EuroBasket 2022 – Ranking the top 25 players, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic

EuroBasket 2022 – Ranking the top 25 players, including Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic post thumbnail image

Who are the top players to watch at FIBA EuroBasket 2022?

The action begins Thursday in the Czech Republic, Italy, Georgia and Germany — an 18-day tournament culminating with the final stage in Berlin, and some of the NBA’s top superstars are hoping to lead their countries to the title.

Most notably, the winners of the past four MVPs and a young phenom poised to win a few of his own will be in action: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic. The Dallas Mavericks guard led Slovenia to the title in 2017 — can he do it again?

The star power doesn’t end there, with a host of NBA players taking part, including All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Domantas Sabonis and one player who moonlights as a movie star.

Who will shine brightest in the battle for European hoops supremacy? NBA Insiders Jonathan Givony and Kevin Pelton are breaking down their 25 picks — draft style.

Watch every EuroBasket 2022 game live on ESPN+

1. Nikola Jokic, Serbia

It’s not an easy choice picking between Jokic, Antetokounmpo and Doncic, but in the end I gave the nod to the two-time reigning NBA MVP whose fit in the FIBA game is a little cleaner than Antetokounmpo, who also has a better supporting cast.

Jokic was phenomenal in Serbia’s two FIBA World Cup qualifiers last week, including an overtime win against Antetokounmpo and Greece, during which Jokic posted 29 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. He has being used similarly with Serbia as with the Denver Nuggets, equally devastating operating with his back to the basket, in dribble handoffs and as a pick-and-roll finisher. Jokic has been playing with strong intensity defensively while representing his home country.

— Givony

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece

From one back-to-back MVP to another, Antetokounmpo’s ongoing quest to translate his individual brilliance to Greek national team success continues in EuroBasket. Greece finished fifth in the event in 2015 but hasn’t broken through since Antetokounmpo emerged as arguably the world’s best player.

The matchup with Serbia and Jokic in World Cup qualifying last month was emblematic of Antetokounmpo’s plight. He had 40 points on 14-of-25 shooting, along with 8 rebounds and 5 assists, yet Greece still fell 100-94 in overtime. No wonder people might believe implausibly dominant pretend Antetokounmpo box scores.

— Pelton

3. Luka Doncic, Slovenia

I gave serious thought to taking Doncic No. 1, so picking him here was somewhat of a no-brainer after averaging 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game last season with the Dallas Mavericks. Despite being 23, Doncic has considerable experience in tournaments of this nature, winning the last iteration of EuroBasket in 2017 at age 18 and leading Slovenia to a fourth-place finish in the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

As a 6-foot-7 point guard and pick-and-roll maestro who can make any pass and is a threat to pull up from anywhere, Doncic could be the most impactful player in this tournament, even though his conditioning isn’t trending in the best direction.

— Givony

4. Rudy Gobert, France

There’s a slight drop-off from the tier of MVP candidates to Gobert, merely a perennial All-NBA pick on one of the top EuroBasket contenders. Gobert helped France to the gold-medal game in Tokyo last year, nearly averaging a double-double (12.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG) while supplying his typically dominant rim protection.

As compared to Gobert’s time with the Utah Jazz prior to this summer’s trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves, France has done a better job of making opponents pay for switching smaller defenders on Gobert in the paint.

— Pelton

5. Franz Wagner, Germany

Coming off an outstanding debut campaign, which netted him a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie team, Wagner has displayed an even higher level to his game, evolving into a featured role on the German national team this summer. He was outstanding in a pair of blowout wins in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers last week, including a 19-point performance in a blowout win over Doncic and Slovenia.

Having turned 21 earlier this week, Wagner isn’t anywhere near his peak but continues to make impressive strides physically and is showing noticeably higher confidence as a ball handler and pull-up shooter. Wagner is already an elite cutter, off-ball defender and passer who does myriad little things that impact winning.

— Givony

6. Dario Saric, Croatia

Although Saric is undoubtedly not the best player remaining at this point, he’s the most interesting to me because of his comeback from an ACL tear suffered in the 2021 NBA Finals. That injury sidelined Saric for all of 2021-22 as his Suns posted the league’s best record before being upset by Doncic and the Mavericks in the conference semifinals.

Phoenix suffered in part from difficulty matching up with Dallas’ small frontcourts, and Saric could help change that if he’s back to the versatile backup 5 role he played for the Suns before his injury.

— Pelton

7. Domantas Sabonis, Lithuania

Sabonis has never hesitated to heed the call from Lithuania — he will play in his 10th FIBA event since 2012, despite being 26 years old. Lithuania has arguably the strongest frontcourt in EuroBasket with Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas providing serious muscle in the paint, and quite a bit of offense will flow through Sabonis and his outstanding passing ability. Lithuania went 9-0 in August in exhibition and FIBA qualifying play, raising considerable hope for a gold-medal run behind its NBA frontcourt stalwarts.

