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Top 10 NBA Asian Basketball Players All Time Rankings


By admin | May 28, 2023

AAPI Heritage Month

The one sport that continues to grow internationally as well as within the United States is the game of basketball. From top tier NBA players such as Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James marketing the game in Asian NBA markets, to NBA teams making trips over to market themselves, the basketball landscape continues to grow and develop in Asian countries. 

The growth of basketball internationally has delivered the NBA a long list of Hall of Fame caliber basketball players. This includes one of the greatest centers of All Time Yao Ming who headlines the Top 10 NBA Asian Players All-Time Rankings list. 

Ming who was drafted with the first overall pick by the Houston Rockets during the 2002 NBA Draft spent from 2002 to 2011 as one of the best players in the NBA.

While Ming is most notably the most famous and talented Asian NBA player to play All-Time, there are a few other notable names to mention among the Top 10 Asian basketball players list. 

These notable players include Jeremy Lin who spent time with the New York Knicks, current NBA player Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz, and Yia Jianlian who bounced around between four NBA teams. Here is a look at the Top 10 Asian NBA Players All Time Rankings list

Honorable Mention

Wang Zhizhi

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

Landing just outside of the Top 10 Asian NBA Players All-Time Rankings list is the former Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Miami Heat center Wang Zhizhi.

Zhizhi who put together a strong career in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) including winning one CBA MVP award was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks during the 1999 NBA Draft. 

Zhizhi would go on to play 137 games from the 2000-2001 NBA season to the 2004-05 NBA season. In 2001-02 averaged 5.6 points per game to go along with two rebounds over 55 games. Zhizhi would finish with a career 4.4 points per game average to go along with 1.7 rebounds. 

Mengke Bateer

Team(s): Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs & Toronto Raptors

While he never lived up to his true potential in the NBA, Mengke Bateer is one of the top Asian basketball players to play in the NBA. After spending time with the Nuggets during training camp, the team signed Bateer during the 2002 NBA schedule making him the second Chinese player to play in the NBA.

Bateer would appear in 46 games over the next three seasons with the Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, and Toronto Raptors averaging 3.4 points per game to go along with 2.5 rebounds.

Notable, Bateer would return to the Chinese Basketball Association where he would win four MVP awards and two CBA All-Star Game MVP awards.

Top 10 Asian NBA Players

10. Jaylin Williams

Team(s): Oklahoma City Thunder

Coming in at number 10 on the Top 10 Asian NBA Players All-Time Rankings list is the Oklahoma City Thunder power forward and center Jaylin Williams.

Williams, who was drafted during the second round of the 2022 NBA Draft took big strides during his rookie season after putting together a solid college career with the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Williams finished his rookie season averaging 5.9 points per game to go along with 4.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. The young big man of the Thunder has the potential to grow while helping him move up among the best Asian basketball players to play in the NBA.

9. Yuta Watanabe

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

The former George Washington University small forward and first Japanese player has bounced back and forth between the NBA and the NBA G-League after failing to be drafted during the 2018 NBA Draft including spending time with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer league and landing a two-way contract with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Watanabe posted a career high 58 games played this season to go along with 16 minutes per game while averaging 5.6 points per game and 2.4 rebounds.

Since arriving in the NBA Watanabe has averaged 4.3 points per game to go along with 2.5 rebounds in 179 career NBA games.

8. Raymond Townsend

Team(s): Golden State Warriors & Indiana Pacers

After a stellar high school career landed him with the UCLA Bruins, Raymond Townsend played a key role in the Bruins 1975 NCAA Championship.

His play landed him with the Golden State Warriors becoming the first Filipino NBA player with the 22nd overall pick during the 1978 NBA Season. Townsend would spend parts of two seasons with the Warriors before finding himself out of the league before joining the Indiana Pacers during the 1981-1982 NBA season. 

Townsend would appear in 154 career NBA games over parts of three seasons while averaging 4.8 points per game to go along with one rebound and 1.4 assists per game.

