We’ve all seen several American players thrive in Europe after not being able to settle at an NBA Level, as well as we’ve seen European stars fail to establish themselves as NBA caliber players, mostly due to the big differences in the pace, the style of play and even the lifestyle and demand that the Association puts on their player’s shoulders.
Nevertheless, even if some players are never able to actually adapt to the NBA, there are other talented and smart players that are pretty capable of shining no matter where they go, becoming instant fan favorites and stealing the spotlight from American born and raised players who play alongside them.
So, it’s time to give credit to the guys that deserve it the most. Let’s take a look at the 10 best European players in this years’ NBA.
10. Bojan Bogdanovic
The Croatian Small Forward has finally taken his NBA game to another level after being one of the most terrifying scorers at a FIBA level, but failing to explode during his first couple of seasons as a part of the Brooklyn Nets. Now, Bogdanovic has become a key piece in the Wizards’ playoff run, becoming their most reliable scorer off the bench due to his outstanding sharpshooting ability, something that works perfectly alongside one of the game’s best point guards, John Wall.
Through the season, Bogdanovic is averaging 14.8 points and 3.1 rebounds on 47.3% shooting, 40.5% from three and 93.7% from the charity stripe, and he’ll be a key factor in Washington’s success during the playoffs.
9. Nikola Vucevic
It’s been a very difficult year for Nikola Vucevic, who’s arguably one of the best scoring centers in the entire NBA and a walking double-double. He has seen his playing time take a dip under Frank Vogel, although he’s still managed to put up pretty decent numbers over the 66 games he’s been featured in over the year.
The six year Veteran center is currently averaging 14.8 points and 10.3 rebounds to go along with 2.8 assists, 1 steal and 1 swat per game on 47.3% shooting, but if he doesn’t improve his pick and roll and post defense, he’s going to have it very tough to thrive under Vogel for the foreseeable future.
8. Danilo Gallinari
There’s never been a single doubt about Gallo’s talent and scoring ability, as the former New York Knick was expected to become one of the league’s leading scorers for the future, although his constant injuries have prevented him from taking his game to a whole new level.
Nevertheless, the Italian has still managed to be an outstanding player whenever he’s actually been able to step on the court, providing a huge offensive boost for a Denver Nuggets team in desperate need for consistency at the forward spot, as his backup is Wilson Chandler, who often struggles with injuries as well.
Over the course of the season, Gallo’s averaging 17.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and just over 2 assists on 44.1% shooting, 38.3% from downtown and 89.9% from the line, and he’ll be a huge part of the Nuggets success in the postseason.
7. Nicolas Batum
Batum is arguably one of the most intelligent players in the entire NBA, and he makes up for his lack of athleticism or ability with his outstanding basketball IQ and his team-first mentality, although his team hasn’t been able to make the most of it quite yet.
The French guard/forward is a constant triple-double threat, averaging career highs in points (15.3) and assists (5.9), to go along with 6.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game on 40.1% shooting and 33.9% from downtown.
6. Kristaps Porzingis
The Unicorn has taken a minor step back from what we all expected during the season, as constant nagging injuries have prevented the Latvian wunderkind from erupting again this year, although he’s still improved his offensive numbers from his rookie campaign.
“Porzingod” is currently averaging 18.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists and a couple of blocks per game on 44.3% shooting and 35.9% from three, and it’ll be great to see him play for a team with an actual system and a roster fit for his outstanding scoring ability, but we guess Phil Jackson has other plans for the Knicks.
5. Marc Gasol
Pau’s younger brother is no longer Pau’s younger brother, as the Spanish center has kept improving and making a name for himself and his seventh-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, becoming one of the most complete players in his position and even becoming a three-point shooter over the course of this season.
Bouncing back from an injury-plagued season, the nine-year veteran is averaging a career-high in points per game with 19.9 on 46% shooting, as well as 6.3 boards, 4.6 assists (also a career-high), 0.9 steals and 1.3 blocks per game on 38.1% shooting from three.
4. Nikola Jokic
The second-year center has been a complete beast over the course of the season, earning without any kind of doubt the right to be called the best passing big man in the NBA (And arguably one of the best passers overall), constantly running the Nuggets’ offense on a team that has seen Emmanuel Mudiay get a lot of DNP’s due to his lack of improvement.
So, after a pretty decent rookie season alongside Jusuf Nurkic, Denver has decided to keep “The Joker” around, thanks to his 16.4 points, 9.6 boards and 4.7 helpers per game on 58.9% from the field and 35.2% from three, being a major reason for the Nuggets’ recent success and playoff push.
3. Goran Dragic
The Dragon made a huge leap of improvement a couple of seasons ago with the Phoenix Suns alongside Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, and everybody thought the veteran point guard was finally ready to take the league by storm when he was given the keys to the car in Eric Spoelstra’s’ Miami Heat.
So, even if Dragic’s improvement actually stalled since arriving at South Beach, he’s still been able to put together some really decent outings, averaging 20.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.9 helpers and 1.2 steals per game on 47.6% from the field and 41.6% from three, and the leftie has been one of the main reasons why the Heat is still fighting for a playoff spot, despite their poor roster.
2. Rudy Gobert
“The Stifle Tower” is one of the main reasons of Utah’s resurgence and he’s maybe the top candidate to earn Defensive Player of the Year honors, despite not making the All-Star Game this year, something quite strange considering how much of a monster the fourth-year center has been since day one of the season.
Over the last week, the 24-year-old took the breath away from everybody, first with an 8 block performance in a losing effort against the Pacers, and then with a complete eruption of 35 points on 13/14 shooting against the Knicks. Having said that, Gobert is averaging career highs in everything with his 13.5 points on 65.6% from the field and 65.8 from the line, as well as his 12.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 steals and 2.6 blocks in 33.38 minutes per game, leading the league in blocks per game and being tied with Dwight Howard for the 4th spot in rebounds per game.
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Without a doubt, “the Greek Freak” has been the best European players this year, as the youngster is actually leading his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and PER, and the sky seems to be the limit for the 22-year-old, improving his numbers in every single category since making his professional debut and being one of the most durable players in the league since being drafted.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had his first All-Star selection thanks to his great averages of 23.1 points, 8.5 boards, 5.4 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.9 blocks per game on 52.4% from the field and 78.1% from the charity stripe, although his three point shooting is still a work in progress with his 28% shooting from downtown, but considering how hard this kid works to improve, there’s no doubt that he’ll develop his shot and be in the MVP discussion in pretty much every year from now on.