By Austin Green
While NBA scouts and executives will flock to Belgrade to see Luka Doncic, they should also pay attention to the potential EuroLeague-to-NBA free agents at the Final Four.
As we saw throughout this NBA season, players who have spent time in the highest levels in Europe can be immediate and important contributors. Royce O’Neale and Joe Ingles were essential pieces to Utah’s run to the second round. Ditto for Darius Miller in New Orleans, and Aron Baynes, Shane Larkin, and Daniel Theis in Boston.
NBA teams can find very good role players in Europe. They often come in hungrier, younger, and — perhaps most importantly — cheaper than other NBA vets on the market, while also being ready to contribute right away.
Every team at the Final Four has a couple guys like this. Here's who NBA teams should be following in Belgrade.
Kevin Pangos | PG | Zalgiris Kaunas
12.7 PPG, 47.7% 2FG (84/176), 47.1% 3FG (73/155), 77.2% FT (44/57), 6 APG, 2.7 RPG, 2.5 TOs in 27:32 mins per game
North American fans should be familiar with Pangos, the sharp-shooting Canadian who was a four-year contributor at Gonzaga.
Pangos is now in his third season in Europe. With the help of his head coach and legendary Lithuanian player Sarunas Jasikevicius, Pangos has turned into a monster.
Pangos was the engine driving Cinderella story Zalgiris to their first Final Four since 1999. He is a great passer with a high basketball IQ, he can finish tough floaters and layups around the rim, and he's an elite three-point shooter.
He would be a great backup PG in today’s NBA. He’ll struggle defensively against some players, but he's definitely better than some guys who played 10-20 minutes per game in the NBA playoffs.
If I were an NBA executive, watching and talking to Pangos would be a top priority.
James Nunnally | SG/SF | Fenerbahce
10 PPG, 53.9% 2FG (48/89), 56.1% 2FG (46/82), 89.7% FT (35/39), 2.2 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 TOs in 21:32 mins per game
Nunnally played 13 NBA games during the 2013-14 season, and after a couple really good years in Europe, he's primed for a comeback.
Nunnally was the MVP of the Italian league in 2016. He signed with Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce that summer but initially struggled to adapt to his new role. Now after two seasons under Zeljko Obradovic — the most successful EuroLeague coach in history — Nunnally has turned into an elite role player.
He helped Fenerbahce win the 2017 EuroLeague title, and he led the league in three-point percentage this season. He’s a versatile scorer, a good athlete, and a much-improved defender after two seasons of being yelled at by Obradovic.
Nunnally turns 28 this summer and would be a perfect signing for a team that needs shooting and size on the perimeter.
Will Clyburn | SF | CSKA Moscow
11.7 PPG, 47.2% 2FG (108/229), 37.7% 3FG (29/77), 69.6% FT (96/138), 5.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.6 TOs in, 26:37 mins per game
Clyburn is one of the best small forwards in Europe, and he’ll have a great chance to prove himself when matched up against Doncic on Friday.
A late-bloomer who bounced around a couple different colleges, Clyburn averaged 14 PPG as a senior at Iowa State (2012-13) and has continued to develop into a dangerous scorer in Europe.
He has good size for an NBA wing at 6-foot-7, he's long, and he's good at attacking off the dribble and in transition. His three-point shot has improved, and he's a willing defender and rebounder.
With the importance of two-way wings in today’s NBA, Clyburn should draw interest from a few teams this summer.
Cory Higgins | SG | CSKA Moscow
14.2 PPG, 58.3% 2FG (140/240), 44.4% 3FG (36/81), 81.9% FT (95/116), 2.4 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.4 TOs in 24:46 mins per game
Higgins would be a good addition to any NBA backcourt. He's one of the best perimeter defenders in Europe and he has shot over 40 percent from three in all three of his EuroLeague seasons.
He is a natural two-guard who can also play some point. He has always been paired with elite European guards in CSKA — Milos Teodosic, Nando de Colo, now Sergio Rodriguez — and is a great role player who shouldn't have much trouble transitioning to the NBA.
Jan Vesely | PF/C | Fenerbahce
12.9 PPG, 62.4% 2FG (156/250), 71.1% FT (101/142), 5.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.5 TOs in 26:42 mins per game
NBA fans will remember Vesely as the former sixth overall pick who was a bust with the Washington Wizards. But while Washington was mis-using him as a perimeter forward, Obradovic has turns him into a beast of a rim-running, lob-catching PF/C.
Vesely is the most dangerous and acrobatic alley-oop finisher in Europe. He would fit perfectly in today’s NBA, which puts a premium on centers who can roll hard and finish at the rim. Put three shooters around a Vesely pick-and-roll and you've got instant offense.
Teams might be hesitant to sign him after his early NBA struggles, but he could really help a team that needs an athletic big.
Austin Green is an international journalist and scout covering EuroLeague and NBA prospects in Europe and Australia. You can follow him on Twitter @LosCrossovers