Top 5 NBA internationals: Giannis Antetokounmpo reigns
We finish our countdown of the best international ballers in the league with the cream of the crop.
The NBA has always had a distinctly international flavor. From European imports such as Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc and Dirk Nowitzki, to African superstars Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon, the league has a proud history of international players.
Over the past decade, what was a trickle of international talent has transformed into a flood. On opening night of the 2017/18 season, 108 international players from a record 42 countries and territories suited up and prepared to play NBA ball.
Over the past month, we have analyzed the best 20 international players in the NBA. Our first edition focussed on numbers 16-20 and then we counted down 11-15. Last week numbers 6-10 were highlighted and now we are down to the final five, the best international stars in the NBA. Keep in mind that this list includes players for both current and past achievements.
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia)
Despite his obvious talent, Kristaps Porzingis’ first two seasons in the NBA have not been straight forward. The messy divorce between New York, Phil Jackson, and Carmelo Anthony has cast a shadow over the Knicks and Porzingis was evidently unhappy under the Jackson regime.
Now free from the suffocating presence of Anthony and Jackson’s triangle offense, we are seeing the potential that had scouts referring to the Latvian as a basketball unicorn. Averaging 27 points, 7 rebounds and shooting 40% from deep, Porzingis has led the Knicks to a surprisingly strong start this season.
Porzingis came into the NBA with a reputation as a big man with a silky shooting stroke and he has lived up to these expectations. Where he has surpassed all predictions is in his ability to be effective inside the paint, crashing the offensive boards and swatting away shots on the defensive end. For the first time in a long time there is positivity surrounding the New York Knicks, and that is all to do with Kristaps Porzingis.