|21 February 2014|
EUROPEANS IN THE NBA
|The Nuggets are happy to have acquired the former number six draft pick Jan Vesely |
The NBA trade deadline came and went on Thursday night and in the end all three European players that had been involved in transfer scenarios at one time or another, stayed put.
Spanish star Pau Gasol will continue at the struggling Los Angeles Lakers, Great Britain's Luol Deng will stay at the Cleveland Cavaliers and Turkish center Omer Asik will finish the season -at the very least- at the very ambitious Houston Rockets.
On the contrary, French EuroBasket 2013 champion Nando De Colo and Czech international Jan Vesely, whose names were hardly mentioned in the run-up to the final day of the transfer window, are both packed up and heading to a new city on Friday.
De Colo has moved from San Antonio Spurs to Toronto Raptors in a straight swap for winger Austin Daye while Vesely was involved in a three-way trade that saw him departing Washington Wizards to go out west to the Denver Nuggets.
Both the Frenchman and the Czech are leaving the franchise which enticed them to make the jump from Europe to the NBA and, at a first glance, they probably both appear to be trading down.
De Colo is leaving not only the NBA finalists, but also one of the most well-structured organisations in the league and a team who is destined to make another deep play-off run this season to join a side that will most likely make the play-offs but is not a genuine contender in the East.
Vesely parts ways with the Wizards just as they are undergoing a renaissance and look poised to clinch a play-off berth in the Eastern conference, to arrive at the Nuggets in a season that will most likely see them abolish their play-off status in the very competitive West.
Yet for both Europeans their transfer can be a blessing in disguise, since their progress at the respective clubs which brought them to the NBA had stagnated and they were in desperate need of getting more playing time.
De Colo had seen more action in the D-League than with the Spurs this year, as he faced more competition in the San Antonio backcourt than during his rookie season.
The French combo guard featured in only 26 NBA games, averaging 4.3 points and 1.2 assists in 11.6 minutes per game.
While Toronto have indicated that they consider him primarily as a point guard, which means he will come off the bench for Kyle Lowry or Greivis Vasquez, he is more much more likely to have a consistent spot in the 12-man squad, which would not be the case in San Antonio.
|Most recently Nando De Colo has been playing in the D-League |
De Colo is at his best when he can freely interchange between the '1' and '2' spots, but even as strictly a playmaker he can provide to Toronto a set-skill that they do not currently have and could end up earning regular playing time well into the play-offs.
Vesely on the other hand, who has been burdened by his selection as the number six overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, was averaging 3.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 14.2 minutes per game for Washington, and had only stepped on the court in 33 games so far this season.
It's not a secret that his arrival at the Nuggets was less due to an expressed request by head coach Brian Shaw to acquire his services and much more a by-product of the urgent need of guard Andre Miller and Denver to go their separate ways.
Nonetheless, the higher-paced tempo of the Western Conference should be a better fit to the explosive Czech forward.
In Denver he is also joining Italian Danilo Gallinari, Frenchman Evan Fournier and Russian Timofey Mozgov with each one representing, for different reasons, a testament to the highly supportive approach the Colorado franchise has towards European players.
"It's not often that you get a chance to get a 30-game look at the sixth pick in the draft from a couple years ago," Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly told the Denver Post.
"His [Vesely's] versatility kind of fits the mold of player that we're attracted to.
"Hopefully he comes here, it's a fresh slate and we'll see what he can do."
Both Vesely and De Colo become free-agents in one shape or another in the summer, and right now the chances of either one of the two starting anew at some other club in September, either in the NBA or back in Europe, are quite high.
But at least now they get a genuine window of opportunity to showcase their potential and could take a leaf from the book of fellow European Jose Calderon, who was traded to Detroit Pistons following a long stint in Toronto, at around the same time last year.
The Spanish point guard carved out a spot for him in the starting Detroit line-up, put in excellent performances for a team that had no real targets left in the season and was snatched up in the summer as a free-agent by former NBA champions Dallas Mavericks, where now, at 32, he is posting close to career-high figures in scoring and three-point shooting percentage.
As for Gasol, Deng and Asik, one can only expect their names to be involved in fresh transfer scenarios as we approach the summer.