The NBA Season with the Fewest Spaniards in 18 Years
By Nacho Duque
Updated: November 6, 2023 – 15:58 CET
The current NBA season has seen a decline in the number of Spanish players participating, with only three Spaniards currently active. Santi Aldama made a promising debut with the Grizzlies, while Usman Garuba is yet to make his debut with the Warriors. Ricky Rubio, on the other hand, is struggling with mental health issues and remains inactive for the Cavaliers. However, there is hope for a brighter future with a new wave of Spanish talent expected to enter the league soon.
According to draft forecasts, the next edition of the NBA draft could feature four Spaniards: Izan Almansa, Aday María, Baba Miller, and Juan Nez. This would be a historic moment for Spanish basketball, as the previous record was three Spaniards selected in a single draft. Ricky Rubio, Víctor Claver, and Sergio Llull achieved this feat in 2009. The four young prospects mentioned earlier are expected to be among the top 24 picks.
Jonathan Givony, a renowned ESPN analyst specializing in young talents, has prepared a list predicting the draft order. According to his forecast, Almansa is projected to be the ninth pick, María the twelfth, Miller the nineteenth, and Nez the twenty-fourth. If these predictions come true, it would be a significant milestone for Spanish basketball.
Izan Almansa: The MVP Hoarder
All four prospects are highly regarded in the United States. Almansa, an 18-year-old forward standing at 2.08 meters, has gained recognition for his impressive collection of MVP awards. He won the U17 World Cup and was instrumental in Spain’s success in the U19 World Cup and U18 Eurobasket. His physical abilities make him a top prospect, with few forecasts placing him outside the top 14 picks.
Aday María: Following in the Footsteps of UCLA Legends
Aday María is set to make his debut with the historic UCLA. The 18-year-old center, standing at 2.21 meters, is already attracting attention in the NCAA. Despite not having played a game yet, he is among the top 20 candidates for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar award, which recognizes the best center in the competition. María impressed NBA scouts with his game vision, passing ability, and mobility for his height during the U17 World Cup held in Malaga.
María left Casademont Zaragoza to pursue his dream in Los Angeles, following in the footsteps of legends like Jabbar, Bill Walton, and Kevin Love. This move will provide him with more visibility and bring him closer to his goal of playing in the NBA.
Baba Miller: An Elite Defender
Baba Miller is entering his second season in the NCAA, and this will be his first complete season. The 19-year-old, 7-foot-1 forward will play for Florida State. In the previous year, he faced a 16-game suspension for accepting payment for a flight. Now, as a U19 world champion and fully integrated into the team, he is expected to make a significant impact. Miller possesses exceptional defensive skills and can match up against any opponent despite his height, thanks to his mobility and size. He also has offensive capabilities and excels in rebounding.
Juan Nez: Making Waves in Germany
Juan Nez, another product of Real Madrid’s youth academy like Almansa and Miller, is making a name for himself in the German Easy Credit BBL. At 19 years old and standing at 1.92 meters, Nez is currently the eighth most valued player (20.0), second in steals (3.0), seventh in assists (5.8), and averaging 14.4 points per game. His impressive performances in international competitions, combined with his fast and creative style of play, have caught the attention of NBA scouts. In his second season in Germany, he has become a key player for Ratiopharm Ulm, the current league champion and one of the top teams in the Eurocup.