The All-International Team: 10 Best Foreign NBA Players
Think about the talent level of the NBA's international players for a moment. We're long past the point where foreign players were mere scrubs with funny names. They've lead teams to championships, won MVP trophies, and held other top honors. International stars have globalized the game and upped the ante for stateside players looking for a shot at the league.
However, it's not all sunshine and daisies for foreign prospects. Teams have picked their fair share of busts over the years. But it's smooth sailing once a franchise strikes gold in an international player that can contribute right away and/or holds tremendous upside.
And things surely get interesting when said players play to their potential. Some of these players may have been slow burners. But once acclimated, they've become some of the best and most respected pro players in the world.
It was tough to limit the best international players list down to 10. Then again, the following players are among the best at what they do. Here are the players that made the cut.
Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors
Andrea acclimated himself to the pro game as a prototypical European player. The Italian forward/center is not known to bang in the paint or play with his back to the basket. But his jump shot and ball handling skills make all seven feet of him a legitimate threat from the wing.
His lack of interest towards working inside irks fans as he has the tools to be a preeminent NBA big man. But he's only 24 years old and has steadily improved since he began his NBA career. His numbers should rise in the 2010-2011 campaign as Chris Bosh skipped town for South Beach.
It remains to be seen if Il Mago can lead what's left of the Raptors to some form of redemption after their fallout with Bosh and Turkoglu. Hopefully, he learned a thing or two from Bosh's post game in anticipation for the upcoming season. That would be a start as Toronto is in dire need of direction.
Ben Gordon, Detroit Pistons
Ok, so he was raised in New York. Still, Ben Gordon was born in London, England, has dual citizenship and plays for Britain in international play. He's made a name for himself as an extremely streaky shooter that you can only hope stays cold for as long as possible. Once he's on you might as well get back on D and keep the ball from him on the next go-round.
On the flipside, he can shoot you out of the game as he tries to find his rhythm. He'd be a much better overall scorer if he could keep that aspect of his game under control. Then again, no one's complaining when he's shooting lights out.
Gordon could've had a better year in his first run with Detroit. He still made the most of his minutes off the bench on a rebuilding team. With that said, he's good enough to start. Detroit may be better off if he did—word to Joe Dumars.
Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls
The Sudanese forward has been a step away from the NBA All-Star game for some time. Chicago's been waiting on him to turn the corner and become the feared swingman he's capable of being.
In the meantime, he still demands attention as a potent slasher and gets his fair share of boards at about seven a night. His jumper ain't too bad either and leads to easy points when he gets going.
All in all, he's a great athlete with some good offensive skills and has deceptively long reach on defense. But one has to wonder if he's plateaued as an NBA talent. Here's hoping he reaches the next level this season.
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Sometimes you have to work with what's given to you. Al Horford, the Dominican Republic-born center by the way of Michigan, is really a power forward forced to start as a center on a small, athletic Atlanta Hawks squad. The dude's barely 6'10" on a stack of books and routinely faces off with players much bigger than him.
Some how, some way, he still manages to hold his own. He's a tremendous finisher and one of the quickest bigs in the league. That may sound like an oxymoron since 4's and 5's aren't exactly road runners. Nevertheless, he reads leads well in the open court and has a bit of a post game going for him.
Horford is largely known to make some posters out of players attempting to stop him at the rim. More importantly, he's not praised for the dirty work he does in the paint. He's got great timing on the offensive boards and has some decent shot blocking ability to boot. Both assets are in short supply in the L so it's in Atlanta's best interest to keep him around, especially after earning his first All-Star bid last year.
Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee Bucks
There aren't too many players from down under (Australia for the slow) that have made their name known in the Association. Andrew Bogut, the former No. 1 pick for the Milwaukee Bucks, did it before he scored his first NBA basket. Then faded into the background and was in danger of receiving the dubious "draft bust" award after cutting his 08-09 season short to a back injury.
Nowadays, Bogut is filling stat sheets and making a name for himself as a noteworthy defender in the paint. He can put the ball in the hoop with a blue collar approach to the low post and brings in a grip of offensive boards for Milwaukee. He's also bounced back from his short 08-09 year as a standout shot blocker.
