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Even though the United States is the most significant hub for young basketball stars with its colleges and scholarships, the next generation of NBA stars seems to be coming from somewhere else.
Our focus swiftly switched to Europe as Nikola Jokić, Luka Dončić, and Giannis Antetokounmpo showed us that European basketball shouldn’t be underestimated.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and his impact on Milwaukee
The Greek Freak led his Milwaukee Bucks to the NBA Championship in 2021, thus ending their 50-year drought. His athleticism, physique, and height have helped him stand out from the rest of the NBA in the past couple of years.
Giannis’ impact on the Bucks has been tremendous throughout the years, as he continues to be the main reason they are title contenders over and over again. His presence in the paint typically opens lots of free space for 3-point shooters like Brook Lopez, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday. On top of that, he has been unstoppable on many occasions when driving to the basket due to his sheer power.
Not only did he claim the title with the Bucks, but he has also crowned an MVP winner in 2019 and 2020. Moreover, he is considered one of the best defensive players in the NBA nowadays, winning that award in 2020.
A six-time All-Star player, Antetokounmpo is undoubtedly looking to pave his way into the NBA pantheon. To keep an eye on the player’s future progressions, Bovada provides the current odds for the ongoing NBA season here: https://www.bovada.lv/sports/basketball/nba
Nikola Jokić with back-to-back MVPs
The 27-year-old center of the Denver Nuggets (Eastern Conference, Northwest division) has further made Eastern Europe proud with his achievements in the NBA. It took him some time before making his impact in the league as he had slow first two years adapting to the atmosphere in Ball Arena.
However, with time passing, Nikola Jokic adjusted his playing style, hit the gym more often, and eventually became a tricky obstacle for his opponents.
Playing well on both ends of the court, the Serbian deservedly won the 2021 and 2022 NBA MVP awards. Considered the most remarkable passing big man in basketball history, Jokic adroitly uses his size in the paint to open lots of spaces for his teammates. His extraordinary strength helps him keep his endurance high, allowing him to pressure his opponents on the defensive end.
Moreover, his high-arching fadeaway shot turned into his signature move over the years and remains unanswered by most defenses in the league. The Serbian is still hoping to replicate Giannis’ success and bring home Denver’s maiden NBA Championship.
As a related read, don’t miss my article on the best Asian NBA players.
Luka Dončić and his unparalleled stats in 2022
On the other hand, Luka Dončić is a remarkable point guard and small forward who has worked hard to get into the best possible shape in 2022. Born in Slovenia, he spent his early years in the Central European country, trying to make his dream of playing in the NBA a reality one day.
Signing overseas with Real Madrid at the age of 16 is certainly something that brought all eyes onto him. After becoming the EuroLeague MVP in 2018, leading the Spanish club to the title, the Atlanta Hawks selected him with the third overall pick in the draft, giving away his rights to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Trae Young and a protected future pick.
Luka has shown plenty of dedication throughout the first three years in the NBA, winning the 2019 Rookie of the Year Award and making the NBA All-Star teams on three occasions (2020-2022). Doncic took off in 2022 with numbers tallying only Michael Jordan, thus creating yet another massive statement towards winning his first MVP award.
Additionally, he has already announced his ambition to win the NBA title for the Mavericks and bring the trophy to the American Airlines Center for the first time since Dirk Nowitzki’s remarkable 2011 season.
Other notable European players
On top of that, Lauri Markkanen showed his teeth right after the Utah Jazz traded away their entire team, including Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, and Bojan Bogdanovic. The 25-year-old Finnish small forward joined the squad this year, and his first games in Vivint Arena suggest that he is ready to shine under the spotlight.
The NBA is also filled with solid European centers who are spread amongst the top teams, with Nikola Vucevic being a starter for the Chicago Bulls. At the same time, Domantas Sabonis became a gem for the Sacramento Kings in 2022. Moreover, Clint Capela and Jonas Valanciunas also assert their dominance for the Hawks and the Pelicans, respectively.
On top of everything else, Dennis Schröder, Ricky Rubio, and Evan Fournier shine out with agility and on-court movement. The Europeans have managed to put up big numbers lately, which is undoubtedly a huge red flag for the rest of the world, meaning that they are ready to take over the entire NBA.
Conclusion – Europe vs the United States
Dirk Nowitzki was the only European player who won the NBA Most Valuable Player Award before the new generation of ballers. Snatching the trophy away from the Americans seemed like a fantastic feat back in the day. Still, with the recent individual achievements of Nikola Jokić and Giannis Antetokounmpo, we may eventually end up seeing Europe on top of the league.
Even though there are plenty of great US players nowadays, the Europeans have showcased their skills and are not ready to give up anytime soon. With a potential increase in the competition at an international level, there will undoubtedly be new stars coming from Europe.
The United States will look to bounce back, but with Jokic, Antetokounmpo, and Doncic still in their zenith, this task seems quite difficult. However, this battle between the United States and Europe can only further promote the game of basketball worldwide, as we are undoubtedly in for a special treat in the years ahead.