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Ahead Of 2016 Olympics, Brazilians Plentiful In NBA

Only 13 players born in Brazil have ever played in an NBA regular season game. This season, barring training camp cuts, nine natives of Brazil are in line to see action.

The host nation for the 2016 Olympics has increasingly made its presence felt in professional basketball. Brazil’s initial forays into the NBA didn’t cause much of a ripple, as Rolando Ferreira, the first Brazilian to play in the league, made his way into only 12 career games, all of them for the Trail Blazers in 1988/89, even though he was the 26th overall pick in the 1988 draft. Joao Vianna, the next to follow Ferreira’s path from Brazil to the NBA in 1991/92, made just one appearance for the Mavericks. Oscar Schmidt made the Hall of Fame for his legendary overseas career, but he never played in the NBA.

The real breakthrough has come in the past decade. Leandro Barbosa, aka The Brazilian Blur, and Anderson Varejao have played key roles on contending teams off and on for the past decade. Nene overcame serious injuries to score a five-year, $65MM deal that he’s still playing on. Tiago Splitter started at center for the title-winning Spurs in 2013/14 before moving on to the Hawks in a trade this summer.

Still, the Brazilian NBB league lags far behind Europe in terms of notoriety. That’s one reason why it was such a shock when the Raptors drafted Brazilian native Bruno Caboclo, a forward for Pinheiros, with the 20th overall pick in 2014. Caboclo started only five games for Pinheiros the previous season, so his talent went under the radar to all but a few plugged-in NBA scouts and executives. Whether he was worth the gamble is still to be determined, since he made it into only eight games as an NBA rookie this past season, two more than fellow Raptors first-year player Lucas Nogueira, who also hails from Brazil.

Brazilian Raul Neto is in line for more frequent action in his first season with the Jazz this year, particularly if the team doesn’t bring in another point guard to replace the injured Dante Exum. The draft-and-stash signee is one of three new Brazilians poised to enter the NBA, along with Marcelo Huertas of the Lakers and Cristiano Felicio of the Bulls. Felicio is the only one of the three who played professionally in Brazil last season. Neto and Huertas come from Spain, the country that funneled more players through its professional ranks to the NBA than any other this offseason.

Another Brazilian has a chance to make his NBA debut this year. Center Rafael Hettsheimeir reportedly worked out for the Spurs late last month. Others stand poised to enter the league in the near future. George Lucas, aka George de Paula, declared for the draft and had predraft workouts with a handful of NBA teams before withdrawing his name, and he’s No. 40 in Jonathan Givony’s DraftExpress 2016 mock. Three other Brazilians also entered the draft before withdrawing.

A decent chance exists that Brazil will boast a double-digit number of players on NBA rosters when the Olympic games begin in Rio in 2016. Many will no doubt will be playing for the Brazilian national team, an automatic qualifier for the Olympic basketball tournament. Time will tell if the influx of Brazilians to the NBA is a temporary phenomenon or the beginnings of a lasting pipeline of talent. For now, the NBA dances with increasing frequency to a samba beat.

List of Brazilian natives currently on NBA contracts: 

Who do you think is the greatest Brazilian player of all time? Leave a comment to let us know.

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17 thoughts on “Ahead Of 2016 Olympics, Brazilians Plentiful In NBA

  1. Kyle

    Nene will be the Greatest Brazillian NBA player of all time. Simple as that

  2. Tate

    Lebron James

  3. Tygy

    Anderson Verejào

  4. It’s between Anderson Verejào and Leandro Barbosa, bc Andy will win multiple titles with the Cavaliers when it’s all said and done

    • Felipe

      Not even close from a Brazilian it was Oscar Schmidt and Wlamir Marques who was world champion with Brazilian team twice

  5. Néné is beast but Anderson Varejão too much cause he’s on a contending team.

  6. Oscar Schmidt is for Brazil what Michael Jordan is for the US. But in Brazil there is no debate who is the GOAT. He stands and will stand on the top of the mountain alone for a very long time.

    • Arthur Hill

      Oscar is the right answer. Younger fans may not know about him because he never played in the NBA, but he was an Olympic legend.

  7. Dave

    Gotta be Oscar Schmidt IMO. I remember the hype on him when he played against the Dream Team. He’s by far the biggest name in Brazilian basketball and I’m sure everyone on the above list would agree.

  8. Captain Obvious

    Bruno Caboclo is a small forward not a centre.

    • Chuck Myron

      He’s variously listed as a small forward and power forward, but you’re right — not a center. Fixed that. Thank you!

  9. Felipe

    This not even discussed here in Brazil for sure Oscar Schmidt is the Best Brazilian player of all time

  10. Oscar Schmidt ,the great,the best.

  11. Fabio

    Oscar, the greatest fake off all. He owns Galvão Bueno this one…

  12. Nate

    IMO, it has to be NeNe, the others can’t carry a team on their own, where NeNe in his prime could.

  13. Corey

    Nene is the best that played in nba

  14. Dinero

    Barbosa. . . He’s like the Brazilian Allen Iverson

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