Just as Lior Eliyahu seemed as far off the NBA radar as it’s possible to be he has suddenly reappeared as the proverbial “throw-in,” in a trade between the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Eliyahu, who was drafted by the Orlando Magic six years ago and subsequently traded his rights to Houston, was never given serious consideration by the Rockets. Now his NBA dreams seem to have found a new lease on life with his acquisition by the Timberwolves, announced this week.
Houston traded forward Chase Budinger and the draft rights to Eliyahu for Minnesota’s 18th pick in the draft, in an effort to sweeten a deal they are putting together in the hopes of obtaining Dwight Howard from Orlando.
Eliyahu will be going the Wolves summer camp with the aim of winning a roster spot. But people here are already wondering how realistic are his chances of joining Omri Casspi as the only Israelis in the NBA. In terms of natural talent and athletic ability Eliyahu is more than Casspi’s equal. His main problems throughout the years have been inconsistency and mental errors. When on form, he could certainly hold his own in an NBA contest.
The Timberwolves are a team with many needs, so Eliyahu will definitely get an opportunity. They began this past season surprisingly strong with Kevin Love having a breakout season and becoming a superstar and rookie Ricky Rubio dazzling the league with his inventive playmaking. The Wolves slumped badly on offense and defense after Rubio went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, with few experts having realized what a valuable defender the Spaniard had been.
What the Wolves desperately need are effective perimeter players, and Budinger and his outside shooting skills will definitely help. Outside shooting is hardly Eliyahu’s forte and his close-to-the-basket game could interfere with Love’s style of play.
On the other hand, David Adelman is a veteran coach who is excellent at getting the most out of his players, and Rubio, after his recovery, should continue to improve the game of all his teammates.
With local fans wondering who could possibly be the next Israeli on the NBA horizon, Eliyahu has unexpectedly become the answer.