Basically, he's nearly all the things missing in the average NBA center in one player. He finally had his breakout year last season and could've served as a tipping point for an undersized Milwaukee team that pushed Atlanta to seven games. The Bucks could've beat the Hawks in six had Bogut been healthy.
Let's not forget that dunk he had on Big Baby. That clip never gets old.
Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
The Argentinian sixth man sure has a way with scoring. It's not always pretty but he always finds a way to will the ball into the hoop. He even moonlights as a point guard every now again for San Antonio and served as a bright spot for their tough 2009-2010 season.
Ginobili can be a thorn in scorers sides as he picks pockets. He also has a reputation for being a tad dirty. What's more, he's one of NBA's leading actors when it comes to drawing fouls.
None of that really matters in Ginobili's head. Points are points and he gets plenty of them with limited minutes. He could take Keith Bogans's starting before him as a slap in the face. But it doesn't seem to bother him much once he's on the floor.
Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
The 2009-2010 season wasn't too kind to the Frenchman as he sat out 26 games to injury. But he made up for lost time down the stretch and helped the Spurs bounce back from a rocky season start. Setback aside, he's still one of the quickest guards in the league and braves the paint nightly among the NBA's trees.
He's also steadily improved his jumper over the years and somehow manages to grab boards as, more often than not, the smallest guy on the court. Last year's injury slowed him down somewhat but the rest of the league still hasn't caught up to him.
Fun fact: Parker was actually born in Belgium. He was raised in France and plays for their national team. Either way he still makes most of our homegrown point guards look bad on his worst day.
Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
Dallas's German long bomber is often lambasted as a one-dimensional scorer. With that in mind, you have to admit he's get a heck of a dimension on his hands. Dirk can shoot over just about anyone in the league with ease and he's been at it for over a decade.
His lack of a post game,and more importantly heart, have reared their ugly heads year in and year out. His Dallas squad lost an embarrassing four straight when they fell to Miami in the 2006 Finals, got upset by a hungrier Golden State squad a year after, and had some forgettable playoff runs since then.
Nevertheless, he snagged a regular season MVP nod in the process and provides nightmare matchups nightly. His will to win when it matters is undeniable. But so is his title as a one-of-a-kind offensive threat.
Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
Gasol is the piece to LA's puzzle for the Kobe-era Lakers. Spain's best export is also one of the most annoying players the league has seen since Vlade Divac. But there's no denying that his presence gave LA the boost it needed in gaining back-to-back NBA titles.
Quality big men are in short supply these days and Gasol's a cut above the rest. He may cower against physical players inside: Just ask Kendrick Perkins. Nevertheless, he's one of the best low post scorers in the NBA and has little problem scoring with his back to the basket, a seemingly a lost art in today's league.
Let's not forget his expertise at grabbing boards. He's a habitual double-double offender and his 18 boards in game seven helped LA win last year's Finals in a ugly game against Boston. Now LA is poised for a three-peat and Pau ought to get proper recognition for their shot at making history.
Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
The South African born, Canadian-bred point guard is still a suspect defender and he's yet to reach the NBA Finals. But he had another stellar season in Phoenix last year. He even lead the team to an unexpected conference semifinals sweep against the Spurs, their postseason rivals that picked on the Suns like bullies in playoffs past.
At 36 years old, the two-time NBA MVP ought to be on his way out and considering a career in sports broadcasting. But he found some way to bring back a winning culture in Phoenix after 2008-2009's disappointing outing. His court vision is unparalleled and his jumper is still as solid as ever. His game goes to show that NBA players don't have to be spectacular athletes to be great, even at the 1.
Few can say they saw a future Hall-of-Famer in Nash; he was a former run-of-the-mill point in his first few years in Phoenix and Dallas. Now, all he has left to prove is if he can get a chip in a stacked Western Conference. LA is still the elephant in the room as Nash and the gang were a board away from a potential 3-2 lead in the Conference Finals.
The odds still aren't in his favor since LA shows no signs of faltering. But Steve has a knack for working with whatever is at his disposal. The Suns' front office has to make some moves while Nash is playing at this level. His game resembles fine wine. But you know how the saying goes: All good things must come to an end.