ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting that the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs are interested in former Hawk Gustavo Ayon “as both a potential [Aron] Baynes replacement or a possible addition to the roster.”
Gigantes del Basket previously reported (hat tip @HoopsHype) that Ayon had declined multiple offers because of his preference to wait until after the FIBA World Cup, which is underway as of this morning, to make a decision. This would seem to be a smart move since NBA.com reports that a record 45 current NBA players will be competing in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. In addition, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann tweeted that there are 23 additional players with NBA experience that are not on current NBA rosters, as well as 17 NBA draftees that have yet to make an NBA roster.
Ayon is joined in the tournament by fellow unrestricted free agents Andray Blatche and Leandro Barbosa (reportedly committed to sign with the Warriors). Spurs restricted free agent Baynes has played well for Australia in the build up to the tournament and is another player worth keeping an eye on.
Every two years at the major international tournaments (the Olympics and FIBA World Cup, formerly the FIBA World Championship), international players that the American audience is unfamiliar with emerge as potential NBA talent. The record amount of talent in this competition presents a huge opportunity for unknown talent to emerge. Games will be broadcast and archived on Watch ESPN.
Sadly, my pick for the breakout star of this tournament, 6-5 Lithuanian point guard Mantas Kalnietis, suffered a separated collar bone and has been ruled out. Australia is my team to watch. The Boomers feature four current NBA players (Cameron Bairstow, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum and Baynes). Only Spain and the United States have more current NBA players than Australia, which also features Joe Ingles, a 6-8 small forward with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Ingles played Summer League stints with Golden State in 2009 and 2010 and could emerge in this tournament as a future NBA prospect.