The Top 25 European players ever
March 30, 2014 @ 02:55 PM ET by The Lighter Side
Andrei Kirilenko, Arvydas Sabonis, Danilo Gallinari, Detlef Schrempf, Dino Radja, Dirk Nowitzki, Drazen Petrovic, Hidayet Turkoglu, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Predrag Danilovic, Predrag Stojakovic, Rik Smits, Sarunas Marciulionis, Toni Kukoc, Tony Parker, Vlade Divac, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
The Euro NBA pioneers were pretty good, but the new generations have significantly outperformed them.
24. Goran Dragic. NBA stats: 11.3 ppg, 4.5 apg, 17.2 PER in six seasons. Came close to becoming the second Euro guard to make the All-Star Game this season. Increasingly hard to stop when he drives to the basket. Against all odds, the Dragic-Bledsoe combo is working and could become a headache for opponents in the Western Conference in years to come.
23. Jose Manuel Calderon. NBA stats: 10.2 ppg, 6.9 apg, 17.3 PER in nine seasons. Came into the NBA as an athletic guard with no outside shot and developed into a heady playmaker with a killer jumper. A model of consistency throughout his long career. Has won everything but the Olympic gold with the Spanish National Team.
22. Juan Carlos Navarro. NBA stats: 10.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 11.9 PER in one season. Reduced to the role of three-point shooting specialist in his one year in the NBA with Memphis, Navarro has one of the most illustrious careers in FIBA basketball history. Incredibly creative scorer that wasn't tested enough at the top level to warrant a higher position in this ranking.
19. Mehmet Okur. NBA stats: 13.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 17.1 PER in 10 seasons. Was never much of a rebounder, but got it done offensively in the NBA for almost 10 years. One of the best shooting big men we've seen in the league lately. Had plenty of success with some good Utah Jazz teams - even making it to the All-Star Game once.
18. Predrag Danilovic. NBA stats: 12.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 11.1 PER in two seasons. Terrific combination of shooting skills and athleticism. Unlike fellow Serbian Dejan Bodiroga, Danilovic proved himself in the NBA and did pretty well there with Pat Riley's Miami Heat. Retired when he was just 30 with a long list of accolades that includes two World Championships, two Eurobaskets, two Euroleague titles and an Olympic silver medal.
13. Zydrunas Ilgauskas. NBA stats: 17.2 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 18.5 PER in 13 seasons. Serious injury problems early in his career made you wonder if he was a viable NBA center... But ended up retiring a two-time All-Star. Though mobility was limited, he put up very good scoring in rebounding numbers throughout his career.
12. Andrei Kirilenko. NBA stats: 12.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 18.8 PER in 12 seasons. High-energy player that doesn't need the ball to be extremely effective. When the shot is not falling, he will fill the stat sheet with rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Possessed athleticism not often seen in European players.
10. Joakim Noah. NBA stats: 9.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 18.2 PER in seven seasons. A defensive pest. The Frenchman has great motor and doesn't take plays off. Makes up for his many shortcomings with heart and focus. No longer a liability on the offensive end thanks to advanced passing and a decent mid-range shot.
9. Marc Gasol. NBA stats: 13.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 18.1 PER in six seasons. First European Defensive Player of the Year in NBA history. A locker room leader and a defensive stalwart for the Memphis Grizzlies. No shortage of skill on the offensive end, although he's unselfish to a fault and can't finish at the rim like his brother does.
6. Arvydas Sabonis. NBA stats: 12.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 21.2 PER in seven seasons. Absolutely dominated FIBA ball with an almost unparalleled mix of size, quickness and skill. Was a shadow of his old self after the injuries, but managed to re-invent himself as an even craftier post player with great shooting range. Became an important contributor to great Portland teams in the NBA, but physical limitations didn't allow him to become a real NBA star.
5. Predrag Stojakovic. NBA stats: 17.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 17.1 PER in 13 seasons. One of the best shooters in NBA history. Automatic from three-point range. A perfect sidekick to Chris Webber in those great Sacramento teams in the early '00s. Never developed the quasi-cult following of Euro legends like Sabonis or Petrovic, but still managed a long and successful career in the league both individually and team-wise. Retired with an NBA title, three All-Star Games and one All-NBA 2nd Team presence.
4. Drazen Petrovic. NBA stats: 15.4 ppg, 2.4 apg, 16.4 PER in four seasons. The first NBA star with a true European upbringing. A legend oversas, Petro excelled in New Jersey after a disappointing experience in Portland. Was not the most versatile player, but had a winning character and could destroy teams with his one outstanding skill: shooting. His premature death left you wanting more.
3. Pau Gasol. NBA stats: 18.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 21.5 PER in 13 seasons. His soft shooting touch, length, athleticism, low-post game and smarts have made him a load to handle in the post ever since he moved to the NBA in 2001. The top player in Grizzlies history, Gasol enjoyed great success in L.A. as a No. 2 option next to Kobe Bryant. Was never mistaken for a defensive enforcer. A beast in FIBA competitions every summer while playing with Spain.
2. Tony Parker. NBA stats: 17.1 ppg, 6.0 apg, 19.1 PER in 13 seasons. First international MVP of the Finals. To this day, remains the only Euro guard to make it to the All-Star Game. Flourished in San Antonio's as a sidekick to Tim Duncan and keeps winning big as a leader of the Spurs today. With exceptional quickness, Parker gets to the basket like few point guards in NBA history and has developed a more consistent jump shot over the years.
1. Dirk Nowitzki. NBA stats: 22.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 23.5 PER in 16 seasons. The only Euro that truly belongs in the conversation when discussing the best basketball players of all time. An offensive machine with shooting skills never seen in a seven-footer. Willed the underdog Dallas Mavericks to an NBA title. No. 12 in the list of NBA all-time scoring leaders and rising. The only European MVP so far and quite probably the only one we will see in a long time.