NBA’s five most Internationally Diverse Teams (and the correlation with wins/losses)

A few days ago, we looked at five NBA teams with the least amount of international diversity.

From a look at the comments, it definitely hit a nerve with many readers. The overall feeling was that international diversity didn’t really matter; that Interbasket was creating some form of controversy out of nothing.

(Discuss the NBA’s international diversity in our NBA forum)

We told you to check back with us, and we would go over the NBA teams with the most international diversity and we’d talk about how it correlated with wins/losses and team success.

How we did it
We analyzed all 30 NBA team rosters and determined how many players played for that particular team the last five NBA seasons, then added up how many of those spots were occupied by foreign-born players.

We know it’s a simple way of looking at team diversity, but we feel that the data we collected can give some insight into which teams are more open to having international players on their roster.

We found that NBA teams had an average of 17 players on their roster during the last five seasons, and of those 17 players, NBA teams average about 3 international players on those rosters, for an average of 16% of their total rosters.

In our list of the top-5 most internationally-diverse NBA teams, each of the teams in the list averaged 25% diversity or more, that’s an international player for every four roster spots.

Relaxing: Andris Biedrins and Marco Belinelli chillax on the Warriors' plane (NBA)

1. Golden State Warriors

Int’l players in last five years: 27/88
International Diversity Index: 30.68%
Winning Percentage: .468
Of the 88 available roster spots throughout the last five complete NBA seasons, the Warriors had international players in 27 of those spots, or 30.7%.

Two seasons saw the Warriors boast seven international players on their roster; most recently in 2006-07 when their roster included Andris Biedrins (Latvia), Kelenna Azubuike (England), Marco Belinelli (Italy), Mickael Pietrus (France), Stephane Lasme, DJ Mbenga (Belgium), and Kosta Perovic.

Since the 2005 NBA draft, the Warriors have had eleven draft picks, using three of those on internationally-born prospects.

In the last five season, no other NBA team boasted seven international players on their roster in any one season. Golden State did it twice in the last five years; it’s a testament to their international diversity.

2. San Antonio Spurs

Spurs Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker (NBA)

Int’l players in last five years: 26/89
International Diversity Index: 29.21%
Winning Percentage: .725
With the success of Manu Ginóbili and Tony Parker, arguably the most successful international players in the last five years, it’s no big surprise that the Spurs are high up on the international diversity list.

Out of 89 roster spots, 26 were filled by international players over the last five seasons, making San Antonio second in best international diversity with 29.21%.

Manu and Parker form two parts of the big three (some would argue that Tim Duncan is also an international player) that has brought two championships in the last five seasons, and three in the last seven seasons.

With the consistency of Manu and Parker on their roster the last five years, the Spurs have added contributions from other foreign-born players in Beno Udrih, Fabricio Oberto, Francisco Elson, and Rasho Nesterović as well as using their draft picks on more international players over the last five years (6) than domestically-developed players (5).

3. Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors: Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon chat on the bench

Int’l players in last five years: 23/86
International Diversity Index: 26.74%
Winning Percentage: .453
A team based in Canada should be open to international players and the Toronto Raptors comes in as the third-most popular destination for international NBA players.

With 86 roster spots in the last five years, 23 (26.74%) were filled by foreign-born players like Jose Calderon of Spain and Andrea Bargnani of Italy. Adding to their international flavor, the Raps have drafted 4 foreign-born players with their 9 draft picks over the last five drafts.

During this summer, the Raptors picked up coveted free-agent Hedo Türkoğlu of Turkey and traded for Marco Belinelli of Italy.

Utah Jazz: Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur (Deseret Morning News)

4. Utah Jazz

Int’l players in last five years: 20/77International Diversity Index: 25.97%
Winning Percentage: .550
The Jazz, along with the Wizards, have had the least amount of roster fluctuations in the last five years, averaging  just a little bit over 15 spots per season.

Still Jerry Sloan’s team has boasted Andrei Kirilenko (Russia) and Mehmet Okur (Turkey) the last five seasons, as well as Gordon Giricek (Croatia) for four seasons.

