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Tag:Nikola Pekovic
Posted on: September 3, 2011 2:14 pm
Edited on: September 3, 2011 3:50 pm
 

NBA's five most risky overseas signings

Posted by Ben Golliverderon-williams

University of Oregon football coach Chip Kelly recently was asked whether he felt it was a risky move to schedule his team's opener against perennial power LSU rather than a directional school doormat.

"There's risk waking up and getting out of bed in the morning," Kelly replied. "It's all about how you look at life."

Kelly's defense of his aggressive schedule-making shouldn't be read as reckless. Certainly, there's risk in getting out of bed in the morning and there's risk in standing in front of a locomotive. Those risks clearly aren't equivalent and, in turn, the decision-making behind each shouldn't be viewed in the same light. Kelly, one of college football's most notorious gamblers, might view an early season test as a net-positive for his team, even if it results in a loss, but he surely wouldn't schedule a full 12-game slate of top competition if he intended on cashing in on the incentives in his contract and winning a national title. An early, tough test can be great preparation and won't sink a season; a four-month long gauntlet of tough tests would be foolish and, ultimately, suicidal. 

As self-protecting creatures, humans are remarkably good at assessing risk on the fly. We know danger when we see it, we can process the presence of warning signs in advance, we can coach ourselves to be patient and, if all else fails, our "flight" instincts kick in and we run the other way as fast as possible. 

We've learned this summer that professional basketball players possess those very same skills. Indeed, in more than two months since the NBA lockout went into effect, RidiculousUpside.com has tracked more than 50 NBA players, free agents and draft picks who have agreed to play overseas should there be a work stoppage or cancellation of the 2011-12 NBA season. Yet when you survey the list of names, you realize that it's a carefully self-selected group.

That self-selection process boils down to risk-assessment. The guys on the list, by and large, fit a number of key criteria. They don't have a lot of guaranteed money remaining on their NBA contracts, assuming they have league contracts in place. The majority do not have a major role in their team's rotation. Almost all are young and have not reached the prime of their careers. Just about everyone is in good health too. 

This is no accident. The three biggest risks for a professional basketball player involved in a move overseas are: 1) a catastrophic injury that causes the loss of guaranteed money already owed 2) an injury of any magnitude that prevents or limits future earnings 3) the loss of NBA opportunities by virtue of being "off the map." The type of players most subject to these risks -- stars, veterans in their prime, fringe veterans with injury histories, up-and-coming players with the potential to be stars, first round draft picks in 2011 waiting on guaranteed rookie deals -- by and large have opted to wait out the lockout. They've spied the railroad tracks, heard a whistle out in the distance and opted to stand clear. It's a bit of a bummer for the viewing public who would prefer to watch these guys perform, but if your brother or son made the same decision, you wouldn't just approve, you would be proud of his common sense.

Not everyone has been completely careful, though. It's fair to say that no NBA player has yet made a reckless decision with their career, but there are a few who have more at stake and are risking more in agreeing to play overseas. Here's a look at the top five riskiest overseas signings of the summer so far.

5. Nicolas Batum, F Portland Trail Blazers

There aren't many budding stars among the group that has committed to play overseas next season, and some would dispute whether Batum, 22, has star potential. With that said, he started on a playoff team at age 20, has established a reputation as an above-average defender, has developed his offensive game each year in the pros (despite a relatively cold shooting year from outside in 2010-11) and is viewed as a core building block piece. He complements the team's franchise player, forward LaMarcus Aldridge, nicely and has an upbeat attitude that is endearing to fans and a solid work ethic that appeals to coach Nate McMillan.

The risk in the move overseas for Batum isn't his current contract, as he's still tied into a rookie deal through next season. Instead it's all about the threat of injury, as Batum missed more than half of his second season in the NBA with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Batum is clearly thinking with his heart as much as his head in signing with SLUC Nancy of France; he wants a chance to play in front of his home country's fans and is a gym rat who has played year-round for years, thanks to his participation with Team France. Batum plays a hard, two-way, high-flying game and isn't afraid to lay his body out. The Blazers figure to offer Batum a long-term, big-dollar extension in the future. Risking that by playing overseas this year isn't an insane proposition. 

