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Starting today, DraftExpress.com will be providing exclusive NBA Draft commentary every Monday and Friday for NBA.com.
Check out our first column, explaining the important dates and events that will help shape the way the 2009 draft takes form leading up to June 25th.
Jeremy Tyler: A European Recruitment Begins
While visiting the beautiful city of Rome, on a mission to watch Brandon Jennings play his final Italian league game, we read with great interest the New York Times article by Pete Thamel regarding Sonny Vaccaros next European project, Jeremy Tyler.
Sonny Vaccaro, who is advising Tyler, will fly to Athens on Sunday for meetings with Greeces top basketball teams, Olympiacos and Panathinaikos.
Vaccaro said the talks would be the first formal discussions about where Tyler would play, but interest remains from clubs in Italy, Spain and Israel. It had been thought that Tyler would play in Spain, but Greece has become a top option
Vaccaro said that he expected a deal with a club by the middle of June and that it was possible Tyler could go to Europe to audition for teams. He said the monetary figure would likely be mid six figures.
Well have a full article up on Brandon Jennings once we finish watching him practice today and tomorrow. Since Rome managed to clinch the 2nd seed in the Italian league playoffs with a win over Avellino on Thursday, we actually had a chance to watch Brandon receive the second most minutes hes seen all season long, in a meaningless game as far as his team is concerned, in which he nonetheless looked fantastic. Whats important to note is that Jennings was just coming off not logging a single minute in arguably the most important game of his teams season, showing you exactly where he stands in the pecking order of this squad. The NBA teams who waited until the Italian playoffs to try and evaluate him will likely be very disappointed.
Thats not a knock on Jennings at all, as we sincerely believe that no 18-year old American in the world would be able to do much better, with the exception of possibly Lebron James or Kobe Bryant at the same age.
The point here is that he was sent to a situation that did not suit a prospect as his stage of development at all, alongside a pair of guards in Sani Becirovic and Ibrahim Jaaber that do not compliment his strengths and weaknesses in the least bit, and have made it virtually impossible for him to have the ball in his hands and develop his point guard skills. To Jennings credit, he handled the situation like a true professional, not being involved in a single incident all season long, accepting his fate with the utmost maturity, and doing exactly what was asked of him, which really speaks volumes about his character. In most cases, the player would not have made it through the season, which would have been a disaster both from a development standpoint and for his own draft stock.
It now appears that Vaccaro is making the same exact mistake, only much worse, as you probably couldnt find two worse less attractive situations in all of Europe for a 17-year old American big man like Jeremy Tyler than Olympiacos or Panathinaikos.
While he would obviously be paid a ton of money, its unlikely that he would be able to see even a single minute of meaningful playing time, as hes nowhere near physically or emotionally mature enough to compete at this level. The coaches at the helm of these teams cant waste even a single possession for development purposes, and are not in the least bit interested showing an American teenager the ropes of professional basketball, only to lose him to the NBA when he finally starts getting close to being able to contribute something.
Two extremely mature, professional and well-established NBA rotation players in Josh Childress and Jannero Pargo were unable to live up to expectations this season with Olympiacosso how would Jeremy Tyler fare there? Just the thought is downright preposterous.
The role of agents placing American players in European basketball (essentially what Vaccaro is functioning as) is far more complicated here than it is in the NBAwhere teams pick their own players after pinpointing their weaknesses, scouting the market and identifying which free agents to go after. European teams do almost no meaningful scouting and are often rebuilt from top to bottom each and every year, which leads an unbelievable amount of mistakes. Agents in Europe can rarely just take the offer from the highest bidder when trying to find the optimal place for their client to playthere is far more than that.
Rome clearly was taking a shot in the dark by signing Jennings, a decision more oriented around marketing and publicity than it was about actual basketball. A player like Tylerwhos main weakness have always revolved around his poor mental toughness, work ethic and overall weak intangiblesneeds to be handled with a lot more care. If things dont work out for Tyler with one of these ultra-rich clubs, theyll gladly toss him to the side and write if off as a business expense that provided them with plenty of global exposure. For Tyler, though, the damage will be much greater.
