(photo credit: Courtesy)
Yotam Halperin is good. The 22-year-old, 1.96-meter guard is so good that in the 2005/06 season, playing for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia, he earned the Slovenian league's guard of the year award while leading the team to both the Slovenian Cup and the league championship.
At last week's Pre-Draft Camp for international players at Treviso, Italy, he was named to the first team. Some scouts even had Halperin listed as the number one player in the entire camp.
The question Israeli basketball fans are asking has changed from, "Will Halperin be the first Israeli to be drafted by the NBA since 1996 (when Doron Sheffer was selected in the second round)?" to "Will Halperin be the first Israeli to be picked in the first round?"
"[Halperin] should be considered late in the first round by some teams," Jeff Lenchiner, NBA analyst and editor of InsideHoops.com, told The Jerusalem Post by e-mail. "But it's likely he'll be taken in the second round."
Lenchiner also noted that Yotam is a player who "can pick-and-roll, cut, move without the ball, and play smart" and is liked by most teams.
While the analyst's second-round prediction for Halperin is echoed by other experts, the NBA hopeful's agent, Jason Levien, is confident that his client will be taken by in the opening round.
Levien, who also represents Miami Heat star Udonis Haslem, indicated that three teams who have picks in the first round have expressed interest in Halperin.
Although Levien did not divulge the identity of those teams, the former Maccabi Tel Aviv guard worked out for Washington last Thursday, Phoenix on Saturday, Miami Sunday and Indiana on Tuesday, and has plans to end the week working out for Portland, New Jersey, Seattle and Dallas. Those teams hold the No. 17, 18, 21-24, 27, 28 and 30 picks in the draft.
So, how high will he go? We'll know in one week.