The NBA required them at the time but, for one reason or another, they never made the journey to expand into the Americas, the territory in which every player poses the greatest of his illusions. Some due to a lack of conviction, some because they did not find out until late about a call that needs to be answered on time and, others, because they simply believed that the happiness promised in the stunning NBA it would never be the same as the one they enjoyed here. These are the Spaniards who were drafted but never made their debut in the best league in the world. Every draft that comes – the next one, from Thursday to Friday morning with very interesting names – the memory of his flirtation with the NBA comes alive.
Jose Antonio Montero
The letter that arrived ‘late’
The one with the winning basket that never went in, the one with the letter he never read…on time. Jose Antonio Montero (Barcelona, 1965) collects 3 ACB Leagues, 2 Copas del Rey and a Korac Cup but there are those who remember him more for what he could achieve and did not achieve than for what he achieved. Apart from that illegal stopper by Vrankovic that he suffered in the Euroleague 96 final against Panathinaikos and that deprived Barça of the coveted first european cup, Montero is identified with another misfortune. The point guard, then at Joventut, became 1987 in the first Spaniard who shared with Fernando Martín the honor of being chosen in the NBA Draft, selected in 113th place in round 5 by the Hawks of Dominique Wilkins at a time when there were up to five rounds.
The Atlanta franchise sent a letter to Badalona, where at that time all letters to amateur players went to a box of the pavilion. One day he decided to look in that box and one with the Hawks shield caught his attention and, of course, he couldn’t resist the intrigue. It was a congratulations from the franchise for choosing him with two tickets to go meet the team. A satisfaction diluted by the blush of opening the envelope as three or four months later. Montero, who suspected that Penya had expressly hidden that correspondence from him, did not send any response, blushing at the delay with which he would answer. He no longer had any contact with the franchise and, like the stopper basket, his stage in the NBA remained at that, in what could have been and was not.
The frustrated desire of the Jordan Bulls
The compliment of being chosen by one of the best teams in history or being a teammate of the majestic Michael Jordan among others they did not convince him. Roberto Dueñas (Fuenlabrada, 1975), at 21 years old and 2.21 meters tall, entered through the eyes of those legendary Bulls who had just won their fifth ring at the time and selected him at number 58 in the second round. MVP of the ACB Finals with Barça in 1997, the goodbye of Robert Parish it left an interesting hole in the painting.
Chicago insisted and he spent two weeks there, but he was happy in the Barça team and in Barcelona and did not trust too much to adapt to the way and rhythm of life in the United States and the NBA. Shocking oddities of the NBA market, Dueñas, retired in 2007, entered in 2019 in the operation by which the Bulls took over the rights of Carmelo Anthony, transferring those of the center to the Rockets, but it was all a mistake by journalist Jonathan Feigen.
An interest of Raptors and Miami not materialized
After Pau Gasol, Albert Miralles (Barcelona, 1982), trained at Joventut, became the Spaniard with the highest pick in the Draft after being chosen at number 10 in the second round by the Raptors, who transferred their rights to Miami. the inside of 2.09, retired at Joventut in 2017had played that season with the Italian Roset Basket and played the summer league with the Heat but his definitive landing in the NBA never materialized and later he would play in Pallacanestro Cantú, Pamesa Valencia, Gipuzkoa, Pallacanestro Biella, ALBA Berlin and Penya.
An eternal indecision
Selected in the 11th of the first round by Orlando Magic in 2005 after embroidering him at Unicaja Málaga, with whom he won the Cup that year, the Florida franchise spent years and years sighing for the 2.09 Galician center (Chantada, Lugo, 1983). At first, the interior, which the following year would go to Akasvayu to join Marc Gasol, stated that he was postponing his trip to the Americas out of a desire to improve his physique and his English, going on to say later that he was not convinced that he would adapt to the NBA. Years passed and, not even after winning the Euroleague with Barça in 2010, did he make up his mind.
In 2011, he assured that the famous ‘Lockout’ with the consequent risk of spending time without playing was what stopped him. He missed what would surely be his last train in 2012, in which Orlando saw in him the ideal substitute for Dwight Howard after moving from the American interior to Los Angeles to join Pau and Kobe in the Lakers.
