01july

VTB United League Players at the NBA Draft

The NBA Draft was held last Thursday in the historic New York borough of Brooklyn. Over the years, numerous talented former and current VTB United League players have got their start on basketball’s biggest stage through this event.

VTB-League.com brings you a list of the League’s highest-ranked NBA Draft selections.

Maciej Lampe (Poland)

Draft: 30th in 2003, New York Knicks
NBA Teams: Knicks (2003-2004), Suns (2004-2005), New Orleans Hornets (2005-2006), Rockets (2006-2007)
Average NBA Stats: 64 games, 3.4 points, 2.2 rebounds in 9.9 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: UNICS (2009-2011)
Average VTB United League Stats: 14 games, 14.6 points, 8.2 rebounds in 27.0 minutes per game

Maciej Lampe played for four different teams in three years in the NBA. The Polish big man was traded from the Knicks to Phoenix in January 2004, where he set the team record for youngest player to participate in a regular-season game (18 years, 352 days).

He played 14 games in the VTB United League, putting up big numbers during his brief stay as well as helping UNICS take 3rd place in the VTB United League in 2011.

Petteri Koponen (Finland)

Draft: 30th pick in 2007, Philadelphia 76ers
NBA Teams: Did not play
VTB United League Teams: Khimki (since 2012)
Average VTB United League Stats: 45 games, 10.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists in 23.0 minutes per game

Koponen played in the USA – World exhibition in 2007 at the Nike Hoop Summit, which features some of the world’s top young talent and always attracts plenty of scouts. The Finnish guard was one of the best players on the World team, despite going against future NBA MVP Derrick Rose. That same year, he was selected with the last pick of the first round by Philadelphia. Later on, Koponen’s rights were transferred first to Portland then Dallas.

The Khimki sharpshooter has admitted that he still dreams of reaching the NBA. Koponen plays a key role for coach Rimas Kurtinaitis and is certainly capable of realizing his dream.

Primoz Brezec (Slovenia)

Draft: 27th pick in 2000, Indiana Pacers
NBA Teams: Pacers (2001-2004), Bobcats (2004-2007), Pistons (2007-2008), Raptors (2008-2009), 76ers (2009-2010), Bucks (2010-2011)
Average NBA Stats: 342 games, 7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds in 18.1 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: Lokomotiv (2011-2012), Nizhny Novgorod (since 2012)
Average VTB United League Stats: 36 games, 10.2 points, 4.7 rebounds in 22.0 minutes per game

The Slovenian center enjoyed a lengthy tenure in the NBA. His first three seasons in Indiana, however, were not that successful. Brezec spent most of his time on the bench, appearing in games infrequently. Everything changed in 2004 as a result of the expansion draft held for the Charlotte Bobcats. Primoz made history for the franchise, which now belongs to Michael Jordan, scoring the team’s first-ever points. He also earned the dubious honor of first Bobcat turnover. In his best season for Charlotte, Brezec averaged 13.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

The NBA veteran readily shared his experience with his young Nizhny Novgorod teammates this season. As we all saw for ourselves, his efforts did not go to waste.

Andrei Kirilenko (Russia)

Draft: 24th pick in 1999, Utah Jazz
NBA Teams: Jazz (2001-2011), Timberwolves (2012-2013), Nets (since 2013)
Average NBA Stats: 790 games, 11.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.8 blocks in 30.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: CSKA (2011-2012)
Average VTB United League Stats: 11 games, 11.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.4  blocks in 26.0 minutes per game

Andrei Kirilenko, without a doubt, is the best Russian player to ever play in the NBA. He’s put together an impressive resume in the world’s strongest league and it’s hard to say if any Russian player will ever be able to top what he’s done. In any case, Kirilenko continues to contribute and still hopes to win an NBA title.

The NBA had a lockout in 2011, as a result of which AK-47 spent a season with CSKA. He was a big hit with the fans back home and won the VTB United League regular season and Final Four MVP awards, leading CSKA to the title.

