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Seven NBA stars to watch in EuroBasket in September

Serbia v Greece - FIBA World Cup 2023 Qualifiers

BELGRADE, SERBIA - AUGUST 25: Nikola Jokic (R) of Serbia in action against Giannis Antetokounmpo (L) of Greece during the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Qualifier game between Serbia and Greece at Stark Arena on August 25, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)

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The best collection of NBA players in the world will shift this week from the Rico Hines runs at UCLA to Europe — more than 30 NBA players are expected to take part in EuroBasket, the European championships, which tip off on Sept. 1.

That group includes the winners of the last three NBA MVP awards and the favorite for next year. All the top teams in the tournament — Slovenia, Serbia and France are the early medal favorites — have high-level NBA talent leading the way. You can find a full schedule of matchups by following this link, and you can watch the games on FIBA’s streaming service Courtside 1891 (ESPN+ also will have the games).

Here are seven NBA stars to watch in EuroBasket.

1) Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece)

The best player in the world has overwhelmed European defenders in recent months the way he has dominated NBA defenders for years. Nobody on the continent — nobody on the globe — can stop him and he will put up monster numbers as the focal point of an athletic Greek attack.

The Greek team is a family affair with three other Antetokounmpo brothers — Thanasis, Kostas and Alex — playing as well. Greece also has current Dallas Maverick Tyler Dorsey and former NBA player Nick Calathes, but it is not as deep with talent as the top teams in Europe. Greece will go as far as Giannis Antetokounmpo can carry them.

2) Nikola Jokic (Serbia)

Nikola Jokic may be the two-time NBA MVP, but his skill set was made for European basketball. His passing makes everyone on one of the deeper rosters in the tournament a threat to score, but when his team needs a bucket Jokic is one of the best clutch scorers in the game. Against Greece, he hit this ridiculous 3-pointer with Antetokounmpo in his face.

Serbia may not have the depth it needs to win it all — Bogdan Bogdanovic is out due to injury (he led Serbia in scoring the last two big international tournaments), while both Vasilije Micic and Nemanja Bjelica are questionable. In a surprise move, the Serbian coach cut former NBA player Milos Teodosic, a veteran point guard. Still, Serbia will be in the title mix and Jokic will be the reason.

3) Luka Doncic (Slovenia)

The last time Luka Doncic wore a Slovenian jersey, he carried his country to a top-four finish at the Tokyo Olympics. Much as he is in Dallas, Doncic is the focal point of everything for Slovenia, but he has the shoulders to carry the burden — Slovenia beat Serbia, Turkey, and Croatia in games recently, during the run-up to EuroBasket. Chicago Bull Goran Dragic, the Slovenian legend, will return and play a vital role for the team, but Doncic has to carry the load for this contender.

4) Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania)

The Kings are counting on Sabonis to lift them to the playoffs this season (for the first time since 2006), but first Lithuania is depending on Sabonis to lift his nation into medal contention. Lithuania’s chances hinge on the frontcourt play of Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas — a duo that will be a brutally tough matchup.

5) Rudy Gobert (France)

France is one of the medal favorites in EuroBasket 2022 — they finished third at the last World Cup (eliminating the USA) and won the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Much as he did in Utah (and probably will in Minnesota), Gobert does not put up the eye-popping scoring numbers of Doncic or Antetokounmpo, but he has an elite impact as the best rim protector and defensive anchor on the planet. Gobert will get some buckets, but the scoring will fall to a deep French squad led by Evan Fournier.

6) Bojan Bogdanovic (Croatia)

Bojan Bogdanovic is a quality NBA role player, but his game is a perfect fit for European basketball with his ability to shoot the three, pass, and drive the lane when needed. Croatia has a lot of talent on the roster — Dario Saric (who has looked good after missing last NBA season due to injury), Ivica Zubac, Jaleen Smith, Mario Hezonja — but has never played up to that level. If things are going to change and Croatia is going to medal, it will start with Bogdanovic.

7) Lauri Markkanen (Finland)

The versatile Bulls big — or does he play the three... whatever — will be asked to carry the load for a Finland squad whose goal is to make it to the knockout round. Like some of the other bigs on this list, Markkanen’s game is suited for international play as he is more of a threat on the perimeter than inside, but he can get buckets and do some playmaking at this level. Finland also has University of Tennessee standout Olivier Nkamhoua on the roster.