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by Jorge Sierra / July 6, 2002

Emanuel Ginobili, 6-6 SG / 1977 / Kinder Bologna (Italy)
Selected by the San Antonio Spurs as the 57th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft

Jay Williams is clearly the main favorite to achieve Rookie of the Year honors this season, but Ginobili has also a legit chance to become the first second-round pick to do it so since Willis Reed. Seriously. He was already considered the best player left in Europe when Pau Gasol was still playing there -- which means something. Excellent slasher and streaky shooter. Can create his own shot on halfcourt attack, but really excels on the fast break. Plays with an impressive level of intensity and is a very good defender on the ball. You'll know about his leaping skills as soon as he enters the league. If Gregg Popovich makes a stronger bet for an up-tempo game with Tony Parker and Ginobili on the court, the Spurs could become one of the biggest shows in the league.

Marko Jaric, 6-6 PG / 1978 / Kinder Bologna (Italy)
Selected by the Los Angeles Clippers as the 30th overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft

Along with Ginobili, Jaric comprised the most outstanding backcourt in Europe over the last couple of years. He is very good in the open court, but not nearly that good when it comes to make plays on halfcourt attack. The fact is that he is not a pure point guard. Used to overwhelm other playmakers in Europe because of his physical superiority, but will find that a little bit harder in the NBA. Has nearly as much athleticism as Ginobili and is also a more consistent shooter. Not afraid of driving to the basket. Expect good things from him. Not likely to become a star, though.

Raul Lopez, 6-0 PG / 1980 / Real Madrid (Spain)
Selected by the Utah Jazz as the 24th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft

Obviously, the addition of Raul Lopez will be an upgrade in the point guard position for the Utah Jazz -remember that John Crotty and Rusty LaRue were the backups for John Stockton last season-, but it remains to be seen how much of an impact will Lopez make in a team so much needed of young talent. The Spaniard has a resemblance to Tony Parker. He has almost the same quickness and even better ballhandling skills. The main difference is that Lopez has yet to prove he can maintain a high basketball level for several games in a row. He was not able to do that in Europe, so don't expect him to do it in the NBA in his rookie season. Turnovers and poor defensive contribution will be major concerns. As for talent, there is no doubt he belongs to the NBA.

Dejan Bodiroga, 6-8 SF / 1973 / Panathinaikos (Greece)
Selected by the Sacramento Kings as the 51st overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft

Made an awful lot of money in Greece and has no more challenges left in Europe after winning it all, so maybe the time has come for Bodiroga to try his luck in the NBA. It won't be easy for the Yugoslav, though. He can do it all on a basketball court... But does it all in slow motion. Also, he has always needed teams to adapt to his style instead of the opposite. Fits perfectly on the stereotype of European players: lacks athleticism and is a liability on the defensive end. Too many cons. But he has so much talent, versatility and court savvy... You never know. He could make it in the NBA.

Mehmet Okur, 6-10 PF / 1979 / Efes Pilsen (Turkey)
Selected by the Detroit Pistons as the 38th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft

Has effective mid- and long-range shot, some low post moves and an energetic approach to the game. However, the Turkish power forward is not better than Victor Alexander -- and Big Vic didn't play much last season.

Efthimios Rentzias, 6-11 PF / 1976 / FC Barcelona (Spain)
Selected by the Denver Nuggets as the 23rd overall pick in the 1996 draft. Rights traded to the Atlanta Hawks and to the Philadelphia 76ers

A bigger, softer, more talented version of Mehmet Okur. Has not lived up to the expectations. In fact, he is not much better than he was four years ago. Signed with the Sixers at a time when he was thought to be stuck in Europe. If Larry Brown didn't like Larry Hughes or Toni Kukoc because of their poor defensive attitude, he won't like Rentzias much either. Has an NBA body and enough talent, but lacks mental toughness.

Gordan Giricek, 6-6 SG / 1977 / CSKA Moscow (Russia)
Selected by the Dallas Mavericks as the 40th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. Rights traded to the San Antonio Spurs and to the Memphis Grizzlies

Has a polished offensive game. Shoots the ball the way players coming from the Balkans are supposed to and is not afraid of going to the hole. Could be a fine bench contributor in a bad NBA team like the Memphis Grizzlies. Can't do it worse than Antonis Fotsis.

Igor Rakocevic, 6-2 PG / 1978 / Buducnost (Yugoslavia)
Selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves as the 51st overall pick in the 2000 NBA Draft.

Rakocevic will probably play again in the summer leagues trying to find room in an NBA roster. So far, he has not been much successful at it. He has neither been much successful in developing a more consistent jump shot. Not NBA material yet, but don't be surprised if the Wolves take a gamble on him.

Francisco Elson, 6-11 C / 1976 / Pamesa Valencia (Spain)
Selected by the Denver Nuggets as the 41st overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft

Like Rik Smits, he comes from the Netherlands. You won't find any other resemblance between them. He was close to signing a contract with Denver last season, but now everything has changed. The Nuggets don't really need a clone of Nenê.

Alain Digbeu, 6-5 SG / 1975 / FC Barcelona (Spain)
Selected by the Atlanta Hawks as the 50th overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft

One of the best athletes left in Europe. An alley-hoop is waiting to happen with the French on the court. Could be a defensive role player in the NBA.

Milan Gurovic, 6-9 SF / 1976 / Unicaja (Spain)

Never drafted by an NBA team. Has reportedly had contacts with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Is signing him worth the risk? No doubt about it. He is no Stojakovic or Turkoglu, but could contribute coming off the bench with his outside shot.

Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com

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