After being selected No. 5 in the 2011 NBA Draft Jonas Valanciunas remained in Lithuania and benefited from another season with Lietuvos Rytas. He'll be NBA over the summer, but he's not the only one.
It happens every NBA draft.
Of the various international players selected in the first and second round, some will make an impact -- or at least make their NBA roster, while the others end up staying overseas and growing their respective global games in hopes of one day making the official move to the league. Some will make it. Some won't.
Take the 2011 NBA Draft for example.
Twelve international players without any college basketball experience but seasons of pro ball under their belt were drafted last June. Of those twelve, only three stuck on an NBA roster this season. The other nine -- along with two notable names from major college programs -- used this season to develop (well, some of them did) in multiple leagues around Europe.
In this two-part round-by-round series, Ridiculous Upside reviews the year-long journey from the 2011 NBA Draft to surviving the season overseas...
Have faith Toronto. While your Raptors are busy going 18-35 so far this season and own the third worst record in the Eastern Conference, Valanciunas' maturation in Lithuania provides a glimpse of hope of what can come next season. The 6-foot-11 center averaged near double-double figures in both the Lithuanian League (14.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, while shooting 71% from the field in 17 games) and VTB United League (10.8 points and 8 rebounds per game in 16 games), on his way to being named the 2011-12 Eurocup Rising Star Trophy winner. And yes, he's still only 19-years old. Down right scary.
He is a free man once the season wraps for Lietuvos Rytas, so breathe easy this offseason Toronto. Valanciunas is coming.
Another product of Lithuania, another Eurocup Rising Star winner (2011), another big man waiting patiently to make an impact in the NBA -- Motiejunas may not get the recognition Valanciunas does, but at 7-foot, 222 pounds, the center certainly is making his presence felt this season in Poland.
Proof: leading Prokom in scoring (12.5 points) and rebounding (7.9) per game (10) during Euroleague competition, including pulling down a career-high 21 rebounds against Union Olimpija back in December. The smooth lefty also averaged 13.4 points and 7.5 rebounds (16 games) in the VTB United League, and 15.5 points and 4.8 rebounds during Polish League play.
Next stop, Houston for the 2012-13 NBA season.
Nikola Mirotic (#23 Houston Rockets, traded to Chicago Bulls) - Real Madrid
Unlike Valanciunas and Motiejunas' NBA arrival next season, Mirotic can expect a few more years in Spain's ACB League unless the Chicago Bulls are going to ante-up as his contract runs through the 2015-16 season.
Thus starts the waiting game.
The Bulls would have to pay around 2 million euros for the buyout or simply pay the price of having to wait on the 6-foot-10 power forward/center who was the second leading scorer (12.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game) for Real Madrid during their Euroleague run this season.
Development -- that's what front offices typically have in mind when they "draft and stash" players in Europe. And in Mirotic's case, the Bulls will wait, and wait, and wait for his development in Spain to hopefully pay off.
(Coming Thursday: the second round)