In a recent interview Ianis Hagi named not his father Gheorge, but Golden State point guard, and the man whom everyone’s dad thinks ruined basketball, Steph Curry as his idol.
Normally this minor detail of an interview wouldn’t be the kind of thing to warrant any real attention, but given that the season’s meaningful football has been interrupted by an international break, we here at Viola Nation are in need of a distraction.
And so, inspired by Ianis, here’s the answer to a question literally no one was asking: "Which NBA players would the Fiorentina squad be?"
Ciprian Tatarusanu: Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert is a good shot blocker, but for a guy who’s usually the tallest player on the court, the 7’2" centre is a bizarrely poor rebounder. In the same way, Tatarusanu is a talented shot-stopper, but struggles to be the commanding presence in the air his 6’7" frame should allow.
Hrvoje Milic: Nemanja Bjelica
Bjelica entered the NBA aged 26 and has failed to adapt to the higher standard of play in his two years in the league. The former Euroleague MVP gives away possession too often, doesn’t trust his own shot, and fails to impact the player he’s guarding without fouling. Hrvoje Milic is Hrvoje Milic, and those are the only words his performance this season warrants.
Gonzalo Rodriguez: Dwight Howard
Once the NBA’s undisputed best defender, time has caught up with Dwight Howard recently, and whilst his prime wasn’t quite so dominant as Howard’s, the same is true of the outgoing Viola captain. Howard’s decision to leave Houston last Summer played its part in turning them from a middle-of-the-road club to one of the league’s best and most exciting. Here’s hoping the same proves true of Gonzalo.
Davide Astori: Thabo Sefolosha
In his ten years in the NBA Thabo Sefolosha’s constistent defending has gone underappreciated, in part due to his tendency to find himself on teams with even better defenders. Astori too has been somewhat overlooked throughout his career. A player of Davide’s quality could easily have earned 50+ international caps if they weren’t competing with the absurd number of world class defenders Italy produces.
Nenad Tomovic: JaVale McGee
There are worse NBA players than JaVale McGee, and there are worse Serie A defenders than Nenad Tomovic. But there is no one in either league who so consistently makes their own fans question how they’ve managed to continue getting paid to play at the level they have as Nenad and JaVale.
Federico Bernardeschi: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Like Bernardeschi, Antetokounmpo is an exciting talent dragging a mediocre team in the right direction. Neither Federico’s Fiorentina nor Giannis’ Bucks are in serious contention now, but could be within the next few years. Both players have the talent to play at the very top of their games, and just need a few more years to develop and the right supporting pieces around them.
Borja Valero: Ricky Rubio
Beloved in Minnesota, and thought of as ‘that guy who can’t score’ pretty much everywhere else. Rubio is an intelligent player and amongst the league’s most talented passers, but his lack of quantifiable contributions lead to him being undervalued. Borja Valero in much the same way is a player who tends to influence a game in ways other than scoring or providing assists, and as such doesn’t have the international reputation of similarly talented players who find the net more often.
Matias Vecino: Nicolas Batum
Batum does a bit of everything, but doesn’t excel in any given area. Like Vecino he rarely stands out, but his team seems noticeably weaker when he’s absent.
Milan Badelj: Patrick Beverley
Beverley is a scrappy defender, and shares both Badelj’s knack for winning possession and proclivity to overreach and foul players whilst trying to do so. He’s also an intelligent passer and facilitator for the Rockets’ offence, keeping the ball moving in the same way that Badelj does for Fiorentina.
Federico Chiesa: Devin Booker
Booker entered a league full of grown men aged 18 and attacked his opponents fearlessly from day one, earning league-wide plaudits as one of the NBA’s most promising players. Similarly, Chiesa has broken into the Fiorentina lineup this season through attacking football and positive runs, earning him endless specious links to the Premier League: the Serie A equivalent of league-wide plaudits.
Nikola Kalinic: Gordon Hayward
Both Kalinic and Hayward are responsible for the lion’s share of their team’s scoring, but are complete players who contribute to their teams attack in multiple ways. Kalinic’s combination of traditional big man hold up play, trequartista-like flicks, and runs make it difficult for defenders to know how to play him, creating opportunities for himself and his teammates in the same way Hayward’s mixed inside-outside offence does.
Cristian Tello: Carmelo Anthony
When Carmelo Anthony’s shots are falling he looks unplayable, and when they aren’t he looks like he shouldn’t be playing. In the same way Tello is capable of winning matches on his own, but for every good performance he’s had there’ve been 2 games he’s had no impact on at all. Both Tello and Anthony can win a game, but neither can win trophies.
Josip Ilicic: Dion Waiters
Waiters once said he’d rather miss 30 consecutive shots in a game than 9, because if you shoot 9 and stop that means you’ve lost confidence in yourself. Ilicic is clearly an ardent believer in Waiters’ trigger-happy philosophy as the Slovenian averages more shots per game than either Gonzalo Higuain or Andrea Belotti, despite having scored just four goals all season.
Maxi Olivera: Buddy Hield
Watching both Hield and Olivera you could be forgiven for thinking that given time either could develop into solid players in their respective leagues. Until you realise they’re both in their mid-twenties, and the player they are today is probably too close to the peak of what they could be to get excited about.
Let us know which Fiorentina players you think have an NBA counterpart, or alternatively how you occupy yourselves when there are no Fiorentina games.