There has been a long and storied history of European players coming to the United States and making a great impact in the NBA. Soft-handed big-men is usually the first thought that comes to the average American’s mind when the topic of European transplants comes up. There have been Euro-players in the NBA for a very long time, but it was the explosion of talent in the 1980s that garnered attention. Think Sabonis, Schrempf, and Petrovic.
Personally, I think of the Lithuanian great, Arvydas Sabonis. As a kid watching him, I was baffled by this seven-foot-three monster that could hit threes on command and pass like a point-guard. I still believe that if Sabonis had entered the NBA a bit younger, he would be considered the greatest center the NBA has ever seen.
However, this article is not about old, former greats. It is about the European ballers of today … and speaking of old –and a big guy with soft hands. Dirk Nowitzki is still playing at 39-years-old. At seven-feet tall, he is one of the purest shooters we have ever seen … the only power forward/center-sized man that one could argue as an in-their-prime-equal is Kevin Durant. Dirk will go down in history probably as the most prolific power forward of all time. Who is going to catch up with his [over] 30,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists, 1,000 steals, 1,000 and 1,000 3-bombs?
On with the old … Tony Parker is still putting in minutes for the Spurs and though technically he was born an American, he is also a Frenchman who plays for the French National Team. The six-time All-Star and NBA champion will most likely go down as the pride of France.
The Up and Coming
Kristaps Porzingis is an agile big man who can handle either power-forward and center and is almost single-handedly lifting the New York Knicks up from rock bottom. The 22-year-old has been making an impact since his rookie debut, where he scored 16 points and just one month later, he dropped 24 points, 14 rebounds and 7 blocked shots on the Houston Rockets. The last guy to accomplish such a feat was Shaq in the early 90s. Porzingis has a bright future ahead of him and I have a feeling he will develop into the most dominant big man in the League throughout the next few years.
23-year-old Jusuf Nurik is really coming into his own with the Portland Trail Blazers. He didn’t have the most amazing stats with the Nuggets, but since moving to Portland midway through last season, he has averaged 10.4 rebounds and 15.2 points per game. But more important is the impact he makes in team depth and the Trail Blazers on-court dynamic. When he’s healthy they tend to win games, when he’s sitting, Rip City tends to slide a bit.
Nicolas Batum, another former Blazer is smack dab in the middle of his prime, and Portland fans were sad to see the reliable swing-man with solid defense get shipped off to Charlotte. My favorite part of Batum’s game is not the fact that he can shake defenders and drain threes, but his commitment to the defensive side of the ball. He has a knack for sneaking up on ball-handlers driving to the hole and swatting that ball away with from-behind-blocks … Chasing opponents down much like Don Beebe chasing down Leon Lett in Super Bowl XXVII; he doesn’t give up on broken plays.
You can check out the best betting sites for odds and player props for your favorite Euro Stars. Often players like Nurik and Batum get overlooked in matchups and have soft lines you can profit from.