The NBA lockout has already caused its share of casualties, but one group that is probably a bit overlooked is the incoming rookies. The rookies perhaps need more guidance than most considering that they are heading into their first professional seasons, but with lockout rules prohibiting teams from talking to players, a handful of rookies will instead get their first lessons in professional basketball while playing in Europe.
With the recent news that Orlando Magic draft pick Justin Harper (32nd overall) and Keith Benson of the Atlanta Hawks (48th overall) have both signed with teams in Europe, there are now -- by my count -- six drafted players who will play at least the first part of their first pro season in Europe rather than the States.
It isn't uncommon for a couple of second round picks to sign in Europe if they -- or the team that drafted them -- believes the player will be better served beginning his career overseas as opposed to being cut in training camp by his new NBA team, but the lockout has caused a few more players than usual to take their talents to Europe.
The 2010 NBA Draft class saw Jarvis Varnado (Miami Heat), Jerome Jordan (New York Knicks) and Dwayne Collins (Phoenix Suns) begin their careers overseas, along with Orlando Magic draft pick Stanley Robinson, though the latter only went to Europe after being released by the Magic prior to the NBA season.
The 2011 NBA Draft class has thus far lost Harper, Benson, E`Twaun Moore (Boston Celtics), Jon Diebler (Portland Trail Blazers), Lavoy Allen (Philadelphia 76ers) and Jon Leuer (Milwaukee Bucks) with rumors surrounding multiple other second rounders still exploring their European possibilities.
I've personally confirmed that Moore, Leuer, Harper and Benson all have opt-out clauses built in to their contracts in case the NBA lockout ends in a reasonable manner -- and assume Diebler and Allen have the clauses available to them as well -- so this isn't exactly an earth shattering revelation.
Where it might come into play, however, is with the D-League. 2010 draft picks Ryan Reid, Magnum Rolle, Latavious Williams and Tiny Gallon all signed with the NBA's official development league rather than Europe last year in hopes of better preparing themselves for the NBA game while maybe earning a call-up as well. The latter isn't an option this year, however, and will probably dilute the talent pool even further than it has been with the exodus of fringe players already signing in Europe.
Let's just end this lockout, okay?