It has been too long since Croatians could be excited about NBA basketball. It was only a few years ago that Australian-born Croatian Andrew Bogut was the only player in the NBA with Croatian blood.
Today, six players grace the NBA with their talent: Dario Šarić (76ers), Bojan Bogdanović (Pacers), Ante Žižić (Cavs), Mario Hezonja (Magic), Dragan Bender (Suns) and Ivica Zubac (Lakers). With the exception of Bogdanović at 28 years old, the rest of the list comes in at 24 years or younger. The future is promising if all remain in the NBA with ample minutes.
Šarić, Bogdanović and Žižić will all be in action this weekend when the NBA playoffs begin. In the biggest surprise of the season, the Philadelphia 76ers finished third in the East with an astounding 52-30 record. The Sixers will face the Miami Heat in the first round. In his second year in the league, Šarić averaged 15 points and seven rebounds; shooting 45% from the field on a team full of rising talent. The Sixers will be favorites to move on.
In another Eastern Conference battle, Bojan Bogdanović and the Pacers (5 seed) will take on Lebron James, Ante Žižić and the Cavaliers (4 seed). Bogdanović had a a mediocre season in Indiana after signing a 2-year, $21 million deal in the summer. Babo averaged 14 points and three rebounds but shot 47% from the field. Alongside Victor Oladipo, the Pacers will need to be at 100% if they wish to take down Lebron in the first round. 21 year-old 6’11” Split native Ante Žižić will come off the bench for the Cavs in situational rolls. He only averaged seven minutes per game for the Cavs this season. Cleveland will be favorites to move past the Pacers and play #1 Toronto in the next round.