The 50 Best International Players Currently in the NBA

The NBA playoffs are in full swing, so naturally I’ve been watching a lot more basketball than usual. It’s an exciting time in the NBA. There’s a lot of great basketball being played, and the hunt for the championship is really wide open this year. I have no idea who is going to win it all.

One of the things that has struck me though is just how much non-American players have come to dominate the league. We’re at a point where somewhere between a quarter to a third of the top 100 players are from outside the U.S. That might not seem like a lot to you, but based on how U.S.-centric the history of basketball has been, it’s actually quite remarkable.

When I was a kid growing up in the 90s, there were definitely a handful of good non-U.S. players—and a couple great ones. Players like Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigerian), Patrick Ewing (Jamaican-American), Dikembe Mutombo (Congolese), Toni Kukoc (Croatian), and Vlade Divac (Serbian) all had a big presence in the NBA in the 90s.

Then came the 2000s, and a whole new crop of non-U.S. talent took the game by storm, namely Dirk Nowitzki (German), Steve Nash (Canadian), Tony Parker (French), Pau Gasol (Spanish), Manu Ginobli (Argentinian), Peja Stojakovic (Serbian), and Yao Ming (Chinese). These guys were all fun to watch and helped bring the outside world into the NBA—and the NBA to the outside world—in a way we’d never seen before. Basketball really started to become global for the first time, and it has truly changed the game.

We’re now seeing the fruits of that revolution. Arguably four of the top 7-8 players in the league are now non-U.S. players—Giannis, Jokic, Embiid, and Luka. And almost every team in the league now has at least one non-U.S. player in a key role. That’s huge. Most of the international players are still from Europe—especially Eastern Europe—but there are also players from Canada, Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, and even a few from Asia scattered through the league. It’s a beautiful thing.

Anyway, with all this in mind, I wanted to go ahead and make a list of the 50 best international players currently in the NBA. Instead of making it just one list, I broke it up into regions, with 27 from Europe, 9 from Canada, 3 from Africa, 4 from Oceania, 4 from the Caribbean, and 3 from Asia and South America. I’ve included the country of origin (in parentheses) and 2020-21 stats for each player. Enjoy!

The 27 Best Current NBA Players from Europe:

  • 1.) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks (Greece) – 28 ppg, 11 rpg, 6 apg
  • 2.) Nikola Jokic, Nuggets (Serbia) – 26 ppg, 11 rpg, 8 apg
  • 3.) Luka Doncic, Mavs (Slovenia) – 28 ppg, 8 rpg, 9 apg
  • 4.) Rudy Gobert, Jazz (France) – 14 ppg, 14 rpg, 3 bpg
  • 5.) Nikola Vucevic, Bulls (Montenegro) – 23 ppg, 12 rpg, 4 apg
  • 6.) Domantas Sabonis, Pacers (Lithuania) – 20 ppg, 12 rpg, 7 apg
  • 7.) Kristaps Porzingis, Mavs (Latvia) – 20 ppg, 9 rpg, 2 apg
  • 8.) Jusuf Nurkic, Blazers (Bosnia and Herzegovina) – 12 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg
  • 9.) Dennis Schroder, Lakers (Germany) – 15 ppg, 4 rpg, 6 apg
  • 10.) Bojan Bogdanovic, Jazz (Croatia) – 17 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg
  • 11.) Jonas Valanciunas, Grizzlies (Lithuania) – 17 ppg, 13 rgp, 2 apg
  • 12.) Goran Dragic, Heat (Slovenia) – 13 ppg, 3 rpg, 4 apg
  • 13.) Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hawks (Serbia) – 16 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg
  • 14.) Clint Capela, Hawks (Switzerland) – 15 ppg, 14 rpg, 2 bpg
  • 15.) Evan Fournier, Celtics (France) – 17 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg
  • 16.) OG Anunoby, Raptors (United Kingdom) – 16 ppg, 6 rpg, 2 apg
  • 17.) Enes Kanter, Blazers (Switzerland / Turkey) – 11 ppg, 11 rpg, 1 apg
  • 18.) Danilo Gallinari, Hawks (Italy) – 13 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg
  • 19.) Ivica Zubac, Clippers (Bosnia and Herzegovina) – 9 ppg, 7 rpg, 1 apg
  • 20.) Lauri Markkanen, Bulls (Finland) – 14 ppg, 5 rpg, 1 apg
  • 21.) Davis Bertans, Wizards (Latvia) – 12 ppg, 3 rpg, 1 apg
  • 22.) Dario Šarić, Suns (Croatia) – 9 ppg, 4 rpg, 1 apg
  • 23.) Marc Gasol, Lakers (Spain) – 5 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg
  • 24.) Ricky Rubio, T’Wolves (Spain) – 9 ppg, 3 rpg, 6 apg
  • 25.) Jakob Poeltl, Spurs (Austria) – 9 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 bpg
  • 26.) Nicolas Batum, Clippers (France) – 8 ppg, 5 rpg, 2 apg
  • 27.) Willy Hernangomez, Pelicans (Spain) – 8 ppg, 7 rpg, 1 apg

The 9 Best Current NBA Players from Canada:

  • 1.) Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder – 24 ppg, 5 rpg, 6 apg
  • 2.) Jamal Murray, Nuggets – 21 ppg, 4 rpg, 5 apg
  • 3.) Andrew Wiggins, Warriors – 19 ppg, 5 rpg, 2 apg
  • 4.) RJ Barrett, Knicks – 18 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg
  • 5.) Dillon Brooks, Grizzlies – 17 ppg, 3 rpg, 2 apg
  • 6.) Luguentz Dort, Thunder – 14 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg
  • 7.) Tristan Thompson, Celtics – 8 ppg, 8 rpg, 1 apg
  • 8.) Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Pelicans – 11 ppg, 3 rpg, 2 apg
  • 9.) Brandon Clarke, Grizzlies – 10 ppg, 6 rpg, 2 apg

The 3 Best Current NBA Players from Africa:

  • 1.) Joel Embiid, Sixers (Cameroon) – 29 ppg, 11 rpg, 3 apg
  • 2.) Pascal Siakam, Raptors (Cameroon) – 21 ppg, 7 rpg, 5 apg
  • 3.) Serge Ibaka, Clippers (Republic of the Congo) – 11 ppg, 7 rpg, 2 apg

The 4 Best Current NBA Players from Oceania:

  • 1.) Ben Simmons, Sixers (Australia) – 14 ppg, 7 rpg, 7 apg
  • 2.) Steven Adams, Pelicans (New Zealand) – 8 ppg, 9 rpg, 2 apg
  • 3.) Joe Ingles, Jazz (Australia) – 12 ppg, 4 rpg, 5 apg
  • 4.) Patty Mills, Spurs (Australia) – 11 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

The 4 Best Current NBA Players from the Caribbean:

  • 1.) Deandre Ayton, Suns (Bahamas) – 14 ppg, 11 rpg, 1 apg
  • 2.) Buddy Hield, Kings (Bahamas) – 17 ppg, 5 rpg, 4 apg
  • 3.) Al Horford, Thunder (Dominican Republic) – 14 ppg, 7 rpg, 3 apg
  • 4.) Chris Boucher, Raptors (Saint Lucia) – 14 ppg, 7 rpg, 2 bpg

The 3 Best Current NBA Players from Asia and South America:

  • 1.) Jordan Clarkson, Jazz (Philippines) – 18 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg
  • 2.) Rui Hachimura, Wizards (Japan) – 14 ppg, 6 rpg, 1 apg
  • 3.) Raul Neto, Wizards (Brazil) – 9 ppg, 2 rpg, 2 apg

Honorable Mention #1: Boban Marjanović, Mavs (Serbia)

Boban is one of those “pituitary giants” we’ve seen from time to time before in the NBA–players like Gheorghe Mureșan (7ft7), Manute Bol (7ft7), Shawn Bradley (7ft6), and Yao Ming (7ft6). At 7ft4, he is the second tallest player in the NBA today behind only Tacko Fall (7ft5) of Senegal. He doesn’t get a ton of playing time and doesn’t exactly have monster stats, but he is, by all accounts, one of the best-loved players in the league (see above).

Honorable Mention #2: Gorgui Dieng, Spurs (Senegal)

Gorgui’s playing time has dwindled in recent years as he’s been shipped from team to team and he was never really a reliable starter, but he’s been a serviceable backup PF/C for eight seasons and he has always had a special place in my heart as a Louisville alum. I first became a fan of his game during his Louisville days, but more than that — I learned to love his personality. He’s one of the sweetest, most happy-go-lucky pro-athletes you’ll ever find. I had to include him on this list as an honorable mention. Here are some of my favorite Gorgui moments: https://www.cardchronicle.com/2013/6/27/4470328/the-20-best-gorguis-of-all-time

Bonus list: The 25 Greatest Former NBA Players from Outside the U.S.

  • 1.) Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) (HoF)
  • 2.) Dirk Nowitzki (Germany)
  • 3.) Steve Nash (Canada) (HoF)
  • 4.) Patrick Ewing (Jamaica) (HoF)
  • 5.) Tony Parker (France)
  • 6.) Pau Gasol (Spain)
  • 7.) Manu Ginobli (Argentina)
  • 8.) Dikembe Mutombo (DRC) (HoF)
  • 9.) Yao Ming (China) (HoF)
  • 10.) Peja Stojakovic (Serbia)
  • 11.) Toni Kukoc (Croatia)
  • 12.) Detlef Schrempf (Germany)
  • 13.) Vlade Divac (Serbia) (HoF)
  • 14.) Drazen Petrovic (Croatia) (HoF)
  • 15.) Nene (Brazil)
  • 16.) Andrew Bogut (Australia)
  • 17.) Rolando Blackman (Panama)
  • 18.) Rik Smits (Netherlands)
  • 19.) Hedo Turkoglu (Turkey)
  • 20.) Andrei Kirilenko (Russia)
  • 21.) Arvydas Sabonis (Lithuania) (HoF)
  • 22.) Luol Deng (South Sudan/United Kingdom)
  • 23.) Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Lithuania)
  • 24.) Sarunas Marciulionis (Lithuania) (HoF)
  • 25.) Leandro Barbosa (Brazil)

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