A select few – 25 former NBA players

We present a list of current VTB United League basketball players who have previously competed in the NBA.

Experience in the world’s strongest league – National Basketball Association – serves as one proof of basketball ability. It is no surprise, then, that many European clubs, including those in the VTB United League, often seek players with the NBA label. Krstic, Weems, Khryapa for CSKA, Planinic, Monya for Khimki, Songaila for Donetsk, Marshall for Astana, Mc Leod for Kalev, Welsch for Nymburk, Brezec for Nizhny Novgorod…

Just a few days ago, former Charlotte Bobcats forward Derrick Brown flew to Russia, having just signed a contract with Krasnodar’s Lokomotiv-Kuban. He became the 25th player with NBA game experience to feature on a VTB United League club roster this season.
Enjoy our ranking of VTB United League players with NBA experience, based on the number of NBA games played by each athlete.

25 League athletes with NBA experience:

Darius Songaila, Donetsk forward

NBA games: 495 (79 – as starter)
NBA stats: 6.9 points, 3.4 rebounds
NBA teams: Sacramento Kings, Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, New Orleans Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers
The Lithuanian forward may not have been an elite forward, but many NBA teams would still like to add him to their bench. In addition to the fact that Darius spent 8 seasons in the league, it should be noted that he enjoyed a lot of playoff experience. Songaila said goodbye to America in 2011, played for a season in Turkey, spent a few games in the Spanish league, then in October signed a contract with Donetsk, where he immediately became one of the team’s leaders.

Nenad Krstic, CSKA center


NBA games: 419 (373 as starter)
NBA stats: 10.0 points, 5.4 rebounds
NBA teams: New Jersey Nets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics
One year after signing his first professional contract, the Serbian center drew the attention of American scouts. He attracted so much attention that he ended up being selected in the first round of the 2002 NBA Draft, the New Jersey Nets taking him with the 24th selection. The 19-year-old chose not to hurry, playing several more seasons in Europe before crossing the Atlantic. Krstic didn’t stand out in the NBA, but he found a spot in the starting lineup wherever he played. During the summer of 2011, the Serbian’s contract with Boston ended and he inked a 2-year deal with Russian CSKA.

Primoz Brezec, Nizhny Novgorod center


NBA games: 342 (214 – as starter)
NBA stats: 7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds
NBA teams: Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Bobcats, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks.
The Slovenian center played his best ball in the NBA while in Charlotte, where he started every night and enjoyed free rein in the paint. Brezec performed poorly elsewhere, and in order to maximize his playing time, he headed to Russia, signing a contract with Nizhny Novgorod.

Jiri Welsch, Nymburk forward


NBA games: 247 (102 – as starter)
NBA stats: 6.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists
NBA teams: Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks
The most popular Czech player of all-time was drafted 16th in the 2002 draft. Following an unsuccessful rookie campaign with the Warriors, Jiri became a starter for Boston. In 2005, he left Massachusetts, at which point his NBA career also went south. Welsch returned to Europe, playing 6 years in the Spanish league, before moving to Czech Nymburk this season.

Keith Mc Leod, Kalev guard


NBA games: 200 (88 – as starter)
NBA stats: 5.5 points, 2.7 assists
NBA teams: Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, Indiana Pacers
Mc Leod’s NBA fate bears some resemblance to that of Welsch. Keith only found significant playing time on one team, the Utah Jazz. The American guard then left for Europe, hopping from team to team, before returning to Utah last December. He lasted only 11 days and subsequently missed the rest of the 2011/12 season. In October he signed a contract with Estonian Kalev.

Derrick Brown, Lokomotiv-Kuban forward


NBA games: 171 (18 – as starter)
NBA stats: 5.2 points, 2.4 rebounds
NBA teams: Charlotte Bobcats, New York Knicks
Last spring, Brown started for the Bobcats, scoring nearly 10 points per game. It looked certain he would receive a new contract, but Michael Jordan and his executive office thought differently and chose not to extend him. Brown’s confident play for the Spurs in training camp also failed to impress, leading the forward to Krasnodar.

Zoran Planinic, Khimki guard


NBA games: 148 (10 – as starter)
NBA stats: 3.8 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists
NBA team: New Jersey Nets
Planinic's future in the NBA looked bright after being drafted 22nd in the 2003 draft. Like many others from the Yugoslavian basketball school, however, he struggled to play his best on the other side of the ocean. Zoran spent three seasons with the Nets, two years with Spain’s Tau Ceramica, two years with CSKA, and now helps Khimki to realize their ambitious dreams.

