Some NBA players (active or not) may be leaving the league and take their game to Europe next season. Here are 10 of them.
By Eurohoops team/ firstname.lastname@example.org
While the 2023 NBA free-agency negotiation period hasn’t even started yet and it’s unclear what kind of unexpected developments and changes the offseason will eventually bring, there are already some players that won’t exactly surprise us if they move to Europe for 2023-24.
Some of the free agents on the list may eventually find the NBA contract they are looking for but others may get a big, lucrative opportunity from a European side to continue their career. Here are 10 players that may be balling in Europe soon.
Juancho Hernangomez (Spain)
If Juancho Hernangomez decides that he’s done with the NBA then he becomes one of the hottest commodities for EuroLeague clubs. He’s 27 years old and has all the potential to become a star in the competition. He already turned down Real Madrid once after he was waived by the Toronto Raptors in February but may not decline a second offer by either 2023 EuroLeague champions or another organization of such a big status.
Hernangomez was entering the 2022-23 season with the Raptors following a stunning finish with the Spanish national team in the 2022 EuroBasket with 27 points in the win over France in the Final but he struggled to produce, having a mere 2.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in 14.9 minutes. Of course, these numbers mean little in regards to how he well can perform in EuroLeague.
Goran Dragic (Slovenia)
Goran Dragic says that he wishes to see himself retiring with the Miami Heat jersey. And why not? He could possibly sign with the club to provide veteran guidance on and off court and, ultimately, hang his shoes as a member of the team he played the best basketball of his career with.
If such a thing doesn’t happen though and if some other NBA franchise doesn’t pick him off the free-agent pool, there’s always the European option waiting for him. While 37 years old, the Slovenian star can deliver leadership and plenty of smart basketball for any team.
Raul Neto (Brazil)
Could this be the year? Every summer Raul Neto is rumored to be on the agenda of EuroLeague clubs (especially Spanish ones) but he finds contracts in the NBA that keep him on the other side of the pond.
This can change now. 31-year-old Neto comes off the second-least productive season in his NBA career after averaging just 3.3 points and 1.6 assists in 10.5 minutes with the Cleveland Cavaliers and it’s questionable if he gets an NBA deal this summer. On the other hand, Europe may have in store both a lucrative deal and potentially a major role on a championship-aspiring team for the Brazilian player since there’s also a shortage of quality point guards around.
Svi Mykhailiuk (Ukraine)
Svi Mykhailiuk is 26 years old and averaged double figures (a career-high 10.6 points, along with 2.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds) through 19 games in his most recent stint with the Charlotte Hornets. Based on these, it’s likely that he can find another NBA contract to extend his stay in the league.
If he doesn’t, there’ll probably be a no small amount of European teams ready and willing to welcome him with open arms. He can emerge as a major scoring weapon in Europe with plenty of room to become a top-tier player.
Ricky Rubio (Spain)
“The idea when I left Europe (in 2011 after playing in Barcelona) to play in the NBA was to come back at some point. I don’t know where I will be mentally and physically and if I will continue to play, but yes, my NBA days are coming to an end.” That’s what Ricky Rubio said while attending a game between alma matter Joventut Badalona and Barcelona, his last team in Europe.
Rubio does have a contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers until 2025 and a guaranteed salary of approximately $6,1 million waiting for him ahead of 2023-24. This is why his case has a major asterisk next to him in comparison with other players on the list. But he has talked more and more about a potential return to Europe over the last couple of months. Sometimes where there’s smoke, there’s also fire.
Frank Ntilikina (France)
After Frank Ntilikina’s sixth season in the NBA the probability of him returning to Europe is bigger than ever. The former 4th overall pick has been in decline since 2019-2020 (his most productive run with 6.3 points, 3.0 assists and 2.0 rebounds) and wasn’t able to help the Dallas Mavericks in any way that mattered last season.
Sure, he’s just 24 years old and there may be a couple of teams looking to add a more than solid defensive guard who has shown that he can make his spot threes (although he went for a career-low 25.4 percent last season). It’s just that his stock seems to be constantly dropping. Maybe Europe can provide him an opportunity (minutes and significant role) to polish his game and pursue an NBA comeback as a much better player in the future.
Kemba Walker (USA)
Back in January, Kemba Walker was reported to be joining Olimpia Milano but there was nothing going on between the two sides. Don’t be shocked if we see the four-time All-Star guard making the move to Europe next season though.
Despite a career that also includes a regular-season average of 19.3 points, 5.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds, Kemba Walker seems to be off radar for most NBA clubs at 33 years of age. Hampered by knee problems, the veteran guard wants to exhaust his options to resume playing before considering retirement.
“I love basketball. I’m not ready to stop playing yet. Wherever the wind takes me,” Walker said in an interview with The Athletic in March. Maybe that “wherever” is a place in Europe.
Unlike Rubio, Willy Hernangomez doesn’t even think about returning to Europe anytime soon. “My motivation and hope is to show that I can dominate in the NBA, that I can play there and be important,” he said in a recent interview.
Still, the 29-year-old Hernangomez comes off a season in which he averaged 12.1 minutes (the less he’s played since 2019-20) and had 6.9 points and 4.7 rebounds with the New Orleans Pelicans. There’s a team option for 2023-24 in his contract with the Pelicans and it remains to be seen if the club will exercise it. While the player’s side insists that he will stay in the NBA, there’s some really strong and attractive interest for him from European powerhouses.
Jabari Parker (USA)
“Jabari is looking for overseas opportunities now. He was close to signing with 2 NBA teams but it didn’t work out and now we checking options overseas – Jabari Parker’s agent in January.
It’s that simple really. Parker will probably test the NBA market this offseason but it seems unlikely that he will find what he’s looking for. In Europe the No. 2 overall pick of 2014 may get a big opportunity to get paid and exhibit his offensive talent perhaps in a way that will change how NBA teams currently view him.
Isaiah Thomas (USA)
Another case of a veteran NBA player and former All-Star that doesn’t find a contract in the league. In the past, Isaiah Thomas talked about exploring options overseas and he may do that again after spending the entirety of 2022-23 without a team.
In his last season in the NBA, Thomas averaged 8.3 points in 17 games with the Charlotte Hornets.