Raul Lopez (Spain)

Draft: 24th pick in 2001, Utah Jazz
NBA Teams: Jazz (2002-2005)
Average NBA Stats: 113 games, 6.5 points, 1.7 rebounds, 3.8 assists in 19.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: Khimki (2009-2011)
Average VTB United League Stats: 19 games, 5.2 points, 1.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists in 18.0 minutes per game

The Spaniard was selected in 2001, but didn’t debut in the NBA until 2003. He spent the 2001-2002 season with Real Madrid, then missed the following year due to an ACL tear. Upon his return, Lopez featured in all 82 regular-season games for Utah. In August 2005, Lopez was a part of the NBA’s biggest trade in history, which featured five teams, 13 players and two draft picks.

Raul Lopez also made his mark in the VTB United League, helping Khimki win a championship in 2011.

Nenad Krstic (Serbia)

Draft: 24th pick in 2002, New Jersey Nets
NBA Teams: Nets (2003-2008), Thunder (2008-2010), Celtics (2010-2011)
Average NBA Stats: 419 games, 10.0 points, 5.4 rebounds in 25.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: CSKA (2011-2014)
Average VTB United League Stats: 72 games, 11.3 points, 3.6 rebounds in 20.0 minutes per game

Krstic’s NBA career developed nicely, beginning with a selection to the Rookie Second Team. He soon earned a place in the Nets’ starting lineup and improved his statistics from season to season. But his progress was hampered by an ACL tear in December 2006. After a long rehabilitation, Nenad struggled to maintain his same high level of production in the NBA and chose to join CSKA. He’s been a terror in European basketball ever since, putting in three productive seasons while 3-peating as VTB United League champion.

Sergey Monia (Russia)

Draft: 24th pick in 2004, Portland Trailblazers
NBA Teams: Trailblazers (2005-2006), Kings (2006-2007)
Average NBA Stats: 26 games, 3.0 points, 2.0 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: Khimki (since 2010)
Average VTB United League Stats: 75 games, 9.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals in 26.0 minutes per game

Sergey Monia’s NBA career never quite got off the ground. The talented forward joined the Blazers in 2005, linking up with fellow Russian Viktor Khryapa. Monia had the coach’s trust early, but ultimately never managed to play his best in America.

Though Sergey failed to capitalize on his opportunity across the ocean, no one doubts his level of talent. Monia has been one of Russia’s most significant basketball players in recent years. In addition to national team success, he won the VTB United League in 2011 with Khimki.

Marcus Williams (USA)

Draft: 22nd pick in 2006, New Jersey Nets
NBA Teams: Nets (2006-2008), Warriors (2008-2009), Grizzlies (2009-2010)
Average NBA Stats: 203 games, 5.6 points, 1.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists in 15.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: Lokomotiv-Kuban (since 2013)
Average VTB United League Stats: 23 games, 10.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists in 28.0 minutes per game

While Marcus Williams was best known at home for temporary academic suspensions and an attempt to sell stolen computers (during his college years), once he moved to Europe he quickly became recognized as an elite point guard. He lived up to that reputation this season in the VTB United League. Marcus may have struggled at times, but his best play came in the postseason against CSKA, when he single-handedly led Lokomotiv to two historic wins in Moscow.  

Zoran Planinic (Croatia)

Draft: 22nd pick in 2003, New Jersey Nets
NBA Teams: Nets (2003-2006)
Average NBA Stats: 148 games, 3.8 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists in 11.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: CSKA (2009-2010), Khimki (2010-2013)
Average VTB United League Stats: 59 games, 10.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.2 steals in 25.0 minutes per game

Zoran is best known in the NBA for the nearly full-court buzzer-beater he hit against the Jazz in 2005. Over in Europe, he’s considered one of the continent’s top point guards. Until recently, Zoran was the only player who had won the VTB United League with two different teams (CSKA in 2010, Khimki in 2011). Former teammate Vitaly Fridzon joined him this season.

Viktor Khryapa (Russia)

Draft: 22nd pick in 2004, New Jersey Nets
NBA Teams: Trailblazers (2004-2006), Bulls (2006-2008)
Average NBA Stats: 143 games, 4.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists in 16.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: CSKA (since 2009)
Average VTB United League Stats: 75 games, 7.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.3 steals in 23.0 minutes per game

After two decent seasons with Portland, Khryapa was traded to Chicago along with Tyrese Thomas in 2006 for LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the NBA’s top power forwards. Bulls head coach Scott Skiles didn’t see a place for Khryapa, leading to a return to Russia in 2008 after playing just 336 minutes in Chicago. The rest is history. A leader on and off the court at CSKA, Khryapa won the VTB United League four times and earned regular-season and playoff MVP awards. He also recorded the League’s first triple-double.

