Donatas Montiejunas A Good Choice

What if you are a deep team that doesn’t need another good player, but you need a great player? You are already deep, have a great bench, and have many pretty good players, how do you get that great player. You’re picking in the middle of the first round, probably too low to nab a star. You are capped out because these good players have some pretty big contracts. So where do you turn?

It turns out that that answer might be staring you right in the face, and you may not have to trade up to get that great player, or even spend big money. The answer probably doesn’t lie in the heartland, or the Deep South, or the cities of the north. It probably doesn’t lie in the west coast, or the southwest desert. It lies in another land, across vast oceans, on other continents, where the players are unknown.

For instance, just look at some of the foreign players that are good and where they got drafted. Dirk Nowitzki was picked 10th by the Milwaukee Bucks. 10th isn’t exactly low, but if you can grab first ballot hall of famer who could be the most unguardable player in the league today at that spot, consider it a steal. Of course, the Bucks blew it by trading him to the Mavs for next to nothing, but you get the idea.

Another example is the 2009 draft, where the 76ers decided they would try to take a high upside pick in the middle of the first round, taking Marreese Speights. He was not from overseas. Then with the 24th pick, the Oklahoma City Thunder grabbed African product Serge Ibaka, who has turned into maybe the games best shot blocker. He also has a decent mid-range game and has tremendous potential to be a key player for OKC for years to come. On the flip side, Speights rides the bench, shows a lack of effort on defense, and has his work ethic questioned.

Let’s keep going, pointing out one of the great steals, Manu Ginobili. Manu was picked by the San Antonio Spurs 57th in the draft, and has played up to top five standards. He has been a key part of three San Antonio championships, and has made some improbable shots in his time.

There are more to mention like Luis Scola in the second round, Marc Gasol (ditto) and many others.

Of course, there is risk with selecting players that have played overseas and not American college. They haven’t played against the best competition and haven’t been in the spotlight as much as they could have been playing in March Madness over here. This leads to some bad selections, like Andrew Bogut or Andrea Bargnani first overall, although they are still serviceable NBA players. Then there are even worse picks like Mouhamed Sene, who was selected 10th in the draft and hasn’t done much. There is also the risk that the player may not want to come to the NBA, like Ricky Rubio not wanting to come to the Timberwolves, and staying overseas. (Note to David Kahn: A kid from Spain will not want to play in the terrible climate of Minnesota).

But for the most part the good outweighs the bad for picking foreigners, as long as they do not go top five.

And why am I talking about this, you ask?

I am a firm believer that the 76ers need to look for a high upside big man in this draft, and there is a guy that could be available at number sixteen that fits the bill.

Donatas Montiejunas.

He isn’t exactly what the 76ers need. He is more of a finesse player, but is big nonetheless. In fact, he is 7-foot big, rated with ten out of ten potential on NBAdraft.net. In their mock they send Montiejunas to the 76ers, and I couldn’t agree more.

Now, I know you are thinking that this is a terrible idea. We already have Elton Brand, a finesse four, so why do we need another. Well, for starters, Elton Brand is only going to be around for two years tops. There is a very small chance that the 76ers will not resign him after his gigantic contract expires, and this assumes that he isn’t already moved as an expiring contract to try to get another good player that can contribute, or maybe draft picks.

So now that we have gotten rid of the idea that the Sixers already have their man at this position, we have to consider whether Montiejunas is going to be that long term answer at the power forward position. Now, keep in mind, if you are picking 16th, often the best you can hope for is a role player, so thinking about Montiejunas being a long term starter is a good thing.

The positives of his game are some that we have come to expect from Europeans. He has a very good jump shot and is comfortable handling the ball as a power forward. He is also starting to develop a good post game with a pretty good hook shot and very good turnaround fadeaways and pump fakes. He also appears that he will be able to get stronger and handle the inside NBA physical game, unlike someone he is often compared to, Andrea Bargnani. Another positive that I noticed is that a description on nbadraft.net keeps mentioning how he will need to do this or that to reach a Nowitzki of Gasol level. Just being mentioned as being able to get to those guys level is something that should look good on a player.

There are of course also some weaknesses in his game, as every player has them. One is that there is a concern that, even though he has great desire and loves to win, he can be satisfied with outplaying opponents instead of dominating them like he could. This apparently leads to lack of intensity in practice, so work ethic needs to improve. He also needs to get stronger in the upper and lower body to take the NBA beating everyday and to gain position. He is also not a stellar defender, although that is not a huge liability in his game.

Does this mean the he deserves to be selected by the 76ers at number sixteen in the draft? I believe it does. But many think they should go for a big bruiser that adds tons of physicality. That is a bigger need, but just adding height and the player that should be the best available when they select is enough of a reason for me. Assuming the 76ers do not trade up, hopefully the Lithuanian will be getting tours around Philly soon.

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