Like most NBA teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a fair amount of talent stashed away overseas. Over the course of several drafts, the Cavaliers front office has selected four players that are currently overseas, and it’s an eclectic group. They come from four different countries and range from age 23 to age 28.
The dynamic at play here is that no player is a logical fit to come over, and the Cavaliers are, at the same time, building in a way that seems to suggest that they aren’t planning on bringing any of their four players over in the near future. Take the center position for example. On the roster now are Andrew Bynum, Tyler Zeller and Anderson Varejao. Overseas, the Cavaliers hold rights to Sasha Kaun and Semih Erden. To me, it wouldn’t make sense for the Cavaliers to draft a center a year ago (and then sign one this offseason) and plan on bringing either Kaun or Erden over as well.
That being said, the four players overseas – Kaun, Erden, power forward Milan Macvan and power forward Ejike Ugboaja – are still technically Cavaliers. Anyone, at the right time, scenario and price, could come stateside and actively play for the Wine and Gold. And yes, they all have Wikipedia pages.
Position: Power Forward
Drafted: 55th Pick, 2006
Current Team: Utena Juventus (Lithuania)
Drafted in 2006, Ugboaja is kind of a forgotten man at this point and for good reason. Since being drafted, he has bounced around the globe, seemingly playing for a different team in a different country every year. His only experience stateside came in 2007-08, when he played for both the Albuquerque Thunderbirds and the Anaheim Arsenal in the D-League. Since then, he’s spent three seasons in Iran, one in Ukraine, one in Spain and is currently in Lithuania. Ugboaja has also spent time playing for the Nigerian national team, which appeared in last year’s Olympic Games. He also, perhaps more importantly, runs a foundation in his native country that aims to help Nigerians reach their educational needs at home and abroad.
It would a shocker if Ugboaja ended up playing for the Cavaliers. He’s inching closer to 30, and the Cavaliers have drafted two players at his position in the last three years. Sans something shocking happening, Ugboaja will spend the rest of his NBA career overseas.
Position: Power Forward
Drafted: 54th pick, 2011
Current Team: Galatasaray Liv Hospital (Turkey)
Macvan, at 23, is the youngest international player the Cavaliers hold rights on. He’s a prototypical power forward it terms of his body type and statistically stacks up in a similar way. In his last season – for Partizan Belgrade – he averaged 15.3 points and 8.2 rebounds. Previously, Macvan played for Euroleague superpower Maccabi Tei Aviv, based out of Israel, originally signing a five-year deal. He has also spent time playing for the Serbian national team, playing at the senior level since 2009.
Macvan drew his hype from his MVP Nike Hoops Summit performance in Portland, where he scored 23 points, pulled down 14 rebounds and dished out six assists. His performance led the international team to their first win since 1998. Since then, he hasn’t played to that level, and, with the Cavaliers having Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett entrenched, Macvan doesn’t seem to have a fit on this team. But at 23, at least he has a chance to possibly come over before he hits the wrong side of 30.
Drafted: 56th, 2008 by Seattle, traded to Cleveland for cash
Current Team: CSKA Moscow
Kaun is the rare solid college player who decided to take his talents overseas rather than give it a run in the NBA. Granted, he’s a native Russia and he’s playing for the Russian national team, but it’s still surprising. At 6-11 and 256 pounds, he has ideal size to play center. In college, he didn’t put up huge numbers, but the potential seemed to be there. For CSKA Moscow, he didn’t put up huge numbers but did shoot upwards of 70 percent on two-point field goals. Not great, but there are definitely worse centers in the NBA.
That being said, Kaun is now 28 and appears to be to comfortable playing his professional career overseas. Plus, the Cavaliers have signed and drafted centers in the last two years. Like the two players mentioned above, the current makeup of the roster indicates that Kaun has no spot on this team. The only look Cavs fans will be getting at the former Jayhawk will be in the Olympics come 2016.
Drafted: 60th Pick, 2008 by Boston; traded to Cleveland with Luke Harangody for a second-round pick
Current Team: Anadolu Efes
Even more so than Kaun, Erden is an anomaly of sorts. After being selected by Boston, he spent one season in Turkey before coming stateside and playing for the Celtics. In fact, he started game back in 2010 when Shaquille O’Neal, Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O’Neal were all out with injuries. He started again two nights later and was largely effective in sports. In Cleveland, he played 28 games (starting nine) in the lockout-shortened season and was extended a qualifying offer at the conclusion.
He’s been abroad ever since, most recently playing for Anadolu Efes in the Euroleague. He averaged close to a double-double last year in both the Turkish League and Euroleagues. His contract runs through next season, and he could be an interesting name come next summer. If Bynum doesn’t work out, Varejao is traded/leaves and Zeller fails to progress the Cavaliers will unquestionably be in the market for a center come next summer. And who better to fill the void than a center who they already control and likely could come at a low price? It’s not something that should be banked on, but out of all the players mentioned, Erden would be the most likely to come play stateside for the Wine and Gold.