The top players from the EuroLeague crossed the Atlantic to play in the world's greatest and largest league during the 2023 NBA off-season. The Sacramento Kings signed 2021 EuroLeague MVP Vasilije Micic, while the Oklahoma City Thunder signed last season's MVP Sasha Vezenkov.
It's nothing new, this. The NBA virtually always steals the best players from the EuroLeague during the summer. The world's best players, with a few notable outliers like Dimitris Diamandtidis, Dejan Bodiroga, and Sergio Llull, eventually aspire to play in the top division. However, for every player who chooses to take the risk, a sizable portion of them swiftly backtracked.
Who are the top NBA players who were once on the EuroLeague, let's take a look at who our NBA Expert Picks has selected ahead of the upcoming new NBA season.
We tried our best to list the top 5 players in accordance with the current NBA rosters. Though rookies are an exception, keep in mind that these players are primarily being ranked based on their NBA performance. There may be disagreements. This offseason, we have already conducted extensive research on both Micic and Vezenkov, and we will be making educated estimates about how their skills will transfer to the newcomers.
There are many excellent NBA players who did not make the cut; that doesn't mean we don't think they are talented; rather, in our NBA Expert Picks we believe the five we selected are superior. While still good players, Goga Bitadze, Joe Ingles, Daniel Theis, Filip Petrusev, and others are not as good as the core we chose.
A few international transfers also did not participate in the EuroLeague. For example, Maxi Kleber never did, despite having played a few professional seasons in Europe prior to moving here. Young players like Nikola Jovic of the Miami Heat also frequently follow the habit of never participating in the EuroLeague. Additionally, the majority of players in this age group lack the talent necessary to rank in the top 5.
And lastly, P.J. Tucker deserves an honourable mention. The NBA champion and elderly defensive stopper, shaped like a bowling ball, was cut by the Toronto Raptors during his debut season and played five seasons abroad. In his last season, he participated in the EuroLeague with the German team Brose Bamberg. Here's the highlight reel of Tucker Isos if you've ever wanted to see one.
That being said, let's take a look at the five best former EuroLeague players who now ply their trade in the NBA:
5. Vasilije Micic a former Anadolu Efes Istanbul player now at Oklahoma City Thunder
Vasilije Micic, a 6-foot-5 basketball guru and brilliant pick-and-roll player, is finally making his way to the NBA at the age of 29. Late in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft, Sam Hinkie selected Micic. At the time, the Serbian guard was not a particularly well-known prospect, and he was not a well-known stash player either. Earlier this summer, we dug deep into Micic's career and his requirement for independence in order to thrive in the NBA.
For a significant portion of his early 20s, Micic was a bit part guard. He was a decent size, capable of running pick-and-rolls, and he made open shots. He was little more than a passable rotation player. When he signed with Anadolu Efes Istanbul in the summer of 2018, everything changed. Micic blossomed into one of the top players in the EuroLeague. In addition to being named the 2020–21 season's MVP, he assisted in leading Efes to consecutive championships in 2021 and 2022.
Not only did Micic leave Efes after the team did not advance to the EuroLeague playoffs the previous season, but head coach Ergin Ataman did as well. After the Sixers traded Al Horford's salary dump to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Micic signed with them. The Thunder had previously acquired his draft rights. Despite being a rookie, he possesses one of the highest levels of experience in the league.
4. Sasha Vezenkov a former Olympiacos player now at the Sacramento Kings
Georgi Glouchkov became the first Eastern European player to play in the NBA forty years ago. During the 1985–86 season, the Bulgarian forward was a member of the Phoenix Suns. Glouchkov is currently the President of the Bulgarian Basketball Federation, while Sasha Vezenkov, another forward from Bulgaria, is attempting to make a name for himself in the NBA.
The 28-year-old Vezenkov, who played for Greek team Olympiacos last season and won the 2022–23 EuroLeague MVP award, has signed with the Sacramento Kings. The Reds lost to Real Madrid in the final game after he guided them there. They were defeated by a buzzer-beater from Vasilije Micic in the semifinals of the previous season.
