The league’s ever-growing international footprint was put on full display in 2021-22:
The historically-close three-man Kia MVP race between Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid has been the season’s most intriguing storyline.
At least six international players could be named to an All-NBA team for the second consecutive year.
Additionally, this season, Embiid became the only international player to win the scoring title in league history.
With the regular season now in the rearview mirror, it’s time to recognize the international players who shined brightest throughout 2021-22. This is the second installment of our unofficial All-International team selections, following the first edition which was revealed shortly after the All-Star break.
With that, here’s the final Around the Globe report of the 2021-22 season:
All-International 1st team:
G: Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks (Slovenia)
Season stats: 28.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 8.7 apg
G: RJ Barrett, New York Knicks (Canada)
Season stats: 20.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.0 apg
F: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (Greece)
Season stats: 29.9 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 5.8 apg
F: Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (Cameroon)
Season stats: 30.6 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 4.2 apg
C: Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (Serbia)
Season stats: 27.1 ppg, 13.8 rpg, 7.9 apg
Doncic just delivered arguably the best season of his young career, but his recent leg injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. The two-time All-Star strained his left calf during the Mavericks’ regular season finale against San Antonio and may miss Game 1 against Utah on Saturday. Doncic led the 52-win Mavs to the No. 4 seed, which means they will have home-court advantage in the postseason for the first time since their championship campaign in 2011. The Mavs’ title run was also the last time they advanced past the first round, and if they want to change that this year, they will certainly need the services of their 23-year-old superstar.
Barrett’s increased confidence in the lead role of the course of the season should served as a silver lining for Knicks fans who had hoped their squad would build on their inspiring 2020-21 campaign. The 21-year-old swingman led New York to a 7-3 finish. The Knicks could’ve possibly been eying the East Play-In Tournament had that run come a few weeks sooner, but there’s always next year, which Knicks fans should be hopeful about with Barrett’s play continuing to trend upward.
There isn’t much to say about the three remaining 1st team members that hasn’t already been said. For much of the season, Antetokounmpo, Embiid and Jokic have been the three leading candidates for what could very well be the most tightly-contested Kia MVP race ever, and each of them have a legitimate case:
Jokic managed to keep an undermanned Nuggets team above the Play-In line – mainly by posting triple-doubles at a high clip.
Antetokounmpo paced the Bucks’ offense and defense all season and posted a higher points per game average than he did in either of his two previous MVP campaigns.
Last but not least, Embiid became the first center to lead the league in scoring since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 and the first center to average over 30 points per game since Moses Malone in 1982.
All-International 2nd team:
G: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder (Canada)
Season stats: 24.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.9 apg
G: Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies (Canada)
Season stats: 18.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.8 apg
F: Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors (Cameroon)
Season stats: 22.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 5.3 apg
F: Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors (Canada)
Season stats: 17.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.2 apg
C: Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz (France)
Season stats: 15.6 ppg, 14.7 rpg, 2.7 bpg
In almost any other year, Siakam’s play – particularly during the second half of the season – would have been good enough to earn him 1st team honors on this report, and it still might be good enough to earn him a spot on one of the All – NBA teams. Siakam catapulted the Raptors out of the Play-In field and up to the fifth seed, and led them to a 14-6 record over the final 20 games. A couple of Siakam’s notable performances during that stretch include a 40-point barrage in an overtime win against the Celtics, and a 37-point triple-double against Joel Embiid’s 76ers – Toronto’s first round opponent.
Wiggins’ strong start to the season earned him his first All-Star nod, and while the backend of his campaign wasn’t as stellar, his overall contributions to a 53-win Warriors team shouldn’t go unrewarded. In a season where Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green each missed extended periods of time with injuries, Wiggins served as Golden State’s iron man, playing in 73 games and serving as a reliable defender and versatile scorer.
All-International 3rd team:
G: Luguentz Dort, Oklahoma City Thunder (Canada)
Season stats: 17.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.7 apg
G: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Atlanta Hawks (Serbia)
Season stats: 15.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.1 apg
F: Kristaps Porzingis, Washington Wizards (Latvia)
Season stats: 20.2 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.3 apg
F: Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns (Bahamas)
Season stats: 17.2 ppg, 10.2 rpg, 1.4 apg
F: Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans (Lithuania)
Season stats: 17.8 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 2.6 apg
Porzingis has yet to share the court with three-time All-Star Bradley Beal – who underwent season-ending wrist surgery back in February – but the trade from Dallas to Washington seems to still have benefited “The Unicorn.” Porzingis posted his highest points per game average since 2017, mainly due to his increased role by him as the lead option with the Wizards.
Devin Booker and Chris Paul deservedly receive the lion’s share of the credit for the Suns’ success, but Phoenix doesn’t attain the league’s best record without Ayton’s interior presence. The Suns can run and gun with the best of them, but Ayton gives them a dependable scoring option in the paint to combat tight perimeter defenses in the playoffs.
Must-See Plays Of 2021-22
Giannis ties it up for the @Bucks!
We’re going to OVERTIME on TNT pic.twitter.com/iUaoas5rKL
– NBA (@NBA) April 1, 2022
Andrew Wiggins caps his 22-point, 9-9 shooting first half in style! 😱
Watch on League Pass: https://t.co/5QqkBhf1W0 pic.twitter.com/YuYm6BB1zN
– NBA (@NBA) November 11, 2021
– NBA (@NBA) December 30, 2021
– NBA (@NBA) January 7, 2022
Juan Toscano-Anderson ELEVATES for the ridiculous slam on ESPN! pic.twitter.com/ds2K4Vbb0M
– NBA (@NBA) December 4, 2021