Fearing that an NBA age limit is coming, 17-year-old Serbian 7-footer Nemanja Aleksandrov has sent a letter through his agent to the NBA and David Stern declaring for the 2005 draft.
Widely believed to be one of the top five prospects for the '05 NBA draft, Aleksandrov has been dominating international junior competition for two years.
Despite his size, he's a small forward with a smooth 3-point stroke who, some scouts believe, could be the No. 1 pick overall, depending on who comes out.
However, a disappointing performance at the Reebok Eurocamp in Italy, where he looked a few years away from being ready, may be stifling some of that buzz.
In his letter, sent through SFX's David Bauman and which reached the NBA Friday, Aleksandrov writes that he's making the move because he believes he'll be a top pick and he's being pressured into signing a long-term contract in Serbia.
A call to the NBA Friday seeking comment was not returned.
NBA rules state that underclassmen must declare before a specified deadline to be eligible for the draft and that international underclassmen must turn 18 before the date of the upcoming draft. Bauman is hoping that because Aleksandrov, who turns 18 next April 10, sent his letter to the NBA now, it will remain in force even if the league changes the rule later this year.
The NBA has indicated for more than a year that it will try to negotiate a 20-year-old age limit for the next collective bargaining agreement; the current CBA expires on June 30, 2005. While the players' union claims it will not agree to an age limit, many agents believe that if the NBA offers something in return, the union will capitulate.
A 20-year-old age limit would keep Aleksandrov out of the NBA a minimum of two more years, depending on the cutoff date the agreement would set for entering the league.
According to his letter, which ESPN.com obtained, Aleksandrov also indicated he fears being locked up long-term by a European contract.
"There are many people in Belgrade who are putting pressure on me to sign a long-term contract that contains extremely large buyout payments," he wrote. "I hope this early declaration will help to state my intention to them and some of the publicity might prevent them from putting pressure on me."
Acknowledging the risks all around, he wrote, "Of course, I do not want to go the NBA before I am ready, but I also do not want to be forced into a long-term contract that would keep me in Belgrade until I am 24 years old."