Taking the Nic Batum challenge

Taking the Nic Batum challenge
Charlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum (5) reacts after making a three-point basket against the Brooklyn Nets in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

It isn’t a Summer Olympics year, and the new home-and-way qualification system for the FIBA World Cup hasn’t kicked in yet, but with the frenzy of NBA free agency having died down, now’s as good a time as any to start thinking international hoops.

That’s probably the thought process of French swingman Nic Batum, when he tweeted what is now known as the “Nic Batum Challenge.”

As per Batum’s tweet, you need to form a 10-man team using NBA players, but each must have a different nationality.

Last season, the NBA announced that the league had a record 113 international players, with record numbers for Europeans (61), Africans (14), and Spaniards (8). You should be able to name a couple, but can you name enough to form a 10-man squad?

Here’s my attempt at the challenge, building around the NBA’s most fun-to-watch players, the unicorns.

Starting five

G - Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks - Greece)

F - Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks - Latvia)

C - Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers - Cameroon)

Tall, do-it-all players storming up and down the court, impacting the game on both offense and defense, are lots of fun, and so the core of my team is made up of three such unicorns.

Giannis is a match-up nightmare, a 6’10” point guard that can cross the court in just a few steps. Porzingis is the guy that got the “unicorn” monicker going. Embiid, when he was on the court last season, single-handedly made the 76ers competitive. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better combo than that trio.

But wait until you see the fourth guy.

F - Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors - USA)

Before Porzingis, there was KD. Sure his player card may say he’s 6’10”, but just about everyone knows he’s actually about 7’0”. We know he’s a scoring machine, but he refined his defensive prowess with the Warriors, en route to his first championship and a Finals MVP prize.

G - Nic Batum (Charlotte Hornets - France)

To pay tribute to the man behind the challenge, I have Batum in the other guard spot. He’s got length, defensive ability, and can put the ball into the hoop in a variety of ways. Setting aside his tweet, he’s an excellent fit.

The bench

G/F - Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz - Australia)
G/F - Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves - Canada)

Ingles is the glue guy every good team needs, able to fill in the gaps on the court without needing a ton of touches.

I was going back and forth between Wiggins and his compatriot Jamal Murray for quite some time. Murray is younger, but is a more dedicated scorer. Wiggins has been in the league longer, but despite his defensive reputation in college, hasn’t really brought that to the table in the NBA yet. And while he can score, he’s not exactly a long-distance marksman either. Ultimately I went with Wiggins though, because he has more potential, and might be better in an x-factor role.

G - Goran Dragic (Miami Heat - Slovenia)

Dragic will be my back-up point guard. A tough-as-nails floor general who caught fire down the stretch of last season with the Heat, he’ll hopefully bring that same edge to my squad.

F - Jonas Jerebko (Utah Jazz - Sweden)

You can always use more shooting, which is Jerebko provides. He’s also unafraid to do all the dirty work, and should fit well with the unicorn crew.

C - Steven Adams (Oklahoma City Thunder - New Zealand)

Last but not least, I have Steven Adams as my back-up center, for those situations when I need a rock-hard defender on the floor. Not only can he go head-to-head against post monsters, he’s also athletic enough to get out on the perimeter, and also hustle back to guard the rim.

On the bubble

G - Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs - Argentina)
G - Evan Fournier (Orlando Magic - France)
G - Jordan Clarkson (LA Lakers - Philippines)
F - Danilo Gallinari (LA Clippers - Italy)
F - Omri Casspi (Golden State Warriors - Israel)
F - Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks - Germany)
C - Clint Capela (Houston Rockets - Sweden)
C - Jusuf Nurkic (Denver Nuggets - Bosnia)
C - Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies - Spain)
C - Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz - France)

Who would your team have? Let us know in the comments:

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