If the Los Angeles Clippers are willing to give former top five pick Nikoloz Tskitishvili – who’s widely regarded as one of the biggest international busts of all time – a shot at making their roster, Jan Vesely should be on the short list of prospects looking for an NBA opportunity thanks to his performance over the last week at EuroBasket.
Vesely has averaged 16.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in six games for the Czech Republic, who destroyed Croatia on Sunday behind 20 points and 13 rebounds from the big man. He’s displayed an improved post game and touch around the basket while finishing 60 percent of his opportunities.
Vesely has been playing as a small-ball center for the Czech Republic, which would be a similar role to what he could play for an NBA team in need of depth in the frontcourt. He’s only 25-years old, so he’s still got some upside to him – although maybe not as much as he had coming into the league in 2011 as an uber-athletic 6-11, 220-pound power forward.
Vesely had been compared to Andrei Kirilenko, a similarly-sized and athletic international prospect. Vesely was selected sixth overall by the Washington Wizards and looked like a perfect fit alongside point guard John Wall as key cogs of their future.
Vesely showed promise during his rookie campaign, but regressed the following year in Washington. He really lacked confidence after the 2012-13 season in which he averaged only 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds, and he was traded to the Denver Nuggets in February 2014, midway through his third NBA season. He added around 20 pounds to his frame and sprouted up to 7-feet tall, but was still just learning the nuances of the game as an NBA player.
Vesely showed more energy playing as a backup center for the Nuggets during the final 21 games of 2014, averaging 4.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and a career-high 1.3 steals while dunking and playing aggressive on defense. He likely will never extend his range, as he’s always struggled as a free throw shooter, but the end of the 2014 season showed his ability to contribute and grow at the center position.
However, it might not be easy to get Vesely overseas this year. He signed a two-year contract with Fenerbahce, subsequently leading them to their first Euroleague Final Four in team history. Fenerbahce went on to lose in the semifinal match, 96-87, although Vesely performed well with 20 points and six rebounds. Fenerbahce then lost the third-place game to CSKA Moscow, but it was still a great season for Vesely, who averaged a career-high 11.2 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 63.3 percent from the field.
Vesely likely won’t come overseas for this year, barring a potential buyout, and that might be best for NBA teams to see how he develops after the upcoming Euroleague season. I could definitely see a team like the Spurs, Hawks or Mavs reviving his NBA career as a backup center down the line, and he’s going to be someone teams continue to monitor overseas during the course of this NBA season.