— Givony

8. Bojan Bogdanovic, Croatia

Will Bogdanovic still be a member of the Jazz by the conclusion of EuroBasket? As Utah pivots into a rebuild after trading Gobert, and perhaps eventually co-star Donovan Mitchell, Bogdanovic looms as an obvious candidate for a deal to a contender. At 33, Bogdanovic is heading into the final season of a reasonable contract that pays him $19-plus million. He fits just about anywhere, and while Bogdanovic’s value is well established ahead of EuroBasket, a strong showing could be useful to teams hoping to win the news conference as well as a trade.

— Pelton

9. Lauri Markkanen, Finland

Markkanen, coming off a strong season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, takes his game to an entirely different level when he puts on a Finland jersey. He scored 129 points in 158 minutes in five exhibition and qualifying games — all wins — to help Finland earn a berth in next summer’s World Cup.

Markkanen plays more as a stretch-5 than as a small forward like he does in Cleveland, which opens up his game significantly. In a wide-open group, Finland has hopes to advance to the quarterfinals of a FIBA event for the first time since 1967.

— Givony

10. Evan Fournier, France

Like Bogdanovic, Fournier heads to EuroBasket after dealing with trade rumors this summer. In Fournier’s case, he could head the opposite direction as part of a New York Knicks deal for Mitchell, though New York extending wing RJ Barrett complicates the possibility of a trade. After an underwhelming first season with the Knicks as part of a four-year, $73 million contract signed last summer, Fournier could help rebuild his value during EuroBasket.

— Pelton

11. Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania

No player in basketball has proven more committed to his national team than Valanciunas, who has represented Lithuania in a remarkable 16 FIBA events dating back to 2007, when he was 15 years old. Valanciunas continues to improve, posting career-high scoring and assist numbers for the New Orleans Pelicans while even incorporating a semi-reliable 3-point shot (hitting 35% of 2 attempts per game) to his arsenal.

He has been a rock inside the paint for Lithuania this summer, posting gaudy scoring and rebounding numbers (85 points and 55 rebounds in 136 minutes) on impressive efficiency. Lithuania hasn’t medaled in a FIBA event since 2015.

— Givony

12. Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia and Herzegovina

When we last saw Nurkic stateside, he was helping the Portland Trail Blazers win their final four games before the All-Star break after trading starters Robert Covington, CJ McCollum and Norman Powell. Nurkic averaged 21.5 points per game and 14.0 rebounds per game during that stretch but was shut down after the break because of plantar fasciitis. Nurkic has shown no ill effects in World Cup qualifying, posting 21 points and nine boards in a double-overtime win against France on Saturday.

— Pelton

13. Vasilije Micic, Serbia

Micic is currently the best non-NBA player in European basketball, a two-time EuroLeague champion and Final Four MVP who led the league in scoring this past season. He’s an NBA-caliber player who simply hasn’t been able to come to terms with the teams holding his rights — most recently the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are on a different timetable than the late-blooming 28-year-old.

With Micic’s NBA window rapidly closing, this tournament provides a platform against the world’s best players, something that has eluded him; Serbia did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics last summer. Injuries have hampered Micic through much of his career, and he might not be at 100% health at EuroBasket because of an ankle sprain he suffered last week.

— Givony

14. Dennis Schroder, Germany

Still unsigned as an NBA free agent, Schroder has seen his reputation take a hit since finishing second in Sixth Man Award voting in 2019-20 with the Thunder. Schroder has played for three teams in the past two seasons, finishing last season with the lottery-bound Houston Rockets.

A strong effort in EuroBasket could boost Schroder’s chances of finding a landing spot before training camp. He averaged 20.3 PPG in four World Cup qualifiers, albeit on just 34% shooting.

— Pelton

15. Alperen Sengun, Turkey

Sengun had a productive rookie season with Houston — and he is arguably the most skilled post player at this tournament besides Jokic — but has struggled to find chemistry with a star-studded Turkish roster. The team has lost four consecutive exhibition and FIBA qualifying games leading into EuroBasket, as defense has been a consistent issue, especially with Sengun anchoring the paint.

Despite its poor play in preparation games, Turkey will lean on three NBA players — Cedi Osman and Furkan Korkmaz the others — as it eyes a run to the quarterfinals, something the country has done just once in a FIBA tournament since 2009.

— Givony

16. Simone Fontecchio, Italy

After dealing Gobert, the Jazz made Fontecchio their only addition in free agency, signing the Italian guard to a two-year contract worth more than $6 million. Fontecchio was an effective role player in EuroLeague, most recently with Baskonia, but becomes more of a scorer with the Italian national team.

He averaged 19.3 PPG in last year’s Olympics and will need to carry more of the load with Danilo Gallinari sidelined by a meniscus injury suffered in World Cup qualifying.

