The 15 Best International Players of the 2008-09 NBA Season

Everyone loves lists. and we’ve been meaning to come up with a list of the top international NBA players for a few years now, but never actually got around to it.

With the season coming to the end, we decided to finally create our list of the best foreign-born players for the 2008-09 NBA season.  We created the list based on the combination of individual performance and team success.  So, without further delay, here are Interbasket’s top-15 international players in the NBA for the 2008-09 season.

15. Leandro Barbosa, Phoenix Suns
(14.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 47.9 FG%)
Andrea Bargnani dunks #14 of 15 international NBA players (Getty Image)
Barbosa’s stats are a bit down from last seaason, but the Brazilian Blur is still highly-effective and efficient coming off the bench.  Barbosa is this era’s Vinne “The Microwave” Johnson. I don’t think twice about Leandro’s ability to get 22 points a game if he were to receive starter minutes on a consistent basis.

14. Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors
(15.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 41.6 3PT%)
Through November-December 2008, Bargnani was still an inconsistent and frustrating player that was on his way to bust status. Then right before the new year, a light switch came on.  Bargnani (pictured right) would go on to score 15 or more points in 15 straight games starting December 31, 2008, and has continued his enlightened play since then.  Still the 7-0 Italian needs to work on rebounding and defense, but hey, one thing at a time.

13. José Calderón, Toronto Raptors
(12.9 points, 8.8 assists, 50.1 FG%, 97.8 FT%)
After the Raptors traded away T.J. Ford in the summer, Calderon has stepped in and has done a great job as their lead guard, though that hasn’t translated into victories.  With the increased minutes, Calderon is having his best season statistically, nearly 13 points and 9 assists for a terrible Raptors team.  Not to mention that Calderon is on a NBA record-breaking pace for FT% (131-134).

12. Nenê, Denver Nuggets
(14.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 60.4 FG%, 1.3 blocks, 1.2 steals)
The muscley 6-11 Brazilian should make the list for just finishing a season without missing more than than 20% of his games. But he’s not only accomplished that Nene has also had a great season for the Nuggets; he’s been ferociously dunking on opponents all season, and has led the league in FG% the majority of season… before his numbers dipped the last 1.5 months.  The only blights on Nene’s season have been being overtaken by Shaq for top FG% and his 2-game suspension for headbutting Louis Amundson.Boris Diaw is one of Interbasket's top international players of 2008-09 (Getty Images)

11. Boris Diaw, Charlotte Bobcats
(15.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists)
Just as Diaw did when Amare Stoudemire went down for the Suns, the 6-9 forward from France is getting the minutes to show off his multi-faceted game…. but this time it’s for the Bobcats.  Things are looking up with Diaw facilitating their offense – since Diaw has come to town, the Bobcats have been playing .530 ball (27-24), and as of this writing, they’re only one game behind Chicago for the final playoff spot in the East.  Diaw has averaged roughly 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists since arriving in Charlotte.

10. Žydrūnas Ilgauskas, Cleveland Cavs
(13.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.3 blocks)
Cleveland did well with Big Z out, but with Cleveland’s all-time leading shot-blocker back in the lineup, the Cavs become a true contender when the 7-3 Lithuanina is holding down the middle.  It’s hard to find a pivot that provides midrange jumpers, offensive rebounds, and interior presence consistently night in and night out.  Ilgauskas scored his 10,000th point this season.

9. Mehmet Okur, Utah Jazz
(17.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 49.3 FG%, 44.1 3PT%)
Even with Boozer out, Memo doesn’t mind being the 3rd option and quietly e is having one of his best seasons this year (17 points, 8 rebounds).  Shots do not matter to Okur, he just finds a way to produce.  What’s better is that Memo produces when it counts the most. 

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8. Luis Scola, Houston Rockets
(12.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 52.8 FG%)Luis Scola and Yao Ming are two of the top 15 foreign-born NBA players in 2008-09 (Getty Image)
Continuing his solid play from the end of last season, the second year player Scola has become a key player for Houston with oft-injured Tracy McGrady out. The always-hustling, non-stop pump-faking, continuously spinning 6-9 Argentine power forward may not have the prettiest game, but Scola been producing some serious double-doubles, with frequency, this season.

7. Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando Magic
(17 points, 4.9 assists, 5.4 rebounds)
Orlando has gone 18-7 after Jameer Nelson was lost for the season thanks in part to the interior offense/defense of Dwight Howard, and partly because of Hedo Turkoglu’s ability to create off the dribble.  The 6-10 forward from Istanbul shooting and numbers have dipped this season, but Hedo is still having a great season for the Southwest division champion Orlando Magic.

6. Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns
(15.6 point, 9.6 assists, 3.1 rebounds, 49.2 FG%, 43.2 3PT%, 94.4 FT%)

The Canadian speedster and former NBA MVP (really?) is still the engine that makes the Suns roll. The problem with that, is that Nash has lost a step, and it isn’t a coincidence that Phoenix looks like they’ll be on the outside looking in on the NBA Playoffs.

5. Manu Ginóbili, San Antonio Spurs
(15.8 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 27 minutes)
Though Ginobili’s been hampered by injuries this season, Manu is still one of the most dangerous players in the league on offense and defense when it gets down to crunchtime. His numbers don’t pop out until realize he’s accomplishing 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists this night after night in just 27 minutes per game. Even though he’s coming off the bench,  San Antonio will look to  GTony Parker best international NBA players by Interbasket (Getty Image)inobili at the end of the game to make a  play.

4. Yao Ming, Houston Rockets
(19.6 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 54.7 FG%)
The big man’s stats are down this season, but Houston is still overachieving and near the upper tier of the western conference standings.  It’s because the big fella from Shanghai, China is having another all-star season (his 7th), hasn’t been hampered with injuries, and providing his normal 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks nightly.  With 8 games remaining, Yao’s already played 70 games this season, the most in four seasons.

3. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
(21.8 points, 6.9 assists, 50 FG%)
Parker is quietly having his best year statistically, career highs in points and assists, and the timing couldn’t have been better as his scoring outburts have kept the San Antonio Spurs on top of the Southwest division most of the season.  The 6-2 point guard from France played in his third all-star game this season and  has been on a tear lately.  Parker has found himself carrying the Spurs as injuries have kept Duncan and Manu out.  He’s also surpassed the 10,000 point barrier this season.

2. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
(25.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 47 FG%)
Ho hum.  Another 25 points and 8 rebounds inside, but mostly outside.  As Dirk Nowitzki  goes, so go the Mavs.  The 7-0, 30-year old German played in his eigth straight all-star game and has had a knack for hitting game-winners this season with buzzer-beating shots against Philadelphia (01/19/09) and Indiana (03/20/09).Pau Gasol is #1 best international player in the NBA for 2008-09 (Getty Image)

1. Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
(18.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 57.4 FG%)
When there’s talk of the Laker’s success this season, most will point to Kobe Bryant, but many hoop heads know that without the 7-foot Spaniard, there’s no telling where the Lakers would be right now.

Sure the European of the Year isn’t lighting it up for 25 a night like Dirk, but Pau Gasol is hugely  responsible for the Los Angeles Lakers winning and being one of the top two teams in the entire league all season.  Consistent and fiery, Gasol has had another 19 point  and 10 rebound season, participated in his second NBA ALl-Star Game, while being L.A.’s rock in the middle, filling in for the injured Andrew Bynum.

Because of his consistency and the the Laker’s success, Pau Gasol tops Interbasket’s 2008-09 list of top international players.

Honorable Mention: Our list comes with sincere apologies to Anderson Varejao, Andrei Kirilenko, Andres Nocioni, injured Luol Deng and Andris Biedrins, and Spanish rookies Rudy Fernandez and Marc Gasol.  And we don’t consider Tim Duncan and Raja Bell as international.

So what do you think of our list?  Let us know by joining the discussion.

Links and Resources: Top-15 International NBA Players in 2008-09 (Interbasket)

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