Deron Williams has already signed with Besiktas (though their accounts were frozen), apparently Kobe Bryant was close to signing with the same team, and there are reports that other stars like Dwight Howard, Rudy Gay, and Steve Nash could also be headed overseas during the NBA lockout. Are they serious or is this just a bargaining ploy? My initial thought was the later but as more stars make the jump, maybe they're not kidding. So how will this effect the Rockets? Here are my top 5 Rockets most likely to play overseas during the lockout.
5. Jonny Flynn - I think the wide-open European style would fit Flynn better than the half-court style he's struggled in for the last several seasons. Flynn is said to have a massive chip on his shoulder after his trade to Houston, so I expect him to find playing time wherever he can to improve his game.
4. Chase Budinger - He's got the game of a Euro, I think it'd be a fit. Chase should adapt well to the European style with his ability to space the floor and shoot over smaller defenders, and also drive past defenders his size. In the NBA Budinger is a "tweener" who doesn't play good enough defense or rebound well enough to be a starter. In Europe, I think he could not only start but be an all-star.
3. Goran Dragic - Before making the jump to the NBA, Dragic played in Slovenia for 5 seasons; like Scola, Dragic was also originally drafted by the Spurs. Dragic was the 2005 Rookie of the Year and an All-Star in Slovenia, my guess is he heads home and enjoys being a key player instead of a reserve.
2. Luis Scola - Before joining the Rockets for the 2007-08 season, Scola played in Spain and I expect him to return to Europe. Will it be in Spain? Not sure but Scola told the Houston Chronicle back in February, "I'll play somewhere next season, I'm a basketball player. That's what I'll do. If it is in Houston, that would be better. That's what I want, but I will play." The transition from our culture and style of play will be very hard on some NBA players, but this won't be the case for Scola. I expect an announcement from Scola by September when NBA training camps would have opened.
1. Donatas Motiejunas- This one is a given; D-Mo has already returned to Italy to rejoin his previous team, Benetton Treviso. The 20th overall pick told the Houston Chronicle, "I still have a contract with Benetton," said Motiejunas. "They told me if I want to leave in the middle of the season when the team that took me, Houston, wants me, they would let me go. That will be no problem." I see this as a win-win. D-Mo likely was going to start the season on the bench anyway while he continued to learn the game. Hopefully the Rockets staff gave him a list of things they want him to work on before the lockout started.
Ultimately I think all of the Rockets players will return once the lockout is ended, but it will be interesting to watch and see if any NBA players stay overseas. I know this sounds crazy, but if the 8th-10th guy on an NBA roster can go overseas and not only start, but also make more money; it could be enticing.
For the NBA stars, it's a huge risk. Sure, they're players and they want to keep playing for many reasons. However, the risk of loss of money for 1 season and they're game getting rusty doesn't outweigh the risk of getting hurt and losing it all. For the guys with contracts, they could be voided. And for guys looking for that first huge pay day, it would no longer be available. Hope they get a great insurance policy.