because he’s a mediocre athlete.
However, NBA teams have begun to value pure skill enough to possibly overlook physical weaknesses. Meanwhile, forward/centers who can shoot the ball from afar and act as both scorers for themselves and facilitators for others are getting more and more appreciated.
Photo & Statistics courtesy of EuroLeague 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.