And with the 4th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select… Kristaps Porzingis.
Porzingis, standing at 7-1, was a draft pick that was met by much scrutiny by many New York Knicks fans. Knicks faithful actually booed the pick vociferously after it was announced.
Porzingis is from Latvia, so most of the fans who booed the pick have never seen him play. Porzingis is far from the first European to be drafted with a high pick in the NBA Draft, who had never played basketball in North America.
Listed below are all the European lottery picks in the NBA Draft, the first being Dirk Nowitzki in 1998.
(Note: This list does not include European lottery picks who haven’t played in the NBA such as Darko Saric and Fran Vazquez, and does not include Europeans who played collegiately in the United States such as Alex Len and Jerome Moiso.)
Career: 17 seasons, 22.2 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game, 87.9% free throws, 38.3% 3-pointers
The first ever European lottery draft pick is still the benchmark of what all European lottery picks would love to become. Nowitzki, drafted out of Germany, was the ninth overall selection by the Milwaukee Bucks, before being traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Robert Traylor.
All Nowitzki has done is score the seventh most points in NBA history, make 13 Western Conference All-Star teams, win the 2007 NBA MVP, and win the 2011 NBA Finals MVP for the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks.
Nowitzki recently turned 37, and is still going strong getting ready for his 18th NBA season. Nowitzki will go down as one of the greatest power forwards of all-time, and an obvious first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Career: 14 seasons, 18.3 points per game, 9.4 rebounds per game, 1.7 blocks per game, 51.3% field goal shooting
Pau Gasol became the second European lottery pick, as the 7-footer was drafted out of Spain with the third overall selection in 2001 by the Atlanta Hawks, later traded to the Vancouver Grizzlies.
Gasol is another likely future Hall of Famer, as he has made five All-Star teams, and was a member of the 2009 and 2010 Los Angeles Lakers championship teams. He was the 2002 Rookie of the Year, and twice has been named 2nd Team All-NBA.
He is already 66th in career NBA points, and 46th in career NBA rebounds. At the age of 34, Gasol averaged a career high in rebounds per game last season with the Chicago Bulls, so he still has plenty left in the tank.
Career: 12 seasons, 8.0 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 37.8% 3-pointers
Radmanovic was drafted 12th overall out of Yugoslavia by the Seattle Supersonics in the 2003 NBA Draft.
Radmanovic was a solid role player in the NBA, playing 21.9 minutes per game during his career.
In five different seasons, he hit over 100 3-pointers, and three times he averaged double-digits in scoring.
His last season was in 2012-13 with the Chicago Bulls.
Career: 4 seasons, 2.9 points per game, 1.8 rebounds per game
Tskitishvili was drafted fifth overall out of Georgia (the country, not the state) by the Denver Nuggets in the 2003 NBA Draft.
While Nowitzki should be seen as the benchmark of what European lottery picks want to become, Tskitshvili should be seen as someone European lottery picks do not want to become.
In his NBA career, Tskitshvili amassed career totals of 507 points, 307 rebounds, and 50 blocks. He last played in the NBA during the 2005-06 season.
Knicks fans are probably hoping Porzingis can surpass all of Tskitshvili’s career totals during his rookie season.
Career: 10 seasons, 6.0 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game, 1.3 blocks per game
Milicic was drafted second overall out of Serbia in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. Milicic was seen as a bust by almost all NBA fans, and was famously drafted over the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.
He last played in the NBA during the 2012-13 season with the Boston Celtics. Milicic was a member of the 2004 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons team, but he only played 14 minutes that entire postseason.
Career: 10 seasons, 8.3 points per game, 3.1 rebounds per game, 35.5% 3-pointers
Pietrus was drafted 11th overall out of France in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors.
Pietrus played 21.5 minutes per game in his career, and was an important member of the 2009 Orlando Magic team that made the NBA finals. He last played in the NBA in the 2012-13 season with the Toronto Raptors.
Career: 10 seasons, 6.3 points per game, 7.0 rebounds per game, 1.1 blocks per game, 59.4% field goal shooting
Biedrins was drafted 11th overall out of Latvia in the 2004 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors.
The 6-11 Latvian was the Warriors starting center more often than not from 2006 until 2012. He led the NBA with 62.6% field goal shooting during the 2006-07 season, and averaged double figures in points twice, and rebounds once.
Biedrins last played six games with the Utah Jazz during the 2013-14 NBA season. The latter part of his career is mostly known for his atrocious free-throw shooting. During his last five seasons, Biedrins made 20 free throws in 84 attempts, which equates to 23.8% free-throw shooting.
