Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and the Best International Players in the NBA
In today's NBA, more and more international players are signing with teams and many international rookies are drafted each year.
The skill gap between NBA players and international newcomers is getting smaller and smaller, producing a group of foreign players who belong in the NBA elite.
Many of these players have since retired, but there are still many foreign talents left in the league.
Boris Diaw, France
Career: 9.8 points / 4.9 rebounds / 4.0 assists / 49.5% field goal
Honors: 2005-2006 NBA Most Improved Player
Anderson Varejao, Brazil
Career: 7.1 points / 6.9 rebounds / 0.9 steals / 0.7 blocks
Honors: 2009-2010 NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team
Jose Calderon, Spain
Career: 9.8 points / 7.0 assists / 87.6% free throw
Honors: 2008-2009 NBA free throw percentage leader (98.1%)
Samuel Dalembert, Haiti
Career: 8.1 points / 8.3 rebounds / 1.9 blocks
Charlie Villanueva, Dominican Republic
Career: 12.7 points / 5.6 rebounds / 34.6% three point
Honors: 2005-2006 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team
Mehmet Okur, Turkey
Career: 13.6 points / 7.0 rebounds / 37.8% three point
Honors: 2007 NBA All-Star
Leandro Barbosa, Brazil
Career: 12.7 points / 0.9 steals / 46.5% field goal / 39.2% three point
Honors: 2006-2007 NBA Sixth Man of the Year
Many argue that Leandro Barbosa is the product of the "Nash Effect". His best years were spent next to Steve Nash, and those years are well past him. Now a part of the Toronto Raptors, the Brazilian Blur is no longer that speedy finisher we were accustom to. However, he can still be a valuable asset to a Raptors team that lacks offensive weapons.
Marcin Gortat, Poland
Career: 6.0 points / 5.6 rebounds / 0.9 blocks
Gortat's career numbers don't seem to impress at first glance. But when factored in the fact that he only plays 17 minutes per game in his career, his efficiency is stunning. Ever since the former best backup center in the league finally shed the shadow of Dwight Howard last year, Gortat produced unsurprisingly well for the Phoenix Suns, averaging almost a double-double with 13 points and 9.3 rebounds.
Nicolas Batum, France
Career: 9.2 points / 3.7 rebounds / 84.1% free throw
The long athletic French forward has yet to become a consistent NBA player, but many analysts and coaches are optimistic about his future. Slowly but surely, Batum is developing. He could even become a more athletic version of Shane Battier or Tayshaun Prince. Unfortunately for Batum, he is playing behind Gerald Wallce, so he won't get tons of minutes. But he can definitely learn from Wallace, who is one of the most versatile players in the NBA.
Hedo Turkoglu, Turkey
Career: 12.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 42.9% field goal
Honors: 2007-2008 NBA Most Improved Player
Hedo regressed quite a bit after leaving Orlando, but there was a time when he was the Magic's second best player behind Dwight Howard.
He's a well-rounded player, and since his game is not based on athleticism, he still has a chance to revive his career.
Chris Kaman, Germany
Career: 11.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 48.8% field goal
Honors: 2010 NBA All-Star
Many might forget that Chris Kaman was an All-Star two years ago with the Clippers.
Injuries hit him hard over the past few season, but he still has a chance to regain his former status as a legitimate NBA center with the New Orleans Hornets.
Ben Gordon, Great Britain
Career: 16.9 points, 85.8% free throw, 40.4% three-point shooting
Honors: 2004-2005 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, 2004-2005 NBA All-Rookie First Team
Before Gordon signed with the Pistons and eventually fell out of favor, he was a prolific scorer for the Chicago Bulls.
He was once the best bench player in the league and won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in his rookie season.
He is not getting the playing time he deserves in Detroit, otherwise he still has the capabilities to put up some good numbers.
Danilo Gallinari, Italy
Career: 13.8 points / 4.4 rebounds / 0.9 steals / 84.8% free throw
Gallinari's development is not all that surprising. He has all the skills and physical attributes to be a consistent player in this league. At 6 foot 10 inches, he continues the trend of European bigmen shooters. Although he is considered as a sharp outside shooter, he sometimes shows flashes of athleticism with impressive drive to the basket dunks. The best part is, he is only 23 years old. Sky is the limit for the young Italian.
Marc Gasol, Spain
Career: 12.7 points / 7.8 rebounds / 1.5 blocks / 54.6% field goal
Honors: 2008-2009 NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team
The Lakers-Grizzlies trade a few years ago doesn't seem to be too one-sided now. Marc is following his brother Pau's footsteps and is steadily becoming one of the better bigmen in the NBA. Marc will never be Pau. Pau is more skilled and finessed. But Marc is stronger, tougher, and more willing to bang in the paint. At some point down the road, the Lakers will regret ever sending Marc away.
Serge Ibaka, Republic of the Congo
Career: 8.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 54.2% field goal
Serge Ibaka's numbers and accolades don't stand out, but he has the potential to become one of the top big men in the league.
He is extremely athletic and has the defensive instincts and hustle to anchor the Thunder's frontcourt for years to come.
Andrea Bargnani, Itlay
Career: 15.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 37% three-point shooting, 81.7% free-throw shooting
Honors: 2006-2007 NBA All-Rookie First Team
There was a time when Andrea Bargnani looked like a bust, but his improvement over the past two seasons with an unimpressive Toronto Raptors team has been inspiring.