4. Ty Lawson, G, Denver Nuggets

Lawson, like Batum, is still locked into a rookie deal that pays him below what he would be worth on the open market. Even though he's only played two years in the NBA, Lawson has done well to establish a very high earnings potential. An excellent outside shooter and one of the league's fastest players, Lawson transitioned into a starting role last season and watched as Denver traded his competition for the job -- Raymond Felton -- to Portland for veteran Andre Miller, who probably makes more sense as a backup at this point in his career. In other words, Lawson was handed the keys to the Nuggets' car at an early age and, given how many players they are likely to lose in free agency, he should have all the touches and shots he wants to start building a track record that will mean a big payday down the road.

Foot and ankle injuries have limited Lawson during his UNC days and as a Nugget, but he's coming off a season in which he appeared in all but two games. The risk here is simply future earning potential. It's possible that his time with Zalgiris in Lithuania will help him improve -- or at least maintain -- his skills. But the uncertainty in adjusting to a new country, team, style of play and everything else looms over a young man already tasked with helping rebuild an NBA team in transition.  

3. Nikola Pekovic, F, Minnesota Timberwolves

Would you believe that Pekovic in second only to Deron Williams on the list of players who have the most guaranteed money coming to them on NBA deals who have committed to playing overseas? It's amazing what a terrible David Kahn contract is capable of! Pekovic, a plodding 25 year old big man who played just 13.6 minutes per game in his rookie season, has $4.5 million coming to him in 2011-12 and another $4.9 million coming to him in 2012-2013. When you look at those numbers compared to his production, your first thought is, "Don't blow it by getting injured! You'll never sucker another GM into giving you those numbers!"

Pekovic's risk is mitigated here because he's familiar with the overseas game, having played professionally there since 2003. He's set to return to one of his old clubs -- Partizan Belgrade in Serbia -- next season. Those familiar surroundings plus the ground-bound, tough-guy nature of his game limit his exposure. Plus, the worst case scenario is that Minnesota is able to void his contract. Given that assistant GM Tony Ronzone simply walked off the job this week, maybe that's not so bad after all.

2. Wilson Chandler, F, Denver Nuggets


Maybe the most curious move of the summer was Chandler's decision to sign a one-year deal in China, a contract that prevents him from returning to the NBA in the event that the labor situation is resolved. In other words, Chandler has already sacrificed the difference in money between the $3.1 million he would have made next season with the Nuggets and the reported roughly $2 million that he will make with Zhejiang Guangsha. 

That's not the only money that was at stake for Chandler, though. Chandler was set to become a restricted free agent in a weak crop, meaning there would have been some fairly good-sized dollars available to him. Denver, of course, would have been highly motivated to match any offers given their newfound weakness at wing following the team's trade of Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. One way or another, he was getting paid and the amount would have been significantly higher than what he's receiving in China. The only potential reason for taking the Chinese money and running is if Chandler simply doesn't want to play in Denver long-term. The most likely result for most coveted restricted free agents is they sign multi-year deals with their current team. If Chandler didn't like his new, post-Knicks digs, the move makes a little bit more sense, as he can potentially return to the NBA waters down the road as an unrestricted free agent. But will an NBA absence affect his perceived value?  

1. Deron Williams, G, New Jersey Nets 

This one shouldn't come as a surprise. Williams bucked convention by becoming the only current NBA All-Star to agree to play overseas, signing a much-ballyhooed deal with Besiktas of Turkey. Name a risk and it applies to Williams. He has $16.4 million coming to him in 2011-2012 and could pick up a player option for $17.8 million more if he wants, or he could enter free agency next summer and be a no-brainer candidate for a max contract. He has a lingering wrist injury that required surgery and is reportedly still giving him problems. He's 27 years old and primed to enter his peak NBA years. Put all of that together and Williams has -- by far -- the most to lose of anyone on this list. Sure, he's already made more than $43 million in career earnings, but he's got far more than that coming to him over the next 5-7 years.

