They are 9 French basketball players to take part in the kickoff of the 2022-23 NBA season. Some are aiming for the title. Others are looking for a rebound.
It is on the night of Tuesday October 18 to Wednesday October 19 that the United States will retest the orange ball, and this every day or almost for 8 months. At the dawn of a new NBA season, they are 9 French to be under contract with a franchise. But they do not all have the same status, nor the same ambition.
They are expected
Nicolas Batum (LA Clippers / winger), 33, 15th season:
Nicolas Batum chose to skip the Eurobasket last summer, to better prepare for the upcoming NBA season. Because this season with the Clippers marks the expected returns of Kawhi Leonard, recovered from his rupture of a cruciate ligament, and Paul George, also weighed down by multiple injuries. Without them, the Clippers had failed in the qualifying playoffs for the playoffs. With them, they are among the favorites for the title. “We will play to go to the end. This may be my only chance (…) to be able to do this“, justified Batum, who played between 24 and 25 minutes / game last season, bringing his versatility in attack and defense.
Rudy Gobert (Minnesota / pivot), 30 years old, 10th season:
After nine years in Utah, where title ambitions have never been tu, “Gobzilla” was transferred to the Timberwolves, in exchange for five players plus four first round picks. In Minneapolis, the triple best NBA defender will have to strengthen in this sector a talented young team, which returned to the playoffs last season after 4 years of absence. He will form, with Karl-Anthony Towns, the most scrutinized interior duo on the basketball planet. The Timberwolves are positioned as outsiders in the title race, they who have never reached the final since their creation in 1989.
Evan Fournier (New York / back), 29, 11th season:
If he responded individually for his first year with the Knicks, breaking the franchise record for the number of 3-point baskets scored in a single season, Fournier admitted to having “struggled to really find (his) rolein the team, a disappointing 11th in the East. Coach Tom Thibodeau will continue to rely on the Euro runner-up, appreciating his ability to “read the game very well“. “Vavane”, he promised to work twice as hard in defense. He is expected as one of the engines of the Knicks, who however cannot even dream of the title, except for a huge surprise.
They are still looking for each other
Frank Ntilikina (Dallas / leader), 24 years old, 6th season:
Last season, his coach Jason Kidd used him for what he does best: defend. A role he will keep. With the departure of Jalen Brunson in New York, he will be able to claim more minutes, if he progresses in attack in the shadow of the Slovenian genius Luka Doncic. He was content with 11.8 minutes / game in the regular season, and 10.4 minutes / game in the playoffs, where Dallas reached the Western Conference final. With Doncic, the Mavericks are, like Minnesota, an outsider not to be ignored.
Killian Hayes (Detroit / leader), 21 years old, 3rd season:
After a second season still below expectations, the highest drafted Frenchman in history (7th position) will have all the more pressure on his shoulders as the Pistons have again drafted a player in his position, Jaden Ivey. Coming off the bench, he will have to prove that he has the level to stay in the big leagues, within a team still promised to the bottom of the rankings. He was shooting 6.9 pts and 4.2 assists playing 25 minutes per game last season.
Théo Maledon (Charlotte / leader), 21 years old, 3rd season:
Dropped by Oklahoma City, not kept by Houston, the Frenchman hopes to bounce back with the Charlotte Hornets. He signed a “two-way” contract there, which means that he will play more with the reserve team in the G-League, the antechamber of the NBA, but will also be able to play matches in the big championship. Especially since the holder and All-Star at his post, LaMelo Ball, has just been injured. Charlotte had a difficult summer and would already be satisfied to find the playoffs.
They make their debut
Ousmane Dieng (Oklahoma City / winger), 19, 1st season:
Drafted in 11th position by the Thunder, the rookie comes out of a year with the New Zealand club Breakers. A first experience with the pros which could prove invaluable to stand out in the rotation of OKC, which has no ambition except to advance its young players.
Moussa Diabaté (LA Clippers / winger), 20 years old, 1st season:
Drafted in the 2nd round (43rd position), the rookie will wear the jersey of the Ontario Clippers, G-League reserve team, more than that of Los Angeles, just to learn. But he was able to make an impression in pre-season, with a stratospheric dunk against Denver.
Olivier Sarr (Portland / pivot), 23 years old, 2nd season:
He’s not a rookie, but almost. Olivier Sarr had the right to 22 NBA games with Oklahoma City last season, for 7 pts and 4.2 rebounds on average in 19 minutes / game. After a convincing training camp last month, the Trail Blazers have decided to include him in their workforce, again on a “two-way” contract. He will, like Dieng and Diabaté, go back and forth between the NBA and the G-League. Portland and its star point guard, Damian Lillard, aspire to a return to the playoffs.
They are without a club
Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot (winger), 27, 7th season:
After a season in half-tent in Atlanta, “TLC” had signed a contract with the Phoenix Suns without guarantee of being kept. His efforts to perpetuate his presence in a training candidate for the title did not pay off. The Suns announced on Saturday that the winger was not selected. For now, Luwawu-Cabarrot, vice-champion of Europe with the Blues this summer, has no team.
Killian Tillie (pivot), 24, 3rd season:
The French participated in the excellent season of the Memphis Grizzlies (36 matches, 12.8 minutes, 3.3 pts and 1.7 rebounds on average) until the semi-finals of the Western Conference. But he did not pull out of the game enough: the 24-year-old interior was cut on Saturday evening, like Luwawu-Cabarrot. He has been in the United States since 2016, having spent four years at Gonzaga University before the 2020 draft, where he was … not chosen. Bounce back, he knows how to do.