Turkish people like players who hustle and look like Eastern European villains.
The Celtics are having a season loaded with trades, yet Colton Iverson (53rd overall pick) was the one with whom the Celtics started the tank-a-thon operations. Well, maybe not. Anyways, CelticsLife was the first blog this summer to break the news of his overseas adventure in Turkey for Besiktas, so it only fits that we do a mid-season update on his performance and answer crucial questions such as "can he be the backup center of the Celtics in the future?" or "can we recall him to play with us now that we're most likely headed for the lottery and have open roster spots?"
Before we start, you should know something: Many leagues in the overseas used to have limits on the number of foreign (or for EU countries, non-EU) players a team can sign, and some still do. Turkey is one of them. In the 90s, a basketball team was only allowed to sign 2 non-Turkish players. Thanks to globalization that rule has been relaxed to a certain extent, yet a Turkish team can only sign 5 non-Turkish players and play only 3 of them at the same time in the domestic competition. Because of this rule (and because Besiktas has a Croatian-Turkish center), Iverson's time on the court has fluctuated greatly.
Now, let's get one thing straight: The Celtics can recall Iverson at the end of the season, but not during, sources have informed me (ah, finally I get to use that phrase!); and for the next two years he can only play for either Besiktas or the Celtics. Do the Celtics recall him in the off-season then? Probably not, and his stats will tell why. (Correction: We've been informed that Iverson's deal is actually for one year, and the Celtics hold his NBA rights when his deal expires)
To be fair to Iverson, on top of the "foreign player restriction" situation, he had to adapt to the European rules as well. There are a few nuances with respect to the rules, but the most significant difference is that European basketball is less tolerant towards physical play. So to clarify: when European players come to the NBA and struggle to adapt to NBA basketball, it is not because they're softies but mostly they aren't used to the way the officials call the game. Oh, and because a game lasts 40 minutes instead of 48, you get fouled out when you collect 5 fouls, so players are subconsciously more careful. Obviously, the opposite is true for American players who try to play European basketball; they get easy foul calls against them. To demonstrate, Iverson fouled out in his third domestic game, and he had 4 fouls in only 8 minutes in his fourth game. He has adapted to the European style eventually (he's only fouled out once since then, and that came in a double-double performance so it's forgiveable), but that's one thing to keep in mind as well.
Iverson in action for Besiktas's win against rival Galatasaray in today's game
So, ready for some numbers? Iverson's stats per 36-minutes are as follows so far in the Turkish league: 13.8 points (5.3 FGM, 11.8 FGA (44.8% shooting), 3.3 FTM, 5.9 FTA (55.1% from the line)), 11.5 rebounds (6 offensive, 5.5 defensive (no typo)), 1.4 assists, 1 steal, 2.3 turnovers, 0.7 blocked shots, 5.8 fouls. The highlight of Iverson's stats is rebounds, obviously. He's been great on the boards; in fact, he's the sixth best rebounder per minute in the league among players who has played in more than half of the games, and he had won the best rebounder award in a mini-tournament in the off-season. On the other hand, his free throw percentage could be higher, and he isn't the rim protector he could be given his size. His per-minute stats are slightly worse than the current back-up center the Celtics have in Vitor Faverani, and their competition is quite different.
On the other hand, Iverson's EuroCup stats (the international competition where there are no foreign player restrictions) are slightly better/worse given your perspective: 14.8 points (5.7 FGM, 9.8 FGA (58.5% shooting), 3.3 FTM, 7.3 FTA (45.9% from the line)), 9.7 rebounds (6.2 offensive, 3.5 defensive (again, no typo)), 1.4 assists, 1 steal, 3.7 turnovers, 1.1 blocked shots, 4.5 fouls. To summarize, he's much more efficient offensively, he's still a beast on the offensive boards, he fouls his opponents less and his block rate is doubled, yet he's turning the ball over at a much higher rate, he's even worse from the free throw line and he's not quite there for the defensive boards.
Iverson's experience overseas has been an OK to good one for him, yet for him to become a viable backup for the Celtics and pass Faverani in the rotation next year, he has to shine more. One thing that haunts him is his inconsistent performance (he has recently followed up on an 8 points & 10 rebounds in 11 minutes performance with an 8 points and 5 rebounds in 32 minutes one, for example), yet he's still an important part of a team that is exceeding the expectations in the European competition and doing OK in one of the strongest leagues in Europe. If he continues to work hard and concentrate, he will come back to the Celtics as a more experienced player and a young & more polished Shavlik Randolph at the very least.
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