Basketball has been an international sport for almost three decades now. After watching the dominance of the 1992 Team USA Dream Team, the entire world was inspired to pick up a basketball and learn the game. Fast forward almost 25 years later, basketball is played in every corner of the world, with players from all over playing in the NBA.
No other region has taken a love for basketball quite like Europe. Europe has produced Hall of Famers such as Dirk Nowitzki and Pau Gasol, as well as other All-Star level players in recent years. Here are the best young European players entering the 2015-2016 season.
New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia
Phil Jackson and the Knicks were laughed at by many when they selected the skinny 7’3” Latvian big man with the fourth pick in the 2015 draft. No one is laughing now. Porzingis came in second to Karl-Anthony Towns in the Rookie of the Year voting, scoring 14.3 points per game, 7.3 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, with a 42% field goal percentage and shooting 33% from behind the arc. Porzingis is the perfect stretch four/five in today’s NBA and has superstar potential written all over him and has made Knicks tickets worth buying again.
Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert, France
Gobert is one of the best rim protectors in the NBA. Gobert averaged 2.2 blocks last season, along with a career high 9.1 points and 11 rebounds. The Utah Jazz are an up-and-coming sleeper team in the Western Conference, and the 7’1” French big man has a lot to do with that.
Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece
Antetokounmpo’s nickname isn’t “The Greek Freak” for no reason. Antetokounmpo is a 6’11” forward with a 7’3” wingspan and 12’2” vertical. In his only third NBA season, The Freak showed the scary potential he has, recording career highs with 16.9 points per game, 7.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.4 blocks, 1.2 steals, and a 50% field goal percentage. Giannis finished fourth in the league with five triple-doubles, beating out triple-double threat players such as LeBron James, John Wall, and Hassan Whiteside.
Orlando Magic: Nikola Vucevic, Montenegro
Vucevic doesn’t get enough credit and spotlight he deserves because he plays in Orlando, but he is one of the most productive centers in the league. He has averaged double-doubles three out of the five years in his NBA career, and averaged 18.2 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in 65 games last season. Vucevic finished 19th in the league with 29 double-doubles last season and should be expected to play a big part in Frank Vogel’s offense.
Atlanta Hawks: Dennis Schroder
The Hawks selected Schroder out of Germany with the 17th pick in the 2013 draft with the plan of grooming him to be the starting point guard of the future. The future is now for Schroder, as the Hawks traded Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers, signaling the keys to the offense now belong to him. Schroder flashed his potential in the postseason, averaging 11.7 points and 3.6 assists in 19 minutes of play in 10 games. Before the 2013 NBA Draft, Schroder drew comparisons to Rajon Rondo. He was drafted at similar slot in the draft and will now have the opportunity to prove he was worthy of such a hefty comparison.