This season, each of the league’s top performers had a European sensation leading them to glory. The Milwaukee Bucks topped the Eastern Conference, and the Dallas Nuggets topped the Western Conference during the regular season, and both outfits’ star men hailed from the Balkans. In fact, the latter of those two managed to win the NBA Finals this season thanks to a dominant postseason display from their resident Joker (more on him later) and if you head over to Bovada to get to know basketball odds, you will see that they are the +500 second favorites to retain their crown next term.
But who are the players flying their respective European flags across the pond? Let’s take a look.
Nikola Jokić – Serbia
The Denver Nuggets’ Serbian center Nikola Jokić constantly establishes himself as one of the league’s top players. He stands out from other players thanks to his distinctive skill set, which includes superb court vision, outstanding passing skills, and clutch shooting. While some may argue that other European players could hold this title, Jokić’s recent spell-binding performances in the NBA playoffs make it clear that he is at the top of his game.
Jokić’s contributions have helped take his team to at least the Conference Semifinals in four of the last five seasons, culminating with his side going all the way this term. The Nuggets met the shock finalist Miami Heat in the NBA Finals this season and the Joker and co. brought to an end their fairytale run with a resounding 4-1 series victory, a victory in which their Serbian giant was named the MVP. While there are other talented European players in the league, Jokić’s versatility and ability to facilitate his team’s success demonstrate that he is truly one of the best in the game today.
Luka Dončić – Slovenia
Luka Dončić is without a doubt one of the best European players to hit the NBA scene. This Slovenian sensation completely dominates the court with his mind-blowing playmaking skills, scoring prowess, and impressive basketball IQ. At a tender 24, the Dallas Mavericks star has already garnered four NBA all-star mentions and is the second youngest Rookie of the Year awardee. On top of that, he clinched the youngest Euro League MVP title ever, which cements his spot as one of the brightest stars in the league.
His personality attributes, not only his statistics, are what distinguish him. Doni stands out because of his killer instinct, an acute sense of rivalry, and eye for the remarkable. It won’t take him long for him to establish himself as one of the greatest players in NBA history because he is a game-changer and has amassed rapid notoriety.
Giannis Antetokounmpo – Greece
In 2023, the Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, will be celebrating an entire decade with the Milwaukee Bucks and as an NBA legend. He’s risen to fame as one of the franchise’s finest players of all time, racking up seven all-star appearances throughout the course of his career. His imposing height teamed with his lightning-fast speed on the court earned him the prestigious MVP award in back-to-back seasons in 2020 and 2021. It was in 2021 wherein his heroic leadership carried his team to victory, bringing the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy back to the city of Milwaukee for the first time in 40 years.
Domantas Sabonis – Lithuania
Prior to Jokic’s dominance in the recently finished postseason, it was hard to pick just one European player as the “best” since the NBA is packed with so many talented superstars. That said, Domantas Sabonis deserves consideration when it comes to the top players in the league from across the pond. The Lithuanian big man has been an absolute monster in the league ever since he was drafted back in 2016, and he was one of the primary reasons why the Sacramento Kings topped the Pacific Division against all odds this season.
Nikola Vučević – Montenegro
While he may not be one of the biggest names in the NBA at present, Nikola Vučević has proven over the years that he is undoubtedly one of the best imports to ever grace the league. The Montenegrin star was originally drafted to the Philadelphia 76ers back in 2011 however, he never featured at the Wells Fargo Center and in the summer of 2012, was traded to the Orlando Magic in a showcase four-way trade which saw Dwight Howard head to the Los Angeles Lakers. Ever since making his debut for the Magic in 2012, he has been highlighting his skills and has somewhat redefined the center position with his impressive shooting range and agility on the court.