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The Rise And Fall Of International Draftees

There were 13 players from overseas selected in this year's draft, the most in six years. Time will tell if this marks the start of a trend, but the influx of international talent has largely been in decline for the last several years, at least when it comes to players drafted directly from overseas.

A record 12 players born outside the U.S. were drafted in the first round on Thursday, as USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt notes, but five of them went to college in the states before coming to the NBA. Anthony Bennett became the first Canadian to go No. 1 overall in the draft, and Andrew Wiggins seems the odds-on favorite to become the second next year, but Bennett was the seventh straight college player to be taken first overall. Andrea Bargnani was the last No. 1 pick to come directly from overseas, in 2006. Giannis Antetokounmpo was the first direct-from-overseas prospect to come off the board this year, at No. 15. The Nuggets took France's Evan Fournier with the 20th pick in 2012; the last time before then that 19 picks went by without a team taking someone directly from overseas was 1994, when Andrei Fetisov went at No. 36 to the Celtics. 

Twenty-one years ago this month, all 54 players selected in the 1992 draft had attended a U.S. college, high school or both. Sasha Danilovic, the 43rd pick, was born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but he went to high school in Cookeville, Tennessee. Every draft since has featured at least one player directly from overseas, as the table below chronicles. From 1993 to 2001, there was a gradual upturn in both the number of international players taken and the positions at which they were drafted. Then the Rockets took China's Yao Ming first overall in 2002, and a record 20 foreign players were drafted in 2003. The international boom continued through 2006, when the Raptors made the Bargnani pick. The flow of players from overseas has ebbed ever since. Last year's average draft position for internationals, 46.9, is the lowest on the chart.

A couple notes on the list: It doesn’t include Americans, like Brandon Jennings, who played overseas before they were drafted, and D-League entrants, like Chukwudiebere Maduabum, who comes from Nigeria but played in the D-League before he was drafted 56th overall in 2011.


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