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The Herd: Dick Vitale responds to Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy's claim that he isn't knowledgeable about foreign players.

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Recent international first-rounders lack impact


June 30, 2005 | ESPN.com's NBA draft coverage

Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy recently said on radio that analysts are on TV to make noise. He said I was misinformed concerning international players.

I went on to state the facts regarding international players. The bottom line is this: The numbers don't lie. There haven't been very many impact international players in the first round in the past three years.

There have been 20 first-round international draft picks from 2002-04, and only Yao Ming has been a major impact player.
This is more than just an opinion. This is a fact.

I do admire what NBA commissioner David Stern has done in terms of the globalization of the NBA. He has done a terrific job, and the sport has a tremendous following worldwide.

As I said on ESPN's draft coverage Tuesday night, I feel there are times when American players are scrutinized more than foreign imports. I believe scouts find the warts and faults of many American college players.

This year, only four foreign imports were taken in round one (I don't include Andrew Bogut, since he played at Utah). I haven't seen enough of Fran Vazquez, Yaroslav Korolev, Johan Petro or Ian Mahinmi. But I can tell you that when Vazquez and Korolev came off the board, Sean May, Danny Granger and Gerald Green were still available – and that surprised and disappointed me.

Dunleavy defended the Clippers' first-round selection of Korolev, and only time will tell which picks work out and which don't long-term. My only question is, when you look at the last three years, have the international players taken in the first round really had a major impact in the NBA?

Again, as I said on draft night, the answer is no – and that's a fact. There have been 20 first-round international draft picks from 2002-04, and only Yao Ming has been a major impact player. Yes, a few have contributed, like Nene Hilario in Denver, Mickael Pietrus at Golden State, Nenad Krstic with New Jersey and Jiri Welsch, though he has bounced around.

I have nothing against drafting an international player over an American if he is clearly the better talent. Obviously, over the years stars like Dirk Nowitzki, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker have been major forces in the NBA game.

However, my statement on draft night was that over the last three years, only one international player out of 20 drafted in the first round made a major impact. Mr. Dunleavy, let the record speak for itself! The facts are the facts.

Let's look at the names, and you tell me if there has been an impact international first-rounder other than Yao (with the team that originally selected the player, the number of the first-round pick and 2004-05 stats).

Andris Biedrins – Golden State (No. 11) – 30 games, 3.6 ppg
Pavel Podkolzin – Dallas (21) – 5 games, 10 minutes, 0.2 ppg
Viktor Khryapa – Portland (22) – 32 games, 4.2 ppg
Sergey Monia – Portland (23) – DNP
Sasha Vujacic – L.A. Lakers (27) – 35 games, 2.9 ppg
Beno Udrih – San Antonio (28) – 80 games, 5.9 ppg

Darko Milicic – Detroit (No. 2 – 37 games, 254 minutes, 1.8 ppg
Mickael Pietrus – Golden State (11) – 67 games, 9.5 ppg., 42.7% on FGs
Zarko Cabarkapa – Phoenix (17) – 40 games, 6.0 ppg (Phoenix and GS)
Sasha Pavlovic – Utah (19) – 65 games, 4.8 ppg (with Cleveland)
Boris Diaw – Atlanta (21) – 66 games, 4.8 ppg
Zoran Planinic – New Jersey (22) – 43 games, 5.0 ppg
Carlos Delfino – Detroit (25) – 30 games, 3.9 ppg
Leandro Barbosa – San Antonio (28) – 63 games, 7.0 ppg (with Phoenix)

Yao Ming – Houston (No. 1) – 80 games, 18.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg
Nikoloz Tskitishvili – Denver (5) – 35 games, 1.4 ppg (Denver and GS)
Nene Hilario – Denver (7) – 55 games, 9.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg
Bostjan Nachbar – Houston (15) – 71 games, 7.0 ppg (Houston and NO)
Jiri Welsch – Golden State (16) – 71 games, 6.5 ppg (Boston and Cleveland)
Nenad Krstic – New Jersey (24) – 75 games, 10.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg

The numbers speak for themselves. What I said on draft night is a fact, backed up by the statistics shown here. The draft isn't an exact science, and it isn't easy to project how well prospects will perform in their careers.

Of course, Dunleavy will defend his team's selection of Korolev. I hope Korolev works out well and fulfills your team's dream, Mr. Dunleavy! Meanwhile, the Charlotte Hornets are happy Sean May fell to them No. 13.

Thanks, Mike ... like I needed this extra chore after a long night working the draft, baby! I had nothing better to do than to statistically chart every player drafted in the first round the last three years. But a simple reminder, Mike: I still love you! The Dunleavys have always been some of my favorite people.

Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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