The NBA has gone global. With 108 foreign-born players on its teams’ roster during opening night, the NBA has plenty of international talent on board.
During the 2019 NBA Awards, a total of four international players were recipients of major player awards. These were MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic, Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, and Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam.
Three of those four awardees are from Europe and are included in our list of the top European players in the NBA during the 2019-20 season. Check them out here:
1. Giannis Antetokounmpo
There is no doubt that the top European player in the NBA right now is Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak has continued to improve each year since he was drafted 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2013 NBA Draft. Since becoming the NBA’s Most Improved Player winner in 2017, Antetokounmpo has become one of the most dominant players in the NBA.
Last season, Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to the best record in the NBA and he was named as the NBA’s 2019 MVP. But after losing to the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals, Antetokounmpo was on a mission this year to get his team on top of the mountain. Milwaukee had the best record in the league again when play was suspended while Antetokounmpo was having another MVP season.
2. Luka Doncic
Luka Doncic had a spectacular rookie season where he was named as the 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year. But the Slovenian wonder kid has even upped the bar this season as he was named to the 2020 Western Conference All-Star team. His Dallas Mavericks had the 7th best record in the Western Conference and with a healthy Kristaps Porzingis, Doncic has even looked better.
Doncic ranked 6th in the league in scoring at 28.7 points per game and he was also 4th in passing at 8.7 assists per game. Luka also put up 9.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game while shooting the ball at 46.1% clip. The 20-year old former Euroleague MVP has established himself as one of the best guards in the league and if he continues to develop, he will challenge Antetokounmpo for the title of best European player in the NBA.
3. Nikola Jokic
Nikola Jokic struggled to start the 2019-20 NBA season. But as the season passed the quarter mark, he began to re-emerge as the best all-around offensive center in the NBA. He opened 2020 with a career-high 47 points and has never looked back. The Denver Nuggets had the third-best record in the Western Conference when the season was suspended and Jokic was on top of his game.
The Serbian averaged 20.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists, and 1.2 steals per game this season. He shot 52.8% from the field and 81.3% from the foul line although his 31.3% three-point clip was below his career average. Jokic had three game-winners this season two of which he hit against Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns.
4. Rudy Gobert
Rudy Gobert is the most unique player on this list. While he possesses decent offensive skills, he doesn’t have the outside shot that the other nine players on this list. However, Gobert’s impact on defense is unlike any other player in the league. The French Stifle Tower allowed opponents to shoot just 39.5% against him this season and he was looking forward to repeating as the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year awardee.
Gobert ranked 3rd in rebounding at 13.7 boards per contest and he also ranked 6th in blocked shots at 2.0 per game. But more than stats, it’s his presence inside the shaded lane that alters shots and forces turnovers. The Jazz started the season slowly but after trading for Jordan Clarkson, they picked up the pace, and with Gobert dominating on defense, Utah was on pace to make the playoffs.
5. Kristaps Porzingis
Kristaps Porzingis was coming off a serious knee injury so not much was expected of him this year. However, the Latvian Unicorn had a fantastic return as he averaged 19.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game during the 2019-20 season. Porzingis ranked 5th in blocks and was 15th in rebounding.
The Mavericks needed a second star to pair with Doncic and Porzingis was the guy on Mark Cuban’s mind. Well, he has turned out to be better than they expected as his game complements Doncic’s style. Together, these two top European players led the Mavericks to a playoff position before the season was suspended. If Porzingis continues to stay healthy, he and Doncic are going to be a problem for the rest of the league for years to come.
6. Bojan Bogdanovic
There were so many big moves during the offseason. AD went to the Lakers, PG and Kawhi went to the Clippers, Russ was traded to Houston, CP 3 was dealt with Oklahoma City, Kyrie and KD signed with Brooklyn, Kemba Walker was traded to Boston, and Jimmy Butler went to Miami. But perhaps the most underrated move during the summer was Bojan Bogdanovic going from Indiana to Utah.
Although it wasn’t a high profile move, Bogdanovic’s effect on Utah was probably as big as those well talked about deals. At Salt Lake City, Bogdanovic had a breakout season during 2019-20 as he put up 20.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game while making 3.0 three-pointers per outing. All those numbers were career-highs for the 31-year old whose $73M deal with the Jazz made him the highest-paid Croatian athlete of all-time.
7. Evan Fournier
After a solid performance for France at the 2019 FIBA World Cup where the team won the bronze medal, Evan Fournier was expected to have a good 2019-20 NBA season but the Frenchman exceeded expectations by having his best season ever in the NBA before play was suspended.
Fournier averaged a career-high 18.8 points per game this season while also making a personal-best 2.7 three-point baskets per outing. Fournier shot 40.6% from behind the three-point area and was Orlando’s best outside shooter. The 6-7 guard also averaged 3.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.2 steals per game for Orlando.
8. Nikola Vucevic
Nikola Vucevic isn’t as dominant as Joel Embiid. He doesn’t shoot as well as Karl-Anthony Towns does from three-point range. He doesn’t have as many assists as Nikola Jokic and he isn’t as good a defender as Rudy Gobert is. However, he does everything better than most players and his all-around skills make him one of the best European players in the NBA today.
The seven-foot Montenegrin missed double-digit games this season with an ankle injury but he’s had another solid campaign this year. Vucevic averaged 19.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game this season. He may not have made it to a second consecutive All-Star appearance this season but he was one of the most consistent big men in the league.
9. Danilo Gallinari
Many thought that the Oklahoma City Thunder would plummet in the team standings this season after trading both Russell Westbrook and Paul George during the offseason. But the Thunder are the biggest surprise of the 2019-20 season after taking 4th spot in the Western Conference team standings.
The Thunder have found success with their unlikely trio of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Danilo Gallinari. Gallo averaged 19.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game this season. He also shot 40.7% from behind the three-point area and was one of the Thunder’s best offensive weapons this season.
10. Dennis Schroder
Dennis Schroder struggled in his first season with the Thunder after he was relegated to a bench role. But this year, Schroder played so well off the bench that if someone were to dethrone Lou Williams as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, it would be Schroder who is also having a fantastic year in OKC.
Schroder averaged 19.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game this season while playing behind Chris Paul in the OKC backcourt. He also made a career-high 1.9 three-pointers per game while hitting the three-ball at a personal best 38.1% from the floor OKC was +26.5 points against their opponents when Paul, Schroder, and Alexander play together at the same time.