2006 FIBA Worlds--All-Stars
P. Gasol (Spain)-MVP- Simply the best player in the tourney. Consistent all the way thru. One of the top scorers & rebounders in the Worlds. Also was a presence on defense (2.5 bpg). Shot 63% from floor. Things look good for Spain in the int'l b-ball world for a long time.
C. Anthony (USA)- Best player on Team USA. Bailed them out vs. Italy. Shot the ball great & was probably the most consistent shooter. Surprised me with his urgency and activity overall; have not really seen this from him before.
T. Papaloukas (Greece)- Nothing spectacular, but just super efficient. Smart, savvy play on both ends of the floor. Great playmaking with his pinpoint passing, & sprinkled in strong drives throughout as well. Great defense with a propensity for getting hands on balls. Great floor game that is a joy to watch for any true b-ball fan. Would definitely offer him part of the mid-level exception for a few years to be a combo guard off the bench. Although, he supposedly has a pretty sweet deal over in Europe.
D. Diamantidis (Greece)-Basically same as Theo, but with a few more steals thrown in (3.3 spg) & better outside shooting. Although, he had a rough outing with foul trouble in the Gold Medal game, that can't take away his steady play in every other game. If I was a NBA GM, I would offer him a few million for a couple years. Not sure of his contract status. Don't think he can be a starter in NBA, but feel he could be a solid back-up combo guard--I like those long arms & underrated athleticism.
J. Garbajosa (Spain)- As I like to call him-the Euro Rob Horry. The ultimate role player. Does a little of everything & has for years. Have loved watching him play for a couple years. He brings outside shooting, rebounding, sneaky drives, drawn fouls, and tremendous defense (one of the best help defenders I've seen). Huge in Gold Medal game. Even with all that said, not sure how well he translates to the NBA. I think he can draw some 4s away from the basket with his shooting & can pick up some fouls with his deceptive drives, but he could have trouble as an individual defender. Although, I am confident he can figure out ways to contribute.
D. Nowitzki (Germany)- Did everything he was supposed to do for Germany (besides the US game). Scored & hit the boards at a high rate and was willing to go down low to use his size advantage, although vs. the US he reverted back to fadeaway mode. Just does not have the requisite talent around him. Says the '08 Olympics will be his last go-round with Team Germany. Well, he better just hope he even makes it to Beijing because qualifying out of Europe will be a mighty big chore in itself. '07 could be his swan song, so Mark Cuban will hopefully stop his bitching about int'l competitions.
M. Ginobili (Argentina)- Could easily be a 1st-teamer. Led Argentina with 15 ppg, 3 rpg, 2 apg & 41% from 3pt. Thought he forced some things in a couple games & tried to go one-on-one a little too much.
L. Scola (Argentina)- One of the better post players in the tourney. Scored all over the paint with jumpers, putbacks, and refined post moves while doing it with his patented high shooting percentage (53.6%). Runs the floor well & hit the boards well (7 rpg). Is definitely ready for the NBA right now, but has a nasty buyout clause & the Spurs don't seem interested in paying. Not sure if he can be a starter (a little undersized), but can at least be a very good back-up.
D. Wade (USA)- Did damage with his slashing to either create shots for himself or teammates--19 ppg, 3 apg on 57.6% shooting. Got to free throw line more than I expected in int'l play. Although, still had issues with his outside shooting and missed a handful of shots badly.
J. Navarro (Spain)- Had a hard time leaving him off the 1st-team. Had a great tourney where he continued to display his improved outside shooting-41.3% from deep (this use to be a liablity). Used his patented dribble penetration effectively as well. The Wizards could really use his services right now as a combo guard paired with Arenas. Not sure he can start in the league since he's not really a point, but might start with the emphasis on downsized line-ups; has great speed that should translate well.
Yao (China)- Like Dirk, did everything he was supposed to do--led tourney in scoring. Helped China slip into the playoffs, but his guards have to dramatically improve in the next few years if he even wants to sniff a medal in Beijing or at anytime in his int'l b-ball career.