After the departure of Chris Bosh, Bargnani stepped up his game and took on the scorer's role.
He might be a disappointing No. 1 pick, but he can still be a solid, unconventional NBA center.
Luis Scola, Argentina
Career: 14.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 51.4% field goal
Honors: 2007-2008 NBA All-Rookie First Team
Scola is one of the more underrated players in the NBA.
His style of play is not flashy and is sometimes boring to watch, but he is incredibly effective.
He is a tough rebounder and a good low-post scorer. And without Yao Ming, Scola will have to be the dominant figure down low for the Rockets.
Nene Hilario, Brazil
Career: 12.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, 1.2 steals
Honors: 2002-2003 NBA All-Rookie First Team
Nene is probably the best player to come out of Brazil.
He is strong, tough, smart and agile.
He is one of the few veterans left on the Nuggets after the Carmelo Anthony trade and he will eventually become the new leader in Denver.
Luol Deng, South Sudan
Career: 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 47.1% field goal
Honors: 2004-2005 NBA All-Rookie First Team
If the Bulls ever win a title with Derrick Rose, Luol Deng would be his version of Jordan's Scottie Pippen.
Deng is a consistent scorer, a solid rebounder and a tough defender.
Like Pippen, Deng does not have the superior skills to bring a title to Chicago by himself, but with Rose, there is a serious chance.
Andrew Bogut, Australia
Career: 12.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 52.4% field goal
Honors: 2005-2006 NBA All-Rookie First Team, 2009-2010 All-NBA Third Team
Like Andrea Bargnani, Bogut went through times when he was tagged as a bust, but he has become a very capable NBA center.
Once his offensive game catches up with the defensive prowess, he will be a perennial All-Star.
Al Horford, Dominican Repbulic
Career: 12.8 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 53.7% field goal
Honors: 2010, 2011 NBA All-Star, 2007-2008 NBA All-Rookie First Team, 2010-2011 All-NBA Third Team
So, apparently Al Horford is from Dominican Republic...now you know.
Horford has been making a name for himself over the past few season and is now the center piece of the Atlanta Hawks.
In a league where there are few legitimate centers, Horford shines bright, although he is a better fit at the power forward position.
Tony Parker, France
Career: 16.7 points, 5.7 assists, 49.3% field goal
Honors: 2006, 2007, 2009 NBA All-Star, 2006-2007 Finals MVP, 2001-2002 NBA All-Rookie First Team, 2008-2009 All-NBA Third Team
Parker is quite a player, both on and off the court.
At this point, he's probably better known as the guy who cheated on the lovely Eva Longoria, but many forget that he is still an All-Star-caliber point guard.
He is still relatively young and is the most successful French-born player in NBA history.
Manu Ginobili, Argentina
Career: 15.3 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.5 steals
Honors: 2005, 2011 NBA All-Star, 2007-2008 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, 2002-2003 NBA All-Rookie Second Team, 2007-2008, 2010-2011 All-NBA Third Team
At 34 years old, Ginobili might not have many years left, but he still is one of the most versatile players in the league with his ability to score, pass and defend.
Although his relentless slashing and crashing style makes him difficult to stop, it also makes him injury-prone.
He will slowly become a jump shooter as he ages further, but his contribution to his team will not decrease.
Pau Gasol, Spain
Career: 18.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, 52.2% field goal
Honors: Four-time NBA All-Star, 2001-2002 NBA Rookie of the Year, four-time All-NBA Team
You can't have a conversation about the best power forwards in the league without mentioning Pau Gasol.
With Duncan getting old, Pau, Amar'e Stoudemire and Dirk Nowitzki all deserve mention for the top spot.
Gasol was called "soft" when the Lakers didn't go all the way, but don't forget, he was the key piece in the Lakers' back-to-back championship seasons.
He also led Spain in the 2008 Olympics and really gave Kobe and the USA team a scare.
His age and soft approach to the game may no longer help the Lakers win another title, but he is still a very valuable contributor on both ends of the floor.
Steve Nash, Canada
Career: 14.6 points, 8.5 assists, 48.9% field goal, 43.0% three-point shooting, 90.4% free-throw shooting
Honors: 2004-2005, 2005-2006 NBA MVP, seven-time NBA All-Star, seven-time All-NBA Team, five-time NBA Assist Leader
People call him Captain Canada for a reason.
He was chosen as a torch carrier for the Vancouver Winter Olympics and has become the face of Canadian basketball.
As an NBA player, he is one of the most accomplished.
Championship or not, he will one day have a spot in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Dirk Nowitzki, Germany
Career: 22.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 38.0% three-point shooting, 87.7% free-throw shooting
Honors: 10-time NBA All-Star, 2006-2007 NBA MVP, 2010-2011 Finals MVP, 11-time All-NBA Team
Dirk is one of the best power forwards in the league. His ring he won last year gives this claim extra credence.
Dirk has that crazy but elegant fadeaway and it's likely that he will never lose his touch.
Although he was surrounded by talent in last year's playoff run, he was the key figure to the Mavericks' first ever NBA Championship.
Dirk won't continue to improve, but he won't decline rapidly like most big men because he doesn't rely on athleticism to take over the game.