The modern NBA is a full of international talent, something that in the 80’s and even 90’s seemed like a ridiculous concept. But look at the rosters of some of the NBA’s elite teams. The San Antonio Spurs have Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, the Thunder have Serge Ibaka, the Lakers have Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, so on and so forth. It’s not a necessity to have a top international talent to be elite (look at the Boston Celtics for example) but it’s simply becoming more common to find an elite player from overseas.
The Cavs themselves have an outstanding international player in Anderson Varejao. The Brazilian, who has been with the team since 2004, is their second best player behind point guard Kyrie Irving and by far their best big man. Otherwise, the Cavs attempts at international talent have not been successful. Christian Eyenga, a guard from the Congo, didn’t stick on the roster for more than a season. He now plays for the Orlando Magic. Before Eyenga and Varejao, one of best Cavs of all time and arguably most their popular player, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, was an overseas prospect from Lithuania.
Currently, the Cavs hold the rights to three overseas players: Center Sasha Kaun of Russia, Center Semih Erden of Turkey, and Power Forward Milan Macvan of Serbia. Each will be broken down, with their personal history, skill set, and their potential to play in the NBA.
Sasha Kaun, 27, Center, CSKA Moscow
Kaun may be familiar to American fans as the former center of the Kansas Jayhawks. Born in Tomsk, Russia, Kaun came to America before his junior year in high school. Playing at the Florida Air Academy, he played two seasons of high school basketball, winning a state title his senior year while averaging a double double. He committed to Kansas in the fall of 2003, choosing the Jayhawks over Duke and Michigan State.
Kaun played four seasons in Lawrence. He only started sparingly during his college tenure, but as a senior, he played a major role in Kansas’s run to the 2008 NCAA title. Upon graduation, he was drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) and before he signed an NBA deal, had his rights traded to Cleveland.
No one really knows if/when Kaun will come to NBA. He is making good money playing (a little over a million per season, according to reports) in his home country, and recently re-signed with CSKA Moscow for another three years. Unless the Cavs buyout his contract (unlikely), then Kaun would be thirty by the time he came over to the NBA. So, at this point, consider it unlikely that we will ever see Kaun in an NBA uniform. It’s surprising that it came to this, as just two years ago, The Plain Dealer published an article saying that the Cavs future at center (Kaun) was developing overseas.
Semih Erden, 26, Center, Anadolu Efesa
Erden, born in Istanbul, Turkey, is a 7’0 center that has played professionally since 2003. All of his professional experience had in the Turkish Basketball League until he came to the NBA in 2010. He was drafted by the Celtics in 2008, but had to wait until 2010 to come over to the NBA until his contract expired in Turkey. When the Celtics frontline was decimated by injury in 2010, Erden started getting some playing time. In one game against the Charlotte Bobcats, he played 41 minutes, scoring 10 points, grabbing 7 rebounds, and blocking 4 shots, with overall plus/minus rating of +34.
Erden became a Cavalier when, along with Luke Harangody, he was traded to the Cavaliers for a second round draft pick. When the NBA lockout began lost summer, he went back to Turkey, playing a season with the team Besetikas Milangaz, playing alongside NBA All-Star Deron Williams. This summer, in late June, extended him a qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent. But instead of accepting the offer or signing an offer sheet elsewhere, Erden signed a two-year deal with Anadolu Efes.
Erden’s potential to play for the Cavs in the future is probably higher than Kaun’s. He’s already has played in the association, and has a qualifying offer from the Cavaliers waiting for him. It all just depends on how his time playing for Efesa goes. If he’s happy playing in his home country, and he feels like he’s making good money, then maybe he’ll stay. So when it comes to Erden, we’ll know in two years on whether or not he’ll ever be a Cavalier.
Milan Macvan, 22, Power Forward, Galatasaray
Unlike the previous two international prospects, Macvan still has time to develop and then come over to the NBA. Born in the former Yugoslavia, the 6’9, 265 pound Serbian has played professionally since turning 18 in 2007. He played for teams in the Euroleague (Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel) and his current team Galatasaray, which is also in the Euroleague. He also played in the Turkish Basketball League.
Macvan has shown good scoring and rebounding skills while playing overseas. While playing for the Serbian National Team, he averaged 19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in the U-18 Championships. His overall stats are hard to locate, but from what is available, he appears be a player capable of averaging a double-double in the NBA. Macvan’s rights are hold only by the Cavaliers, who selected him the second round of the NBA Draft in 2011.
Macvan’s NBA future is hard to read. At 22, he’s young enough to come over play several years in Cleveland, but will he? It’s hard to know with foreign talent – only when they are drafted at the top of the draft do they come over to the States immediately. So like, Erden, we’ll know about Macvan in two years when his contract runs out with Galatasaray.
International talent is hard to scope out, as you never really know what they are going to do until they or the team that owns their rights announces something. But with the sport of basketball going global, it’s important to look at whom the Cavs have overseas that could potentially make an impact. For all we know, all three could make the transition to the NBA to be part of the Kyrie Irving era in Cleveland. Or they could stay in Europe and never be heard from again. We just don’t know.