(Reuters) – More than a dozen international players picked up in the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) draft this year will be eager to make an instant impact as they join an existing cast of formidable global talent.
Leading the pack is “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo, the back-to-back reigning NBA MVP who earlier this week signed a five-year contract extension to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks, in a reported $228 million “supermax” deal that broke league records.
“This is my home, this is my city,” the 26-year-old forward said on Twitter to celebrate the deal, after putting up an average of 29.5 points during the regular season and leading the Bucks to the conference semi-finals.
Antetokounmpo is already a household name along with 2020 All-Star Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, the 21-year-old Slovenian who won rookie of the year in the 2018-19 season and had league-high 17 triple-doubles last season.
When the season kicks off Dec. 22, the starpower of the global athletes will shine brighter than ever after a record six international players were named to the 2019-2020 All-NBA Team.
Among the rookies, 13 international players were selected during last month’s draft, including two in the top 10 first overall picks.
Seventh overall pick Killian Hayes, the highest-ever draft pick out of France, brings versatility and “potential” to the Detroit Pistons, retired 12-time All-Star Isiah Thomas told NBA TV.
“He fits what their needs are. He’s a ball-handler, he’s a distributor, he has good size,” said Thomas, who twice won the championship with the Pistons. “Detroit is a city that will embrace (a) versatile player.”
Washington Wizards rookie Deni Avdija proved he was worth the hype in his pre-season debut against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday, putting up 15 points without missing a single shot and with just one turnover, a month after he became the highest-ever draft pick (ninth overall) out of Israel.
“He’s not going to go every game and not miss a shot but he played the right way. He wasn’t looking to force anything,” Wizards head coach Scott Brooks told reporters after his team’s 119-114 loss to the Nets.
“He was solid and in order to have success in this league, you’ve really got to just be solid.”
(Reporting by Amy Tennery, editing by Pritha Sarkar)