By the end of the 1999-2000 season, it became quite clear that Dirk Nowitzki was going to be a good, if not great, NBA player. Only 21, Nowitzki averaged 17.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists for the Mavericks, all while shooting 46.1 percent from the floor, 37.9 percent from three-point range and 83.0 percent from the foul line.
But until Pau Gasol, NBA teams didn’t truly appreciate the basketball gold mine that existed in Europe. In 2001-02, Gasol, then 21, averaged 17.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.1 blocks per game.
Eventually, NBA teams realized that Nowitzki and Gasol weren’t twice-in-a-generation European standouts. Rather, they were simply the cream of a very plentiful crop.
“That’s what I think,” Hornets’ Director of Global Scouting Adam Filippi said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “At that time, I witnessed how teams changed their approach. Very few teams employed a full-time scout in Europe, and after the Pau thing – and (Andrei) Kirilenko, too, to some degree – (it changed).”
Nowitzki became a 13-time All-Star, an MVP, a Finals MVP and an NBA champion. He currently ranks sixth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 29,491 points. Gasol, meanwhile, is a six-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion. He helped Kobe Bryant and the Lakers to back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.
“After those two guys (Nowitzki and Gasol), I really think that teams really started to focus their efforts on the international market,” Filippi said. “At the same time, even looking at Asia, Africa, South America. Let’s not forget about all the players that come from all over the world.”