The NBA has developed a tradition of drafting and stashing international players with their second-round picks in the NBA Draft. More recently, a few of the more cunning teams have also tried to do this with players that spent their formative years already playing in America.
Twenty-four of this year's 30 second-round picks played college basketball in the United States. Half of them have already inked deals to go to training camp with the squad that drafted them, hoping to play in the NBA during their first professional season. Not all players will get that opportunity this year, though. Several teams have selected their second-round picks with no intentions of adding them to their roster this season.
Boston Celtics big man Colton Iverson, New Orleans Hornets guard Pierre Jackson, Mike Muscala of the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets draftee Erick Green, James Ennis of the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs pick DeShaun Thomas and Alex Oriakhi of the Phoenix Suns have all signed their first professional contracts with teams across the pond, ranging from the regular destinations -- Spain, Turkey, France and Italy -- to Ennis' strange decision to play in Australia. Other unsigned second-round picks like Grant Jerrett, Ryan Kelly, Romero Osby, Lorenzo Brown and Arsalan Kazemi are currently free agents on the international market, though their rights are held by the NBA teams that drafted them.
It's been reported that the majority of those players will return to the states in the near future to stake their claim on a roster spot of the NBA team that drafted them. Obviously, that'd work out best for both sides. as the team won't have wasted their second-round pick and the player gets to play in the best league in the world after making some money and earning solid experience overseas.
Historically, becoming a solid contributor on an NBA team after leaving America to begin your career overseas is a lot easier said than done.
From 2002 through 2012, there were 195 "American" players -- meaning they either played at an American college or were drafted directly out of high school or the NBA Development League -- that heard their names called in the second round.
Because they'd already spent their formative years playing in the USA and the "draft and stash" methodology typically only applied to international prospects, over 85 percent of those players elected to sign a contract to head to training camp right away. The majority of the players that end up taking that route aren't typically ready for the NBA, however, and are cut before ever making any sort of real impact in the NBA.
Twenty-seven of the aforementioned 195 players elected to sign their first professional contracts outside of the NBA, because either they or the team that drafted them decided they wouldn't have a shot of making the NBA right away. Those 27 -- ranging from guys like Matt Bonner, Ronny Turiaf and Darius Songaila to Deron Washington, Jon Diebler and the notorious Chukwudiebere Maduabum -- are essentially the case study for Muscala, Jackson, Iverson, Green, Ennis, Thomas and Oriakhi, as they were all essentially drafted and stashed.
Thirteen of those 27 players are still plying their trades in Europe, with their rights still held by the NBA team that drafted them, while five others were released by their NBA teams after failing to earn a roster spot upon their return to the states. There are therefore just nine of 195 players in the past 10 years that have succeeded with what this year's draft-and-stash second rounders hope to accomplish. Even then, their results haven't ended with a ton of success.
- Darius Songaila is best known for his solid play for Lithuania's national team, but he was also a productive four-year player for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. He finished his career in the top 10 in points scored, rebounds, blocks and games played. Nevertheless, Songaila spent his first professional season with CSKA Moscow in Russia after being selected by the Boston Celtics with the 49th pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. Songaila's rights were traded to the Sacramento Kings the following year, signaling the start of an eight-year NBA career that saw him play in 495 games.
- Matt Bonner isn't thought of as a draft-and-stash player, but he spent his rookie season averaging nearly 19 points and nine rebounds in Italy after being selected with the 45th overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. Bonner joined the Toronto Raptors for his second season and has been a cult favorite in the NBA since, shooting better than 41 percent from beyond the arc and even starting four games for the Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs last season.
- Ronny Turiaf is an interesting case for this list, because he actually did sign with the Los Angeles Lakers less than a month after he was selected with the 37th pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. Turiaf ended up failing his physical due to a heart problem, however, negating his contract and forcing him to start his professional career with the CBA's Yakima Sun Kings until the Lakers were convinced he could healthily play professional basketball. They were convinced by January of 2006, and he's gone on to play 440 NBA games since.
- Nick Calathes is the newest member of this list after the Memphis Grizzlies signed him to a two-year, $2 million deal earlier this month. The former Florida standout was was originally drafted by the Timberwolves, but the Mavericks acquired his rights on draft night before watching him spend the next three seasons playing in Greece and Russia. The Grizzlies were apparently keeping close tabs on him overseas and worked out a deal with Dallas to acquire his rights before signing him.
- Robert Vaden was signed by the Thunder out of the D-League late in the 2010-11 season after spending the first year of his career in Italy, but 2009's 54th pick never actually appeared in an NBA game and is now signed in Belgium for the upcoming season.
- Jarvis Varnado spent his first two professional seasons in Europe, but the Miami Heat's second-round pick in 2010 decided to give the NBA a try this year. It didn't work out right away, but after amazing play in the NBA Development League, Varnado eventually earned his way back to the Heat for the rest of the regular season and got a shiny NBA championship ring in the process.
- Jerome Jordan was acquired by the Knicks in the 2010 NBA Draft after they bought a second-round pick from the Milwaukee Bucks, but the 7-footer out of Tulsa spent his first season playing in Serbia. Jordan signed with the Knicks for the 2011-12 season, appearing in 21 games before being traded to (and subsequently cut) by the Houston Rockets as part of a package that sent Marcus Camby to New York. Jordan played in the D-League this past year before playing for both the Knicks and Indiana Pacers in Summer League action.
- Ryan Reid was a surprise selection for the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 57th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, but OKC apparently thought they could develop him. They did, too, by convincing him to sign a D-League contract for the first two years of his career, paying him substantially less than he would've made overseas. It sort of paid off, when the Thunder signed Reid following last year's NBA lockout ... though he was eventually waived after just five NBA appearances and is now scheduled to play in France this season.
- Kyle Singler is probably the prototype for this year's draft class, considering he's now a borderline NBA starter. Singler parlayed a solid four-year career at Duke into becoming a second-round pick, a solid rookie season in Spain and 74 starts for the Detroit Pistons last year, his first in the NBA.
Looking at the evidence, it's difficult to think that all of this year's second-round picks currently signed overseas are going to someday have successful stateside returns. Players like Singler, Songaila, Turiaf and Bonner have shown it's possible, however, to go overseas and return to the team that drafted you, thereby proving that the non-international draft and stash process can sometimes work out for the player.
And even if these second-round picks don't make it on their first run under an NBA contract, there's still potential for an NBA future. Patrick Beverley was originally drafted and stashed by the Miami Heat in 2009, but was cut when he returned for training camp in 2010. Beverley then decided to work on his game by going back overseas for two more seasons before giving the NBA another shot last year,and eventually wound up as the Houston Rockets' starting point guard in the playoffs.
The odds are obviously long for American draft-and-stash players to someday meaningfully contribute to the NBA teams that select them in the second round ... but at least there are precedents set.