USA vs. Spain: Highlighting Top Players for Each Team

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IJuly 24, 2012

USA vs. Spain: Highlighting Top Players for Each Team

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    Team USA has passed the first four tests of its warm-up stage. 

    It decimated Dominican Republic (113-59), survived Brazil (80-69), crushed Great Britain (118-78) and beat Argentina (86-80).

    However, the biggest challenge still awaits—Spain in Barcelona tonight.

    The Spanish are currently second in the FIBA World Rankings. They have shown the ability to compete with the United States before, as they were a few timely buckets away from winning the gold-medal game at the 2008 Beijing Olympics

    Both Team USA and Spain have rosters loaded with stars. The game will likely be decided on which team's top players step up and deliver the most. 

    Knowing this, here are the best players in tonight's anticipated contest. 

Rudy Fernandez, Spain

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    A first-round pick in the 2007 NBA draft, Rudy Fernandez has emerged as one of Spain's most consistent scoring threats. 

    The 27-year-old averaged an impressive line of 13.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.1 steals per game in the Beijing Olympics. This included an incredible 22 points in 18 minutes of play in the gold-medal game against Team USA. 

    The 6'6" shooting guard lit up the Liga ACB this past season, as he averaged 16.1 points per game for perennial powerhouse Real Madrid.

    Fernandez has an excellent shooting touch and could easily lead the Spanish to an improbable victory in Barcelona. 

Chris Paul, Team USA

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    CP3 will anchor an explosive core of guards for Team USA this summer. 

    The Los Angeles Clippers point guard has been a superstar since his NBA debut in 2005, and he has appeared in five consecutive All-Star games. 

    Paul is a terrific scorer (18.8 career points per game), but his forte is distributing the ball. The former first-round pick's 9.8 career assists per game is third-highest in NBA history.

    The 27-year-old also led Team USA in assists in the Beijing Olympics.

    Expect Paul to have a huge impact in tonight's game and beyond.  

Jose Calderon, Spain

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    Calderon is Spain's version of Chris Paul, as he is both an outstanding passer and versatile scorer. 

    Despite playing on one of the NBA's worst offenses in Toronto, the 30-year-old has averaged a solid 9.9 points per game in his NBA career, as well as finishing in the top five in assists in four of the last five seasons.

    Calderon is also an outstanding three-point and free-throw shooter. In the 2008-09 NBA season, he set an NBA record with a 98.1 free-throw percentage. 

    The point guard was absent during Spain's 2008 Olympic loss to Team USA, so his presence could provide Spain with an extra boost offensively.   

Deron Williams, Team USA

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    Williams is arguably the NBA's best point guard, as he provides an unparalleled combination of elite scoring and excellent passing. 

    The former No. 3 overall pick has finished in the top five in the NBA in assists, and he averaged at least 16 points per game in each of the last six seasons. 

    The three-time All-Star is a tough matchup for any member of the Spanish national team. He could wreak havoc in tonight's contest. 

Marc Gasol, Spain

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    Despite often being overshadowed by his older brother Pau, Marc Gasol is among Spain's most versatile players. 

    The former second-round pick has a solid all-around game, as he has averaged 13.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 blocks per contest in his four-year NBA career. 

    The All-Star has been a key part of Spain's international success in recent years, and he helped guide them to a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 

    At 7'1'', Gasol gives the Spanish an advantage on the boards against a Team USA squad lacking elite big men. 

    Expect the Memphis Grizzlies star to stack the stat sheet in tonight's exhibition. 

Kobe Bryant, Team USA

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    The Spanish squad has no one capable of even limiting Kobe Bryant.

    Bryant is one of the most complete players in the NBA. He has claimed a MVP and two NBA Finals MVPs and been selected to 14 All-Star games. 

    The 33-year-old has averaged an unbelievable 25.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game in his 16-year NBA career.

    "The Black Mamba" is often considered the most clutch basketball player alive, as he has consistently managed to come up big in crunch time. 

    Kobe will be a treat to watch tonight and throughout the Olympics. 

Juan Carlos Navarro, Spain

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    Perhaps no player alive possesses a better combination of skill and intangibles as Juan Carlos Navarro. 

    The Spanish captain, nicknamed "La Bomba" ("The Bomb"), has dominated European basketball for the last 15 years. He has claimed MVP awards from the Spanish League, Euroleague, Spanish Supercup and Eurobasket. 

    Navarro has exploded offensively in Spain's last two Olympic games against Team USA, scoring 18 points in each contest. 

    If Spain can shock the United States and beat them tonight, it'll likely be largely thanks to Navarro. 

Kevin Durant, Team USA

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    Widely regarded as the second-best basketball player on the planet today, Kevin Durant will look to continue his tremendous success at the international level. 

    The 23-year-old broke numerous Team USA records in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, including most points in a tournament and most points in a single game. 

    "Durantula" has led the NBA in scoring the last three years, and his phenomenal play helped guide his Oklahoma City Thunder to the NBA Finals this past season.

    With the athleticism of a point guard and the size of a center, Durant will be a tough matchup for any of Spain's talented defenders. 

Pau Gasol, Spain

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    Pau Gasol is one of the NBA's best power forwards, and he always manages to step up it a notch when playing at the international level.

    Gasol was named the 2006 FIBA World Championship MVP and he wreaked havoc at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 

    Gasol is a terrific scorer and excellent rebounder. He has averaged an impressive 18.7 points and 9.2 rebounds a game in his 12-year NBA career. 

    Against a United States team that lacks elite big men, the 32-year-old could explode. 

LeBron James, Team USA

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    LeBron James is unanimously considered to be the most complete basketball player in the world today. 

    The 27-year-old has claimed three NBA MVPs, a NBA Finals MVP and a bronze and gold medal at the last two Olympic games, respectively. 

    The Miami Heat phenom is an unbelievable scorer, superb rebounder and outstanding distributor. He has averaged an unprecedented 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists in his NBA career.

    Containing "King James" will be an impossible task for the Spanish. 


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