Ahead of its Euroleague Top 16 battles, Maccabi Tel Aviv is closing in on 22-year-old Croatian center Darko Planinic after failing to reach an agreement with Slovenian Olimpija Ljubljana over the buyout amount for Australian big man Aron Baynes.
According to sources with knowledge of Maccabi's agreement with Planinic, Tel Aviv will pay Siroki a buyout of roughly $250,000. Planinic would then pen a deal that will keep him in Israel through the 2014-15 season, unless Maccabi sees fit to exercise its out options (summers of 2013, 2014), at which point Planinic would cash a check for $75,000-100,000.
Planinic is supposed to earn $17,000 monthly for the next five months, one source told Sportando.
Multiple Maccabi insiders agreed that, in retrospect, Baynes would be a much smoother fit for David Blatt's system, especially with Baynes' Euroleague familiarity as the yellow-and-blue approach their Top 16 opener against Montepaschi Siena, in Italy, next week.
"It's not just from a statistics standpoint that (Aron) Baynes holds the upper-hand. He is four years older than Darko (Planinic) and has a pair of Euroleague seasons under his belt, the most recent one ending a week ago where he showed enormous talent on both ends of the floor," a Tel Aviv staff member said.
A quick look at the players:
Darko Planinic (6'11, 22 yrs)
Teams: HKK Siroki Wwin, Bosnia (2008-2012)
2012-13 Stats: 16.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1 blocked shots, 2.7 turnovers per 26 minutes over 13 Adriatic League contests
International comp experience: EuroChallenge, Adriatic League, Eurobasket Qualifications
Planinic is currently among the top centers in Adriatic League and he's improving each game. He plays with great intensity, aggressiveness, and owns a variety of low-post moves, though, there is plenty of room for improvement. Planinic is also a defensive liability, yet I expect him to progress in that category under David Blatt, who has zero tolerance for guys that slack on D.
Aron Baynes (6'10, 26 yrs)
Nationality: New Zealand-Australian
Teams: Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius (Lithuania), EWE Baskets Oldenburg (Germany), Ikaros Kallitheas (Greece), Union Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia)
2012-13 Stats: 12.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 turnovers per 22 minutes through 13 Adriatic League games. 13.8 points, 9.8 boards, 2.5 turnovers per 25 minutes over ten Euroleague appearances
International comp experience: Baltic League, EuroCup, Olympic Games, Euroleague x2.
Maccabi and Baynes representatives had verbally agreed to a five-month deal with an extension option for the 2013-14 season if Baynes, for whatever reason, wouldn't pursue NBA opportunities.
Ljubljana, who currently ranks no. 5 in the Adriatic competition, must secure one of the top three positions in order to qualify for the Euroleague next season. That said, Tel Aviv sources claim Ljubljana "wouldn't negotiate a buyout for Baynes, a key player in their organization, because they're chasing that Euroleague ticket." According to another version of the tale, Ljubljana was set to release Baynes for a fee of $300,000 but Maccabi executives topped their final bid at $200,000.
Surprisingly, Baynes had considered throwing in $50,000 towards his buyout if Tel Aviv had agreed to up their payment to $250,000, but Maccabi wouldn't budge.
"It is unfortunate that we couldn't acquire (Aron) Baynes," a Tel Aviv executive told Sportando. "Planinic has great potential and we hope he'll produce in the long-term but (Planinic) doesn't have the Euroleague experience that Baynes would have brought. On the flipside, I can understand why the management wasn’t keen on paying $300,000 for a player that might leave the team in five months," he said.
Asked if Maccabi is worried that Planinic could turn into another version of Milan Macvan, who signed a five-year deal with Tel Aviv and already voided his contract in the second year, the source said: "I'd be lying if I told you it didn't cross our minds, but we can't tell whether or not Planinic will blend in, unlike Macvan."
"Planinic is definitely a risky signee for Maccabi," a top Israeli scout said of the Croatian talent. "Will he immediately produce in the Top 16? He's not a player that will change a team around. He's not a go-to-guy either. Planinic is an aggressive gifted prospect who may possibly evolve into a leading European center, but Baynes was a safer bet," said the scout.