LuolDeng150628InactionG300Only one of the six Africa-born players made it to the NBA playoffs this season, and his outing in the Finals was nothing like his limited playing time throughout the season.

Although Festus endured a tough season, playing only 46 regular-season games – the fewest participation among his fellow Africans – he confirmed that good things come to those who wait.

As the NBA Africa is yet to confirm the full roster of Team Africa for the first NBA game on African soil, it should be great to see Ezeli teaming up with his fellow Africa NBA players.

Before moving on to Ezeli’s successful season let’s just look at how Africa-born performed in the 2014-15 season.

Starting with 11-year veteran Luol Deng, the captain of Team Africa for the upcoming NBA Africa game against Team World due on 1 August in Johannesburg.

The free-agent small forward who last played for the Miami Heat has featured 73 regular-season games, averaging 14 points.

But the Heat’s 37-45 record in the season, prevented the South-Sudan native from featuring in the playoffs for the second year in a row since 2013.

Often dubbed as one of the league’s most respected individuals, Deng had a reasonable season last year in Miami, his first on South Beach.

Second-year Gorgui Dieng played 73 regular-season games for the Minnesota Timberwolves, averaging a career-high 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.

Meanwhile, the T-Wolves’ 16-66 season record – the fewest winning percentage in the league – has not helped the Senegalese’s playoffs aspirations.

The 25-year-old who starred for the Louisville University, has represented Africa in the 2015 Rising Stars Challenge, helping the World team beat the US 121-112 on at All-Star weekend. He contributed 14 points.

Dieng, who is expected to play for Senegal in this year’s AfroBasket 2015 in Tunisia, is yet to show up in the playoffs.

Perhaps, one of the biggest absences in this year’s postseason was Serge Ibaka’s Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC).

The OKC missed out the playoffs for the first time in five years, and the 25-year-old Congolese was one of the team’s key players hit by injuries.

While guard Russell Westbrook tried his best pushing the Thunder to the playoffs, injuries affecting Ibaka and former MVP Kevin Durant were detrimental for the team.

Still, Ibaka, who finished the season a month earlier due to a knee injury – on 11 March – in a 120-108 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers, averaged 14.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

In the East coast, Cameroonian Luc Mbah a Moute, who spent the first five seasons of his eight-year NBA career with the Milwaukee Bucks, went on to average career-highs 9.9 points as well as 28.6 minutes per game with the Philadelphia 76ers.

But Philadelphia’s struggles throughout the season resulted in a modest 18-64 record.

Mbah a Moute last featured in the postseason in the 2012-13 while playing for the Bucks.

Just like Dieng, the 28-year-old is expected to feature for Cameroon at AfroBasket in Tunisia (19 to 30 August).

Bismack Biyombo’s Charlotte Hornets fell short to clinch one of the eight playoffs berths in the Eastern Conference, mainly due to its 33-49 regular-season record.

As much as much the Lubumbashi native tried to put up big numbers, his last playoff appearance in 2014 seemed improbable to happen again.

But, Biyombo, who is now a free-agent, remains one of the best shot-blockers in the league and could evolve into the defensive anchor of any potential suitor.

In fairness, Ezeli who missed the entire 2013-14 season due to a knee injury, grabbed the spotlight among Africa-born players.

After all, the is the second son of the African continent to win the Larry O’Brien trophy since Democratic Republic of Congo native Didier Ilunga-Mbenga helped the Los Angeles Lakers win the 2009-10 NBA title.

With three minutes remaining in the third quarter of Game 6 of the Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Ezeli proved his value by following a missed Stephen Curry three-pointer with a very tough putback dunk, drawing a foul on Timofey Mozgov in the process.

Ezeli finished with 10 points, four rebounds, a block in 11 minutes of play and an NBA title.


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