After seeing the Phoenix Suns losing to Adelaide 36ers of the Australian League in the preseason it got me thinking. Who is the best non-NBA team in the world, and how would they do in the NBA? These upsets happen from time to time so it’s not a shock, even to see a team of All-Star level NBA players drop games in international or Olympic play. Previous preseasons have seen other NBA teams lose as well as top NBA teams get tested.
The most notable examples are a 2016 trip to Spain, the Thunder lost to Real Madrid in overtime and beat Barcelona by three points. The Spurs lost to Alba Berlin in 2014 on a buzzer-beater. Barcelona beat the Lakers and favorite son Pau Gasol in Spain in October 2010. In October 2010, Cleveland lost to CSKA Moscow, 90-87, just a few months after James moved to Miami. There was a young Boban Marjanovic on the visitors’ roster along with Trajan Langdon and Alexey Shved. After three years, CSKA Moscow defeated Minnesota 108-106 in overtime. Milos Teodosic led the winning team—which also played notable names Nenad Krstic, Sasha Kaun, and Jeremy Pargo—with 26 points. In 2015, Turkish club Fenerbahce beat Brooklyn, 101-96. Jan Vesely and Bogdan Bogdanovic led the way with 18 and 17 points, respectively, while Ekpe Udoh played 30 minutes as the starting center.
Let’s first take a look at how the Adelaide 36ers did it. Two words, Craig Randall and his 35 points. This is a player that was in the Gleague last year and averaged 11ppg, .459 true shooting, and a 9.8 PER. Not someone you would think was an NBA-level player. They also got 32 points from Robert Franks who was a big-time player at Washington State. 1st team All Pac 12 player who averaged 21ppg 7rpg, and at 6-9, 225 I think should be a serious NBA prospect the way he can shoot 3’s. He’s still only 25 years old. This game really should get him a few looks. It’s not a team that would challenge one of the best in the world.
Anadolu Efes wasn’t first in the Euroleague Standings but they have won back-to-back Euroleague championships including last season. They are powered by Shane Larkin and Vasilije Micic. Former NBA players Tibor Pleiss and Rodrigue Beaubois are also key players as well on last year’s team. All but Beaubois return this season, but they did at Ante Zizic. This is a team serious team that is in the conversation. Real Madrid is always the other obvious answer, although I don’t think they are as good currently. They still have Rudy Fernandez, but he’s 37 years old and not what he once was. Guerschon Yabusele, Vincent Poirier, and Walter Tavares are all their best players. They are also all big men which aren’t where I would want to be the strongest to try to compete with NBA teams. FC Barcelona is another option with Nikola Mirotic, Dante Exum, Nick Calathes, and Alex Abrines.
G-League champ the Rio Grand Vipers I think to deserve some mention but the clear answer has to be back-to-back Euroleague champs Anadolu Efes. FC Barcelona probably has the best player in Mirotic, and the most name recognition, but the champs are the champs. Shane Larkin is in his prime and he’s good at the position you need to be good to compete IMO. As far as where they would rank, I think they would finish better than the Rockets with their experience and likely the Thunder as well Holmgren is out. Those teams are on different missions than a champion with players 28 to 30. The Magic and Spurs I think would finish with a similar record for many of the same reasons. I do think Euroleague champ Anodolu Efes would be about 26-28th in the standings. So I think they’d finish around 27th in the NBA. It would be interesting to see what former Euro League MVP Vasilije Micić could do in the NBA. He has solid size at 6-5, 203 and averaged about 19ppg 5rpg, and 5apg on 60% true shooting and 20 PER.