The easy storyline of the 2019 World Cup is how “Team U-S-Meh” doesn’t have the top two players in the tournament—they would be Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Serbia’s Nikola Jokić. While this is true, it’s both a played-out storyline and also neglectful to the idea that the NBA and FIBA do not run parallel. FIBA isn’t about having the best NBA player. It’s about having the most balanced roster that plays FIBA basketball.
Thanks to the growth of basketball, FIBA has flattened out. International rosters are more well rounded, and having the top player in the tournament is less impactful or newsworthy than it once was. Also, news flash: Many players on many international rosters are better than players on Team USA.
With that said, this list isn’t a ranking of the best international NBA players, because the NBA and FIBA do not run parallel. FIBA excellence isn’t associated with high-volume scoring in the same way the NBA’s best are evaluated, and some international players play with more confidence filled with their nation’s pride and a Molten brand basketball.
For example, Dennis Schröder earned All-Star consideration while on the Hawks (only two of the players on this list can say that), but he has shot 32.5% from the field in two losses on a German team with two other players with NBA experience.
These five make their teammates better and show us an extra FIBA gear without totally leaving their comfort zone.