7 NBA Players Who Will Use Olympics as Springboard for Huge Year
While Team USA was dominating the international competition during the Olympics, there were a number of players putting up impressive numbers.
Players like Andrei Kirilenko, Patty Mills and LeBron James led their respective teams, and while doing that, they were also subconsciously preparing themselves for huge years in 2013.
Ahead, you'll find a list of seven players who are going to use their 2012 Olympic performances to catapult themselves to success during the 2012-13 NBA season.
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Hornets
2012 Olympic Per-Game Stats: 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds
Anthony Davis didn't exactly get a lot of playing time on Team USA, with an average of just 7.6 minutes per game. What will help Davis excel isn't the on-the-court time he got during the Olympics; it's the practices he had and relationships he developed with the NBA's best that will help him have a huge 2012-13 campaign.
It's clear that Davis won't have a problem carrying over his freakish athleticism into the ranks of the NBA, because he excelled at doing just that during the Olympics.
Getting past defenders, crashing the boards and running in transition weren't an issue for the No. 1 overall pick, and that will be the foundation of what should be a big upcoming season with the Hornets.
Spending over a month with the top players in the NBA will certainly benefit Davis, and it will be a major reason why he'll be hoisting the 2013 Rookie of the Year award at the end of the season.
Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls
2012 Olympic Per-Game Stats: 15.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists
During the Olympics, Deng put up the kind of production that he did last season. What makes his Olympic production more impressive is that he did it with much less talent around him.
Against both Russia and Spain (the bronze and silver winners, respectively), Deng led Great Britain with 26 points.
In addition to that offensive production, Deng did a great job of keeping his teammates involved, which is evidenced by his point guard-esque assist numbers.
Without Rose on the court for the first half of the 2012-13 season, Deng is going to have to amp up his defensive physicality in addition to his offensive production. He will be the leader of the Bulls until Rose returns, and his Olympic performance proved that he's ready to do just that.
Yi Jianlian, Free Agent
2012 Olympic Per-Game Stats: 14.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks
Talk about finding your groove. It appears Yi Jianlian, formerly of the Mavericks, Nets, Bucks and Wizards, is finally starting to realize his potential.
The seven-foot, 250-pound big man started off his Olympic campaign with a 30-point explosion against the silver medal-bound Spanish squad. Not too shabby for a player who never averaged more than 12.0 points per game during any of his past five NBA seasons.
Jianlian is currently a free agent, but after his impressive double-double performance, there is no way that he won't be playing in the NBA next season.
Jianlian can be a legitimate producer coming off the bench on the right team, and that would be a huge step forward for a player who's never really reached his full potential.
LeBron James, Miami Heat
2012 Olympic Per-Game Stats: 13.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists
There's no way LeBron can follow up his historic 2011-12 season with an even better year, is there?
Well, after his Olympic domination, especially in the clutch, LeBron is going to be even better next year, especially when it comes to being the Heat's leader.
There's no doubt that he grew last season, but his Olympic performance is going to help him grow even more as he tries to help the Heat repeat as NBA champions. He even led Team USA in assists, which shows his pure ability to facilitate among the best in the game.
When Team USA needed him to, LeBron stepped up and dominated on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, just as everybody expected him to. Stepping up on a team full of NBA superstars is an experience that will pay dividends regarding his confidence as he moves forward in his career.
Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers
2012 Olympic Per-Game Stats: 19.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists
Pau Gasol did all that he could to help Spain beat Team USA and shock the basketball world. Unfortunately, his best just wasn't good enough.
That defeat, matched up with his solid production during the Olympics, will certainly help him take a step forward next year, which will be absolutely key for the Lakers.
With Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash getting the most attention next year, Gasol's production in the paint and/or on the perimeter will be key to the Lakers contending in the West.
Gasol's ability to spread the floor with his jumper, mixed with his veteran ability in the pick-and-roll, will certainly solidify the Lakers in the West. He's a definite dark-horse candidate to be one of the most valuable players on a stacked Lakers team next season.
Andrei Kirilenko, Minnesota Timberwolves
2012 Olympic Per-Game Stats: 17.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.9 steals
After spending last year in Russia, it's time for Andrei "AK-47" Kirilenko to bring his talents back to the NBA and dominate like we all knew he could.
During the Olympics, Kirilenko absolutely exploded onto the scene. While he's a very unorthodox player, his intensity and physicality on both sides of the ball help him stand out, and that is at the foundation of why he's back in the NBA.
There are few players in the NBA or in the international game that play with the level of reckless abandon that Kirilenko does, and that kind of energy is much needed on a Minnesota Timberwolves team with a lot of potential.
Kirilenko showed during the Olympics that he's capable of harnessing his energy and intensity, and that's going to make him dangerous next year.
Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs
2012 Olympic Per-Game Stats: 21.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists
Holy Patty Mills, Batman! I knew Mills was good last season in reserve time with the Spurs when he averaged 10.3 points in just 16.3 minutes per game, but I didn't know he was capable of the dominance he exhibited during the Olympics.
Mills' minutes will be limited next year since he'll be backing up Tony Parker, but that doesn't mean he won't have an increased impact.
Depth is going to be key next season as the NBA returns to the normal 82-game schedule, and that's exactly what Mills proved he could bring to the court for the Spurs.
Who knows, if Mills produces like he did during the Olympics, he could be a sought-after free agent at the end of the 2012-13 season. If that isn't motivation to step your game up, I don't know what is.