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Top 10 NBA Best Asian Basketball Players All Time Rankings

Ranking the best Asian NBA players of All Time in honor of AAPI Heritage Month as Yao Ming leads the way. Also where Jeremy Lin, & more rank


By admin | May 7, 2024

AAPI Heritage Month

The overall game of basketball continues to expand and grow globally as countries continue to build strong programs as well as international leagues and teams to compete within the Summer Olympics. As these programs continue to produce high quality programs and talented basketball the level of competition continues to grow within the NBA with international players. This includes the play within the Asian countries that have produced some NBA players over the history of the game. One of those players from Asia is Yao Ming who ranks atop the Top 10 NBA Asian Basketball Players of All Time Rankings list.

Ming who was the first overall pick during the 2002 NBA Draft put together a strong career together with the Houston Rockets from 2002 through 2011. Over that course the former Rockets center was as dominant as any center in the NBA while earning eight selections to the NBA All-Star game.

After a strong healthy start to his career Ming battled injuries for the most of the final five seasons before retiring. Ming is joined on the list of the best Asian basketball players of all time by Jordan Clarkson, Jeremy Lin, Jalen Green, and Yi Jianlin.

Here is a look at the Top 10 NBA Asian Basketball Players of All Time Rankings:

Honorable Mention

Johnny Juzang

Team(s): Utah Jazz (Current)

Just missing the Top 10 NBA Asian Basketball Players of All Time Rankings is the next wave of young Asian basketball players to land among the NBA in Johnny Juzang.

Juzang, who is half Vietnamese, has found a home with the Utah Jazz after failing to be drafted during the 2022 NBA Draft.

In two seasons with the Jazz, Juzang has averaged 6.2 points per game to go along with 1.2 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game. Prior to landing in the NBA, Juzang finished his collegiate career with the UCLA Bruins posting 15.6 and 16.0 points per game over his final two seasons.

Jaylin Williams

Team(s): Oklahoma City Thunder (Current)

Another current NBA player who is making an impact on the game of basketball in Vietnam is Jaylin Williams who is currently playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Williams, who is Vietnamese American, became the first player of Vietnamese descent to play in the NBA.

After being selected by the Thunder with the team’s second round draft pick during the 2022 NBA draft, Williams has been a strong role player appearing in 118 games over the last two seasons while averaging 15.3 points per game. Over that stretch Williams has posted 4.8 points per game to go with four rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

Top 10 Asian NBA Players

10. Wang Zhizhi

Team(s): Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers & Miami Heat

Sliding in at number 10 on the Top 10 NBA Asian Basketball Players of All Time Rankings is the former Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Miami Heat player Wang Zhizhi.

Zhizhi who was a stellar player of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) picking up one CBA MVP Award while also helping his Bayi Rockets to six league championships, joined the NBA after being selected by the Dallas Mavericks during the second round of the 1999 NBA Draft.

Despite his controversial exit from China to play in the United States, Zhizhi played sparingly over the next five seasons in the NBA. Zhizhi would finish his NBA career averaging four points per game with his best season coming in 2001-2002 after finishing with a career high 5.6 points per game. Zhizhi would leave the NBA after the 2004-2005 season to return to the CBA.

9. Yuta Watanabe

Team(s): Memphis Grizzlies (Current), Toronto Raptors, Brooklyn Nets & Phoenix Suns

Hard work and a hard path led Yuta Watanabe to the NBA after leading his high school Kagawa to back-to-back trips to the Championship game of the All-Japan School Basketball tournament.

Watanabe would join St. Thomas More Prep School to complete his high school and land on scout and recruit’s doorsteps which landed him with the George Washington Colonials.

After a solid collegiate career, Watanabe would fail to be drafted during the 2018 NBA Draft, however that did not slow him down earning a two-way contract with the Memphis Grizzlies and would remain in the NBA from that point forward.

Over the past six seasons, Watanabe who is known for his defense has played in 213 games averaging 4.2 points per game to go along with 2.3 rebounds.

8. Omri Casspi

Team(s): Sacramento Kings, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Golden State Warriors & Memphis Grizzlies.

Another impactful Asian basketball player to make an impact after being drafted by the Sacramento Kings within the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft is Omri Casspi.

Casspi who would go on to play 12 seasons in the NBA and appear in 588 career games became the first Israeli player drafted in the NBA. Over 12 NBA seasons splitting time with seven different teams, Casspi would go on to average 7.9 points per game to go along with four rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

The longtime NBA veteran’s best season came during the 2015-2016 NBA season while finishing with a career high 11.8 points per game to go along with 5.9 rebounds.

