The Olympics are going strong right now and there have been some standout performers. Team USA are considered the favorites and have some impressive victories to their name, including a convincing win against the Spanish and Australian National Teams. Right now, USA is back in the Gold Medal game against France. But foreign players have been absolutely sensational by stealing the headlines, including Ricky Rubio, Evan Fournier, Patty Mills, and Luka Doncic.
In fact, international players might have surpassed American players in the NBA right now. Looking back at this past season, international stars are the ones who are becoming the faces of the NBA and who will hold the future. But as things stand, foreign players are holding the present. International players are dominating American players in the NBA right now and here is the evidence.
NBA MVP Is Nikola Jokic, Runner-Up Is Joel Embiid
Nikola Jokic completed one of the most convincing MVP campaigns by putting up extraordinary numbers for a center. In 72 games, Jokic averaged 26.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 8.3 APG. In terms of being a passer, we have not seen one better than Jokic at the center position. He even surpasses Hall of Famers Bill Walton, Arvydas Sabonis, and Bill Russell in that regard.
The three names mentioned above are excellent passers out of the post, but the type of passes that Jokic completes is extraordinary to watch. The Joker is actually a point-center and was the most valuable player to his team this season because his sidekick Jamal Murray missed time with a season-ending injury.
The Serbian superstar was the MVP of the league as an international, but the runner-up was from Cameroon. Joel Embiid had a spectacular season by leading the Philadelphia 76ers to the best record in the Eastern Conference with averages of 28.5 PPG and 10.6 RPG. If Embiid didn't get injured for a brief spell of time, he would have likely been the MVP. Either way, we would have had an international MVP for the 3rd straight season.
Defensive Player Of The Year Is Rudy Gobert, Runner-Up Is Ben Simmons
The best player in the regular season this year was an international player, but so was the best defensive player. Rudy Gobert, the 7'1" Frenchman, won his 3rd Defensive Player of the Year Award this season by averaging 14.3 PPG, 13.5 RPG, and 2.7 BPG. No big man affects the game defensively like Gobert and he was a major reason the Jazz had the best record in the NBA.
There is a pattern forming, where the most impactful players in the NBA are foreign. Gobert receives some criticism for his inconsistency in one-on-one scoring situations, but his defensive impact and rebounding skills more than make up for that. Having Gobert makes playing team defense easy, which is why Utah ranked 6th in OPPG.
The runner-up for this award was also foreign, as Australian superstar Ben Simmons was a legitimate candidate as a defensive phenom. Even if Simmons can't make free throws at an average rate, he is one of the most versatile defenders in the league with the ability to stay with guards and bigs. Simmons averaged 14.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 6.9 APG to go along with his 1.6 SPG and 0.6 BPG as a point guard.
Giannis Antetokounmpo Is The Best Player In The NBA Playoffs, Finals MVP
Giannis Antetokounmpo is just a phenomenal talent. He has won the past 2 MVP awards and completed an unbelievable season by winning the NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks. Since developing into a two-way superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo has single-handedly placed Milwaukee on the map with his play.
Giannis had another MVP-type season averaging 28.1 PPG, 11.0 RPG, and 5.9 APG to go along with 1.2 SPG and 1.2 BPG. Because of his incredible athleticism, Giannis affects the game in all areas and he has improved every year since coming into the league. Of course, his accolades show for his improvements, as he holds 2 MVP Awards along with a Defensive Player of the Year trophy.
In the postseason, Giannis proved he is the best player in the world right now. The Greek Freak averaged 30.2 PPG and 12.8 RPG in the postseason, dominating a ton of superstar opposition en route to his first NBA championship. In an era where even American stars are moving teams to win championships the easy way, Giannis did it the hard way and the best player in the world right now is from Greece. His championship trophy and Finals MVP Award sit pretty alongside his other accolades as Giannis looks ahead to a Hall of Fame career.
Luka Doncic Is The Best Player On A National Team
Luka Doncic continues to impress the world with his spectacular play on the court. Doncic has been sensational since his rookie season and is already being compared to an all-time great legend in Larry Bird. While Doncic has a ways to go to equal Bird's 3 rings and 3 MVPs, he is on the right track. This past season, Doncic proved he is a top-10 player by averaging 27.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 8.6 APG.
Thanks to 22-year old Luka, the Mavericks are in win-now mode. He has single-handedly made Dallas playoff contenders and his play is transcending international play as well. Luka has been the most impressive international star in the Olympics so far, averaging 26.3 PPG, 10.0 RPG, and 8.0 APG, with a 17-1 record. He has made Slovenia a massive favorite for the Olympic Gold although they suffered a disappointing defeat in the semi-final.
In terms of the NBA, it is widely believed that the majority of general managers would start their franchise with Doncic ahead of any other superstar. He has incredible talent at only 22 years old and has proven to be an MVP caliber player on the NBA stage and the international stage as a Slovenian.
In a nutshell, international players have been most impressive this year. The NBA is the highest quality of basketball played in the world, yet foreign players are winning all the awards and having the most impact. On a pure skill and dominance level, this is becoming increasingly evident.
LeBron James, the face of the NBA and the most dominant superstar over the last decade, is nearing 37 years of age. He is no longer the best player in the NBA and is forced to play a secondary role as a scorer and playmaker to keep his energy from running out. His superstar partner, Anthony Davis, is often injured and cannot stay healthy enough for him to put a stamp on the league.
Kevin Durant is the most unstoppable scorer in the NBA right now, but even he could not stop the historic run by Giannis Antetokounmpo in the playoffs. Giannis is bigger and stronger than Durant and won a chip with the team who drafted him rather than joining a superteam. Giannis is also a better defensive player and holds the last 2 MVP Awards.
Otherwise, Stephen Curry is 33 years old and will not be dominating the league for much longer while Kawhi Leonard has yet to play a full season in the NBA due to injuries. Foreign players are healthy, young, and dominating the NBA as they surpass current American stars. To put the icing on the cake, 3 foreign superstars in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, and Nikola Jokic made All-NBA First Team while Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard take up the other 2 spots. As things stand, foreign players are becoming the faces of the NBA and this could be the norm moving forward.