There is now a huge contingent of exceptionally talented Europeans plying their trade in the NBA and many will be All-Star candidates this season. Here are the top three to watch out for and cheer on as they bid to seize glory Stateside in 2018/19:
The Swiss center enjoyed a magnificent season for the Houston Rockets in 2017/18, as he posted 42 double-doubles last season and set career highs in points (13.9), rebounds (10.8) and blocks (1.9). He has the luxury of lining up alongside two of the league’s best playmaking guards, James Harden and Chris Paul, but take nothing away from Capela’s importance to this team. Check out the latest NBA odds and you will see that Houston is among the leading contenders for glory this season. It came closer than any other team to stopping Golden State last term, and it should be in for another strong campaign after adding Carmelo Anthony to a roster that was already teeming with talent. But Capela is a huge miss if he does not play, so it will be imperative for the Rockets to keep the big man injury free and firing on all cylinders. His confidence is infections and he is a great pick-and-roll partner for Harden. The Rockets were 42-3 during the regular season when Capela, Harden and Chris Paul were on the floor together, and that tailed off considerably when he was absent, which speaks volumes about his contribution.
Serbia’s Jokic has been steadily improving over the last few years and he has a great chance of being an All-Star this season. He is the franchise player for a Denver Nuggets team that is blessed with exceptional potential, and Jokic has the ability to lead it into the playoffs. It only missed the post-season by a fraction last time around, and Denver should carry plenty of momentum into the new season. He is a true center and the prolonged absence of the injured DaMarcus Cousins could pave the way for him to surge into All-Star reckoning. He secured 10 triple-doubles last season, the most in a season during his burgeoning career, and the Serb seems to be on an upward curve. There are plenty of great Europeans playing in the NBA nowadays, but with Kristaps Porzingis out with a nasty injury, European fans need new superstars to cheer on and Jokic has the potential to achieve that status.
The Greek Freak might well emerge as the best player in the NBA this season, let alone the best European player. Many coaches, players and commentators view him as LeBron James’ heir apparent, and his potential is astonishing. He averaged 26.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks last season, emerging as the unquestioned leader of the Milwaukee Bucks, and it is all the more astounding as he is just 23 years of age. He has already gone toe-to-toe with James, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis et al and thrived against them. In the MVP regular season odds, he is joint second favorite alongside Davis, behind only James. It remains to be seen how James will get on in LA, and as his powers eventually start to wane it looks like a straight fight between Antekounmpo, Davis and Durant to be named the best player in the world. He is already a two-time All-Star and he has increased his scoring per game every single year of his career. If he can become even more efficient at scoring under new head coach Mike Budenholzer he can lead the Bucks deep into the playoffs.