Donatas Motiejunas (Lithuania)

Draft: 20th pick in 2011, Minnesota Timberwolves
NBA Teams: Houston (since 2012)
Average NBA Stats: 106 games, 5.6 points, 3.0 rebounds in 14.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: Asseco Prokom (2011-2012)
Average VTB United League Stats: 16 games, 13.4 points, 7.5 rebounds in 27.0 minutes per game

The talented Lithuanian forward was selected in the 2011 draft, but decided to stay another season in Europe. That’s when he joined the VTB United League, playing for Polish club Asseco Prokom. During the 2011-2012 season, Motiejunas led his team in both scoring and rebounding.

Sergey Karasev (Russia)

Draft: 19th pick in 2013, Cleveland Cavaliers
NBA Teams: Cleveland (since 2013)
Average NBA Stats: 22 games, 1.7 points in 7.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: Triumph (2012-2013)
Average VTB United League Stats: 20 games, 15.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists in 30.0 minutes per game

Sergey Karasev made a lot of noise two seasons ago in the VTB United League, finishing among the League’s leading scorers and picking up the Young Player of the Year award. NBA scouts couldn’t pass him up and he was selected 19th in the draft last summer, joining the Cavs. He spent his first season getting adjusted, but everything is still ahead for the 20-year-old Russian.

Oleksiy Pecherov (Ukraine)

Draft: 18th pick in 2006, Washington Wizards
NBA Teams: Wizards (2007-2009), Timberwolves (2009-2010)
Average NBA Stats: 111 games, 3.9 points, 2.4 rebounds in 9.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: Azovmash (2010-2014), Krasnye Krylia (2014)
Average VTB United League Stats: 33 games, 7.6 points, 4.4 rebounds in 18.0 minutes per game

Oleksiy Pecherov was the fifth Ukrainian to play in the NBA. He didn’t stay for long, however, returning to Ukraine, where he was a leader at Azovmash. Last season, Oleksiy finished the year at Krasnye Krylia, where he also made significant contributions.

Jiri Welsch (Czech Republic)

Draft: 16th pick in 2002, Philadelphia 76ers
NBA Teams: Warriors (2002-2003), Celtics (2003-2005), Cavaliers (2004-2005), Bucks (2005-2006)
Average NBA Stats: 247 games, 6.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists in 19.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: Nymburk (since 2012)
Average VTB United League Stats: 31 games, 6.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists in 26.0 minutes

During four seasons in the NBA, Welsch was traded five times. It’s doubtful that the constant upheaval worked to the versatile forward’s advantage and likely hampered him from reaching his full potential. Nonetheless, Jiri averaged 9.2 points per game in 2003-2004 as a member of the Boston Celtics. He certainly has something to tell the grandkids about.

On his return to Europe, Welsch continued to switch teams, before settling in 2012 in his native Czech Republic. The veteran plays an indispensable role at BC Nymburk.

Bostjan Nachbar (Slovenia)

Draft: 15th pick in 2002, Houston Rockets
NBA Teams: Rockets (2002-2004), New Orleans/Oklahoma City (2004-2006), Nets (2006-2008)
Average NBA Stats: 317 games, 7.1 points, 2.6 rebounds in 18.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: UNICS (2011-2012)
Average VTB United League Stats: 4 games, 5.3 points, 2.3 rebounds in 11.0 minutes per game

The Slovenian’s NBA career really took off when he moved to the Nets, where he played a big role as 6th man. Then, in 2008, Dynamo Moscow offered Nachbar a contract that he couldn’t refuse. He returned to Europe to join up with David Blatt, bringing his time in the NBA to an end.

In the second half of the 2011-2012 season, the Slovenian forward joined UNICS, but failed to make a big impact. He would play just four games in the VTB United League.

