Europe lives in NBA heaven. The mecca of basketball moves to the rhythm set by its towers. Pau Gasol’s rise to the Olympus of the Lakers has not only made him the first Spaniard to wear a retired shirt in the best League in the world. It was more than the seventh coronation of a European among 207 players oscared, a select club that he shares with Petrovic, Divac, Stojakovic, Ilgauskas, Parker and Nowitzki. Pau’s eternity reflects the hard path that a European pivot opened with his elbows to earn a name, respect and two championship rings. And revive a trend that today is common currency in the NBA: European interior men dictate their law. Jokic (Serbia), Sabonis (Lithuania), Porzingis (Latvia), Antetokounmpo (Greece), Gobert (France), Sengun (Turkey), Vucevic (Montenegro), Capela (Switzerland), Zubac (Croatia) and Markkanen (Finland) shine among the best in points, rebounds and assists statistics. The top six rebounders among the pieces considered interior are continental stars: Sabonis, Anteto, Jokic, Gobert, Vucevic and Capela. The Greek is the second highest scorer; the Serbian and the Lithuanian are the first two in assists…
And more. Anteto in 2019 and 2020 and Jokic in 2021 and 2022 have shared the last four MVP titles of the season, a list in which only another European stamped his name before, Nowitzki in 2007, the stem that propelled Dallas. Like the German, today versatile players are in demand, figures capable of performing in various positions (four or power Striker, the five or center), men who inhabit painting and also lavish themselves outside. Like Anteto and Markkanen, giants of 2.11m and 2.13m who can play outside, a dynamism that has turned the European power forward and power forward into a jewel.
“Like five pure, I would say that there are nine European centers that are starters in the NBA: Jokic, Sabonis, Valanciunas, Sengun, Capela, Porzingis, Vucevic, Pöltl and Zubac. And two of them, Jokic and Sabonis, saw the last All Star, in addition to other interior players from Europe. This once again demonstrates the globality of the League ”, analyzes Jordi Fernández from Badalona, first assistant coach at the Sacramento Kings and the Spanish with the highest position on a bench in NBA history.
Fernández, who played first last December in a match against Toronto due to the expulsion of Mike Brown, highlights a “particularity”: “Not all of them are the same or similar in terms of their style of play. Those differences reflect the international talent that has caught on in the NBA and that more open look at quality that they have adopted from outside the United States. This course the League started with the registration of 120 non-US players from 40 different countries. Among them, 58 Europeans, plus 35 North Americans with African ties.
newly crowned as laker life, Pau Gasol is proud of the evolution of the great man who came from Europe to which he contributed. There was a time when using the label of squishy. Not anymore. The European center lives his most important moment in the NBA. He has fundamentals and a good shot, and he knows how to play as a team, which is essential. He is no longer weak compared to the American, but he is, dominant and even a franchise player. Anteto and Jokic have shown it by being the MVPs”, highlights the Catalan, 43rd in the list of all-time NBA scorers, with 22,992 points.
Usman Garuba (21 years old, 2.03m) circulates today on that road that contributed to paving Pau. The Spanish center is celebrating his second season with the Houston Rockets after being the Eurobasket champion. And it symbolizes, according to himself, that change from immobile post to player with more variants. For example, he has doubled his hit percentage in triples from the previous season to this one. “The centers in Europe began to compete earlier, at an early age, in clubs and in the national teams, and we have basic game concepts, passing, cutting and moving without the ball, which generate easy points”, Garuba recounts two days after facing each other a Jokic. “He’s not an athletic player, he doesn’t dunk or do crazy things, but he plays basketball perfectly. It is knowing how to be, positioning, mastering the low post and above all being a good passer because in such a large field the shooters are very open. The NBA is from abroad, without a doubt, the triple predominates. But a pivot has to be the axis of the game. In many teams, the centers are really point guards, they are the ones who move the team low from the post, and the Europeans, Jokic, Sengun, Sabonis, are point guards on the track. That style of play creates a lot of chances for everyone and takes the defensive pressure off the outside. It is not true that the low post is not used, it is used a lot, one-on-one, but also to create spaces”.
Garuba is one of the latest products from a gold-plated Spanish selection. As federation president, Jorge Garbajosa accumulates the experience of his two power forward courses in the ranks of Toronto (74 games from 2006 to 2008). The school is also the center of explanation of him to the rise of the center European. “Even those player projects that due to their height and physical conditions are going to tend to live near the hoop, in Europe they are put as outsiders even knowing that their future is not in that position. This gives them a range when it comes to handling the dribble, the pass not only with their backs to the basket but also facing them, and the shot from three to open up the defenses and improve the circulation of the outsiders. The physique is important but it has already passed into the background. That knowledge of the game that Jokic, Valanciunas and Willy Hernangómez bring makes them decisive. The United States has produced stars in recent years almost always in outside positions, Ja Morant, Curry, Klay Thompson, and the Europeans have covered that interior space due to their rich tactical knowledge from such a young age”, comments Garbajosa.
The scheme is reproduced far from the United States. In the ACB, the four most valued players in the League are centers. And three are European: Marc Gasol (Girona), Tomic (Croatian, Joventut) and Shermadini (Georgian, Tenerife). Ahead of them, the Cape Verdean Tavares (Real Madrid). And among the 25 best in this ranking, only two American towers, Ethan Happ (Breogán) and Matt Costello (Baskonia). In Madrid, Randolph injured, Tavares alternates with three Frenchmen (Yabusele, Poirier and Cornelie) and a Senegalese (Ndiaye), and at Barça they move Mirotic (Montenegrin), Da Silva (German), Tobey (born in New York ), plays with Slovenia), Sanli (Turkish), Vesely (Czech) and Nnaji (Nigerian). In the NBA and in Spain, the European power forward.
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