Oct 12, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Minnesota Timberwolves forwardAndrew Wiggins
(22) looks on against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Timberwolves 112-107. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
2. Rookie of the Year: International Takeover
In 2014-15, the NBA was granted its first look at the next great wing: Andrew Wiggins. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft shined for the Minnesota Timberwolves, excelling as a scorer.
In turn, the Canadian-born Wiggins outlasted Philadelphia 76ers big man Nerlens Noel for Rookie of the Year.
This was a rare instance of a foreign-born player winning Rookie of the Year. It’s happened before—Patrick Ewing of Jamaica and Pau Gasol of Spain come to mind—but it’s still quite rare.
If Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis manages to win Rookie of the Year in 2015-16, it’d be the first time in NBA history that international players will have won the award in consecutive seasons.
Without much hyperbole whatsoever, that’d be the sign of an international takeover.
Should Porzingis take home the honors, it’d be the third time in five seasons that a foreign-born player won the award. Kyrie Irving in 2011-12 makes the third, having been born in Australia.
If that’s nitpicking, then all you need to do to see the international promise is check the NBA Draft.
In 2014, the Top 12 featured four foreign-born players. Wiggins of Canada, Joel Embiid of Cameroon and Dante Exum of Australia cracked the Top 5, while Nik Stauskas of Canada dropped in at No. 8 and Dario Saric of Croatia went at No. 12.
Back-to-back international Rookie of the Year award-winners could be a sign of an international rise to prominence. Porzingis is the best hope.
Next: A Little Patrick Ewing