Help Wanted for NBA Playoffs? Five Americans Who Are Available Post-China

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 06: Joe Young #3 of the Indiana Pacers launches into the air after being tripped up during the game against the Chicago Bulls at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on January 6, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Chinese Basketball Association playoffs are down to the Final Four, and Lester Hudson and Brandon Bass are probably the two best-known Americans still playing. There are 16 teams whose seasons have already ended, and among those looking for work are a number of American players who could be headed to NBA playoff rosters prior to the start of the postseason.

History shows that you can never have too deep of a roster when it comes to the postseason … and an extra body who can add a scoring boost off the bench or fill a void in the big man rotation are far more valuable in April, May and June than the two-way players taking up so many roster spots.

With that in mind …. and with playoff positioning still to be determined … let’s have a look at five guys whose Chinese seasons have ended and are waiting for their phones to ring. Already, the San Antonio Spurs have added Lithuanian Donetas Montiejunas out of China to bolster their playoff roster, and the Phoenix Suns have added Jimmer Fredette on a two-year contract after he lit up the Chinese League for three straight seasons.

JOE YOUNG

The player of the year in the Pac-12 Conference as a senior with Oregon in 2015, he was selected by the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the 2015 NBA draft with the 43rd overall pick. He had an unremarkable three year stint with the Pacers, starting only one of 127 career games, and he spent this past season with the Nanjing Monkey King, who finished 19th in the 20-team league.

“He is the most NBA-ready player who has not yet been signed this season, the best scoring point guard in China” said coach Bobby Gonzalez, who coached with the Jilin Northeast Tigers this past season. “He is a total instant offense guy who is superior to pretty much every 11th or 12th guy on current NBA rosters.”

He averaged 36.1 points per game on .493 shooting along with 5.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists, shooting .363 from 3-point range. Young is the son of Michael Young, who spent 15 years in the NBA.

PIERRE JACKSON

He scored a league-leading 39.8 pointer game game for the Beijing Fly Dragons along with 9.3 assists and six rebounds. “He’s a rocket, he can score on anybody, and he sort of reminds me of Isaiah Thomas of the Denver Nuggets.

Jackson was selected with the 42nd overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. On July 12, 2013, his draft rights were traded, along with Jrue Holiday, to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Nerlens Noel. His vagabond career has taken him to Turkey, Croatia, back to the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks, then to Maccabi Tel Aviv where he spent one season before signing in China last July 4.

As a senior at Baylor, he averaged 19.8 points and 7.1 assists per game

COURTNEY FORTSON

“He’s the best pure point guard in the league,” said Gonzalez, whose roster this past season included former NBA players Maciej Lampe and Dominique Jones. Fortson’s scoring average dipped considerably this season to 23.9 after being at 30.5 the previous season, when he earned Import MVP honors.

Undrafted out of Arkansas in 2010, he has played in Romania, Venezuela, Russia and Turkey while also spending time in the D-League with the Los Angeles Defenders and the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. At 5-foot-11, he has been deemed “too small” by numerous NBA scouts.

Of course, you can never be “too tall” to play in the NBA, but guards who measure less than 6 feet get dismissed regularly by scouts who too often look for negatives rather than accentuate positives.

JUSTIN HAMILTON

A product of Iowa State and LSU, Hamilton was selected with the 45th overall in the 2012 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He was then traded to the Miami Heat for the rights of Arnett Moultrie. His professional career has taken him to Croatia and Latvia, then to the NBA where he played for Miami, Charlotte, Minnesota and Brooklyn, with a stop in between in Italy.

Hamilton led the CBA in blocks with 2.3 per game.

“Like a lot of the American big men in China, he does not have an outside shooting game … which is where the NBA has gone with big men,” Gonzalez said. “But he is a blue-collar, Aron Baynes type of guy, maybe not as tough as him or Daniel Thiess.”

JaKarr Thompson, Tyler Hansbrough and Dakari Johnson were other American big me who spent the season in China who have a low-post oriented, old-school NBA skill set.

MIROSLAV RADULJICA

The 7-footer from Serbia spend two seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and one with the Minnesota Timberwolves and has bounced around professionally in Germany, Turkey, Serbia, Ukraine, Greece and Italy before spending the past two seasons in China.

“He is tough as nails but an older punch-you-in-the-face type of guy — perfect for China, — but probably a little past his prime for the NBA.


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