The rise of international players in the NBA has been on an upward trajectory lately, as talent from all over the world has flooded the NBA and made the game more global than ever. One of the most represented areas is Europe, as more and more European players are starting to have a much more significant impact on today’s game.
The best example is the two-time reigning MVP Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo and the fact that the frontrunner for this year’s award is Serbian Nikola Jokić. But does that mean that European players are better than the US players now? I decided to take on the challenge of assembling the best possible teams of current American and European NBA players and analyze how that would go in a game to determine who is the best. So here are the teams:
Bench: Kyrie Irving, Damian Lilliard, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, and Zion Williamson.
Bench: Domantas Sabonis,Nikola Vučević,Kristaps Porzingis, Rudy Gobert, Bogdan Bogdanović,Goran Dragić,Evan Fournier
First off, I didn’t assemble the teams with the 12 best players regardless of their position. I selected the players so every position is covered and the rotations make sense. When you look at the teams, a few things jump out. First of all, the USA has a much broader rotation, as they can play all 12 of their guys without worrying about a significant drop in quality. A team filled with a bunch of superstars looks unbeatable, but is it really like that?
The USA’s biggest weakness is Europe’s most significant advantage, and that is the big men. The USA has only two true bigs in Anthony Davis and the young Zion Williamson to rest him. Outside those two, every player is a perimeter player that doesn’t really rely on doing the dirty work down low. On the other side, Europe is stacked in those positions with six players ready to play down low and dominate, especially considering the USA doesn’t have the bodies to guard them. Jokić, Vučević, Sabonis, and more would feast in the post. To add, with all those shooters like Dončić, the Bogdanovićes, and others, the USA couldn’t commit to a double team.
But when it comes to perimeter play, the USA has an unfair advantage. You don’t know where the firepower would first come from with all those stars, while Europe only has Dončić when it comes to star perimeter players. All that shot-creating versus players that aren’t known for their defense could be lethal. But if the European team could implement a zone and contain them, there could be hope.
It would be a clash of two styles. Europeans’ slow and calculated style would be a pleasure to watch with all the ball movement and teamwork, while on the other hand, the USA would fly up and down the court, relying on individual play and athleticism. My prediction is that it would be a beautiful game to watch, with both teams going back and forth for a good chunk of the game
The USA would probably pull away late in the game because of their wide rotation and sheer star power Europe can put up an excellent fight, but in the end, I think the USA would win with LeBron leading the way. On the other hand, Jokić and Giannis would carry the European team, but it wouldn’t be enough that day. Make this game happen; basketball fans around the world deserve it!