Over the past few decades, the NBA has worked tirelessly to establish a firm international presence. That work has paid off — and then some. Opening night rosters for the 2021-22 season featured 109 international players from 39 countries.
Basketball is now a global game.
Some of the league’s brightest stars hail from countries spanning the world and they’ve helped the sport cross borders and reach new heights. Throughout the season, Around the Globe will highlight those individuals — but not just the big-name guys. The under-the-radar players who aren’t always thrusted into the limelight will get some shine, too.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
Standout: This won’t always be awarded to the guys who put up the flashiest numbers, otherwise you’ll likely see the same faces each time — there’s no fun in that.
Notables: Players who just missed the cut.
Shooting Star: The person in this category is either shooting the lights out or seeing a noticeable uptick in their performance — or both.
Must-See Plays: Pretty self-explanatory.
Now that the formalities are out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.
*All stats through Thursday, Dec. 2
This Week’s Standout
Giannis Antetokounmpo – Milwaukee Bucks (Greece)
Stats Over Last 2 Weeks: 26.9 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 57.5 FG%
Phoenix’s 18-game winning streak and Golden State’s resurgence have understandably been the two biggest stories of the young season — but Milwaukee has quietly won 8 of its last 9 games. Giannis erupted for 40 points and scored the game-winning basket in Wednesday’s barn-burner against the Charlotte Hornets. He has the Bucks clicking on all cylinders. And with Khris Middleton fully back in the mix after missing 8 games near the start of the season, the defending champs are back to looking dominant — uh oh.
Joel Embiid – Philadelphia 76ers (Cameroon)
Stats Over Last 2 Weeks: 23.7 ppg, 15 rpg, 3.5 bpg
Embiid’s stats are a little misleading since he’s played just three games since Nov. 6. Nonetheless, “The Process” made his long-awaited return Saturday against the Minnesota Timberwolves after a 9-game absence due to health and safety protocols and he didn’t disappoint. A 42-point barrage wasn’t enough to top the Wolves in the double-overtime thriller, but if Embiid’s season-high performance is a sign of things to come, the rest of the East better look out.
Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks (Slovenia)
Stats Over Last 2 Weeks: 28 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 10.8 apg
Continuing the return theme, Doncic deserves some love for coming back strong from his knee and ankle sprains that kept him sidelined for 3 games. The Slovenian superstar dropped a cool 26 points with 9 assists to boot in the Mavs’ overtime win over the Clippers in his return. He was even better on Wednesday — 28 points on 11-for-16 shooting and 14 dimes in a 32-point thrashing of the New Orleans Pelicans. Luka looks like he hasn’t missed a beat, which spells good news for Dallas going forward.
Andrew Wiggins – Golden State Warriors (Canada)
Stats Over Last 2 Weeks: 20.8 ppg, 50.0 FG%, 48.3 3P%
Stephen Curry has received most of the glory for Golden State’s superb start — rightfully so — but Wiggins’ contributions shouldn’t go unnoticed. The steady swingman’s efficiency has increased in each of his three seasons in the Bay Area — he’s shooting a career-best 49% from the field this season. Curry is the engine that makes the Warriors go, but Wiggins is the X-factor.
Bojan Bogdanovic – Utah Jazz (Croatia)
Stats Over Last 2 Weeks: 16.7 ppg, 51.5 FG%, 46.2 3P%
The Croatian sharpshooter has arguably been Utah’s most consistent player … okay, maybe not the most consistent — that title still belongs to Donovan Mitchell. But Bogdanovic can at least make a claim. Through 21 games, he’s scored in double figures 19 times. The Suns hold the league’s best record at 18-3, but the Jazz aren’t too far behind at 14-7 and 3rd in the West, largely due to the dependable marksman.
Josh Giddey – Oklahoma City Thunder (Australia)
Stats Over Last 2 Weeks: 12.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 5.7 apg
OKC fans haven’t had a lot to be excited about this season, but the rookie’s development should be one of them. Giddey’s confidence is growing and it’s evident in his production. His 19 points against Utah last Wednesday tied a season-high, but his scoring might not even be his best attribute — not yet at least. The October and November West Rookie of the Month already has 10 games with 7 or more assists. It may take a little while before the Thunder return to prominence, but they seemed to have found the ideal backcourt mate for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
GIANNIS WINS IT FOR THE @Bucks!
The wild finish to a thriller in Milwaukee! pic.twitter.com/rEf4NDXlqB
— NBA (@NBA) December 2, 2021
Zubac catch, spin and behind-the-back DIME to Terance Mann!
Watch on League Pass: https://t.co/5QqkBhf1W0 pic.twitter.com/3J0GslisXy
— NBA (@NBA) November 24, 2021
Clint Capela gets up for the BIG block on NBA TV.
Watch Here: https://t.co/rTTQ9EtLON pic.twitter.com/JtNaMADMs4
— NBA (@NBA) November 21, 2021