I. Rakocevic (Serbia)- One part of Serbia's 2-man gang. Was a dynamic offensive force either with his unstoppable drives or his improved shot. I thought for the last couple years he should get another shot at the NBA--has great speed not just by Euro standards, but also for NBA & his outside shot is much better than it was when he with the T-Wolves. I feel he could be a solid combo guard off the bench.
A. Nocioni (Argentina)- Had a great tourney where he brought his hectic energy and continued to show off his improved outside shot--41% from 3pt. Not surprisingly, he rebounded well (5 rpg) & brought the defensive effort. Just an all-round spazz as usual, but in a good way.
P. Sanchez (Argentina)- I thought he had a great tourney commanding the Argentina offense. Probably best pure point in the tourney overall after C. Paul & Calderon tailed off some as the Worlds went on. Passing was impeccable as usual (5.8 assts per). Also, uncharacteristicly shot the ball extremely well (52.4% from 3pt.) & hit some big shots during the tourney.
L. James (USA)- Probably could have been a little bit more dominant but looked like he was willing to take a lesser role to Melo & Wade. Still was very good all-around--shot a sizzling 58.7% overall; although did not shoot the long-ball all that well. Created shots for others (4 assts per), & hit the boards (5 per) & was a factor on defense.
Honorable Mention: V. Spanoulis & A. Fotsis (Greece); C. Delfino & W. Herrmann (Arg.); D. Howard (USA); M. Belinelli (Italy); D. Milicic (Serbia); T. Splitter (Brazil); J. Calderon & R. Fernandez (Spain); J. Gomes, E. Mingas & O. Cipriano (Angola); C. Arroyo & L. Ayuso (P.R.); F. Pietrus (France); I. Udoka (Nigeria); A. Okulaja (Germany); A. Macijauskas, D. Songalia, & D. Lavrinovic (Lithuania); S. Erdogan & K. Gonlum (Turkey); P. Brezec, S. Becirovic & R. Nesterovic (Slovenia); A. Bogut (Aust.)
Co-Coaches of FIBA Worlds:
Panagiotis Yannakis (Greece)--Even though the Greeks got blasted in the final, that can't take away how well this team played all summer. He squeezed every ounce of effort & talent out of his squad each game. I mean he really does not have overwhelming scoring talent to work with--I'd say Fotsis has the most raw talent, but he's nothing amazing. He molded a team with a great collective mental toughness. If the game was tight in the 4th quarter, you just knew that Greece would find a way to grind out a win. His players really seemed to want to play hard for him. Although, Greece's defense prowess tailed off the last 2 games, they were still one of the best defensive units in the tourney behind Spain. His offensive adjustments in the US game alone might be good enough to secure him a Hall-of-Fame nod. He will living off that win for a lifetime.
Pepu Hernandez (Spain)--Had Spain playing at max effort for every game. Spain's defense was superb & the best in the tourney, and a great team defense is usually always a reflection on the coach. It was not just the play & effort of the defense, it was the way he changed up his defensive looks. Like I said in my Gold Medal Game recap, it looked like Spain was changing defenses during the same possession, almost like they were going back-n-forth between zone & man in the same half-court defensive possession. But maybe I was just seeing things because of no sleep. I love coaches who do this: he's not morally above using zones or junk defenses, he's willing to try anything--are you listening Coach K & Larry Brown. Sorry, but I've always had a major pet peeve with coaches who think zones or quirky defenses are beneath them. I think it's your job as a coach to exhaust every possible angle to help your team win within the rules.
I was going with Yannakis as my sole Coach-o-Worlds, but after Spain throttled Greece without Pau, I had to re-examine Hernandez, and realized his team pounded every team besides Argentina, and their defense was awesome every game. On top of that, he had his team prepared all summer--don't forget they went undefeated in the exhibition stage.