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Behind Andrey Vorontsevich's Verbal Agreement With The Oklahoma City Thunder

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When you are busy trying to battle back against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, the last thing you're probably thinking about if you are the Oklahoma City Thunder is adding a couple European big man to the mix for next season, right?

Don't be so sure.

Fans of the Thunder are more than familiar with Tibor Pleiss, the 7-foot-center who just helped Brose Baskets Bamberg in Germany capture their third-straight Beko BBL championship last month, and his anticipated arrival into the NBA with Oklahoma City.

The former 31st overall by the then New Jersey Nets in the 2010 draft (Pleiss was traded to the Atlanta Hawks who turned around and sold his rights to OKC) is coming off a season where he averaged 6.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in Euroleague and 10.1 points and 6 rebounds in the BBL.

What he lacks in physical toughness and aggressiveness, Pleiss makes up for in defensive presence and a soft touch around the rim.

But now it appears Pleiss has company and isn't the lone Euro big man preparing to the make the jump to the league with the Thunder.

Over the last two days, multiple reports have surfaced in Russia detailing how 6-foot-9, 235 pound Russian power forward Andrey Vorontsevich is close to leaving CSKA Moscow and signing with the Thunder. The reports explain Oklahoma City and Vorontsevich have a verbal agreement in place to make the move happen.

Now according to Fran Frachilla of ESPN, Vorontsevich -- who can run the floor and step out on the perimeter -- worked out 3 weeks ago for the Thunder along with Kyle O'Quinn out of Norfolk State and St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson.


Vorontsevich's agent Burgan Nazirov asserted that Oklahoma City is not the only NBA team to take an interest in the 24-year old who averaged 8 points and 4 rebounds (20 minutes) per game and shot 60% from the field for CSKA in the Russian League, 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in the VTB United League and 5.8 points and 2.7 rebounds in Euroleague competition.

If Oklahoma City does turn this verbal agreement into a concrete contract offer, there is a buyout clause (believed to be around $100,000) to consider as Vorontsevich is signed with CSKA through 2014. It seems unlikely that CSKA's front office would prevent Vorontsevich from signing an NBA deal.

But why the Thunder?

The relationship between the Thunder and CSKA Moscow is rooted in former CSKA player and coach, David Vanterpool, who now works within the Thunder's scouting department as their pro scout. Vanterpool not only played with Vorontsevich and coached him, but also was on hand at the Euroleague Final Four in Istanbul in May to take a closer look at the hard working center.

The two teams -- OKC and CSKA - also have a strong standing relationship between their front offices dating back to 2010 when CSKA played in OKC during the NBA Euroleague American Tour in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder won that game 97-89.

Vorontsevich's stat line: 13 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals on 3-3 three-point shooting.

He also posted a double-double (14 points and 12 rebounds) for Russia against Team USA in an 89-79 loss at the World Championship in Turkey in 2010.

Depending if the speculation becomes a reality with the Thunder, the Russian League Finals where CSKA won their 10th straight title just might be the last time Vorontsevich plays in Russia.

He was recently cut by head coach David Blatt of the Russian National Team due to Vorontsevich nursing a sore back, which doesn't appear serious, but Vorontsevich was expected to miss most of the training camp as the team prepares for the 2012 London Olympics qualifying tournament taking place in Venezuela.

Will the next stop be Oklahoma City?