Year in and year out, there are more than a handful of talented players who seemingly slip through the cracks, missing out on the NBA following solid D-League play, only to instead subsequently cash in on such success for a more lucrative international contract instead.
It's without a doubt that Santa Cruz Warriors' forward Lance Goulbourne should sit atop of that very same list when it comes to ranking the active minor leaguers currently strutting their stuff overseas. Currently playing for Akhisar Belediye in Turkey, the young gun is averaging 11 points and 8.9 rebounds through 14 contests.
Goulbourne signed in Turkey after a hand injury forced him out of fully participating with the affiliated Golden State Warriors in NBA Summer League. The year prior in Las Vegas, he helped the Warriors to the Summer League championship alongside the likes of Cameron Jones and Scott Machado.
The 6'8, 225 pounder, signed in Korea following the impressive offseason session, but subsequently returned to Santa Cruz in time for a playoff run. After playing in fourteen regular season games to get into a rhythm at the D-League level once again, Goulbourne only continued to surge, leading the Warriors all the way to the NBADL Finals for the second straight season. Averaging a monster double-double through postseason play, the forward logged 16.1 points and 13.3 rebounds.
In a guard-heavy minor league, Goulbourne stands as one of the taller players on the court whenever he comes to play. Perhaps more importantly, however, he knows how to assert himself down on the low block. The 25 year old is an intelligent player who enjoys using his physicality to gain an obvious advantage against weaker and/or inexperienced defenders. He managed to shoot 55% from the field last postseason, appearing as dominant as ever following his time abroad.
Though his team in Turkey's season spans through the end of March, perhaps there's a chance he returns home sooner. No inside info here, but that sometimes just happens to be the case for D-League athletes.
Should he plan on hitting the minor league hardwood anytime soon, there are undoubtedly still things Goulbourne can work on. He needs to learn how to further embrace and hone his skills. Defenses can neutralize the Vanderbilt product if they're able to distract and pull him away from the basket, instead forcing him into more of a jump and/or spot shooter. Fadeaways aren't exactly his strong suit. Still, if Goulbourne can continue to take control by mixing things up with a bevy of pump-fakes and/or aim to defeat an opponent off the dribble, he'll create even more higher-percentage shots for himself inside. In addition, he's a strong and athletic high-flyer who can crash the boards and play steady defense.
Just last spring, Goulbourne participated in the D-League Elite Mini-Camp, which seemingly recognizes forty of the league's best players. No one can blame a talented player like him for going overseas and making more money from the get-go. That said, should he be able to stay healthy leading up to training camp this year, it may be worth sticking around with an NBA team through the fall, even if it's just to take advantage of a potential opportunity.
Beloved by fans and staffers alike in Santa Cruz, Goulbourne is one of the more positive players you'll meet in the minor league. While his numbers abroad might not as be as imposing as one would like, he's, nevertheless an efficient player who continues to learn what works and what doesn't for him on both ends of the floor.
Goulbourne has a chance to really surprise people. His time overseas and past injuries have allowed him to fly under the radar a bit, but he could stand to make an impact on the big league level. Coincidentally enough, another Lance comes to mind in comparison --- Lance Thomas of the New York Knicks, in fact. A strong forward, Thomas knows his way around the basket. He can score inside with ease and rebounds the ball in a physical manner, despite not having the best mid-range jumper just yet.
Still, he's shown promise on the NBA stage thus far, which is something Goulbourne could do as well, should he embrace a similar niche.