Julian Wright (USA)

Draft: 13th pick in 2007, New Orleans Hornets
NBA Teams: Hornets (2007-2010), Raptors (2010-2012)
Average NBA Stats: 231 games, 3.9 points, 2.3 rebounds in 12.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: Krasnye Krylia (2013-2014)
Average VTB United League Stats: 8 games, 15.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.8 steals in 32.0 minutes per game

Tall and athletic since high school, Wright enjoyed a terrific college career, earning his 13th-place selection in the 2007 Draft. But you need more than just great physical attributes to excel in the NBA. Wright struggled to contribute during stints with the Hornets and Raptors, never averaging more than 15 minutes per game and periodically spending time in the D-League. Once the demotions became more regular, Julian decided to jump to Europe. Across the ocean, where strict offensive sets still prevail, it was all a bit different. This freak athlete from the USA won fans wherever he went. While at Krasnye Krylia, he played exciting, productive basketball to quickly win the hearts of the Samara fans. Unfortunately, Julian wasn’t able to stay in Russia long due to health problems.

Yaroslav Korolev (Russia)

Draft: 12th pick in 2005, Los Angeles Clippers
NBA Teams: Clippers (2005-2007)
Average NBA Stats: 34 games, 1.1 points in 5.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: Spartak (2012-2014)
Average VTB United League Stats: 32 games, 4.6 points, 2.2 rebounds in 15 minutes per game

Yaroslav Korolev set the Russian record for highest draft selection in 2005, going 12th to the Clippers. But as would become clear later on, the 18-year-old rushed his move to the USA. Inexperienced and young, he was unable to carve out a long-term career in the NBA. After two unsuccessful seasons with the Clippers, Korolev changed several teams before ending up at Spartak St. Petersburg in 2012. He played with them in the VTB United League, though, to be objective, he failed to reach his full potential in Russia’s northern capital.

Trajan Langdon (USA)

Draft: 11th pick in 1999, Cleveland Cavaliers
NBA Teams: Cavs (1999-2002)
Average NBA Stats: 119 games, 5.4 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists in 15.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: CSKA (2009-2011)
Average VTB United League Stats: 20 games, 10.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists in 25.0 minutes per game

Trajan Langdon was drafted by the Cavs in ’99, becoming the first player from Alaska to make it to the NBA. That was probably Trajan’s biggest accomplishment during his professional career in America. Once in Europe, though, the guard enjoyed much more success. Langdon was a leader at CSKA in the second half of the 2000’s, earning cult status among the Army club’s faithful. Trajan ended his career at CSKA and now works as a scout for the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.

Jarvis Hayes (USA)

Draft: 10th pick in 2003, Washington Wizards
Average NBA Stats: 427 games, 8.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists in 23.0 minutes per game
NBA Teams: Wizards (2003-2007), Pistons (2007-2008), Nets (2008-2010)
VTB United League Teams: Krasnye Krylia (2011-2012)
Average VTB United League Stats: 7 games, 8.9 points, 2.9 rebounds in 26.0 minutes per game

Jarvis Hayes managed to snag the #10 spot in one of the strongest drafts in NBA history, at least in recent years. Among the top five players selected that season: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. But Jarvis was unable to make good himself in the Association as injuries played a major role in his limited role. Years later, while at Krasnye Krylia, the one-time NBA lottery pick also failed to impress.

Patrick O’Bryant (USA)

Draft: 9th pick in 2006, Golden State Warriors
NBA Teams: Warriors (2006-2008), Celtics (2008-2009), Raptors (2009-2010)
Average NBA Stats: 90 games, 2.1 points, 1.4 rebounds in 6.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: Lietuvos Rytas (2012-2013)
Average VTB United League Stats: 6 games, 5.8 points, 3.3 rebounds in 12.0 minutes per game

O’Bryant’s career peaked with his top-10 draft selection. It’s been a steady decline since then. The center failed to make an impact with the Warriors and has bounced around from team to team, with Lietuvos Rytas one of the most recent stops.

Jonas Valanciunas (Lithuania)

Draft: 5th in 2011, Toronto Raptors
NBA Teams: Raptors (since 2012)
Average NBA Stats: 143 games, 10.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.0 blocks in 26.0 minutes per game
VTB United League Teams: Lietuvos Rytas (2010-2012)
Average VTB United League Stats: 32 games, 9.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks in 21.0 minutes per game

Lithuanian basketball’s golden boy, Jonas Valanciunas, earned his #5 selection, for one, with his play in the VTB United League. Even then, after the thrill of going so high in the NBA Draft in 2011, Valanciunas chose to spend one more year with Lietuvos Rytas in Europe, taking 3rd place in the League in 2012.

He’s now the starting center for an improving Raptors squad. Jonas is just 22 years old with his best years yet to come. 

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