While it’s possible in the coming weeks that the Cavaliers could buy or trade their way into the first round of the upcoming NBA Draft, at the present moment they do not have a selection. So instead of sifting through with speculation on those late first round possibilities, I thought it’d be a good time to provide an update on the season that was for last year’s pick: Christian Eyenga (30th overall).
As the Cavaliers currently hold the rights to Christian Eyenga the NBA player, he competed this past season in Spain.
When selected, the move was made in part as a decision to not invest first round dollars into a rookie this past season, as well made in hopes that Eyenga would develop over the next few years to become a contributing talent, playing alongside LeBron James as a Cavalier. As you can see by the number that he wears (pictured above), LeBron even went as far as changing his own number to 6 next season in anticipation of Eyenga’s arrival. But should that arrival really be expected anytime soon? Not really.
Since October of this past year, Christian Eyenga has played in 40 games for the Spanish League Team DKV Joventut de Badalona. Eleven of those games were played in competition for the Eurocup (not to be confused with the Euroleage) from December to March, sandwiched in amidst the Spanish league season. In those eleven Eurocup games he averaged 3.4 points and 1.2 rebounds per game in about 10 minutes of playing time per contest. His team went 8-4 (so yes, he got a DNP as well) in Eurocup competition, and lost to eventual tournament runner-up ALBA Berlin in Group play twice, failing to advance to the Final Four of that tournament.
To give you an idea of the type of talent in the Eurocup, Julius Jenkins from Georgia Southern is the best player on ALBA’s team (averages 14 points per game). Another top contributor on that club is Derrick Byars (played at UVA and Vandy in college) who averages 9 points. Their team (ALBA) went on to lose in the finals to a team named Power Electronics, who had no remotely recognizable former US players, however does employ the older brother of Mickeal Pietrus (Florent Pietrus that is) who averaged two points per game for the winning club.
Other names - or schools guys went to – that could help to offer an idea of the talent level that Eyenga competed against in this tournament include Jerome Moiso (UCLA in 98-00), Chris Warren (South Carolina), Joshua Davis (Wyoming). So I think you get my point here. This is a tournament that is light years away from the Euroleague Final Four which featured guys like Trajan Langdon, Linas Kleiza, Josh Childress, Qyntel Woods, Ricky Rubio, and so on. And Eyenga played 10 minutes per game on a team that went 8-4. So moving on…
In the remaining 29 games played in Spanish league competition (last of which was May 15th), his averages were about the same. Playing still for DKV Joventut, he averaged 12 mins, 3.9 points, 2 rebounds, and 0.6 assists per night. As a note, the best player on his team – ironically enough - is Lima, Ohio product Clay Tucker. Tucker played collegiately at Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 1998-2003, and averaged just over 15 points per game through 45 games this past season.
Playing in the Spanish league, Eyenga did face the best team in Europe - Rubio’s Regal Barcelona team who won the Euroleague Tournament this past month - twice during the regular season. In those two games Eyenga played a grand total of 19 minutes averaging 1.5 points per game, and his team lost by 33 and 24 points respectively…so if you’re a glass half full guy, you could say the 92 – 59 and 81-57 losses weren’t his fault then I guess. But if you’re a glass half empty guy – or his coach – you might argue that Eyenga was only good enough to play for an average of 9.5 minutes per game because the guys that helped his team lose by 30 were that much better than him. Or, you could not say anything, and simply think, okay, I guess he didn’t play much in those two games and his team got buried, who cares.
Conclusion: Is all this said to support the argument that Christian Eyenga was a bad pick then? No, not really. But it is said to say that he’s a very, very, very, long way away from being an NBA caliber player. And while I certainly hope he is one day, I really don’t think he ever will be. At least, I don’t see how he develops into that while only playing 12 minutes per game, and knocking down a basket or two while he’s out there against mid-level European league talent. I hope I’m wrong, and I do recognize that he showed some considerable athleticism in Vegas last summer, so maybe it’ll turn out that his game translates better to the NBA than it does currently, we’ll see I guess. But for now, there you have it, that’s what Christian Eyenga’s been up to. Anybody heard how DeJuan Blair did this past season?