Vezenkov will be a wonderful fit for the Kings. He is among the finest off-ball scorers in the game, according to our extensive analysis of his play earlier this summer. He is a terrific cutter and screener, a knock-down spot-up shooter with a lightning-fast release, and he uses his touch expertly in the 8–17 foot area to continue having an impact on the game. Alongside Domantas Sabonis and De'Aaron Fox, he'll be fantastic, and he might even help the Kings advance to the second round and beyond the next season.
3. Bojan Bogdanovic a former Fenerbahce to the Brooklyn Nets, is now with the Detroit Pistons
Bojan Bogdanovic, a forward from Croatia, is about to begin his ninth NBA season. He inked a contract with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2014, leaving Fenerbahce and the EuroLeague behind. That was the end of a ten-year professional basketball career in Europe.
He is 6-foot-7 and has a prolific shooting history, which has allowed him to play in the NBA and frequently start for his teams. He has made approximately 3,500 attempts at beyond the arc and has a career 40% shooting percentage. With the Utah Jazz in 2019–20, he averaged over 20 points per game. The previous season, in 59 games, he averaged a career-high 21.58 points per game while playing for the Detroit Pistons.
Bogdanovic gives the Pistons' young core some much-needed floor spacing and is presently the team's highest-paid player. He will probably be glad to stay in Detroit with Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, and other players, but they may be willing to trade him for the appropriate offer.
There is only a $2 million guarantee on his $20 million deal for the 2024–25 season, so many teams may try to acquire his shooting around the trade deadline and then remove him before the next season.
2. Bogdan Bogdanovic, signed from Fenerbahce to the Sacramento Kings but now plays for the Atlanta Hawks
It was similarly difficult to rank them on this list because of how similar their names are. Bogdan is a lot like Bojan Bogdanovic overall. They were colleagues at Fenerbahce before any of them joined the NBA. They are both outstanding shooters. It happens often that they get confused with each other. They are similar players on the court, even if such qualities are mainly linked to basketball.
Because he did win a EuroLeague championship prior to moving here and because he is a better creative, Bogdan wins this match. Bogdan feels far more at ease with the ball than Bojan does, whether he's playing pick-and-roll for others or for himself in isolation. Although Bogdan's skill set is more in demand in the modern NBA, Bojan still has more to offer than just shooting. He is adept at attacking closeouts and making smart reads off of them. He can even play in the post to some extent.
Bogdan is legally free to be traded, as the Atlanta Hawks are looking to save salary or add a quality player to complement Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. It would be surprising if he remained in Atlanta at the end of the season given his skill set and contract, which could be moved in either of these trades for the Hawks. The Serbian guard should be pursued by a number of teams; we briefly discussed a few of them before.
1. Luka Doncic who was signed from Real Madrid now plays for the Dallas Mavericks
This was an obvious choice. Not only is the Slovenian wunderkind the greatest international prospect of all time, but he's also among the finest draft prospects ever, and by the end of his career, he may be remembered as the greatest international player in history.
At the age of 18, Doncic played his final professional season in Europe, helping Real Madrid win both the Liga ACB and the EuroLeague titles. In addition, he was named the Liga ACB MVP, EuroLeague Final Four MVP, EuroLeague MVP, and EuroLeague Rising Star award winner for the second consecutive season. He was unique back then, and it's likely unlikely that we will ever witness another 18-year-old dominate international basketball to that extent again.
In the summer of 2018, he was moved from the Atlanta Hawks, who had drafted him, to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Trae Young and a future first-round selection. Since his rookie season, he has been selected to the All-NBA first team each of his career.
He guided the Dallas Mavericks to the 2022 Western Conference Finals with former colleague Jalen Brunson, but Brunson's move to New York prevented him from making the playoffs the previous year. Doncic is focused on returning the Mavericks to their former glory, possibly with the help of a healthy Kyrie Irving and some wise off-season decisions.