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DTL
05-09-2002, 12:25 PM
link (http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/articles/20020509/402395.html)
Three European players who could make an impact next year
May 9, 2002
Sean Deveney
The Sporting News


So, you think the Spurs are in trouble if they don't go out and find an athletic perimeter player this summer? Are you pretty sure the Clippers are hopeless at point guard if starter Jeff McInnis leaves as a free agent? Perhaps you've concluded there's no way the Pistons will be able to find any versatile bench players with size on the free-agent market.

Think again. All three teams have the rights to European players who can solve those problems. The upshot is that the three were chosen with low-risk, second-round draft picks and have been playing in Europe in the meantime. "It goes to show you," says Pistons international scouting director Tony Ronzone, "if you have a second-round pick, why not use it to take a chance on a European guy, even if you have to wait?"

All three are likely to come to the NBA next season.

Shooting guard Emanuel Ginobili, Spurs. The 6-6 Ginobili (known as 'Manu') is an exciting player. He will be 25 this year and was a steal for San Antonio, which picked him up with the next-to-last pick in the 1999 draft -- he would be a lottery pick this year. Ginobili is an Argentine playing in Italy, and was last year's Euroleague Finals MVP and the Italian league MVP. He is a pretty good shooter from the perimeter, but he can handle the ball, blow by defenders and has jaw-dropping leaping ability. "He is the best athlete in the European game," Ronzone says. "He makes plays that no one else can, and he will fit right into the NBA. I would not be surprised to see him in the dunk contest."

Guard Marko Jaric, Clippers. Intriguing prospect chosen by Los Angeles with the second pick of the second round in 2000. The 6-6 Jaric, a native of Yugoslavia who is playing in Italy, is a more natural shooting guard, but he could man the point for the Clippers. He is mature (though only 24), tough, has good basketball instincts and can defend -- traits the young Clippers need. But don't fret, Clipper fans, he can run the break.

"We will have him next year, and we'll use him some at the 1 and some at the 2, to see where he fits," says Clippers assistant Rex Kalamian. "We're real excited about what we think this guy can do. He is not a great shooter like most of the Europeans, but he is a very good shooter with good mechanics. I think he can become a great shooter."

Forward Mehmet Okur, Pistons. Detroit is expecting the 6-11 Okur to be part of the rotation next season, but will ease him in slowly as the fourth or fifth man off the bench. He will be 23 next season, and has size and rebounding ability to go with the kind of shooting range that makes him dangerous on pick-and-rolls. He has been playing for the top team in Turkey, Efes Pilsen.

"He will learn the ropes next season," says Pistons director of personnel, John Hammond. "We are not going to throw him right in there, but we expect that as he gets playing time, he will develop. And if any of our big guys get hurt, we will not hesitate to go to him."