Every year it’s a new record and it’s not a trend line that is going to stop — the NBA is becoming more and more international.
This season there are 101 international players on NBA rosters, something the NBA announced as the season was about to tip off Tuesday night.
Look at it this way: 22.6 percent of NBA roster spots have gone to players born outside the USA. They come from 37 different countries. The number of international players in the NBA has more than doubled in the last 15 years, something that speaks to the global growth of the game and teams’ improved international scouting.
It’s also the way the game has evolved. Once the NBA allowed zone defenses, the game naturally shifted more toward big men who could space the floor and shoot from the outside, something common in the International game for years (where zones were allowed). You can’t just throw the ball in the post every time down anymore. As the game shifts, what teams are looking for in players shifts as well, and they are finding that more and more overseas.
The team with the most international players? The Spurs. You knew that. It’s worked out pretty well for them. Nine guys on their 15-man roster were born outside the United States, including Tim Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands), Tony Parker (France) and Manu Ginobili (Argentina). In their quest to find unselfish players who fit their system, the Spurs have had more success overseas. Which has led to rings here.
Second plaice is a tie between the Timberwolves and Nets each with six, while the Golden State Warriors have five.
What country has the most? Canada, with an even dozen, led by the last two No. 1 overall picks, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins.
The leader in international players used to be France and they still have 10 (including Parker, Boris Diaw and Nicolas Batum), but that’s now second best. Australia has eight players in the NBA (including Kyrie Irving, who has dual citizenship and plays internationally for the USA), while Brazil has seven (Anderson Varejao, Nene and Tiago Splitter). Spain rounds out the top five with five players, led by the brothers Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol.