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'Not just a trend': European players have taken the NBA by storm, and the next wave is already on its way

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Aidan Sen new author
Roar Rookie
27th February, 2024

In the ever-evolving landscape of the NBA, a distinctive shift is underway, marked by the extraordinary rise of international players, particularly those hailing from Europe.

Legends like Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, and Pau Gasol once dominated the league, paving the way for a new generation of European talents leaving an indelible mark on the hardwood. From the vision of Nikola Jokic to the athleticism of Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the boundary-breaking skills of Luka Doncic, these players redefine the norms of basketball.

As I delved into this phenomenon, engaging in conversations with European scouts dedicated to identifying the next generation of NBA stars, their insights not only shed light on the evolving criteria for success in the league but also underscored the unique challenges and opportunities faced by international players navigating the intricate path to NBA stardom.

Amidst this dynamic landscape, where every skill must align with an NBA-level athletic prowess, the EuroBall movement is poised to leave a persisting imprint on the future of basketball.

These players defy conventional norms, each possessing unique skills and attributes that challenge traditional perceptions of athleticism. Jokic, with his seemingly unassuming physique, orchestrates the game like a maestro; Giannis, a physical marvel, reinvents the boundaries of athleticism; Victor Wembanyama, an unprecedented combination of size and skill is rewriting the playbook; and Doncic, a modern-day interpreter of basketball, showcases a style perfectly tailored for the NBA’s fast-paced nature.

Despite these traits all seeming abnormal in comparison to that of a stereotypical NBA star, they have been cultivated thanks to the tough, slow, and physical play style of the EuroLeague.


This season in the EuroLeague, teams are averaging around 81 points per game, compared to 115 in the NBA. Whilst this statistic shows may represent a lesser offensive talent level, it, more importantly, displays the level of defence played in Europe. As a result, players become accustomed to having to make tough shots and play-make at a high level from a young age.

The ongoing onslaught of international players in the NBA will continue into future seasons, as we see another strong batch of prospects set to be taken in the 2024 draft, with the potential to match the record-setting 2016 draft where 15 international players were selected in the first round.

The latest mock drafts by the likes of ESPN, The Athletic, and The Ringer have all had five European prospects be taken in the lottery, being Alexandre Sarr (Centre | 7’11” | Perth Wildcats), Zaccharie Risacher (Small Forward/Power Forward | 6’8” | JL Bourg), Nikola Topic (Point Guard | 6’6” | Crvena zvezda), Matas Buzelis (Small Forward/Power Forward | 6’10” | G-League Ignite), and Tidjane Salaun (Small Forward/Power Forward | 6’9” | Cholet).

As the anticipation builds for the upcoming draft, these prospects are not only generating buzz for their individual skills but also for their potential to impact the league’s landscape.

Scouts emphasize the diverse skill sets these players bring, ranging from Sarr’s towering presence and defensive prowess to Risacher’s versatility as a forward.


Topic’s playmaking abilities, Buzelis’ shot-creation, and Salaun’s well-rounded game are all factors contributing to the excitement surrounding this EuroBall draft class.

Nikola Jokic defies LeBron James. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Nikola Jokic. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

With the NBA evolving and embracing the global talent pool, these prospects signify a continuation of the league’s international renaissance, promising a captivating future for basketball enthusiasts worldwide. A captivating future where the international footprint on basketball’s grand stage continues to expand, uniting fans worldwide in celebration of the sport’s rich and diverse evolution.

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This movement is not just a trend but a transformative force, leaving an indelible mark on the hardwood and shaping the NBA’s narrative for generations to come.