Argentina Olympic Basketball Team: 4 Players to Watch in 2012 Games

Chris HummerAnalyst IJuly 31, 2012

Argentina Olympic Basketball Team: 4 Players to Watch in 2012 Games

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    Outside of Team USA, the Argentina Olympic team has perhaps the proudest background on the international basketball stage.

    The country may be soccer crazed, but they've been more than successful on the court.

    Argentina won an Olympic gold in 2004, have a FIBA World Championship title to their credit and currently sit as the third ranked team in the world.

    This is thanks to a mix of NBA mainstays—Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino—and a group of experienced veterans who play with one another like a well-oiled machine. 

    Argentina is in Group A this Olympics, along with the favored U.S. team. However, Argentina already played Team USA close in a tune-up game last month, with the U.S. scraping by with a six-point win.

    The South American giant may not have the star power of their competitors from the North, but they will be in the thick of medal contention in London.

    So, let's take a look at the four players that will determine whether Argentina will find itself on the podium at the end of the games.

Luis Scola

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    With his shaggy hair and unwieldy athleticism, Luis Scola may not look like he belongs on a basketball court, but his game says otherwise.

    The 6'9" forward has a non-stop motor around the basket. He attacks the glass for every rebound and always seems to find the best possible position from which to hit the boards.

    Not only that, he is also a talented scorer down low.

    Scola averaged 15.5 points a game with the Houston Rockets last season, and did much of his scoring on the block with a myriad of post moves.

    He has a left and right hook, good touch from within 15 feet and can bull his way to the bucket with his subtle strength.

    These talents will be key to Argentina's medal chances in London. 

    Skilled big men, as they are just about anywhere, are of the utmost importance in the international game, and Scola is one of the best.

    He will be a tough cover for any team, including Team USA, and Argentina will look to the newly minted Phoenix Sun to shoulder much of their scoring load.

    Scola looked more than capable of that in their Olympic opener against Lithuania, when he dropped 32 points in a 102-79 rout.

    Argentina will need more of those performances from Scola if they are to compete for their third straight medal.

Carlos Delfino

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    A seven-year NBA veteran, Carlos Delfino is the glue of the Argentinian squad. 

    He is a great all-around player and does almost everything well for his country.

    Delfino is a steady rebounding presence at 6'6", a great mid-range shooter and is capable of making it rain from distance when he's hot.

    That skill was on full display in Argentina's first game in pool play on Sunday, when Delfino poured in 20 points in only 22 minutes, with many of those buckets coming behind the arc.

    However, it's Delfino's defense that will be the key for the Argentinians. 

    Even by NBA standards, Delfino is an excellent defender.

    He has the quick feet and lateral quickness to stick with guards on the perimeter. But, he's also highly capable inside, where his deceptive strength allows him to defend posts in a pinch.

    Argentina will be counting on his defensive prowess and shooting touch to keep them in medal contention.

Pablo Prigioni

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    He may be oldest member of Argentina's roster at 35 years old, but point guard Pablo Prigioni will be essential to their chances against the top teams.

    He is a steady, unspectacular guard who doesn't make many mistakes and always gets the ball to the right spot on the floor.

    Prigioni excels at finding the open man and is the definition of a pass-first point guard, which is good on a team full of outside shooters.

    He's spent the majority of his career in the Spanish professional league, but in 2012 the veteran will be heading to the Big Apple.

    The New York Knicks signed him to a one-year deal on July 11, and they will be looking for him to provide some depth behind Raymond Felton and the ageless Jason Kidd.

    However, before he takes his first shot at the NBA, his team will be looking for him to guide them deep into the tournament.

    Prigioni can deliver—he's exactly the kind of cagey presence they need to steer them through the pressure-packed elimination rounds.

Manu Ginobili

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    Outside of Team USA's All-Star bonanza, Manu Ginobili might be the best player in this Olympic tournament.

    He is a member of the San Antonio Spurs big three, and is one of the craftiest scorers in the NBA.

    Ginobili manages to slice his way to the basket with the ease of a knife cutting through warm butter. He has a myriad of moves off the dribble, most famously his Euro step, which he all but brought into prominence in the league.

    He's also a dangerous playmaker, as he showed in Argentina's opener against Lithuania, when he stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

    At 35 years old Ginobili doesn't seem quite ready to slow down, and he is more than capable of getting hot and carrying Argentina to victory against any squad.

    Yes, even the favored U.S. team.

    He already led his country to a gold medal in 2004, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him do so again in 2012.