One of the NBA's sleeper free agents is becoming more and more of a common name.
Point guard Gal Mekel, fresh off leading little Maccabi Haifa to an upset of Euroleague Final Four regular Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv for the Israeli championship earlier this month, appears to be inching closer to an NBA roster for next season.
Mekel had an eye-opening workout last week with the Milwaukee Bucks, according to sources close to the situation, and will audition Monday for the Dallas Mavericks. Sources told ESPN.com that the Toronto Raptors, meanwhile, are the latest team to express interest in Mekel, who has made major progress since his days at Wichita State from 2006-2008 and increasingly appeals to NBA teams thanks to his size, ability to read the game and, most of all, his pick-and-roll proficiency.
Other teams to register a level of interest in Mekel, sources say, include Atlanta, Indiana and Memphis. Utah also continues to track Mekel after giving him his first NBA audition last fall and inviting him to training camp, only for visa issues to prevent his participation.
The success of Pablo Prigioni's jump directly from Europe to the NBA with New York at age 35 has spawned the belief that Mekel, just 25, can do the same. Coached by former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Brad Greenberg with Haifa this past season, Mekel has likewise begun to convince to NBA talent evaluators that he can immediately become a rotation player in the NBA, someone who, at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds might actually be more effective in the NBA game than he is internationally -- particularly in pick-and-roll situations -- because the lane tends to be so much more clogged overseas.
Mekel was named MVP in Israel for the 2012-13 season after Haifa toppled Maccabi Tel Aviv for the Israeli Super League championship. It's his second MVP trophy in four pro seasons in Israel; Mekel also spent an injury-plagued season in Benetton Treviso in Italy in 2011-12.