Saturday, May 12, 2007

Top 5 International Players in the NBA

The NBA is turning into a international man's sport. I now count down the 5 international players in the NBA right now.

Number 5: Andrea Bargnani

Andrea Bargnani or Il Mago was born in Italy and is one of the best young prospects in the game. He was drafted 1st overall in the NBA draft by Toronto becoming the 1st Italian to ever do so. In his debut year with the Raptors, he emerged as a 3-point threat who can drive to the hoop with ease. At mid-season he was voted to the NBA Rookie Challenge. Everything was looking up until March 21st, 2007. Bargnani underwent an emergency appendectomy after being taken to the hospital after feeling ill after a practice. He recovered in time to play the Raptors season finale and ended the year averaging 11.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. He came in 2nd in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting and along with teammate Jorge Garbajosa was named to the NBA all rookie team.

Number 4: Manu Ginobili

Manu Ginobili was drafted in the 2nd round, 57th overall in 1999. He spent most of his 1st year (2003) in the NBA on the bench and recovering from injury but managed to be named rookie of the month for March. In the playoffs, he surprised teams with his scoring touch and helped lead the Spurs to a championship over the Nets. In 2005, Ginobili was a starter and was named as a reserve in the NBA All Star Game. He then helped the Spurs to their 2nd title in 3 years in a 7-game series against Detroit. He was the runner up to the Finals MVP in Tim Duncan. On February 2007, Manu set a Spurs record scoring 24 straight points against Atlanta.

Number 3: Andrei Kirilenko

Andrei Kirilenko or 'AK-47' was born in Russia and plays for the Utah Jazz. He was drafted 24th overall in the 1999 draft by the Jazz. Despite being drafted in 1999, he spent the next 2 years with his Russian team. In the 2001-02 NBA season, Kirilenko joined the Jazz and was named to the 1st team on the NBA Rookie Team. In 2003-04, Kirilenko blocked the 3rd most shots in the league and was 4th in steals. In '05-06, Kirilenko recorded a career high 10 blocks in a game against Indiana and was 2nd in the league in blocks per game behind Marcus Camby. He was then named to the 1st team on the NBA All-Defensive Team.

Number 2: Yao Ming

A native of China, Ming was drafted 1st overall by the Rockets in the 2002 draft and signed with the team in October of '02. Ming was the rookie of the year in his 1sy year and was named to the NBA-All Rookie 1st Team. In 2004-05, the Rockets acquired Tracy McGrady and was voted as the starting center in the All-Star Game getting a record breaking 2,558,278 votes. The Rockets again had a early exit in the playoffs losing top the Mavs. In the next 2 years, Yao again had All-Star years, but couldn't get the Rockets passed the 1st round of the playoffs.

Number 1: Dirk Nowitzki

A native of Germany, Nowitzki was the 9th overall pick in the 1998 draft by the Bucks where he was immediately traded to the Mavericks for their 6th pick. After a confused rookie year for Nowitzki in '98-99, Dirk emerged as a future star in the league in 1999-00. The following season, Dirk was named to the All-NBA Team making team 3. In 2002-03, Nowitzki was named the top international player in the NBA by a survey of the leagues GM's. He also made his 2nd appearance in the All-Star game and the All-NBA second team. Nowitzki's best season was '06-07 where he led the Mavericks to an amazing 67-15 record. But their post-season dreams were cut short as the Golden State Warriors knocked them out. Nowitzki reportedly will be the MVP of the 2006-07 season.