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Former first round pick Luke Babbitt signs in Russia

Babbitt shoots over Fournier during NBA basketball game in Portland, Oregon

Portland Trail Blazers small forward Luke Babbitt (8) shoots over Denver Nuggets shooting guard Evan Fournier (94) during first quarter of their NBA basketball game in Portland, Oregon, December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)


Luke Babbitt shot up draft boards back in 2010, all the way to No. 16, where he was taken by Minnesota and traded to Portland as part of the Martell Webster deal. He was a 6’9” guy who impressed in workouts and at the Draft Combine with his scoring touch, both from inside and out.

But drafting is an inexact science. At best. Babbitt never found favor with a series of Blazers coaches, he was a tweener forward who shot better as a four (and he did hit his threes) but was a defensive liability. Outside of making shots at the end of games that won fans free Taco Bell, he never did much of note Portland. After three years of his rookie deal Portland let him go, and he couldn’t latch on with another team.

So Babbitt is signing with BC Nizhny Novgorod in Russia for next season, reports

Babbitt’s agent Bill Duffy confirmed the deal saying, “My take is Luke needs to play 30 minutes a game and play a more expanded role. We’ve had recent success with both Danny Green (of the San Antonio Spurs) and Patrick Beverley (of the Houston Rockets) getting an opportunity to develop their games in Europe and return to the NBA. The NBA is a league of opportunity. We feel strongly this is the best move for Luke at this time.”

There are guys that go to Europe, improve and come back and make an impact in the NBA. But that is not the norm — usually this is the first step to a career overseas. We’ll see what happens with Babbitt.