The NBA is ever expanding its base of international players, and those athletes have had quite an impact on this post-season. Each of the Conference Finalists in this year’s playoffs have a selection of international talent – but who has fared best?
We’ve selected one international player from each of this season’s finalists, and graded them by their individual performances to find the best the rest of the world has had to offer on the biggest stage.
Bismack Biyombo (Toronto)
Country: DR Congo
This season proved a coming out party of sorts for Biyombo, who’d been something of a mystery to NBA fans and analysts alike so far in his fledgling career. Whilst his offensive talents aren’t exactly the best, over the Raptors’ historic post-season push, it was his rebounding efforts which drew the most praise.
His most impressive occasion was his game three effort against Cleveland when, without Jonas Valanciunas, he went for 26 rebounds over 39 minutes. He only scored seven points in the game, but defensively he was a huge player for Toronto.
Given the question marks above his name in previous seasons, Biyombo endeared himself to plenty of fans during this off-season, earning him a solid B+.
Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland)
It’s been a strange year for the Aussie in Cleveland. After a surprise showing during last year’s playoffs, he’s been used more sparingly this year. Kyrie Irving’s continued improvement has somewhat hampered the affectionately known Delly from progressing for the Cavs – although he’s still contributed when Kyrie’s on the bench.
There’s still plenty of love in Cleveland for Dellavedova, whether it’s strong enough to keep him there in the future is another question – as he may seek a bigger role somewhere else.
His best game in the playoffs this year came in the game one drubbing of Toronto, where he had a +/- of 18 in a nine-point, three assist performance.
Steven Adams (Oklahoma)
Country: New Zealand
Has anyone had a more influential post-season for Oklahoma City? Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have both been phenomenal in beating the Spurs and pushing the Warriors in their series, but Adams has been superb also.
Plenty of NBA fans knew Adams was tough, but his abilities during this postseason have been nothing short of astonishing. He’s taken knocks, bumps and even kicks to his private areas and continued to play on both sides of the floor.
His best game so far came against the Warriors in game one of the Conference Finals, when the New Zealander went for 16 points and 12 rebounds over 37 minutes.
Festus Ezeli (Golden State)
It’s not been plain sailing for the Warriors in the post-season, Steph Curry’s injury problems have been making headlines, and despite a 73-9 record – they’ve been hit and miss following it. But their Nigerian backup center has been solid for them throughout.
He’s not been a huge player for them previously, but during the postseason, he’s proven to be a great role player. He’s been used on a limited basis, but when he has contributed he’s been strong for the defending champions.
His strongest game came against OKC in game two, with a 12 point, 100% field goal showing helping the Warriors by the Durant-led Thunder.