The Olympic qualifiers in the FIBA Americas and Eurobasket tournaments seemed pre-ordained. Even the squads left to scrap for London bids sometime next summer appeared pre-determined. A few surprises have altered the field, but the favorites remain the likeliest nations to advance.
The contests conclude this weekend in Argentina and Lithuania, and U.S. hoops fanatics may starve when those arenas go dark. The nail-biters have been stirring and captivating enough to put clippers on every corner of the globe to shame. The routs have been comatose and hideous enough to rival Victor Frankenstein’s monster after a Nyquil overdose.
As with most extended sporting events, a middle ground has emerged. The same rating system applies to players. Some have been extraordinary, many have been disappointing or caustic and some are mired in mediocrity. This column will highlight 10 competitors who have distinguished themselves in these FIBA tourneys. This piece features the athletes performing at their breathtaking best.
Readers will note the high concentration of current NBA players, but a few others cracked the list. I considered several items when constructing this: field-goal percentage, shot attempt averages, personal growth, fourth quarter and overall impact. I selected five contributors from the Argentina field and five from the Lithuania field.
A few Eurobasket aficionados may lambaste me for not including players from Lithuania, Serbia, Macedonia, unbeaten Russia or Turkey. Many more will decry my decision to pick just one Gasol brother. Sue me. There are plenty of numbers to call if you wish to do so.
I decided to add some honorable mentions (players I considered): Milos Teodosic, Marcelo Huertas, Andrei Kirilenko, Gary Forbes and Bo McCalebb.