Top 12 basketball leagues in the world outside the NBA

January 17, 2017, 8:11 AM

— -- Editor's note: Fran Fraschilla, a former head coach at Manhattan, St. John's and New Mexico, is a college basketball analyst and international draft expert for ESPN. Here are his rankings of the top 12 pro basketball leagues in the world outside of the NBA.

1. EuroLeague

The EuroLeague is the basketball version of soccer's Champions League, with the top European clubs qualifying each year. The teams play EuroLeague games during the week and in their own countries' leagues on the weekends.

Regular-season schedule: October to April

Teams in current season: 16

Defending champion: CSKA Moscow

Notable: The EuroCup, run by the EuroLeague, is the second-level transnational league in Europe. Qualifying for the competition is based on a team's success in its domestic league, other competitions and by invitation from the EuroLeague. Success in the EuroCup allows a team to move up the EuroLeague the following season.

NBA prospect to watch: Real Madrid's 6-foot-7 Slovenian guard Luka Doncic, a 17-year-old prodigy, has been a huge contributor for one of the best teams in Europe. His scoring and playmaking has been the talk of the league. He is the EuroLeague's best young player since the Chicago Bulls' Nikola Mirotic starred for the same club.

2. Spain's Liga ACB

The ACB ( Asociaci?n de Clubs de Baloncesto), formed in 1957, has been dominated through the years by two teams, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, who have combined for 51 of the 60 titles. Like many professional leagues outside of the NBA, relegation in the ACB means the last two teams in the standings are relegated to LEB Oro, the second division, and replaced by LEB Oro's top two teams.

Regular-season schedule: October to May

Teams in current season: 17

Defending champion: Real Madrid

Notable: In recent years, the league has produced NBA All-Stars such as Paul and Marc Gasol. Most recently, the New York Knicks' Kristaps Porzingis played at Seville before taking the NBA by storm in his first two years. Last season, 39 former ACB players were in the NBA, the most of any international league.

NBA prospect to watch: Doncic (see EuroLeague above)

3. Turkish Basketball Super League (BSL)

The BSL was founded in 1966, although basketball was first played in the country in 1904. Tremendous financial resources are being poured into the league, and because of that, it may soon overtake the ACB in quality of play. Istanbul's Anadolu Efes and Fenerbahce are two of the best teams in Europe at the moment.

Regular-season schedule: October to April

Teams in current season: 16

Defending champion: Fenerbahce

Notable: Former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt, who had tremendous success in Europe before leaving for the NBA, is currently coaching Darussafaka S.K. in the BSL and the EuroLeague. It is believed he's collecting $3.3 million owed to him by the Cavs on the final year of his contract in addition to the two-year deal he signed with the Turkish club.

NBA prospect to watch: Furkan Korkmaz, a 6-foot-7 forward, was selected in the first round of the 2016 draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. He was playing only 12 minutes a game for BSL powerhouse Anadolu Efes as a 19-year-old but has been recently loaned to Banvit, where he is seeing increased playing time. This should facilitate his development as a player.

4. Russia's VTB United League

The league is the top-tier Russian circuit, plus it includes clubs from Estonia, Latvia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Regular-season schedule: October to April

Teams in current season: 13

Defending champion: CSKA Moscow

Notable: Former University of Kansas star Keith Langford was not quite good enough to stick on an NBA roster early in his professional career, so he headed overseas. Over the past decade, he has established himself as one of the best players in Europe with a salary in seven figures. He currently stars for Unics Kazan, which also plays in the EuroLeague.

NBA prospect to watch: None

5. Germany's Basketball Bundesliga (BBL)

Some believe this league could be among the best in Europe in the near future -- even if it's currently a midtier European league. It is well-funded, well-marketed, and the games are well-attended. And there is a pipeline of young German players in the national team system.

Regular-season schedule: September to May

Teams in current season: 18

Defending champion: Brose Bamberg

Notable: Jared Jordan led the NCAA in assists as a junior and senior at Marist College and was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2007. He now leads the BBL in assists this season while playing for Tigers Tubingen.

NBA prospect to watch: Isaac Bonga is a 6-foot-8, 17-year-old forward under contract with the BBL's Fraport Skyliners, and he's playing the majority of his games in the Pro B league, the third-tier level of German basketball. He is part of a generation of bright German prospects under the age of 20.

6. Italy's Lega Basket Serie A (LBA)

The LBA is possibly the oldest professional basketball league in Europe, having been formed in 1920. The composition of each team's roster is based on two formulas. A team can have five players from outside of the European Union plus five Italian players, or it can have three players from outside of the European Union and four players from the European Union, in addition to five Italian players.

