10/15/2021 at 6:56 AM CEST
. / Houston
It is no longer a secret in the NBA world that tall and versatile foreign players, who are formed in international basketball, are preferred and desired by NBA teams, and their prominence within the league is increasing, as is expected for the 2021-22 season.
The Houston Rockets, who in their ranks had the legendary Hall of Famers Moses Malone, along with Hakeem Olayuwon and Ralph Sampson, both forming the famous and historic ‘Twin Towers’ then they focused on international basketball the search for the Tall men, with the signing of the Chinese Yao Ming, who was chosen number one in the 2002 draw. Since then other important tall players have passed through the Texan franchise, such as the Turkish Ömer Asik and the Swiss Clint Capela, who they transferred to the Atlanta Hawks when they changed their style of play with the arrival of point guard Russell Westbrook to pair with guard James Harden, both already out of the team. The Rockets have once again relied on tall European players with the national team this year in the college draw for young Turk Alperen Sengün and Spanish power forward Usman Garuba, both just 19 years old.
But if there have been four pivot players who raised the level of the new version of versatile player to the highest level, those have been the Lithuanian Arvydas sabonis, the spanish brothers Pau and Marc Gasol together with the Serbian pivot Nikola Jokic. Sabonis was the true pioneer of the European pivots who gave master classes on the fundamentals of basketball in the NBA when he arrived at the Portland Trail Blazers, where despite his physical limitations with the problems that he dragged in his right knee, he taught in each match with ball handling, passing, rebounding and scoring, as well as moving the ball.
Last season’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) vote confirmed the return to the prominence of the big men in the NBA. The vote also highlighted the dominance of big men from other countries. Jokic of the Denver Nuggets was the winner of the award, followed by Cameroonian Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia Sixers. Greek power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks finished fourth in the vote and was the NBA Finals MVP. Meanwhile, France’s Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz won his third Defensive Player of the Year award. Capela, with the Hawks, finished the NBA’s best rebounder (14.3 rebounds, 60% shooting from the field and two blocks per game).
Coaches such as Nate McMillan of the Hawks, who was also a player with the Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA’s ‘golden age’, is convinced that the American player must once again recover and assume the importance of mastering the basic fundamentals when it comes to the best basketball in the world. McMillan recalled that an NBA coach does not have the responsibility of teaching the fundamentals to the players but rather that they adapt to their technical scheme, something that foreigners, especially Europeans, do perfectly, thanks to their versatility. The Hawks coach said the time had come to remind American players that there is “triple threat” in basketball and not just “give me the ball and let me shoot.”
Jokic, who averaged 8.3 assists and at the same time recorded great numbers of touchdowns and rebounds, prospered while improving his teammates, which is his true priority, to make them better and better. For his part, Embiid couldn’t escape the limelight as he averaged 28.5 points last season. He added 2.8 assists per game and wants to be known for his performance on the other end of the court as well and will fight for the Defensive Player of the Year award.
The list of top international players also includes Bahamian Deandre Ayton (Phoenix), Swiss Montenegrin Nikola Vucevic (Chicago) and Latvian Kristaps Porzingis (Dallas). However, some American number 5s and power forwards are still among the best in the league, such as Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers) and Bam Adebayo (Miami), who has become a complete player and franchise. Two other tall young players already dominating the league are power forward Domantas Sabonis of Indiana, son of Arvydas, and Karl-Anthony Towns of Minnesota, a Dominican-American, both with international team experience.