Victor Khryapa, CSKA forward


NBA games: 143 (58 – as starter)
NBA stats: 4.5 points, 3.4 rebounds
NBA teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Chicago Bulls
Victor Khryapa, just like Zoran Planinic, was drafted 22nd and, coincidentally, was also supposed to go to New Jersey. On draft day, though, the Nets exchanged the young Russian forward for Eddie Gill, sending Khryapa to Portland. Khryapa made it into the starting lineup for Portland in 2005/06, but was soon traded to Chicago where he suffered an injury, losing his spot in the starting lineup. In 2008 he finally returned to his homeland, signing with CSKA in 2008. Victor has already won the Euroleague with CSKA and is regarded as one of the best basketball players in Europe.

Sonny Weems, CSKA forward


NBA games: 140 (47 – as starter)
NBA stats: 7.7 points, 2.5 rebounds
NBA teams: Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors
Following an unsuccessful debut season with the Nuggets, Weems headed to Canada. In Toronto he earned more playing time, even making it into the starting five. Despite his noticeable development, Sonny chose not to stay in North America and headed to Europe in 2011. After a season in Kaunas, Weems now plays for Russian CSKA, where he is a leader on the team.

Oleksiy Pecherov, Azovmash center


NBA games: 111 (5 – as starter)
NBA stats: 3.9 points, 2.4 rebounds
NBA teams: Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves
The Ukrainian giant went 18th in the 2006 draft, the highest draft number of any player on this list. After two dismal seasons in the nation’s capital with the Wizards, Pecherov headed to Minneapolis, looking for better luck. He couldn’t beat out Ryan Hollins and Darko Milicic for playing time, however, and headed back to Europe to play in Italy for a season. Now he has returned to his Ukrainian homeland to play for Mariupol’s Azovmash.

Paul Davis, Khimki center


NBA games: 82 (2 – as starter)
NBA stats: 2.6 points, 1.9 rebounds
NBA teams: Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards
The 34th selection in the 2006 draft didn’t last long in the league. Coming off the bench, he only averaged about 10 minutes per game. Davis, of course, wanted more and a few years later he’s competing in the VTB United League, representing Moscow region’s Khimki.

Manny Harris, Azovmash guard


NBA games: 80 (20 – as starter)
NBA stats: 6.2 points, 2.6 rebounds
NBA team: Cleveland Cavaliers
Harris’s move to Mariupol was a bit surprising, given his significant role in Cleveland the past two seasons. Cleveland’s front office, nonetheless, chose to drop Harris in the offseason. Without any other NBA options, the American had to go elsewhere, ultimately settling on Ukraine.

John Edwards, Tsmoki-Minsk center


NBA games: 65 (5 – as starter)
NBA stats: 1.5 points, 1.0 rebounds
NBA teams: Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks
Edwards didn’t make a big impression in two seasons in the NBA, never once scoring even 10 points in a game. Two years on the bench and participation in the Al Harrington trade just about sums up his NBA career. After bouncing around the D-League, and spending some time in Greece and Puerto Rico, John found his way to the VTB United League.

Rawle Marshall, Astana guard


NBA games: 63 (11 – as starter)
NBA stats: 2.7 points, 1.0 rebounds
NBA teams: Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers
Marshall went undrafted in 2005, but his play in the Summer League led several teams to offer him a professional contract. Nine games in Dallas’s starting line-up during his rookie season was a big accomplishment, but Marshall still couldn’t stick in the league. He subsequently moved from club to club in Europe, until traveling to Kazakhstan in 2011, where he's now in his second season with Astana.

Michael Taylor, Nymburk guard


NBA games: 51 (5 – as starter)
NBA stats: 5.7 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists
NBA team: Los Angeles Clippers
The Iowa State graduate played in the NBA in 2008. Drafted 55th, he did fairly well for the Clippers in his rookie season, even scoring 35 points and collecting 8 rebounds in one game. Mike didn’t want to stay in the NBA, however, choosing to bounce around Europe with various teams. This season he’s settled on Czech Nymburk.

Lynn Greer, Azovmash guard


NBA games: 41 (0 – as starter)
NBA stats: 4.1 points, 1.3 rebounds
NBA team: Milwaukee Bucks
Russian fans may remember that Greer played for Moscow’s Dinamo back in 2004. In 2006, he had an opportunity to play in the NBA and spent the 2006/07 as Milwaukee’s third-string point guard, appearing in 41 games, before returning to Europe. Greer moved to Mariupol this summer, the third ex-NBA’er on the Ukrainian team.