Career: 9 seasons, 15.0 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, 35.6% 3-point shooting
Bargnaini was drafted first overall out of Italy in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors. Bargnani is still the only European to be taken first overall.
While Bargnani has shown signs of being a solid scorer in the league, he lacks the tough defense and rebounding that is wanted from a 7-0 big man. He has missed much time due to injury throughout his career, and Knicks fans know this all too well, as he has appeared in only 71 of a possible 164 games the past two seasons as a member of the Knicks.
As a free agent and turning 30 on October 26, it will be interesting to see who will take the next shot on Andrea Bargnani, as it seems likely the Knicks will move on from his services. What is known is that he has been a disappointment as a first overall pick in the NBA.
Career: 9 seasons, 5.8 points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, 1.1 steals per game
Sefolosha was drafted 13th overall out of Switzerland in the 2006 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. Later that day, he was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics.
Sefolosha has never been much of a scorer in the NBA, with a career high of 7.6 points per game in the 2012-13 season, but has been known as one of the better backcourt on-ball defenders. He was named to the All-NBA 2nd Defensive Team during the 2009-10 season, and started every game he appeared in for five straight years with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Unfortunately after his first season as a member of the Atlanta Hawks last season, he is most known for having his leg broken by NYPD officers, after being arrested while leaving a night club late at night. That broken leg forced Sefolosha to miss this past season’s NBA Playoffs.
Career: 6 seasons, 14.2 points per game, 4.5 rebounds per game, 36.7% 3-point shooting
Gallinari was drafted sixth overall out of Italy in the 2008 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks.
Gallinari spent two and a half seasons with the Knicks, before being involved in a trade to the Denver Nuggets that helped the Knicks land Carmelo Anthony.
He has shown signs of being a versatile player in the league, being one of the rare players who can stroke three pointers, as well as attack the rim enough to get to the foul line frequently.
Much like Bargnani, Gallinari has suffered through numerous injuries during his NBA career, including missing the entire 2013-14 season. He turns 27 on August 8, so there should still be plenty of basketball left in Danilo Gallinari.
Career: 4 seasons, 10.2 points per game, 8.2 assists per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, 2.3 steals per game
Rubio was drafted fifth overall out of Spain in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Rubio played overseas for two more years, before joining the Timberwolves in the 2011-2012 NBA season.
Rubio has been a magician passing the ball, with nearly a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio in his NBA career. He finished second in the NBA in steals per game in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 NBA seasons.
His shooting has defenses backing him off, daring him to shoot jump shots, as he is only a career 36.7% field goal shooter. Rubio will only turn 25 on October 21, so there is still plenty of time for him to develop into a potential All-Star point guard on a Timberwolves team that has a lot of young talent.
Career: 3 seasons, 10.9 points per game, 8.0 rebounds per game, 1.1 blocks per game, 55.3% field goal shooting
Valanciunas was drafted fifth overall out of Lithuania in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors.
Valanciunas was thrust into the starting lineup as the Raptors starting center right away, and has become a reliable rebounder and inside presence. He has played an important role each of the last two seasons, both of which have seen the Raptors become Atlantic Division champions.
The Raptors would probably like to see Valanciunas grow a little more on the offensive end, to help complement their backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Valanciunas just turned 23 last month, so he will have time to develop a game worthy of being the fifth overall selection.
Career: 3 seasons, 3.6 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game
The last player on this list is arguably the most disappointing. Vesely was drafted sixth overall out of the Czech Republic in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Washington Wizards.
Vesely may be known more for the lip-locking of his girlfriend after being drafted, than anything he did on the basketball court. Vesely has 590 career points, 562 career rebounds, and 96 career assists.
He last split time with the Wizards and the Denver Nuggets in the 2013-14 season. Vesely is only 25 years old, but it doesn’t seem like teams will be rushing to his door to give him another chance after how he played in his three NBA seasons.
As seen in the list, there are a couple likely European lottery pick Hall of Famers, a fair amount of good NBA role players, and a few who didn’t come close to panning out after being drafted high.
That’s partly why Phil Jackson taking Porzingis can be seen as a high risk/high reward selection. Jackson went with the guy a few scouts have been quoted as saying has the most upside in the entire draft. Upside does not guarantee success, of course.
Porzingis said after he was selected, that he wants to change the booing fans into fans that are clapping their hands for him.
Actions speak louder than words.
Porzingis will have to put in the necessary hard work to help him fully realize the upside he has, and have Knicks fans forgetting how much they disliked the selection on June 25, 2015.