By Aris Barkas/ email@example.com
Mario Hezonja can represent European basketball the best possible way in the NBA, but on the same time what happen with his case is the future nightmare of every big European club.
During his first phone interview with the Orlando Magic media, Mario Hezonja spoke about his idols, European players like Diamantidis, Spanoulis and Navarro. However he is the first young European star in the changing landscape of world basketball that he may turn to be nothing like them.
Hezonja’s season in Barcelona was a mix between glimpses of talent and clashes with the club. When he was signed by the Catalans, he was seen even as the future replacement of Euroleague all time top scorer Juan Carlos Navarro.
Barcelona invested on him and their pay back is going to be his buy out which was re-negotiated. Still the problem for the Catalans is not that they received less money. Barcelona developed a player with the potential to be great and just when he started showing what he can do on the court, the club is losing him to the NBA.
Barcelona is not and can’t be considered a farm team of the NBA. The club is among the Euroleague elite, part of the top5 clubs of Europe in every aspect and one of the biggest sports brands in the world. Even if the buy out is hefty, that was not the point for Barca when they got Hezonja.
Barcelona and Euroleague need the top European talent, which is more and more lured by the NBA in an early age. And this is a problem touching also the national teams. Under the new FIBA calender which will be applied by 2017, the NBA players are not expected to get permission to leave the States in the middle of the season in order to play in qualification games for their national teams. That means that Hezonja, Antetokounmpo, Porzignis and the other young Euro-stars of the best league in the world would play for their national teams only in the three big FIBA tournaments, the Eurobasket, the FIBA World Cup and the Olympic Games.
Contrary to the case of Hezonja, Kristaps Porzignis is a product of Sevilla, a team which in recent years has to develop young talent and then sell it in order to survive. He will also be missed by his national team – like Alex Len of the Suns is missed by the Ukrainian national team since he was drafted – in the qualifying games, but in any case he wasn’t expected to continue his career in Sevilla for much longer.
And here’s the big issue. The top teams in Europe have already started losing the top talent. They hope in the best case scenario to get a couple of good years by players drafted before they leave, like in the case of Dario Saric and Anadolu Efes. And that’s not going to change with only some of the best talents deciding to stay in Europe, just because they want to as coach Zeljko Obradovic recently said in his Eurohoops’ interview.
Τhe balance between the NBA and Euroleague was always in favor of the best league in the world, but things are going to get even worse for Europe, before they might get better. What happened with Hezonja is a sign of a future that can hurt the level of competition in Europe, which simply will not have the money to keep its top talent.