As the years have gone by, the NBA has become a more internationally diverse league than it ever has been. Superstars over the past 30 years like Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant have helped spread the NBA’s product and the game of basketball itself all over the world. As a result of more international exposure for the league, an influx of overseas players have begun to take over the league. In this article, I’ll be ranking the best current NBA players who are from countries other than the United States. Without further ado, here is my top 25 list of foreign-born NBA players.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece
This ranking should come as no surprise to anybody. “The Greek Freak” has steadily improved his game every season he’s been in the league and is arguably the best overall player in the game today. He is virtually unguardable, as his combination of size, speed, and skill makes him a matchup nightmare. Giannis has improved his PPG total every year he’s been in the league, including this current season where he is averaging two more points per game than he did in his MVP season in 2018-19.
2. Luka Doncic, Slovenia
In only his 2nd season in the NBA, Doncic has already established himself as one of the top players in the league. Luka made his 1st All-Star game this year, being named a starter after averaging 28.7 points and 8.7 assists per game at just 20 years old. After Dirk Nowitzki retired, the Mavs were quick to replace him with another overseas phenom. The guy cannot even legally purchase a drink in the United States yet but is certainly old enough to be serving buckets against the top competition in the world.
3. Joel Embiid, Cameroon
NBA fans had to wait two seasons to watch Joel Embiid play in an NBA game, as he was dealing with a severe foot injury that held him out of action. However, Embiid was definitely worth the wait. In his four seasons played in the league, Embiid has averaged 24.1 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. He has helped lead the 76ers out of their pit of mediocrity and into a perennial playoff team in the East.
4. Nikola Jokic, Serbia
“The Joker” might not be the most athletic guy in the league, but he makes up for it with his high-level play on the court. Jokic is a skilled big man who can score as well as facilitate for his teammates. He has made the All-Star Game each of the last two seasons and seems to be improving his game each year. He has helped lead the Nuggets to back-to-back playoff appearances the past two seasons and has Denver primed to be a contender in the West for years to come.
5. Rudy Gobert, France
They don’t call this guy “The Stifle Tower” for nothing. Gobert has been the most dominant shot-blocker in the league over the last few years. Excluding his rookie season, Gobert has averaged over 2.0 blocks every year that he has been in the NBA. He is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, three-time All-Defensive Team selection, and made his first All-Star game this season.
6. Pascal Siakam, Cameroon
Siakam came out of nowhere last season for the Raptors, winning Most Improved Player and helping Toronto take home their first NBA Championship. After Kawhi Leonard left Toronto in free agency to join the Clippers, Siakam has solidified himself as the star player in Toronto. He averaged 23.6 points per game this season, good enough to be named an All-Star starter and lead the Raptors to the 2nd seed in the East.
7. Ben Simmons, Australia
The 76ers have been able to turn around their misfortunes in recent years, and that is largely in part to Ben Simmons. The 2016 #1 overall pick has lived up to expectations; as he has led them to a playoff birth every year he’s played and made the All-Star Game the last two seasons. The only knock on Simmons game is his shooting ability, which he has slightly improved. If Simmons can develop this aspect of his game, we could potentially see him at the top of this list one day.
8. Domantas Sabonis, Lithuania
When the Pacers traded Paul George to Oklahoma City in 2017, they got Victor Oladipo and Sabonis in exchange. Most people see Oladipo as the crown piece to that trade for the Pacers. However, Sabonis has been no slouch for Indiana either. Sabonis made his 1st All-Star Game this season, averaging 18.5 points and 12.4 rebounds per game to help lead the Pacers to another playoff berth. If he keeps up this level of production, Domantas would be well on his way to having better career stats than his father, Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis.
9. Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia
If there’s one team in the NBA that values international talent, it’s the Dallas Mavericks. The team traded for Porzingis in 2018 and paired him with Luka Doncic to create what could be one of the best duos in the NBA for years to come. After missing the 2018-19 season with a torn ACL, Porzingis returned to form in his 1st season in Dallas, averaging 19.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. This is a guy who we could see making many All-Star games throughout his career.
10. Nikola Vucevic, Montenegro
Vucevic has been one of the more underrated players in the NBA for the better part of a decade. Since joining the Magic in 2012, Vucevic has been a reliable scoring option, averaging 17.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in Orlando. He was finally recognized for his play with his 1st All-Star appearance in 2019.
11.Marc Gasol, Spain
Now on the back end of a great career, Marc Gasol is still one of the best international players in basketball. His stats have dropped since being traded to Toronto last year. However, he was a crucial factor in helping the Raptors win the 2019 NBA Finals. The former All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year was the leader of many competitive Grizzlies teams for years and still looks like he has some gas left in the tank.
12. Steven Adams, New Zealand
“The Big Kiwi”, as some fans adoringly call him, has been the defensive rock for the Thunder since he became the team’s starting center. Adams is an intimidating presence in the paint and is a guy who can give you a double-double night in and night out. He is an underrated player in this league who I believe deserves more recognition than he often receives.