His happiness was not in an NBA that was dying for him
The paradigm of brave sincerity, of what is thought to be the height of happiness for a player of your caliber, the NBA, may not fit your convictions. With 21 years and already giving production and direction lessons at Real Madrid, the best league in the world became aware of the multiple talents of Sergio Llull (Maó, 1987), and the Nuggets he was selected 34th in the second round in 2009. The Rockets then snapped up his rights for $2.25 million in what became the most expensive second-round acquisition. The strict lord of numbers, Daryl Morey‘confidant’ of James Harden and General Manager of the Rockets between 2007 and 2020-, was undone by him and probed him every summer.
But Llull decided that his happiness lay with Real Madrid and Madrid and he was also more convinced to be a renowned player in Europe rather than trying to be more than a rotation piece in the NBA. His triumphant period in the white team with two Euroleagues and the reference fame of the Old Continent proved him right, although those unlikely tangerines and his maddening game-ending and possession game-winning shots might as well have been an NBA trademark. In 2015 he was close but did not decide. Even in 2019, with Llull already 31 years old, Morey stated that his interest was still alive. But his obsessive ambition remained frustrated desire.
From being able to play in the NBA to descending with Burgos to LEB Oro
The Spanish international, still 29 years old (Madrid, 1993), has just been relegated to LEB Oro with the Saint Paul Burgos and, although it is impossible not to see him in an ACB team next year after being released, his recent situation is striking seeing what future he aspired to in the past. chosen the Best Young Player of the ACB with Gipuzkoa in 2015, the Blazers chose him at number 24 in the second round of that year’s Draft. Although his great hope was in the NBA, he did not undertake the journey because, as he later assured, he was happy in Spain and he still had to learn, but he never started that journey. In 2017, still 24 years old and at Unicaja, the forward gave up playing the Summer League with Portland.
The drafted Spaniards who did play: Pau Gasol, the great winner and the highest ‘pick’
Despite the exposed cases, the majority of drafted Spaniards, up to 16 of the 22Yes, they crossed the pond. Pau Gasol, in addition to his two rings, with his pick 3 in the first round of 2001 by Atlanta, continues to be the highest selection of a Spaniard, while Ferdinand Martinin turn the first Spaniard to play in the NBA, has the privilege of being the first to appear in the draft with his 38th pick in the second round by the New Jersey Nets.
The rest of the Spaniards are Raúl López, Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernández, Sergio Rodríguez, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Ricky Rubio, Víctor Claver, Nikola Mirotic, Álex Abrines, Willy and Juancho Hernangómez, Usman Garuba and Santi Aldama. Jorge Garbajosa, who played for the Raptors between 2006 and 2008, and Jose Manuel Calderon With a long stay between 2005 and 2019 between Raptors, Pistons, Mavericks, Knicks, Lakers, Hawks and Cavaliers, they are the only two Spaniards who did not reach the NBA via draft. Calderon is the one that has played in more franchises.
The misfortune of the Hawks in the draft with the Spanish players and ACB: Pau, Doncic…
What is striking is the unfortunate relationship between the Hawks and the Spanish players, since neither of their two teams has turned out well for them, nor that of Montero in 1987 due to the recipient’s delay in reading the letter, nor, above all, due to the dubious and later confirmed as lousy decision by trade Pau to the Grizzlies. And, to extend its questionable view of ACB players, Atlanta added another goof in 2018, trading the Mavericks to Luka Doncić -Slovenian but trained in Spain in Madrid-, drafted in the 3rd of the first round as Pau.
The regrets would also surface in some Lakers who never knew how to value Mark Gasol: After choosing him in the second round at number 48 in the 2007 draft, they transferred his rights to the Grizzlies. And, when he signed him in 20-21, the Los Angeles franchise paid for their contempt for the center with the signing of Drummond to mid-season -which displaced the importance of Sant Boi-, and Marc left last summer. Seeing how the Lakers have fared with Drummond, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard In a campaign with so much injury to Anthony Davis, they have surely missed him.
A 2022 Draft with an ACB accent