Merely four seasons ago, the league’s All-NBA teams had a whopping zero international players on it, a complete shocker considering the 15 years prior to that each featured at least two international players being included. Some worried that meant we were potentially seeing a decline in top-end NBA talent from overseas, a bummer considering how much the game had grown internationally to that point.
Well, that did not turn out to be the case whatsoever, as the just-announced 2019-20 All-NBA teams saw a record number of international players being showcased, with six making the cut: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Pascal Siakam, Ben Simmons and Rudy Gobert.
The previous record for international players receiving that honor in a single campaign was four, which took place five times throughout NBA history, in 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2018-19.
You can see the evolution of international players making up All-NBA-team spots since the number hit zero in 2015-16, too, as the 2016-17 teams had two, the 2017-18 teams had three and the 2018-19 teams had four, showing big-time growth in the overall talent level of international players in the NBA over recent years.
That’s why many rightfully believe the Association currently boasts the best international crop of talent ever.
Just look at Antetokounmpo and Doncic, who appear set to be MVP frontrunners for years to come, Jokic, a tier just below them who could easily receive MVP consideration in the coming seasons, and Gobert, the most impactful defender in basketball over the last few campaigns. What’s more, those first three guys are all 25 or under while Gobert is just 28 and showing zero signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The international crop of talent is so stacked, in fact, that they set a record for most non-Americans being named All-NBA this year without Joel Embiid, born in Cameroon, or Karl-Anthony Towns, who represents the Dominican Republic in international play, making the cut despite being two of the very best big men the league has to offer today.
Even beyond the super-elite talent, the NBA has a ton of international guys who are All-Star level or just below that, like Nikola Vucevic, Danilo Gallinari, Goran Dragic, Jusuf Nurkic, Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the latter two of whom are still young and could become All-NBA-level guys one day.
That’s an outrageous amount of non-American talent being showcased in the Association at one time.
Also interesting is the fact that the NBA’s crop of players who made All-NBA this year come from four different continents, which speaks to just how global the game has become in 2020.
And with talents like Deni Avdija, Killian Hayes and Jonathan Kuminga set to be drafted into the NBA over the next couple of years, the train of elite international players in the Association doesn’t appear to be slowing down.