2011 Draft Articles

The Draft Board has been updated!
The Draft Board has been updated!

NBA draft history is in the making yet again as the early entry list boasts Kazakhstani, Hungarian and Estonian natives for the first time ever. But do these trailblazers seriously have an honest shot at a draft night selection? Let's take a closer look Anton Ponomarev, Adam Hanga, and Tanel Kurbas.

Anton Ponomarev

Borat put Kazakhstan on the map and Anton Ponomarev is right behind him. The 6-foot-9 combo forward is known throughout Asia as the “Asian Nowitzki” for his ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot off the dribble. While he still has a way to go to gain full confidence in this lofty comparison, his young age of 20 gives him a window of opportunity to develop.

antonact 2011 Draft Articles - The Draft Review
Ponomarev
If there is anything that hinders his draft stock it's the poor competition he plays against. Kazakhstan’s basketball league, while much improved, is a long ways from its Asian cousin China. Ponomarev may also be viewed as the Ricky Rubio of the Asian basketball community because he's played professionally since the ripe age of 16. Non-scout observers, such as ESPN's Chad Ford, have said he is unlikely to be drafted, but it's pretty obvious that Ford has never seen Ponomarev play.

Make no mistake, the NBA is aware of this young star. In 2005, current Thunder GM Sam Presti, while part of San Antonio Spurs front office staff, received tape on Ponomarev. Many close to the situation hope that he will move forward and progress with his basketball career by playing in China’s top professional league, the CBA. It's highly unlikely that he will stay in the draft with one more year of eligibility remaining until his draft class is automatically enrolled. Sadly, it has been rumored that the Kazakhstan league is doing everything in its power to keep him from moving.

Anton Ponomarev is a rising talent that shows; anyone who disagrees does not possess the scouts' eye. Hopefully Ponomarev can increase his upper body strength and, most importantly, meet up against better competition by playing in China.

Adam Hanga


Hungary enters the early entry list with Adam Hanga, an unusual nominee. When you look at the silky 6-7 Hungarian who favors Tony Parker in appearance, you may not believe that he's Hungarian. But Hanga is the son of a Hungarian mother and an African father, and is the most talented player in Hungarian basketball.

hangaact 2011 Draft Articles - The Draft Review
Hanga
Hanga isn't well known to the masses. I've been following him since he was 11 years-old when a contact of mine put his name on a list of who he considered the top international youth prospects. Since this time Hanga has slowly put together his game, but not without some pitfalls.

He's a tremendous athlete, but his perimeter shooting and defense could stand improvement. The NBA is a long shot at the moment as his draft class is two years away. By 2011 his window of opportunity could be much larger. Much like Ponomarev, Hanga’s poor competition level makes him suspect to onlookers. He's labeled by some as a poor mans Nicholas Batum.

While in France, Batum suffered the same issues as Hanga. He appeared too passive and out of focus during stretches of games. Hanga shows promise, but if he is to secure himself in the draft and follow fellow Hungarian and former free agent Kornel David to the NBA, he needs to demonstrate growth as a player. With Hanga's ball handling, explosiveness, and feel for the game he has the potential for a successful pro career. The future is in his hands.

Tanel Kurbas

Tanel Kurbas is making the jump to the NBA, but where the hell is Estonia? It's located right above Latvia by the Baltic Sea and, like Latvia, was one of the 15 countries to claim independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Kurbas is a solid blend of athleticism and fundamentals. He does many things well, but doesn't really stand out in a particular area. Offensively, Kurbas shows promise, but isn’t a solid ball handler or perimeter shooter. He moves well without the ball, but is limited offensively depending on where he is on the floor. He's shown the ability to defend at a solid level, which could be the primary staple of his game. Kurbas getting drafted is a serious long shot. He probably declared at the urging of his agent. In 2010 he will be automatically eligible for the draft, but as his 1988 class expires, so will Tanel's hope for a draft selection. For the fact checkers, yes, Estonia does have draftee Martin Muursepp, but he was automatically eligible, not an early entry draftee.

With all the complaining about the number of early entries I think it’s one of the things that makes the draft a great event. On the international level there are players that can just jump into your TV screen and make you say, "who's that"?

A perfect example of this is Ejike Ugboaja from Nigeria, who declared for the 2006 NBA draft with little fanfare. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected the power forward in the second round, 55th pick overall. Only a small handful of people knew who he was on draft night. With any luck maybe one of these three could be next. Only this time you will know exactly who they are! See you on draft night.

The Spanish sensation, Ricky Rubio, has declared for the draft. And it's no surprise. This 18 year-old phenom has played, in arguably, one of the world's toughest basketball leagues since the tender age of 15 and evolved into one of the best in the world at his position. NBA teams clamored to follow the "La Pistola" and are jocking him like he's an eighties heartthrob. So they got their wish. Rubio is in the draft. But where's the media hate?

Some of us became quite cynical and frustrated by the NBA's bargaining agreement, as it ended the ability for traditional high school players to pursue an NBA contract. For the most part the rule has definitely been a source of great success. After all, watching Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant dominate the college game has been favorable for the league. It gives free, widespread marketing hype to upcoming star players and revitalized the excitement of the NBA draft.

This has worked tremendously and no one can argue its effectiveness, but what bothers me is the international market's lack of bad press and scrutiny. Few, if any, sports writers talk about how bad foreign players are, like Johan Petro, Pavel Podkolzin, Yaroslav Korolev, or Nikoloz Tskitishvili to name a few. All of these guys could have been in high school when they were drafted.

Consider Darko Milicic who is esteemed as serviceable while Kwame Brown is viewed as a complete disgrace. When you get right down to it they're both complete busts, but Milicic, the international guy, has somehow escaped the deeper fathoms of Bust-topia. Why?

And now the conversation has turned to John Wall possibly entering the draft as a fifth year high school player. Wall says all the right things in interviews because he's smart. He knows if he declares or even mentions that he is thinking about declaring there will be an orgy of hack writers talking about how bad of a pro he will be and what he is missing by not going to college. Meanwhile, international players have a free pass to openly talk about whatever they want because they never get any flack for it.

So Rubio is in the 2009 NBA draft. And I wonder where is the hate is, because if an American high school player declares it will be a Hater's Ball.
The Draft Board has been updated!