During that same span, the Jazz have drafted four international players with their 13 NBA draft picks. The Jazz’s international diversity stands as the fourth-best in the league at 25.97%

5. Phoenix Suns

Int’l players in last five years: 21/84
International Diversity Index: 25%
Winning Percentage: .695
It seems that any team touched by Mike D’Antoni, who was a star guard in Italy, will have do well in international diversity.

The Phoenix Suns: Barbosa listens to Steve Nash (NBA)

Even though the Suns haven’t suited up an international draft pick since 2005, they have used a third of their draft selections (4/12) on players like Marcin Gortat (Poland), Sergio Rodriguez (Spain), and Rudy Fernández (Spain).

With 2-time NBA MVP Steve Nash (Canada) running the team the last five years, Leandro Barbosa of Brazil backing him up during that time, and Boris Diaw (France) playing a large role in four seasons, the Suns have no problem finding and keeping international talent.

International Diversity and NBA Success
Ok, so why does international diversity matter? The last four years has seen two NBA teams win an NBA championship without one international player on their roster, so were interested to find out if there was any correlation between success and the amount of international players.

On the surface and by itself, it doesn’t matter, but I believe that it gives some insight into the a club’s overall dedication to team success.

It’s not foolproof, but International diversity correlated with a higher-success as far as wins/losses:

The top ten teams that had the most international players on their rosters over the last five years won an average of 47 games in a season (.571%) during that span, while the bottom ten teams won an average of just 36 games per season (.441%).

That’s a difference of 11 games, and 55 games over five seasons.

You can find the 10 most-internationally diverse and the 10-least diverse NBA teams below (with international diversity and winning percentage):

1. Golden State Warriors (30.68%, .468)
2. San Antonio Spurs (29.21%, .725)
3. Toronto Raptors (26.74%, .453)
4. Utah Jazz (25.97%, .550)
5. Phoenix Suns (25.00%, .695)
6. Milwaukee Bucks (24.69%, .395)
7. Denver Nuggets (23.86%, .605)
8. Dallas Mavericks (23.81%, .715)
9. Los Angeles Lakers (23.17%, .608)
10. Cleveland Cavs (21.84%, .633)

21. Los Angeles Clippers (11.70%, .415)
22. Sacramento Kings (11.24%, .455)
23. Charlotte Bobcats (10.87%, .360)
24. Minnesota TWolves (8.86%, .387)
25. Philadelphia 76ers (8.75%, .492)
26. Washington Wizards (7.79%, .475)
27. Miami Heat (6.67%, .532)
28. Indiana Pacers (4.71%, .480)
29. New York Knicks (4.40%, .360)
30. Boston Celtics (3.75%, .575)

Again, we are not saying that international diversity directly equals team success, but is only one factor that can be looked at as far as how NBA clubs function and maintain, providing resources, budget, scouting, as well as other operations.

We can all agree that not all NBA franchises are created equal as far as the daily operations and management.

The 2009-10 NBA Season: Same Patterns
Going into this season, it seems that the pattern is continuing.

Just yesterday, we posted about the NBA teams with the most international diversity on their opening day roster, and again, the team with the most international diversity was in our top-six (Milwaukee Bucks), and the bottom three teams included teams NBA clubs that were on the bottom of our international diversity list; the Celtics (#30), the Pacers (#28), as well as the Clippers (#21).

Does this pattern really matter?  Is it really just a coincidence or is there something about teams that consistently find themselves at the top and bottom of international diversity?


  • I mean, yeah, having international players is marginally related to success, but could this be an effect of better scouting overall? The Spurs are a pretty good example. They have been able to hook up incredible international talent, but they also grabbed DuJuan Blair in the second round this year. The real exception to this would have to be the Celtics, who threw their weight behind Big Baby, Rondo, and Powe, but almost as a rule the teams at the top of this list have turned up great talent both inside and outside of the US.

  • How about “total international minutes” played on a team and correlation with wins?

    Perhaps an international +/- list would show something interesting too, especially compared to the average +/-

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