Regular-season schedule: October to May

Teams in current season: 16

Defending champion: Olimpia Milano

Notable: Houston Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni had his No. 8 retired by Olimpia Milano, the club with which he won five Italian league titles and two FIBA European Champions Cups (the equivalent of EuroLeague championships) as a player and started his coaching career. He arrived in Milan in 1977 after four nondescript seasons in the NBA and ABA.

NBA prospect to watch: None

7. France's LNB Pro A

The top basketball league in France (its proper name is Ligue Nationale de Basket Pro A) was formed in 1921. ASVEL has won the most French basketball championships with 18. The club is owned by San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker.

Regular-season schedule: September to May

Teams in current season: 18

Defending champion: ASVEL

Notable: Parker started his professional career as a 17-year-old for Paris Racing Club in 1999. He played there for two seasons before being drafted by the Spurs with the 28th pick in 2001.

NBA prospect to watch: None

8. Adriatic League (ABA)

The ABA is a regional league with teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. It was formed in 2001, about a decade after the breakup of Yugoslavia. The league has become more developmental and has recently produced young NBA big men Dario Saric, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic. Celtics first-round draft pick Ante Zizic is being groomed this season at KK Cibona. The soon-to-be 20-year-old is averaging 20 points and nearly 10 rebounds.

Regular-season schedule: September to March

Teams in current season: 14

Defending champion: KK Crvena zvezda

Notable: The predecessor to the Adriatic League, which debuted in 2001-02, was the Yugoslav League, which was one of the strongest in Europe until it broke up after the 1991-92 season. The Yugoslav League produced great European players such as Drazen Petrovic, Vlade Divac and Toni Kukoc before they went to the NBA.

NBA prospect to watch: None

9. Greek A1 League

The league has long been top-heavy with two outstanding teams, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, that are based in Athens and make up one of the most heated basketball rivalries in the world.

Regular-season schedule: October to April

Teams in current season: 14

Defending champion: Olympiakos

Notable: Called the Mother of all Battles, the Olympiakos-Panathinaikos rivalry goes back to the 1940s, but in the past 20 years, the teams have met in Greek League, Greek Cup and EuroLeague play over 75 times, including 16 in the finals of the Greek League. The clubs' soccer teams also have a fierce rivalry.

NBA prospect to watch: None

10. Australia's National Basketball League (NBL)

The NBL was founded in 1979 with seven teams from Australia and one from New Zealand. There has been speculation the NBL could expand into China, where basketball is popular.

Regular-season schedule: October to February

Teams in current season: 8

Defending champion: Perth Wildcats

Notable: The Doomsday Double is the road trip to play the Perth Wildcats and Adelaide 36ers on the same weekend. It is the hardest road trip in the NBL and involves a nearly three-hour flight between cities.

NBA prospect to watch: Terrance Ferguson is an 18-year-old from Dallas who committed to play at the University of Arizona before signing with Adelaide. Bypassing college in the same manner as the Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay, Ferguson is expected to be a first-round selection in the 2017 NBA draft.

11. Lithuania's LKL

Basketball is the second religion in this country of 3 million. When Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union, its basketball teams played in the Soviet League. The LKL ( Lietuvos krepsinio lyga) was founded in 1993, soon after the country gained its independence with the financial support of Hall of Famer Sarunas Marciulionis, Lithuania's first NBA player.

Regular-season schedule: September to April

Teams in current season: 10

Defending champion: Zalgiris

Notable: Arvydas Sabonis, a 7-foot-3 Hall of Famer, started his professional career at Zalgiris in 1981 as a 17-year old. He later played seven seasons for the Portland Trail Blazers.

NBA prospect to watch: Isaiah Hartenstein is an 18-year-old German who plays for historic Zalgiris, the glamour team of the LKL with 18 championships. Hartenstein is the 6-foot-11 son of former University of Oregon player Flo Hartenstein and was born in Eugene, Oregon.

12. Chinese Basketball Association (CBA)

The CBA was formed in 1995 and has become Asia's preeminent basketball league. Foreign players are limited to two per team (with a few exceptions) and can play a total of six quarters combined. Because of those limitations and the reliance on Chinese players, the level of play is far below most of the top leagues in Europe. Because the league playoffs usually end in March, it affords some players a chance to join NBA teams before the playoffs.

Regular-season schedule: October to February

Teams in current season: 20

Defending champion: Sichuan Blue Whales

Notable: Former national college player of the year and NBA lottery pick Jimmer Fredette is the CBA's leading scorer this season, averaging close to 40 points a game for the Shanghai Sharks. The team is owned by former NBA star and Hall of Famer Yao Ming.

NBA prospect to watch: None