Well see if Vaccaro is just trying to drum up interest from other clubs by starting with the two richest teams in European basketball, but for Tylers sake, we hope that he does his research and finds a team at the right level that understands the unique issues hes facing and is willing to develop him at the correct pacerather than just chasing the money. Otherwise, Tyler will be back in the States staring the D-League in the face, before he even knows what hit him.
Before we traveled to Rome, we had a chance to visit with Swedish small forward and projected second round pick Jonas Jerebko, both playing and practicing with his team Angelico Biella in the Italian first division. Jerebkos team knocked off Armani Jeans Milano in impressive fashion on primetime TV in their sparkling, beautiful new gym, and their starting 3-man had a typical game by his standards.
Not a whole lot has changed with Jerebko since the last time we evaluated him in late Januarymany of his strengths and weakness remain the same. It is impressive to see his physical profile in person and notice how much hes worked on his bodyhes gone from a scrawny 192 pounds when he first arrived here to a chiseled 225.
In the scrimmage in particular he did a great job showing how much he can impact the game with his terrific length and activity level. He gets his hands on pretty much everything in his area, coming up with tons of deflections, steals and offensive and defensive rebounds, indeed ranking amongst the top players in the league in those categories at his position.
Offensively, he looked solid knocking down shots with his feet set, but still isnt much of a threat on this end of the court, as his skill-level remains average at best. He lacks aggressiveness on this end of the floor, not showing much confidence in his ball-handling skills, and passing up opportunities to attack his matchup, which helps explain why he almost never gets to the free throw line.
This is also part of the reason hes such a valuable role-player, though, as he understands his role perfectly, rarely commits mistakes, and is very comfortable doing the little things for his team. The maturity and unselfishness he shows at his age is very impressive.
Defensively, Jerebko knows how to use his terrific size, length and activity level to his advantage, and didnt seem to have much of a problem staying in front of a very aggressive 6-4 shooting guard in David Hawkins, one of the best scorers in the Italian league. His potential on this end of the floor is considerable.
Before the game, we had a chance to sit down with Jerebko and pick his brain on a couple of issues, which you can see here:
As mentioned in the video, Jerebko will be competing at the Eurocamp in Treviso, where he may be able to show a more well-rounded offensive game than he can at Biella.
Patrick Patterson Withdraws from Draft
Gary Parrish of CBS Sportsline was the one who broke the scoop about Patrick Patterson deciding to return to Kentucky:
"I have the chance to graduate in three years, which is important to me and my family," Patterson said. "I want to help Kentucky compete for a national title, and even more than that win its eighth national championship. I'm also really excited about playing for Coach Cal and developing my game in the dribble drive offense."
Meeks has until June 15 to withdraw from the NBA Draft.
"In the month that I've been at Kentucky, I've been blown away by Patrick Patterson," Calipari said. "He is one of the nicest individuals I've met and one of the fiercest competitors that I've been around. I'm thrilled I get to coach him next year."
The fact that Patterson decided to return is not all that surprisingJohn Calipari is one of the best salesmen in college basketball, and the pitch of winning a national championship is not that far-fetchedwhat is surprising is the timing. Patterson was yet to conduct even a single workout and likely has received very little meaningful feedback on where his draft stock lies and what NBA teams would like to see him improve on. For him to already elect to withdraw from the draft means that he just wasted his ability to test the waters next year, which he may just end up needing.
What this means for the 2009 draft is that the pool only continues to shrink. We can now count as many as 14 players who likely would have been first round picks had they elected to enter the draft, which would have pushed most of the players currently slated to be taken in the 20s all the way into the mid 2nd round.
Including Patterson, here are the 14 players who elected not to enter and will form the foundation of what is shaping up to be a phenomenal 2010 draft:
Other notable underclassmen that probably would have been first round picks, yet decided to return: Jerome Jordan, Devin Ebanks, Solomon Alabi, Kyle Singler and International Jan Vesely.
What this also means is that players such as Jrue Holiday, Nick Calathes, Patrick Mills, Austin Daye, Gani Lawal and Jeff Teague look all the less likely to go back to school, as it will be very difficult to be picked all that much higher next year than they would in this draft, which involves a lot of risk.