7. Raymond Townsend

Team(s): Golden State Warriors & Indiana Pacers

Despite playing in just 154 career games over three seasons, Raymond Townsend is one notable name among Asian basketball history.

Townsend who was selected during the first round of the 1978 NBA draft became the first Filipino American player to play in the NBA while paving the path for future generations to make an impact on the game.

Over three seasons within the league, Townsend posted 4.8 points per game to go along with one rebound and 1.4 assists per game.

While his numbers do not match the numbers of many of the other great Asian basketball players who have played in the NBA his selection to open the door has historical impact.

6. Rui Hachimura

Team(s): Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers (Current)

One name moving up the board among the great Asian basketball players to have played within the NBA is Rui Hachimura.

Hachimura who was born in Toyama, Japan built a reputation as a big-time basketball player while leading his high school Meisei to three state All-Japan tournament titles leading him to join with Gonzaga.

After his college career, Hachimura was selected ninth overall by the Washington Wizards in the 2019 NBA Draft. Over five seasons between the Wizards and now the Los Angeles Lakers, Hachimura has averaged at least 11 points per game during each season. As his NBA career continues, Hachimura should continue to move up this list.

5. Yi Jianlian

Team(s): Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards & Dallas Mavericks

Rounding out the Top 5 on the Top 10 NBA Asian Basketball Players of All Time Rankings is the former sixth overall pick Yi Jianlin. Another talented Asian basketball player to play in the NBA was Jianlian who was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks sixth overall during the 2007 NBA Draft.

After a strong start playing in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) including posting 24.9 points per game and 11.5 rebounds, Jianlin elected to leave the CBA and enter the NBA Draft. Over the next five seasons Jianlin would spend time with five teams playing in at least 30 games per season.

His best overall season came during the 2009-10 NBA season finishing with 12 points per game to go along with 7.2 rebounds. When his NBA career was over the Chinese power forward finished playing in 272 career NBA games while averaging 7.9 points per game to go along with 4.9 rebounds.

4. Jalen Green

Team(s): Houston Rockets (Current)

A fresh young face landing among the best Asian basketball players is Jalen Green of the Houston Rockets who is Asian American with Filipino descent.

Green, who was selected number two overall during the 2021 NBA Draft, finished off his third season with the Rockets.

After averaging 17.3 points per game to go along with 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game as a rookie, Green has put together two additional solid seasons with the rebuilding Rockets.

Over 225 career games since arriving in the NBA, Green has averaged 19.8 points per game to go along with 4.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game while averaging 32.6 minutes per game.

3. Jeremy Lin

Team(s): Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks & Toronto Raptors

One of the biggest names within the Asian basketball community that made it to the NBA and made a name for himself was Jeremy Lin. Lin would sign as an undrafted free agent with the Golden State Warriors however his playing time was limited before landing with the New York Knicks for the 2011-112.

With strong play at the guard position while averaging 14.6 points per game and 6.2 assists per game, Linsanity was born.

Over the next six seasons minus one game during the 2017-18 NBA season, Lin would average double figure points per game. Overall, Lin finished his career averaging 11.6 points per game to go along with 2.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

2. Jordan Clarkson

Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers & Utah Jazz (Current)

Ranking just below the great Yao Ming on the list of Asian NBA players is Jordan Clarkson who just wrapped up his 12th NBA Season.

Clarkson, who is Filipino American, has built a powerful reputation around the league while putting together a long solid NBA career. Clarkson who has played for his Philippine national team at times while playing within the NBA.

Over 12 NBA season’s Clarkson has appeared in 716 games while averaging 16 points per game over that stretch including a career bets 20.8 points per game during the 2022-2023 NBA season with the Jazz. To go along with his scoring, Clarkson also has averaged 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists over his career.

1. Yao Ming

Team(s): Houston Rockets

In at number one on the Top 10 NBA Asian Basketball Players of All Time Rankings is the Basketball Hall of Famer Yao Ming.

Ming who spent his entire playing career with the Houston Rockets put together a strong career after being selected with the team’s first pick of the 2022 NBA Draft.

The Chinese basketball star would go on to play 486 career games over eight NBA seasons. Over that stretch the big man posted 19 points per game to go along with 9.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.9 blocked shots per game.

As a rookie Ming would be selected to his first of eight NBA All-Star teams while also being selected to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.

How would rank these Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander players of today? Rank below to be added in the Power Rankings

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