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Mystery man becomes NBA’s highest ever paid rookie

THE latest in sports funny money? An overseas mystery man will get $36 million from the Sacramento Kings without ever having stepped foot on an NBA court.

Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic has agreed to sign a three-year deal worth $12 million annually, making him the league’s highest-paid rookie of all time. So who exactly is this guy?

The 24-year old shooting guard was selected No. 27 overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2014 draft. At the time, he was a member of Partizan Belgrade in the Serbian capital, his hometown.

Shortly after, he signed with Fenerbahce, a top team in the Turkish league, and his international profile grew.

He led Fenerbahce to a Euroleague title this past season, averaging 14.3 points and shooting 43% from 3-point range. Bogdanovic also was a standout in the Rio Olympics last summer, helping lead Serbia to a silver medal and averaging double-digit points along the way.

Bogdan Bogdanovic taking on the Boomers in Rio.

Because he was drafted three years ago, his contract is not locked into the NBA rookie salary scale. The Suns traded his rights to the Kings as part of a draft-night swap of picks in 2016.

With good size for a shooting guard at 6-foot-6, a wingspan of over 7 feet, strong defensive skills and a proven 3-point stroke, Bogdanovic looks like he may have what it takes to compete at the highest level.

But to throw $36 million at a guy who has yet to play in a single NBA game? That’s quite a risk for Kings general manager Vlade Divac – a Serb himself – to take.

Bogdanovic’s move to the Kings is just one of many in the hectic NBA off-season meat market.

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George is being wooed by several clubs as the NBA prepares for Saturday’s start of free agency for the 2017-18 season.

Teams can negotiate terms and deals with available talent starting this weekend but there is a moratorium on signing any contracts until next Thursday.

Clubs have already been juggling room under the NBA salary cap and personnel to try and find room for top talent, or to bring back their own stars.

But George’s case is special. He has vowed to play through next season with Indiana but the four-time All-Star intends to leave when his contract expires next year.

That could, in turn, prompt Indiana to make a trade for him soon in order to ensure they are able to gain something in return even in losing George.

Indiana forward Lance Stephenson posted a forward of himself and George on Instagram on Wednesday night and wrote, “I’m not letting u leave bro stay home bro. We did big things let’s continue.”

George has averaged 18.1 points over parts of seven NBA seasons. The 27-year-old Californian suffered a broken right leg while preparing with the US 2014 world championship squad and missed most of the following campaign.

Free agent. Source:AFP

While George has said he would like to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, other clubs are hoping he might join them first, including, according to several US media reports, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cleveland was supposedly looking to work a three-team deal with Denver that would send Kevin Love to the Nuggets and George to the Cavaliers. Love has two seasons remaining on his contract with Cleveland plus a player option for the 2019-20 campaign.

The move could be the Cavs’ next move in a talent build-up with Golden State, the foe they faced in the past three NBA Finals, losing this year after the Warriors added Kevin Durant last July. Durant was the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player and won his first NBA crown earlier this month.

George, who averaged a career-best 23.7 points last season, is also reportedly being eyed by the Lakers, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs.

The Rockets made a key move Wednesday by landing point guard Chris Paul in a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers to join All-Star shooting guard James Harden in the Houston backcourt.

The Cavs are expected to contend for Carmelo Anthony if the New York Knicks buy out his contract. Former Knicks president Phil Jackson said he wanted to trade Anthony to a title contender but Jackson and the Knicks split Wednesday.

Also pitching George was Washington Wizards guard John Wall. “I know his ultimate goal of where he wants to be. I’m trying to see if we can make something happen,” Wall told ESPN. “We are one piece away… (George) is a guy that can guard LeBron and go back at LeBron. It’s a piece that you’re going to need to win. If you don’t have a guy who can do that, you don’t have a chance.”

— with AFP