Even considering all of those negative warning signs, his decision is defensible. The Nets mortgaged their entire franchise to trade for him and they could not be more motivated to retain him. At some point, it's more than likely they will literally beg him to sign a max extension. They have no choice; the rest of the roster has proven it's not competitive and the team is not a desireable free agent destination, at least until the move to Brooklyn is completed. In other words, Williams has New Jersey over a barrel and he knows it. He's in a position where he can cash checks from Besitkas while staying in shape and pull the "injured wrist" card and come back to the United States if he isn't comfortable with the team, the country or his accomodations overseas.

When you look at it like that, even the riskiest overseas signing starts to seem like a bit of a no-brainer.

Posted on: March 20, 2011 6:54 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2011 6:56 pm
 

Video: DeMarcus Cousins ejected after shoving

Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins was ejected after a shoving match with members of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Water is wet, the sky is blue and Sacramento Kings rookie big man DeMarcus Cousins can't control his emotions. 

Cousins' latest display of immaturity came on Sunday in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. With the Kings leading 77-62 near the end of the third quarter, Cousins couldn't keep his cool after being pushed by pesky Timberwolves point guard Luke Ridnour

Standing off the ball, Cousins took a two-arms shoved from Ridnour. The foul was obvious, completely unnecessary and immediately whistled. Cousins, however, couldn't let it go at that, stomping towards Ridnour and bumping bodies while the two jawed. Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic intervened, lightly restraining Cousins, which led the Sacramento big man to shove out with both of his arms, an act that Pekovic reciprocated.  

But, wait, there's more. Timberwolves guard Martell Webster then attempted to play peacemaker, putting his left arm into Cousins' chest, an act that again led Cousins to shove Webster away with both of his arms, tossing Webster into teammate Jason Thompson. At that point, Cousins was immediately booted from the game by multiple officials.

Here's a look at the sequence courtesy of YouTube user Kingsflix.



Cousins and Kings fans will likely feel as if he got the raw end of this deal given that his actions were mostly in response or retaliation to Minnesota's actions, but at some point he will need to come to terms with the fact that his size and track record make him an easy mark for officials. 

So, Luke Ridnour shoved you. Who cares? Set up the side out of bounds play and nail him with a good, solid pick. Cousins stepped to Ridnour with something to prove, but he only proved how easily he is mentally manipulated.

The Kings held on for the victory over the Timberwolves, 127-95.
Posted on: July 29, 2010 8:35 am
Edited on: July 29, 2010 9:57 am
 

Shootaround 7.29.10

Posted by Matt Moore
  • Those same Knicks fans need to be patient with Anthony Randolph. Randolph's major problems involve when he's defended or challenged. But the only way he's going to improve on those things is to play, which he seldom really got to in Golden State. Don Nelson's doghouse is the death of talent, and Randolph was in and out of it for two years. Not to the extent that Brandan Wright has been, but still fairly held back. D'Antoni doesn't sound like he'll be doing the same.
  • Mikael Pietrus was a huge part of the Magic's championship run a year ago. But when the Magic brought in Matt Barnes, he was put on the backburner due to defensive concerns. With Barnes on his way to La La Land, the Magic will need more from Pietrus, and SVG is cashing in on that need. He headed to Paris to "hang out" with Pietrus for a few days. No word if they had a romantic walk through Paris or not.
  • The Pacers are shopping point guard T.J. Ford and forward Mike Dunleavy. Dunleavy has always been protected on account of head coach Jim O'Brien's love of his work ethic. But after multiple injuries, and with the team finally taking steps towards a youth movement, Dunleavy has become expendable. In a point-guard needy league, Ford still has value, so the Pacers might be able to get good value out of a contending team looking for depth, or a rebuilding team looking for stopgaps.
  • In a Pro-Am in NC this week, projected #1 pick in the 2010-2011 draft Harrison Barnes didn't look dominant . Who knows if it was simply the atmosphere that gave Barnes pause, but expectations are certainly higher for the Iowa product.
  • The Wolves inked Serbian big man Nikola Pekovic, a move many say is the best one the Wolves made this season. Not that that bar is incredibly high.
  • Bloggers try and outbid one another to acquire Chris Paul from a Hornets blogger. The winning bid? The Detroit Pistons. Which just goes to show you how much talent the Pistons have and how perplexing it is that Joe Dumars continues to wait for the mood to be right or whatever.
 
 
 
 
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