NBA 2012: Best NBA Olympians Not Playing for Team USA
Even without Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and the three MVPs between them, this year's Olympics features a number of notable NBA players competing for the Gold for countries other than the USA. While Team USA certainly has the highest concentration of NBA talent, there are definitely other competitive teams with players who excel in the Euroleague and elsewhere.
Just for fun, here's a mock All-Star team of current foreign Olympians from the NBA.
Point Guard: Tony Parker
Without Steve Nash playing in the Olympics, the top point guard spot goes to perennial All-Star Tony Parker. While Tony may be single this time around and sporting a pair of stylish new specs thanks to a recent eye injury, he's had no trouble continuing his stellar play on the court.
Tony's pedigree is impressive. He has four All-Star appearances, three championships and a Finals MVP to his name. In 2011-2012, he continued to play the way he has his entire career, posting 18.3 points and 7.7 assists per game.
Second Team: Jose Calderon
Shooting Guard: Manu Ginobli
Joining Tony Parker on our team is his potent Spurs running mate, Manu Ginobili, who, like Parker, has spent his entire career in San Antonio. With fellow Olympian Tiago Splitter, San Antonio has a strong international influence.
Ginobilli has numerous international awards to his name, including individual and team accolades from the NBA, Italian League and the Olympics. While he suffered with injuries last year, he still put up a respectable 14.4 points and 4.0 assists per game, and will likely bounce back in 2012-2013.
Small Forward: Luol Deng
Tallyho! Say cheers to Luol Deng. Deng has also been with one team his entire career, the Chicago Bulls. During his tenure, he has quietly been an effective force,with career averages of 16 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists. The league finally recognized Deng by selecting him as an All-Star reserve for the first time this past season. In addition, he was selected for the NBA All-Defensive Second Team. He doesn't have a long list of accomplishments, but he is definitely one of the NBA's best all-around small forwards.
Second Team: Andrei Kirilenko
Power Forward: Pau Gasol
Dirk Nowitzki is widely considered to be the greatest international talent to ever play in the NBA, but Pau Gasol is likely to leave a comparable legacy when he retires.
Like Nowitzki and Ginobili, Pau has an impressive list of individual and team awards from the NBA, Europe and the Olympics. His career has been nothing short of stellar, with career averages of 18.7 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. He also has an impressive 3.2 assists per game, reflecting his excellent passing skills.
With his tenure in Los Angeles uncertain due to the Lakers' interest in Dwight Howard, Gasol will likely only help his value with an impressive performance for Spain, the strongest challenger to Team USA.
Second Team: Serge Ibaka
Honorable Mention: Luis Scola
Center: Marc Gasol
When the Memphis Grizzlies seemingly gave away Pau Gasol, the transaction police were called to arrest someone for what was perceived as an incredibly lopsided Gasol-for-Kwame Brown trade, jokingly referred to in B/R as "Grand Theft Gasal-o." Over time, however, the swap has turned out to not be so unbalanced, and Memphis fans ended up with a fairly decent consolation prize in his little brother.
That transaction also holds the curious distinction of being the only time a player has been traded for his brother. Well, life in Memphis just wouldn't be the same without a Gasol!
Although he has been in the league a much shorter time and his numbers aren't quite as impressive as his older sibling's, Marc Gasol has been more than decent and continues to improve. A bigger and more physical player than his brother, Marc was good enough to earn All-Rookie Second Team honors in 2009. Last year he made his first All-Star appearance while logging career highs in scoring, blocks, steals and assists (and he was very close to his best totals in rebounding as well).
Marc is considered a rising star. With his brother and Serge Ibaka, he forms one of the most imposing front lines in international play.
BONUS: Biggest Competition for Team USA
There is little question who is most likely to give the Americans trouble in London this year.
Even without Ricky Rubio, who won't be playing due to injury, Spain has the right lineup and experience to challenge Team USA.
The Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka provide scoring, rebounding and defense that trumps Team USA. Spain's team is quite a bit bigger than Team USA, which only has one true center, Tyson Chandler.
The Spaniards don't have Team USA's firepower in a backcourt without Rubio, but are well represented by Toronto's Jose Calderon, one of the NBA's assist leaders. In addition, Spain has several other NBA players and international standouts, an impressive record in European play and some past Olympic medals. They certainly can't be dismissed and may provide a real test for Team USA. Ole!
There is an exhibition game on July 24th between Team USA and Spain, and it should be interesting to watch.
-- Craig Berlin
Follow me on Twitter @mrtapeguy, Facebook or Pinterest