Ranking Top Overseas Basketball Powerhouse Teams and the NBA Stars They'd Target
Let me be honest with you, I'm a basketball junkie. I have to get my basketball fix from somewhere, and if I can't get it from the NBA if (when) they end up canceling games this season, I look to the NCAA, but I don't think even that can satisfy my urge at this point.
So, in light of recent contract negotiations with the NBA, I've thrown myself completely into international basketball. Learning the ins and outs, figuring out the differences, and checking out where I can watch the action.
I spent all of September watching FIBA Championships at which point I got way too overexcited for the Olympics coming up in 2012, even prompting myself to write an in-depth analysis of each country's odds about eight months too early.
Now I'm on to the EuroLeague. I've even gone as far as to join a EuroLeague fantasy basketball league of which I feel like I know very little about right now. But that's half the fun, finding out about something that you previously knew very little of before.
What can I say, I'm a basketball dork.
Still, that can't dampen my excitement for the start of the EuroLeague here in a few weeks and just basketball to start altogether as soon as possible.
Technically speaking, after the NBA you can't get any better than the EuroLeague, which is comprised of the top 24 teams populating the best leagues throughout Europe, or even the teams involved in the EuroCup, which is the next step down in the European basketball scene.
However, all around the world there are some interesting basketball leagues that have and could potentially poach more NBA players if the league doesn't strike a deal by Monday.
Leagues everywhere from China, Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, among many others.
Outside of Europe, however, the top leagues have to be the CBA in China, the NBL in Australia, Liga Nacional de Basquet in Argentina and the NBB in Brazil.
When it comes to these teams (except for the Chinese teams), it seems like the biggest reason an NBA player would go to Argentina, Brazil or Australia would be to go back to their home country, like Patty Mills did.
8. Franca Basquetebol Clube
Players You May Know: Rafael Araujo
Araujo spent three seasons with the Raptors and a season with the Jazz in his short, yet effective stint in the NBA.
Players You Should Know: Helinho
You know when you have a Brazilian with only one name, you've got yourself a special player. Helinho is a long veteran of the league and is currently Franca's captain.
Who They Could Target: Guys who used to play for them
The most likely player Franca could plan to snipe from the NBA would be their most famous former player, Anderson Varejao; otherwise, they'll probably stay out of the NBA.
7. Flamengo Basketball
Players You May Know: Leandro Barbosa
The long-armed, heady guard has spent the past eight seasons in the NBA and has done a very good job carving himself out a niche in the league.
Players You Should Know: Marcelo Machado
Marcelo Machado is the team's captain and one of the great players for Brazil's national basketball team. He was the 2005 FIBA America's Championship MVP and has seven gold medals and two silver in various basketball competitions since 1999.
Who They Could Target: Any other Brazilian player
Flamengo already nabbed Leandro Barbosa to shore up their already deep squad and they could end up grabbing another if the lockout drags on.
6. Asociación Deportiva Atenas
Players You May Know: Nobody
Players You Should Know: Roberto Gabini
Gabini was a big player in Europe for a time, playing for two clubs in Spain and two in Italy before coming back to Argentina.
Who They Could Target: Any Argentinean
No notable Argentinean players have jumped back to their home country yet, but Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino are all good options.
Atenas has been involved in the past three championship games.
5. Peñarol De Mar Del Plata
Players You May Know: Nobody
Players You Should Know: Marcos Mata
Mata is a member of Argentina's Pan-American Games team, winning a silver and a gold medal in the South American Basketball Championship in 2008 and 2010, respectively. He was also a member of the country's FIBA Championship team in 2010.
Who They Could Target: Argentineans
Once again, there's not really a set player or players that they could target, but any Argentinean looking to go back home would be wise to go there, as they've won two of the past three championships.
4. Xinjiang Flying Tigers
Players You May Know: Kenyon Martin, Quincy Douby
Players You Should Know: Mugedar Xirelijiang
I guess I should have titled this "Players I Should Know," because I know very little about this guy, but he's a part of the Chinese National Basketball Team, so he must be some at least some kind of important.
Who They Could Target: Shane Battier
Battier has said that he would consider going to China, plus he's a free agent, so they would be able to pick him up under their new guidelines.
3. Bayi Rockets
Players You May Know: Wang Zhizhi
The best Chinese basketball player in the NBA until this Yao Ming dude came around.
Players You Should Know: Zhang Bo
He's a member of the Chinese National Basketball Team alongside teammate Wang Zhizhi.
Who They Could Target: Brian Cook
Brian Cook is a legitimate possibility to go to China, as he is a marginal player in the NBA, which would be most affected by the lockout, so he would be fine with staying there until the season ends, so long as he gets paid.
2. Melbourne Tigers
Players You May Know: Patty Mills
Patty Mills went back to his roots to play back in Australia with the Melbourne Tigers.
Players You Should Know: Tommy Greer
Tommy Greer is Melbourne's captain, and has been around for the good and bad with the Tigers. He was with the Tigers for their two championships, but he was also there last year when the team went 10-18.
Who They Could Target: Andrew Bogut
Andrew Bogut couldn't get insurance clearance to play with the Melbourne Kings, so it's probably unlikely that the Tigers could do the same, but they could still give it a shot.