James Augustine, Khimki forward


NBA games: 27 (0 – as starter)
NBA stats: 1.6 points, 1.2 rebounds
NBA team: Orlando Magic
The Magic didn’t give the young forward much of an opportunity to prove himself – in two seasons Augustine only spent 156 minutes on the court. After the NBA, James decided to play in Spain, where he suited up for three different teams. This May, the 28-year-old signed a contract with Khimki.

Sergey Monya, Khimki forward


NBA games: 26 (15 – as starter)
NBA stats: 3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds
NBA teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings
Following the 2004 NBA Draft, both Russian draftees and best friends – Sergey Monya and Victor Khryapa – ended up on the same team. Sergey began the season brightly for the Blazers, then moved to Sacramento later in the year where he got almost no playing time. Monya decided not to continue his career in the NBA. After 5 seasons with Dinamo Moscow, the forward found a place with Moscow region’s Khimki, where he quickly became a leader.

Zabian Dowdell, Enisey guard


NBA games: 24 (0 – as starter)
NBA stats: 5.0 points, 2.1 assists
NBA team: Phoenix Suns
In January 2011 Dowdell signed a 10-day contract with the Phoenix Suns. The team’s front office liked his play and extended the contract through the end of the season. Dowdell played 24 games last season, but didn’t find any attractive options in the offseason and took off for Krasnoyarsk. Now the American guard is trying to win the hearts of the Enisey fans.

Aaron Miles, Krasnye Krylia guard

NBA games: 19 (0 – as starter)
NBA stats: 0.8 points, 1.3 assists
NBA teams: Golden States Warriors
In his NBA rookie season Aaron Miles had to find his place between such stars as Derek Fisher and Baron Davis, while also beating out fellow rookie Will Bynum. He couldn’t quite measure up to the competition and was dropped by the team. Miles played in the D-League, as well as in France, Greece, and Spain. Since 2011 he has suited up for Samara’s Krasnye Krylia.

Dijon Thompson, Nizhny Novgorod forward


NBA games: 16 (0 – as starter)
NBA stats: 2.8 points, 1.2 rebounds
NBA teams: Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks
The University of California grad appeared in the NBA in 2005. In two seasons Dijon played in only 16 games for the Suns and Hawks combined. He didn’t care much for the D-League, either, and took off for a new challenge in Europe. Having played for 5 different teams in 4 years, Thompson may have realized that constant team turnover wasn’t doing him any good. Dijon signed a contract with Nizhny Novgorod, but he’s yet to appear in an official game in the 2012/13 season.

Martynas Andriuskevicius, Neptunas center


NBA games: 6 (0 – as starter)
NBA stats: 0.7 points, 0.3 steals
NBA team: Cleveland Cavaliers
The Lithuanian center, still with Zalgiris at the time, decided to test himself in America in 2005, declaring for the NBA Draft. The 19-year-old Martynas was taken 44th and headed to Cleveland that fall, but didn’t get a chance to play much in Ohio. Andriuskevicius then spent four seasons in the Spanish league, one season with Greek PAOK, before returning to his native land this summer to play for Neptunas.

Jeff Foote, Zalgiris center


NBA games: 4 (0 – as starter)
NBA stats: 1.0 points, 1.5 rebounds
NBA team: New Orleans Hornets
Following graduation from college, the American center headed straight for Europe to play for Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Last season, the Hornets took interest, signing him to a 10-day contract. Foote played in four games, but didn’t show anything special, and the contract was not renewed. In September, the New York native found his way to Kaunas, signing a contract with local Zalgiris.

Kelly Mac Carty, UNICS forward


NBA games: 2 (0 – as starter)
NBA stats: 2.0 points, 1.5 rebounds
NBA team: Denver Nuggets
Very few people know that the former Khimki, and now UNICS, leader began his professional career in the NBA. In the winter of 1999, the Nuggets signed the forward to a free-agent contract. After playing a total of four minutes in two games, Kelly headed for Europe, where he’s played ever since.

Oliver Lafayette, Zalgiris guard


NBA games: 1 (0 – as starter)
NBA stats: 7.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists
NBA teams: Boston Celtics
In Boston’s last game of the 2009/10 season, Oliver Lafeyette showed up on Boston’s game-day roster. The guard played well in his only NBA game and also impressed in the Summer League, but still got cut in the fall of 2010 due to a glut of players at his position. Having already appeared on five different European rosters, Lafayette ended up with Zalgiris this season.

Prepared by Dmitry Kolinov