PRO TEAM: DKV Joventut Badalona
VITALS: 7', 230 lbs.
YEAR DRAFTED: 2009 by Minnesota (Round 2, Pick 47)
RIGHTS HELD BY: Minnesota Timberwolves
The NBA Draft is coming up at the end of the month and the Minnesota Timberwolves will be picking number one. The NBA's worst team a season ago will most likely be debating between two freshman giants: Kentucky's Karl-Anthony Towns and Duke's Jahlil Okafor. The T-Wolves already have two capable bigs on their roster, Gorgui Dieng and Nikola Pekovic, but to not take Towns or Okafor would be a grave act of mismanagement. While the pros and cons for both bigs at the top of the draft board are discussed, it should be noted that Minnesota has two more big men at their disposal. Stashed overseas are two more skyscrapers: Henk Norel and Paulão Prestes. While neither comes close to possessing the skills of the incumbents or either prospect, Norel and Prestes will be the profiles here on Draft Rights Retained today and tomorrow. So they got that going for them. Let's start off with the man drafted first in 2009, Henk Norel.
The NBA doesn't have a proud lineage of players from the Netherlands. It peaks at the Dunking Dutchman Rik Smits then it is a severely steep drop off from there. One thing that all these lackluster names have in common is height. From Dan Gadzuric to Francisco Elson to Serge Zwikker to Geert Hammink, Holland has generated some tall dudes. Henk Norel is no different. Standing a gawky seven feet tall and generously listed at 230 lbs., Norel drew half-hearted comparisons to his predecessors before the NBA Draft. The thing was that people to make those comparisons were hard to come by as very few draftniks even knew of Norel.
He began his professional career in Spain for DKV Joventut Badalona, a team that gave future NBAers Rudy Fernandez and Ricky Rubio their initial platform to succeed. Unlike those two dynamic guards, Norel was more project than prodigy as a beanpole teenager with a giraffe-like gait. He wasn't guaranteed first team run with Joventut, he only got nine games with zero points scored, but was able to secure a loan deal to fourth-tier side CB Prat in Catalonia.
Norel was one of Prat's best players during the 2005-06 season. He scored 12.5 points per game on 67% shooting while also grabbing nearly seven boards per. They finished second in the league that season. They would go on to win the promotion playoffs to LEB 2 over the next month. He would be recalled to Joventut for the following season only to ride the pine. He would be loaned out to Lucentum Alicante in 2007-08 following their relegation from the top tier. Norel would get regular playing time (37 games) but he predictably wasn't as productive as he was in the lower leagues.
He finally saw legitimate run with Joventut in his fourth pro season. Norel wasn't spectacular but was given 24 appearances in the league and nine in the prestigious Euroleague. However, the team wasn't nearly as successful with Norel in it as they couldn't get past the quarterfinals in any competition. They had won the Spanish Cup the year prior. Now it would be irresponsible to pin this downturn on just Norel, but his play wasn't exactly calling for NBA scouts to come to the Palau Olimpic. Nevertheless, Norel declared for the 2009 Draft along with teammates Ricky Rubio and Christian Eyenga.
Norel had up and down pre-Draft workouts and wasn't projected to get drafted. When his name was announced as the 47th overall selection, he was the first person outside of draft expert Chad Ford's projected 60 to go. Minnesota had quite the headscratching draft in 2009. They traded for Rubio and inexplicably went on to draft three more points guards and a "point shooting guard" with their next four picks. They would trade two of those (Ty Lawson & Nick Calathes) before selecting old Henk. And this team wonders why they are in the lottery every year.
I wish there was a tale of world travel or European glory from here to liven this profile up. Frankly, there isn't much to Norel's career from Draft Day until now. He has never played in the NBA Summer League. He starred on the Netherlands team in attempts to qualify for EuroBasket 2012, but hey went 2-6 in pool play despite his 17 points per game and were eliminated. His game domestically has only dipped over time as well. Injuries have slowly sapped his effectiveness at CAI Zaragoza and they've gone 18-16 both of his seasons there. Norel is only 27 and at 7' is probably guaranteed a roster spot somewhere until he no longer wants to play. Sadly, I don't see that roster spot ever being in the NBA for the Timberwolves or anyone else for that matter. This picture will be the closest he'll ever get to the NBA.
Thanks for reading the twenty-second installment of Draft Rights Retained right here on Bleeding Your Colors! I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to bringing you more wacky stories of players who the NBA has long since forgotten, but not their draft rights. Stay locked for a new profile until the list is exhausted. For more of me, check out my Twitter @TREVORutley and the official Bleeding Your Colors Twitter @B3WHYC3. For less of me, reenact the wood chipper scene from Fargo with your computer.
Image Credits: Henk at Joventut (zonadostres.com), Henk at Minnesota (interbasket.net)