The big news surrounding Maccabi Tel Aviv this week was that one of their young Israeli players, Yovel Zoosman declared for the NBA Draft and will look to be the first Israeli from the Yellow & Blue since Omri Casspi to be selected in the two round draft.
So far this season, Zoosman is averaging 7.8 points in roughly 26 minutes a game while pulling down 3.7 rebounds and dishing out 2.4 assists in Israeli league action. His numbers significantly increased across the board from the previous season where he played about 13 minutes and scored only 3.9 points. In the Euroleague this past season, #50 played in all 30 regular season games averaging about 14 minutes and scoring 3 points per game.
Zoosman captured the Under-20 European Championship with Israel this past summer and was named the tournament MVP along with averaging 14.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
The Kfar Saba native’s skills both on and off of the basketball court are unquestionable and he is a person of the highest caliber who will work as hard as he has to in order to succeed. His desire and drive are what make him that special player and person.
Coach Ioannis Sfairopulos spoke about Zoosman, “We are proud that one of our younger players will be in the draft. It shows that Maccabi gives minutes to the youngsters and that the coaching staff works with them. We hope that everything will go well for him.”
“For his own good, he should stay here for another 2-3 years and then go to the NBA. I think he needs to be completely ready before going there to play. After playing in the Euroleague for just one year, I think he needs to play more games to gain more experience, to become stronger and get better. Then he will be ready to play. It would not be good if he goes and comes back.”
DeAndre Kane also talked about his teammate that will now be preparing for the draft, “Congratulations to Zoos. I heard about it yesterday and I’m happy for him. He’s an amazing young player. He’s grown over the last couple of years and he’s gotten so much better. He’s stronger, hungrier and I think he has a chance to play at the next level for sure. He’s young, he can shoot the ball really well, he’s long and he can defend. He only has room to improve. I believe he will be drafted and he will do well when he gets the chance. It’s all about opportunities and when his name is called, I think he’ll be ready.”
Is there really any risk for Zoosman to declare for the draft? Not really. The worst that happens is that he either doesn’t get selected or he is picked late in the second round and returns to Israel to play while being monitored by the NBA team that drafted him.
In essence, it’s Draft & Stash.
Sure Sfairpoulos thinks he needs a few more years honing his skills at Maccabi and that’s 100% true. However, he has talent and the body frame to make it to the best league in the world. Can he make it? Well, like Kane said, it’s all about opportunities. But I would think he gets picked late second round and then gets stashed at Maccabi.
Lior Eliyahu and Yotam Halperin were the last two Israeli who were stashed after being drafted with the Yellow & Blue. Neither played in the NBA, but last year forward Jonah Bolden who was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers was drafted & stashed at Maccabi.
Have draft & stash players in Europe succeeded in making to the NBA? A few yes, but most of them no. Of course, that’s not to say it’s impossible.
Two players who have had successful NBA seasons this year include Cedi Osman who is plying his trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Tomas Satoransky of the Washington Wizards.
The 24-year old Osman was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 31st pick in the second round of the 2015 draft while his rights were subsequently dealt to the Cavs. He then continued playing with Anadolu EFES in Turkey for two more seasons and then headed to the NBA where he’s been since 2017. This season he has started close to 80 games and is averaging 13 points and 4.7 rebounds.
Satoransky who turned 27 this past season was taken by the Wizards with the 32nd pick in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft. The Prague, Czech Republic born guard played with Sevilla and then Barcelona for a couple of seasons before arriving in the capital of the United States where he’s now been for three years. His stats continue to rise and is averaging 8.9 points and 5 assists in 80 games of which he started 54.
One player that may be headed to the 76ers next season is Vasilije Micic who is having a breakout year with Anadolu EFES, He was taken in the second round of the 2014 draft and is still only 25 years old. While the San Antonio have their eyes on their Serbian 2015 first round pick Nikola Milutinov who has been with Olympiacos since 2015.
Bottom line is that Zoosman has nothing to lose and a lot to gain by declaring for the draft. Perhaps he isn’t day yet, but by his silver jubilee I’d be surprised if he wasn’t gracing the arenas across North America.