13. Al Horford, Dominican Republic
Coming out of Florida in 2007, Horford has enjoyed a long and successful NBA career. The five-time All-Star is a defensive ace whose impact on the floor far exceeds the stat sheet. He can guard multiple positions and can stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting ability. In his 13 seasons in the NBA, Horford has never missed the playoffs, an accomplishment something very few players in the NBA can claim. This stat is a testament to Horford’s game and the impact he has on the teams he has played on.
14. Bojan Bogdanovic, Croatia
Wherever he’s played in the league, Bojan Bogdanovic has produced. The talented scorer from Croatia has played on four different teams in his career and averages just under 40% 3-point shooting for his career. He has played a vital role on several playoff teams, whether that be starting or coming off of the bench. Bogdanovic was having the best season of his career in Utah before the season was suspended, averaging 20.2 points per game on 54.8% shooting.
15. Danilo Gallinari, Italy
Gallinari has been one of the more underrated scorers in the NBA over the past decade. The 6’10 Italian is a very skilled player who can score points at a high clip. In his 12 seasons in the league, Gallinari has averaged double-digit points every year except for his rookie campaign with the Knicks. Before the season was suspended, Gallinari was averaging 19.2 points per game and shooting 40% from three for the Thunder.
16.Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Canada
The Canadian-born Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the best young players in the league. In only his 2nd season, Shai has averaged 19.3 points starting alongside Chris Paul and has shown flashes of his All-Star potential. Oklahoma City got a gem from the Clippers when they received him in the massive trade for Paul George.
17. Clint Capela, Switzerland
Capela made a name for himself in Houston as a dominant shot-blocking big who excels in the pick and roll. However, Capela didn’t exactly fit the mold for Rockets HC Mike D’Antoni’s small-ball offense, and he was subsequently traded to Atlanta in February. Although Capela hasn’t gotten to make his Hawks debut thanks to injury, he will pair nicely with Trae Young and John Collins on that young Atlanta team.
18. Andrew Wiggins, Canada
Although former #1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins hasn’t lived up to his draft selection, he has still been a reliable and productive scorer in his six seasons in the NBA. He is a career 19.7 points per game scorer and is still only 24 years old. Wiggins was traded to Golden State this season in exchange for D’Angelo Russell. With the Warriors expected to return to form next season, Wiggins will provide them with a solid scoring option from the wing.
19. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia
Drafted in 2014, Bogdanovic finally made his NBA debut in 2017 after starring in the EuroLeague for several years. In his three seasons in Sacramento, Bogdanovic has averaged 13.3 points per game on 52% shooting from the field. He is going to be a solid role player in this league for a long time, whether that means by coming off the bench or starting.
20. Ricky Rubio, Spain
Since entering the league in 2011, Ricky Rubio has consistently been one of the best facilitators in the NBA. He is a crafty point guard who is an elite passer and has improved his shooting ability over the years. Rubio was having his best statistical season in 2020 with the Suns, averaging 13.1 points and 8.9 assists per game.
21. Dennis Schroeder, Germany
In his first five seasons in Atlanta, Schroder showed much promise. Following the departure of Jeff Teague, Schroder took over the starting point guard position and excelled. However, he was traded to Oklahoma City in 2018 where he now comes off the bench. He was averaging 19.0 points as a 6th man this year on the Thunder, starting in only one game the whole year. Schroder is a guy who could easily start on many teams in the NBA, and the Thunder are lucky to have him coming off their bench.
22. Joe Ingles, Australia
After beginning his professional career overseas, Joe Ingles joined the Jazz in 2014 as a 27-year-old rookie. In his six seasons in Utah, Ingles has proven to be a solid role player and shooter. He is a career 40% 3-point shooter and has developed the reputation as a fan favorite in Utah. He has played in both starting and reserve roles for the team throughout his career.
23. Goran Dragic, Slovenia
Dragic entered the league in 2008 with the Phoenix Suns and has been a solid NBA player for the majority of his career. Throughout his 12-year career in the NBA, Dragic has made one All-Star Team, won Most Improved Player in 2013-14, and made an All-NBA Team that same season. Dragic nows plays in Miami, where he averages 16.1 points per game coming off the bench.
24. Serge Ibaka, Republic of the Congo
Ibaka entered the league with Oklahoma City, where he was one of the best defensive players in the game. Ibaka has led the league in blocks twice and is a three-time All-Defensive Team selection. He was traded from Orlando to Toronto in 2017 and helped the Raptors claim their first title in franchise history in 2019.
25. Jonas Valaciunas, Lithuania
Valanciunas began his career in Toronto, where he was a reliable starting center for six seasons. He was eventually traded to Memphis in exchange for Marc Gasol in 2019. He provides the Grizzlies and young star point guard Ja Morant with a reliable scoring and rebounding big man. He is a solid piece for this young Grizzlies team to continue to build around.
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