1. Guangdong Southern Tigers
Players You May Know: Lester Hudson, Marcus Haslip
Just two dudes that played about four seasons combined between 2004 and 2010.
Players You Should Know: Zhu Fangyu
The starting small forward for the Chinese National Basketball Team. He's the dude who got in a fight with a Brazilian player back in 2008 and nailed him in the face with a right hook. Pretty tough guy.
Who They Could Target: Nick or Thaddeus Young
Both are young players who could afford to lose a year of NBA basketball to play in China, and either would be happy to play for such a good team.
When talking about international basketball, the EuroLeague is the tops among them all; that's why I felt I had to highlight their league specifically.
They are set up so that the 24 best teams in Europe are a part of the premier basketball league, with lower-level teams given the opportunity to step up into the big leagues before the season starts every year.
They have a short regular season followed by a round-robin tournament with four groups of four, with eight teams emerging from that to play in a best-of-three series, whittling it down to four teams. From there, the final four teams compete in a single-elimination tournament the rest of the way.
It's exciting, intriguing and a very interesting thing to watch, as they feature some of the best players from around the world who aren't in the NBA.
5. Anadolu Efes
Players You May Know: Ersan Ilyasova, Sasha Vujacic
Anadolu picked up a good scorer and pesky defender in Ersan Ilyasova, and they now have The Machine with the addition of Sasha Vujacic.
Players You Should Know: Stanko Barac
Why do I bring him to your attention? Well mostly because his name is Stanko, but also because he is a young up-and-comer who could be getting some attention pretty soon.
At just 25 years old, he averaged 11 points and four rebounds for a good Caja Laboral team.
Who They Could Target: Keyon Dooling
Talks with Hedo Turkoglu fell through, so they could go back to trying to get Keyon Dooling to come over and play some ball for them while the NBA is locked out.
4. Maccabi Tel Aviv
Players You May Know: Jordan Farmar, Jon Scheyer (Former Duke Guard)
Poaching all the Jewish players possible, Tel Aviv has some nice pickups with Jordan Farmar and Jon Scheyer, a.k.a Jewish Jordan.
Players You Should Know: Jeremy Pargo
You may know his brother Jannero Pargo, who has played about 20 minutes a season for the Bulls since 2002, but Jeremy tore up the EuroLeague last year.
He was an all-around impressive player averaging 13 points, three rebounds and four assists, and was one of the main reasons that Maccabi was able to make it to the championship game against Panathinaikos.
Who They Could Target: Omri Casspi
Tel Aviv tried to get Omri Casspi to come back home to feature the only Israeli-born player in the NBA on their home court once again, but he decided against it because of a knee injury and tax reasons.
However, he's said that if it seems as if the lockout is going to be prolonged that he may revisit the idea, so Tel Aviv shouldn't give up yet.
Players You May Know: Sarunas Jasikevicius
Jasikevicius was in the NBA for a hot minute between 2005 and 2007 when he spent time with the Pacers and Warriors.
Players You Should Know: Mike Batiste
The best center nobody remembers, Mike Batiste never made it in the NBA after playing at Arizona State, playing just a season with the Grizzlies, but found a terrific role in Europe, and has been with Panathinaikos since 2003.
He's averaged 12.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in his time in the EuroLeague, while shooting 61 percent from the field.
Who They Could Target: Markieff Morris
Many of the top European teams have had some contact with Morris, but Panathinaikos has come the closest to the big man out of Kansas. They have yet to reach any deal with him as of yet.
Panathinaikos has been one of the most successful teams over the past decade, winning the EuroLeague Championship six times since 1996 and three times since 2007. They are this year's defending champions.
2. CSKA Moscow
Players You May Know: Andrei Kirilenko, Sasha Kaun (Former Kansas Center), Nenad Krstic
Players You Should Know: Andrey Vorontsevich
As the three-point specialist for any team, you can't get much better than Vorontsevich. He shot 57 percent over 10 games last year and was the second-leading scorer for CSKA.
Who They Could Target: Steve Novak
Steve Novak has been rumored to have been in talks with teams in both Spain and Russia, with no real word on who has the edge or what teams are involved. CSKA could get even deeper with the addition of the crafty forward.
CSKA has cleaned up on NBA talent, bringing over Andrei Kirilenko and Nenad Krstic, both veterans of European basketball to change a good Moscow team into a juggernaut.
1. FC Barcelona
Players You May Know: Juan Carlos Narvarro
Some of you will remember Juan Carlos Navarro as the short-lived guard for the Grizzlies, but he has been so much more than that in the EuroLeague.
Players You Should Know: Juan Carlos Navarro
Navarro has been with FC Barcelona since 1997 save for his one-year stint with the Grizzlies. He is on the fast track to become one of the team's greatest players, being named 2010's Final Four MVP to go along with his EuroLeague MVP Award from 2009.
Who They Could Target: The Gasols?
Pau and Marc Gasol have gotten permission to practice with what both of them have called the best team in Europe. Who's to say that they don't decide to sign a contract with the team if the players and owners don't strike a deal by Monday?
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