The game of basketball has now been a globalized sport in all walks of life. In the NBA, we have seen the likes of Drazen Petrovic and Dirk Nowitzki, as the early descendants of the next generation of international stars take on the best of the best in the association. The talent in the globalized game of basketball is enormous, and some now are superstars of their teams, heck even in the league.
Now that the playoffs have started, it has been noticeably clear of the emergence of some international stars that have performed within the spotlight during the first two rounds of the playoffs. I have highlighted some players below that deserve the spotlight from the way they have impacted their respective teams this postseason.
1. Nikola Jokic
How could I start off the list without the consensus MVP of the league? Nikola Jokic has played nothing but incredible throughout the first and second rounds of the playoffs. Without Jammal Murray, Jokic has been single-handedly carrying his team especially on the offensive end where Denver has placed him as their key playmaker.
Although they were swept by a fired Phoenix Suns team, Jokic has been one of the bright spots despite it. In the playoffs, Nikola Jokic is averaging 30.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game on a 51.2 % shooting split. Even with the loss to the Suns in Game Four, Jokic has to be proud of what a season he brought out this year.
2. Luka Doncic
It’s still a shock to me how a 22-year-old European superstar single-handedly brought his team to seven games against two NBA all-stars. Luka Doncic was by far the best player during the 1st round of the NBA playoffs, averaging a monstrous 35.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 10.3 assists per game.
What was amazing from his run was how much the Clippers had to throw so many defenders and double teams just to faze him but nothing was working. Dallas threw Luka as their entire offense over the series. It seems to me that Doncic looks so much ready to head deep into the playoffs. It will ultimately be determined how Dallas would keep that end of the bargain.
3. Bogdan Bogdanovic
Behind Atlanta’s rally in this postseason, Bogdan Bogdanovic is the wildcard that has elevated the Hawks over the Knicks and Sixers in the playoffs. The Swiss- Army knife of Serbia has been lighting it up from three this postseason. Along with Trae Young, this Atlanta backcourt has never fazed from the tough crowd in the postseason.
In a postgame interview after the Hawks’ Game One victory over the Sixers, Bogdanovic revealed how it was tougher for him to play in European environments than in the NBA. It shows in the court how tough Bogdanovic is. He plays the second most minutes in his team and is second to Trae Young in scoring and leads the team in steals. The fate of Atlanta’s hopes is a lot on his shoulders. Let’s see how they match up with the Sixers in these next few games.
Alongside Milluakee’s dominating victory against the reigning Eastern Conference Champs is Antetokoumpo’s hot start into these playoffs. The Bucks have rallied through the shoulders of Giannis to break through the defense of each of their teams, literally.
Giannis in these playoffs is averaging 26.6 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists throughout eight games into this postseason. Although he may have a three-point fixation, his overall length, size and athleticism haven’t stopped him from impacting the court on both ends. With two bounce-back victories to catch up with the Nets, Game Five should be an interesting one for both sides as either aims to get an advantage over the other.
5. Bojan Bogdanovic
Although Bogdanovic missed the NBA Bubble last season, we see how he creates another dynamic for the Jazz in all boxes. It is a bounce-back season for Utah, and with Bogdanovic back into the Jazz’s postseason rally, the other Bogdanovic, Bojan, has provided the much-needed scoring threat, aside from Mitchell, to create plays off the ball and insolation.
In their series with the Clippers, the Jazz is doing a great job containing Kawhi. In Game Two, Bojan helped limit Kawhi with an impressive defensive showing, especially in the fourth where Bojan contested a lot of Kawhi’s mid-range shots. The Jazz has a great supporting cast alongside Mitchell and Gobert, and Bojan’s play in the playoffs is one of the main reasons the Jazz are on their way to reach the Western Conference finals.
6. Facundo Campazzo
Despite the loss to Jammal Murray, the Nugget’s surprise pick-up this offseason has filled in the void for a guard that can play on both ends. Facundo is one of those players that has all the tricks in the books to annoy the opposing team’s play. In their match-up with the Blazers, Facundo’s toughness and maturity on the floor were shown in the display, with his effort to stop Lillard and McCollum in the offensive end.
His stats don’t show a lot, but it is his intangibles that give a little help for Jokic in creating plays for others. He has been the best rookie to perform in the playoffs, and despite the loss to the Suns, the Nuggets have enough reason to keep Campazzo in their eyes for the future.
7. Rudy Gobert
The Eiffel Tower of France has impacted so much for this Jazz team to bring them halfway to the Conference Finals. The recently named defensive player of the year, Gobert has lived up to those standards, averaging 2.8 blocks per game in these playoffs, In each of the Jazz’s games, Gobert is averaging a double-double, with 15.4 points and 13.4 rebounds.
The Clippers haven’t found an answer for him in their first two games. But, in Game Three, playing small ball against him has been effective for them, as the Clippers won a much-needed game at home against the Jazz. Gobet has to find other ways to be effective on the floor, especially in the offensive end, where he has to be ready to dominate the paint.
8. Ben Simmons
Despite the criticism Ben receives from his free throw shooting in the playoffs or his lack of offensive arsenal, we couldn’t deny the fact that the Sixers would not be as successful without Ben’s skill set in this postseason. With so much pressure going into Embiid, Simmons has capitalized at times being aggressive and taking the ball to the basket.
Against the Hawks, Ben has taken the challenge to guard Trae Young and it shows, limiting Young for a 9-17 shooting night in Game Three. Even Draymond Green tweeted out how much the Sixers are better with an aggressive Ben Simmons. His playmaking, defensive awareness, and size are much needed for the Sixers to finally get over the hump.