5 Olympians Playing Overseas Who Are Better Than LA Lakers' 12th Man
The Olympics may be the showcase for the world's greatest athletes, but there's no secret to which sport steals the spotlight—basketball.
With international basketball comes foreign players who are relatively unknown to the common fan. Many of of them are better players than the Los Angeles Lakers' 12th man.
Last season, the Lakers' 12th man was Christian Eyenga. The Lakers acquired Eyenga in the Ramon Sessions trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. So far in his Laker career, Eyenga has played in only one game. That game was the last of the season, when coach Mike Brown rested his starters in preparation of the playoffs.
Eyenga started all five of the Lakers' summer league games but did very little to stand out. Eyenga, 23, is still young and has much room for improvement. But watching the Olympics, it's tough to argue that there aren't better options out there for the Lakers.
Here's a list of five players playing in the Olympics who are better than L.A. Lakers' current 12th Man:
Country: Great Britain
Pops Mensah-Bonsu is best known for being the teammate of Luol Deng on the British Olympic basketball team.
Great Britain may not be the best basketball squad, but Mensah-Bonsu has individually developed into a solid international basketball player. He played four seasons in the NBA, before departing and signing with Beşiktaş Milangaz of Turkey.
In two Olympic games, Mensah-Bonsu is averaging 17.5 points. That's tied with Kevin Durant for seventh in the Olympics.
Mensah-Bonsu was a bust his first go around in the NBA, but practicing everyday against Gasol and Bynum would do wonders for the relatively young, low-post player. The Lakers could use more help in the reserve big-men department.
Mensah-Bonsu could at least contribute, unlike Eyenga.
Matt Dellavedova is not a pro quite yet. He's actually still in college, playing for Saint Mary's College of California.
During his junior season, Dellavedova averaged 15.5 points and 6.4 assists per game. He's got the size of a NBA guard but lacks the athleticism that would make him a can't-miss prospect.
Dellavedova is not the type of player who would turn any heads in a draft combine or an individual workout. Where he does impress is on the basketball court. He's a natural playmaker who is a must watch in the open court.
Dellavedova may never become a consistent NBA player. But watching him in the Olympics, it's hard to imagine Dellavedova not being a better 12th man than Eyenga currently is.
Marcelinho Huertas has never played in the NBA. Yet, he still managed to outplay Great Britain's Deng in Brazil's 67-62 victory Tuesday.
On a team filled with NBA players, Huertas has managed to find a way to make himself shine. He's been a reliable scoring option for Brazil, while also dishing out passes to keep his teammates involved. In Brazil's victory over Great Britain, Huertas had eight assists. That's two more than the rest of his teammates combined.
If Huertas continues his excellent play, by the end of the Olympics, he'll be a star.
Like Mensah-Bonsu, Ike Diogu did not have a successful NBA career his first go-around.
Diogu was a lottery pick by the Golden State Warriors in 2005. He's been on seven NBA teams since then, as things never really worked out for Diogu. He's by no means untalented though. Diogu's most recent gig was playing for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association.
Diogu has done a great job scoring and rebounding in the Olympics. He may not be a better prospect than Eyenga, but at least, he could contribute in a regular season NBA game if needed.
Juan Carlos Navarro
Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka may be the biggest names on the Spanish Olympic basketball team, but Juan Carlos Navarro is the backbone.
Navarro played for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2007-08. He was drafted by the Washington Wizards in the second round of the 2002 NBA draft but decided to stay with FC Barcelona. It wasn't until Navarro's draft rights were traded to the Grizzlies before he headed to the NBA, where he was reunited with Spanish teammate Pau Gasol.
Navarro wasn't bad in the NBA. In fact, he was quite good. Navarro averaged 10.9 points per game, while shooting over 40 percent from the field. He was named to the 2007–08 NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
After an impressive rookie season, Navarro decided to leave the NBA and re-sign with his old team, FC Barcelona.
The biggest concern facing Navarro now is injuries. He's faced lingering plantar fasciitis for the past few years. During Spain's tournament-opening win over China, Navarro sustained another foot injury. With Ricky Rubio sidelined as well, Navarro's injury is a costly blow for the Spanish team.
If healthy, Navarro would not only be better than the Lakers 12th man, but he'd be a reliable contributor to the team.