There is no doubt that the NBA is a global league with many international players joining it every year. Going into the last season, a total of 120 international players were on the NBA rosters, or around 37%, and each team had at least one international player. That marked the ninth consecutive season with at least 100 international players being in the NBA. That number will probably go up in the following season, and in the following lines, we will take a look at five international players who are already on the move to the NBA.
1. Victor Wembanyama – San Antonio Spurs
The 2023 first overall pick, Victor Wembanyama, came into the league with so much hype that he is already under pressure to perform well from Day 1. This century, there have been only two players, LeBron James and Zion Williamson, who were surrounded by so much hype going into the league. Wembanyama was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs and will have a chance to work with and play for one of the best coaches ever, Gregg Popovich.
Being a 7-foot-4 giant, combined with his well-rounded skillset, makes him one of the highest-ceiling prospects most scouts have ever seen. The Frenchman has great shooting and ball-handling abilities and can also play well at the post. Last season with the Metropolitans 92 of the French league, Wembanyama averaged 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks per game. He was selected to the All-Pro A First Team and named best defender, best scorer, best young player, and best shot blocker.
2. Bilal Coulibaly – Washington Wizards
Wembanyama is not the only player who would make the jump from Metropolitans 92 to the NBA. Bilal Coulibaly is someone who got the benefit from all the scouts’ presence around his famous teammate. Coulibaly is an 18-year-old, 6-foot-6 small forward who got selected with the seventh pick by the Washington Wizards. Last season, he averaged 5.9 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist per game. Coulibaly was one of the youngest players being drafted this year, and he was projected to be selected even higher if he decided to declare for the 2024 NBA Draft. Coulibaly’s offensive game is still not on the NBA level, but he has a great physic and work ethic that will make him a great role player in the NBA. His athleticism makes him a great defender, and he is expected to get valuable minutes on the Wizards next season.
3. Aleksandar Vezenkov – Sacramento Kings
Vezenkov is coming off an impressive season with the Greek team Olympiacos winning the EuroLeague MVP award last season, which led him to sign a three-year, $20 million contract with the Sacramento Kings. The 27-year-old Bulgarian had 17.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2 assists per game in 40 games in the EuroLeague. In the Greek championship, Vezenkov had 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. Olympiacos won the Greek championship but failed short in the EuroLeague final to Real Madrid.
Vezenkov was selected with the 57th overall pick at the 2017 NBA Draft by the Brooklyn Nets. Before playing for Olympiacos, Vezenkov played for Aris Thessaloniki and Barcelona.
4. Vasilije Micic – Oklahoma City Thunder
Micic is another player who reached the top of European basketball and decided to make a move to the NBA. The Serbian point guard signed a three-year, $23.5 million deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was drafted 52nd overall at the 2014 NBA Draft. Micic started his pro career with Mega and was a teammate of Nikola Jokic on the Serbian team. He moved on to play for Bayern Munich, Red Star, Tofas, and Zalgiris before joining the Turkish team Anadolu Efes. There, Micic developed from a young prospect to the best player in Europe, winning the 2021 EuroLeague MVP award and the 2022 EuroLeague top scorer award, all that with leading his team to back-to-back EuroLeague titles. Last season, Micic averaged 16 points, 5.4 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game in the EuroLeague and 16.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.9 rebounds per game in the Turkish championship.
5. Dante Exum – Dallas Mavericks
Exum will make a comeback in the NBA after signing a veteran minimum contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Exum spent the last two seasons playing in Europe for Barcelona and Partizan. The Australian was drafted fifth overall in 2014 by the Utah Jazz. He spent five and a half seasons with the Jazz before being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had his best NBA season in 2017-18, averaging 8.1 points, 3.1 assists, and 1.9 rebounds per game for the Jazz. After the 2020-21 season, when he played only 6 games for the Cavaliers, Exum signed with Barcelona, where he won the Spanish Cup. Last season, he moved to the Serbian team Partizan, where he won the Adriatic League title. Exum averaged 11.3 points, 3.5 assists, and 2.9 rebounds in the Adriatic League and 13.2 points, 2.7 assists, and 2.3 rebounds per game in the EuroLeague.