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Joe Alexander "Bucking" The Trend?

Wednesday, 25 Jun 2008 | 1:00 PM ET
NBA Draft
NBA Draft

On Monday, I wrote about how the shoe money has dried up for this year's crop of NBA Draft picks.So much so, I'm hearing, that we might not see a single player ink a deal worth more than $2 million annually.

When we think about who could be the most marketable, we think about Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo, but if things fall the right way, Joe Alexander could be in the mix.

What am I talking about? Well, the forward from West Virginia is a consensus top-10 pick in tomorrow's draft, with ESPN.com's Chad Ford slotting him in the eighth position going to the Milwaukee Bucks.

If things go Alexander's way, he'll actually play in Milwaukee. And in a place that usually means marketing purgatory, Alexander could be pulling in some more "bucks."

Here's the deal. Alexander grew up in Taiwan and Beijing and speaks Mandarin. If he is on the same team with Yi Jianlian and plays at all, he'll instantly become popular in China, which could have more basketball fans than the U.S. population.

Alexander told me that he's well aware of the marketing opportunities that arise from playing with a Chinese player.

"Playing in Milwaukee would allows things I do on the court to resonate with the Chinese people," Alexander said.

Other players have cashed in thanks to playing with Houston Rockets center Yao Ming.

Tracy McGrady was the best selling jersey in China for the 2005-06, thanks to teaming up with Yao. Rockets guard Steve Francis has an endorsement deal with Chinese shoe company Anta, while forward Shane Battier signed with Chinese shoe brand Peak. Peak actually signed a sponsorship deal with the Bucks in December. That's amazing given that Yi Jianlian originally refused to play in Milwaukee since the entire Chinese population in Milwaukee could fit in the Bradley Center with a few seats to spare.

Although Alexander said he had the marketing idea in the back of his mind, he never overtly pitched his language skills to the Bucks.

"Speaking Mandarin probably won't come into play on the court," Alexander said.

If Alexander is still on the board when the Bucks are up tomorrow, and of course assuming all things are equal, they might want to think about the marketing benefits of having another player speak the language. The Bucks already have their own Chinese Web site. Aside from Peak, Rockwell Automation bought courtside advertising in Chinese in order to play to the Chinese audience watching the games.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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