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NBA Draft - A deep-dive into the history of international players

2019 NBA Draft
2019 NBA Draft
Evan Tiwari
Modified 12 Nov 2020, 21:34 IST

The NBA Draft has introduced the basketball world to brilliant international talents such as Dirk Nowitzki and Manu Ginobili, who led their teams to titles and left their mark on the league. The number of non-American players in the league continues to rise and the NBA Draft 2020 could see more young international individuals seize the opportunity ahead of them. As this year's draft approaches, let's take an in-depth look into the NBA Draft history of international players and check out some interesting facts. 

NBA Draft: Taking a look at the global reach of the league

2019 NBA Draft
2019 NBA Draft

Over the last decade, the NBA's international presence has expanded rapidly. Here are some interesting statistics from the 2019-20 NBA season that reflect the extent of the league's global reach-  

  1. There were 108 international players from 38 countries and territories on the 2019-20 opening-night rosters.
  2. This was the sixth consecutive season that opening-night rosters featured at least 100 international players.
  3. Canada had the most NBA players of any country outside the U.S for the sixth straight year with 16 players (Australia and France had nine each).
  4. The Dallas Mavericks led the league with 7 international players on their 2019-20 NBA opening-night roster.  

Basketball without Borders: An initiative to identify the best international talents

2019 NBA Draft
2019 NBA Draft

Basketball Without Borders (BWB), the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program, has been conducted annually since 2001. Since then, 69 former BWB campers have been drafted into the NBA or signed as free agents.

The initiative produced a record 30 players on the 2019-20 NBA opening-night roster, including Pascal Siakam (Cameroon; BWB Africa 2012), Jamal Murray (Canada; BWB Global 2015), and Joel Embiid (Cameroon; BWB Africa 2011).

NBA Draft History: International stars who excelled in the 2019-20 season

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat - Game Three
Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat - Game Three

Multiple international stars have taken the NBA by storm in recent years, going toe to toe with their American counterparts and often surpassing them. Last season was especially productive for foreign stars, as a record six international players were named to various 2019-20 All-NBA Teams:

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks; Greece; All-NBA First Team)
  • Luka Dončić (Dallas Mavericks; Slovenia; All-NBA First Team) 
  • Nikola Jokić (Denver Nuggets; Serbia; All-NBA Second Team) 
  • Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors; Cameroon; All-NBA Second Team)
  • Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz; France; All-NBA Third Team)  
  • Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers; Australia; All-NBA Third Team)

Also read: NBA Trade Rumors: "I understand it’s part of the deal" - Charlotte Hornets' Cody Zeller opens up about the offseason

International NBA Draft History: Players of non-American origin who were No.1 overall picks

Detroit Pistons v Brooklyn Nets
Detroit Pistons v Brooklyn Nets

Being selected with the first pick in the NBA Draft is a huge achievement for any basketball player. There have been 13 international players drafted No. 1 overall:

  • Deandre Ayton (Bahamas; 2018)
  • Ben Simmons (Australia; 2016)
  • Andrew Wiggins (Canada; 2014)
  • Anthony Bennett (Canada; 2013)
  • Kyrie Irving (Australia; 2011)
  • Andrea Bargnani (Italy; 2006)
  • Andrew Bogut (Australia; 2005)
  • Yao Ming (China; 2002)
  • Michael Olowokandi (Nigeria; 1998)
  • Tim Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands; 1997)
  • Patrick Ewing (Jamaica; 1985)
  • Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria; 1984)
  • Mychal Thompson (Bahamas; 1978)

NBA Draft 2020: How the future looks for international talent

NBA Draft 2020 is filled with some exciting international prospects such as Deni Avdija and Killian Hayes, of Israel and France, respectively. Both are set to be lottery picks in NBA Draft 2020 and could land in the Top 10. Reports suggest that Western Conference heavyweights Golden State Warriors have serious interest in Avdija and could draft him with the No. 2 overall pick.

Other international prospects that are expected to be picked in NBA Draft 2020 are Josh Green (Australia), Leandro Bolmaro (Argentina), and Vit Krejčí (Czech Republic). The NBA Draft 2020 is set to take place on November 18 and the league's global representation is expected to continue to rise.

Also read: NBA Draft 2020: Golden State Warriors might flip 2nd pick for LaMarcus Aldridge, Charlotte Hornets could trade up to 1st overall selection


Published 12 Nov 2020, 21:34 IST
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