7. Rex Walters

Team(s): New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers & Miami Heat

The former 16th overall pick of the 1993 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets went on to put together a solid NBA career while mostly playing as a reserve.

Rex Walters would play from the 1993-1994 NBA season through the 1999-2000 NBA season spending time with the New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Miami Heat.

Over that stretch, Walters posted his best stretch during the 1996-1997 NBA season averaging a career high 6.8 points per game to go along with 1.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.

Walters would finish his career averaging 4.6 points per game to go along with 1.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists over 139 career NBA games.

6. Omri Casspi

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

After making a name for himself playing overseas, Omri Casspi was selected by the Sacramento Kings with the 23rd overall pick during the 2009 NBA Draft.

Casspi would go on to play 11 seasons in the NBA bouncing around from Kings to other teams including the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Golden State Warriors, and Memphis Grizzlies.

Over those 11 NBA seasons, Casspi would rack up 588 career games played in the NBA while averaging 7.9 points per game to go along with four rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.

5. Rui Hachimura

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

Rounding out the Top 10 Asian NBA Players All-Time Rankings list is the current Los Angeles Lakers power forward Rui Hachimura.

Hachimura who was drafted by the Washington Wizards in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft has been a solid role player on both the Wizards as well as the Lakers team.

Just 24 years old, Hachimura has time to grow and climb the ranks among the best Asians to play in the NBA. In 210 career games, Hachimura has averaged 12.5 points per game to go along with five rebounds and 1.3 assists per contests.

4. Yi Jianlian

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

One of the best players the Chinese Basketball Association has produced over the past 10-20 years, Yi Jianlin put together a short career in the NBA before returning to the CBA to continue his career.

Jianlin who spent time with the Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards, and Dallas Mavericks between 2007-2008 NBA season and the 2011-12 NBA schedule averaged 12 points per game over 52 games for the Nets in 2009-10 while also adding 7.2 rebounds per game. 

However, his production never returned to that status over the next two seasons. Jianlian would finish his NBA career averaging 7.9 pointers per game and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Over his CBA career Jianlian has won 5 CBA Domestic MVP awards, six CBA Championships, and was named to 12 CBA All-Star teams.

3. Jeremy Lin

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

A former fan favorite while playing one season with the New York Knicks, Jeremy Lin ranks among the most popular Asian NBA players of All-Time as well as the best to play in the NBA. 

Lin would go on to average 11.6 points per game while adding 2.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game over 480 career NBA games.

After landing with the Knicks during the 2011-12 NBA Season, Lin would put together his best season of his career averaging 14.6 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists, and 3.1 rebounds over 35 games.

His performance landed him a four-year deal with the Houston Rockets.  Lin would bounce around before electing to return to the CBA and now the P. League+.

2. Jordan Clarkson

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

Another current NBA player ranking among the best Asian NBA players list is Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson, who is 30 years old, is coming off another strong NBA season while handling the majority of the ball for the Utah Jazz during the 2022-23 NBA Season.

The former Missouri Tigers guard, who was drafted during the 2014 NBA Draft has averaged 15.9 points per game over his NBA career to go along with 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists.

The current Jazz guard is coming his first season of his career averaging at least 20 points per game (20.8) while also adding four rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.

1. Yao Ming

Team(s): Houston Rockets

In at number one on the Top 10 Asian NBA Players All-Time Rankings list is the Houston Rockets Hall of Fame center Yao Ming. Ming was an easy choice to slot in at number one after putting together a stellar NBA career that was cut short due to injuries.

After being drafted with the 1st overall pick during the 2002 NBA Draft, Ming would build a strong resume while being a key member of the Rockets organization.

Over his career, Ming would average 19 points per game to go along with 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game. During his time in the NBA, Ming was named to six NBA All-Star teams and two All-NBA Second Teams. His play on the court earned his selection to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

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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