Olympics Basketball 2012: Ranking 5 Best Non-NBA Players to Watch
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Just in case you were not aware, the United States has an Olympic basketball team that is jam-packed with big-name NBA superstars.
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant—there are plenty more as well.
In fact, forget just Team USA; the entire Olympic basketball field has NBA players from numerous nations across the globe.
Great Britain has Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls. Spain has the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc, and if he were healthy, they'd also have Ricky Rubio.
Argentina has Manu Ginobili. There are plenty of other NBA players as well.
They're not the only good players on the court, and they're not the only players worth watching.
Who are the best of the rest?
No. 5: Matthew Dellavedova, Australia
When Matthew Dellavedova is not playing Olympic basketball, he plays for Saint Mary's in the NCAA.
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Matthew Dellavedova is a 21-year-old shooting guard for Australia.
He's also going to be a senior in college this fall. He plays for Saint Mary's, a mid-major program in the NCAA that made the the Big Dance last March.
Saint Mary's lost to Purdue in their first game of the tourney, but the Saint Mary's program has found success with increasing frequency, and Dellavedova is a major reason for that success.
Saint Mary's finished last season with record of 27-6, and Dellavedova led the team in minutes, points and assists per game.
He's a shooting guard for Australia, but he plays and produces stats like a point guard. He's a player basketball fans and NBA scouts alike will be watching.
No. 4: Ike Diogu, Nigeria
Ike Diogu has plenty of NBA experience, but he's not on a current roster.
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The No. 9 pick in the 2005 NBA draft out of Arizona State, Diogu has played for six different NBA teams over parts of six different NBA seasons.
He hasn't exactly taken the league by storm, averaging just 6.0 points and 3.1 rebounds over the course of his career. Because of numbers like that, Diogu is not currently on an NBA roster.
That doesn't mean he can't have an impact in the Olympics. Diogu is a 6'10" power forward who averaged 16.6 points and 10.8 rebounds in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. He has clearly found more success in international play than in the NBA.
He's also one of the key pieces of the Nigerian team. He only averaged 12.4 minutes a game in the NBA, but in the Olympics he will get lots of minutes, and with that he'll produce at a much higher level.
No. 3: Alexander Kaun, Russia
Kaun won a national championship with Kansas in 2008, and now he hopes to bring home a gold medal for Russia.
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Remember that big, solid center who played for the University of Kanas when they won the national championship in 2008? His name was Sasha Kaun.
His real name is Alexander Kaun, and he's really a hulking 6'11" center for the Russian Olympic team.
Kaun is not the star that Andrei Kirilenko is, but he averaged 12.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in the FIBA qualifying tournament, and he fits right in on a squad that features three players who stand taller than 6'10".
If Russia matches up with the USA, expect them to try and use their superior size to their advantage, and expect Kaun to be a key part of that.
No. 2: Salah Mejri, Tunisia
Salah Mejri, photo courtesy of FIBA.com
Salah Mejri is a 7'1" center with a dream of playing in the NBA. He recently attended some tryouts and even made a summer league appearance.
For now, he's not an NBA basketball player, but he is a key part of the Tunisian Olympic team, and he has shown some skills in international play.
In the 2011 FIBA Africa Championships, he almost averaged a double-double, by putting up 8.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
Mejri will be extra motivated to perform and show the numerous NBA players who are playing in the Olympics that he belongs.
No.1: Alexey Shved, Russia
Alexsey Shved, Photo Courtesy of draftexpress.com
The Russian team has plenty of size, but they also have a dynamic guard.
Alexey Shved, a 23-year-old, 6'5" guard capable of playing either spot in the backcourt, who recently signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Shved averaged 10.5 points, 5.0 assists and 2.2 rebounds per game in the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Shved led the Russian team with a game-high 22 points when Russia beat Nigeria to clinch a spot in the London Olympic field.
He's the guy most worth watching because he's going to be an NBA player. The only question is: How good will he be? The Olympics should provide a decent preview.