— Pelton

17. Guerschon Yabusele, France

Selected 16th in the 2016 NBA draft, Yabusele underperformed for the Boston Celtics, playing just 547 minutes before being waived. He has since turned his career around, becoming arguably the best offensive player in the EuroLeague for Real Madrid: a 40% 3-point shooter who is also nearly unstoppable in the paint.

Yabusele has garnered significant NBA interest but elected to stay in Spain, but at 26 years old, he likely won’t stop getting offers considering how versatile he is offensively. A strong showing at EuroBasket could accelerate interest around the league, providing an excellent platform for him against NBA-level competition.

— Givony

18. Deni Avdija, Israel

A role player with the Washington Wizards, averaging 8.4 PPG off the bench last season, Avdija gets more of a chance to show his shot creation ability playing for Israel. He had 25 points in an exhibition last month against Auburn. Since returning from an illness that sidelined him for two World Cup qualifiers, Avdija hasn’t been as effective, totaling 21 points on 7-of-21 shooting in two games.

— Pelton

19. Cedi Osman, Turkey

Osman, 27, has been a consistent stalwart for Turkey from a very young age, as he’s participating in his 12th FIBA event since 2011. He’s coming off his best season in the NBA with the Cavs, scoring efficiently while providing energy and passing versatility. Osman is asked to shoulder a bigger role for Turkey than he does in the NBA, which has led to some impressive scoring exploits this summer. His ability to emerge as a two-way force will play a major role in Turkey’s success at this event.

— Givony

20. Goran Dragic, Slovenia

Dragic retired from international basketball after leading Slovenia to the 2017 EuroBasket title as MVP, but he has returned to the national team this summer to support Doncic. In four World Cup qualifiers, Dragic has averaged 16.8 PPG while making more than 60% of his 2s, far better than the 47% he shot inside the arc last season in the NBA.

— Pelton

21. Ivica Zubac, Croatia

Fresh off a three-year, $33 million extension with the LA Clippers, Zubac will play in his first major international FIBA event since the U-19 World Cup in 2015. In 2021-22, Zubac started 78 games and posted career highs in every major category, proving to be a consistent inside two-way presence for a Clippers team that has NBA title ambitions next season.

— Givony

22. Juancho Hernangomez, Spain

Hernangomez, who portrayed Bo Cruz in Netflix’s “Hustle,” has taken a back seat to brother Willy in the two World Cup qualifiers he has played thus far, averaging just 6.0 PPG. Hernangomez will hope to use a strong EuroBasket showing as a springboard to a breakthrough campaign after signing with the Toronto Raptors as a free agent this summer.

— Pelton

23. Shane Larkin, Turkey

Larkin, the No. 18 pick in the 2013 NBA draft, didn’t make enough shots to stick in the NBA through two separate stints but has turned himself into arguably the best American player in Europe over the past few seasons. He has won back-to-back EuroLeague titles while converting 41% of his 3-pointers on significant volume.

Turning 30 in October, and standing 5-foot-11, Larkin’s NBA window might have closed, but he’s still capable of playing a role on the right team as a prolific scoring backup. In the meantime, he has received a Turkish passport, allowing him to play in his first FIBA tournament.

— Givony

24. Jan Vesely, Czech Republic

It has been eight years since Vesely wrapped up an underwhelming, three-year career with the Wizards as a lottery pick. Back in Europe, Vesely has established himself as a strong contributor in the paint, winning EuroLeague MVP in 2019. EuroBasket allows us to check in on both Vesely and fellow former Wizard Tomas Satoransky, who signed with FC Barcelona this summer after six NBA seasons.

— Pelton

25. Tyler Dorsey, Greece

Dorsey, the No. 41 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, headed to Europe after two inefficient seasons in the NBA. He has evolved quite a bit since then, becoming one of the best scorers in the EuroLeague and improving as a playmaker and defender. Dorsey will play an essential role for Greece, relieving pressure from Antetokounmpo with his shot-making ability.

Dorsey surprised many by betting on himself in turning down huge financial offers in the EuroLeague to sign a two-way contract with the Mavericks but has looked like a potentially excellent complement for Doncic.

— Givony

Other players to watch:

The EuroBasket talent level doesn’t end at 25, as we excluded quite a few players who are either in the NBA or are NBA- caliber, such as Willy Hernangomez (Spain), Furkan Korkmaz (Turkey), Mike Tobey (Slovenia), Nick Calathes (Greece), Kostas Sloukas (Greece), Usman Garuba (Spain), Sasha Vezenkov (Bulgaria), Elie Okobo (France), Goga Bitadze (Georgia), Rokas Jokubaitis (Lithuania), Georgios Papagiannis (Greece), Sertac Sanli (Turkey), Sandro Mamukelashvili (Georgia) and Yam Madar (Israel).

NBA teams will be out in droves scouting this event.

— Givony

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