London 2012 Basketball: NBA Olympians Who Will Have the Best 2012-13 Seasons
Although the Olympics are not a specific precursor to NBA success, doing well in such an international competition can give a player a boost that will help him during the coming NBA year.
Then again, some players will just be good no matter what.
Obviously the 2012 Dream Team’s elite players are going to be on this list, but there are also plenty of international players that might get a bump from these London games. Making your country proud on such a big stage is a huge confidence booster, and some of these players needed that boost after the turns their NBA careers had taken recently.
These Olympians will have some of the best seasons of their NBA careers next season. For some of them, it is somewhat a result of the Olympics. Others would have had great seasons regardless, and others will have great seasons for different reasons.
Make no mistake about it, you can count on these players to perform in big ways next season.
7. Andrei Kirilenko
Andrei Kirilenko has done his native land proud during his seasons in the NBA, but nothing could have been more gratifying for him than winning a bronze medal for Russia in London this year. The medal is Russia's first in basketball since it ceased to be the Soviet Union over 20 years ago.
Kirilenko did not play in the NBA last season, thanks mainly to the lockout. However, he has already signed a contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he will fit in nicely as a strong perimeter defender who can help his team in a variety of ways.
A player who does not demand the ball to make a difference, Kirilenko will play well with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, allowing them to make the big plays while he does all the little things. He will be the third-best player on the team and will fill that role well.
Predicted Per-Game Stats: 10.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and two assists
6. Tony Parker
Although he failed to carry France to a medal, Tony Parker did play fairly well in the Olympics this year. He might have been able to get France to at least fourth place had he not suffered an eye injury in the offseason. His accomplishments last season, though, warrant his inclusion on this list.
Parker clearly established himself as the dominant playmaker for the San Antonio Spurs in 2011-12. He averaged 18.3 points and 7.7 assists in what was the best season of his Hall of Fame career. The odds are that he will be just as good or better in 2013, as he becomes the No. 1 guy more and more for the Spurs.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are getting old, and Parker will need to carry more of the burden as they age. He has plenty of young help around him, but most of it requires his leadership to thrive. He will continue to lead and improve.
Predicted Per-Game Stats: 19 points, 8.1 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals
5. Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol’s career has been rocky over the past few years. He has been rumored to be on the trade block constantly, and many have questioned his toughness and composure in pressure-packed situations. At least now he can breathe a sigh of relief that he will be in Los Angeles a while longer.
There are multiple reasons why he will have a great season next year, but none of them have much to do with the silver medal he recently won in London. The Lakers’ acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard make a great season a sure thing for Gasol.
The Spanish power forward has never played with a pick-and-roll player like Nash, who will get him the ball in the most advantageous spots possible. He also has never played with a defensive presence like Howard, who will be able to protect the rim and allow Gasol to roam freely.
Nash and Howard will free up Gasol to be the playmaker he can be.
Predicted Per-Game Stats: 20.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists
4. Russell Westbrook
Being a member of Team USA was a valuable experience for Russell Westbrook, as it gave him experience playing off the ball and as a role player. While he will not do a ton of the latter in Oklahoma City, he may play off the ball some and showed that he can do so when needed.
However, the most impressive thing about Westbrook in the Olympics was his defense—and that is the area in which he needs to improve next season. While he has become a great offensive threat since entering the NBA, that is not what the Thunder had in mind when they drafted him: Westbrook was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year during his last year at UCLA.
He needs to become the defensive presence they drafted him to be at the point guard position. If he can do that, he will become an elite player in this league and the best defensive point guard in the game. He has the physical skills to do it.
Predicted Per-Game Stats: 23.5 points, 6.1 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.9 steals
3. Chris Paul
Chris Paul was a big part of why Team USA was able to weather a few storms and win a gold medal. Like an elite point guard should be, Paul was a stabilizing force who hit big shots and made the right passes at the most critical times.
He will have to do those things and more for the Los Angeles Clippers next season. He is far and away the leader of that team, and the Clips will need him to play big for them to have a shot in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
He will do just that.
Paul is the best point guard in the game when it comes to leading an offense. He knows how and when to pass, can hit big shots and is a pretty good scorer. He’s also a good defender, though he does get a bit overrated at times in that category.
Predicted Per-Game Stats: 22 points, 10 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals
2. Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant has solidified himself as the best pure scorer in the world. Not only has he led the NBA for three straight years in that category, but he also set a new USA record for scoring in a single Olympic Games, with 153 total points.
Durant has shown himself to be a tremendous leader as well, and this recent Olympic experience will only help him improve more in that area. He helped lead Team USA, hitting important shots when the team needed them the most.
He will do the same for the Oklahoma City Thunder next season.
It is difficult for a guy like Durant to score more considering how much he scored last season, but he will. He will continue to improve his shot selection and overall rebounding, and his defense will be the best it has been yet.
Predicted Per-Game Stats: 29.1 points, nine rebounds, 3.8 assists and 51 percent field-goal shooting
1. LeBron James
After not having a clutch gene for nearly a decade, LeBron James certainly has one now.
After coming up huge in critical moments for the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, James did the same for Team USA throughout their undefeated run through the Olympics, solidifying his status as the world’s greatest basketball player.
There are literally no facets of the game in which James does not excel. He can rebound, defend, score, pass and lead. He is the most well-rounded player in the world. The only thing he struggles with at times is outside shooting, and he has learned to avoid that.
James will continue to play well next season. While he will have a tough time improving most of his stats, he will get even better at leading his team to wins.
Predicted Per-Game Stats: 27.1 points, 8.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 54 percent field-goal shooting