2010 FIBA Worlds: All-Tournament Teams + Rubio/Yi Thoughts
Though the 2010 FIBA World Championship featured plenty of compelling competition, the quality of play overall was undeniably hampered by the many top players around the world who declined to play, plus the several injuries which knocked key players out of the tournament - the 2010 Worlds were certainly not as well-played as the 2006 version, overall.
It's a tough issue going forward. As much as we'd love to see a World Championship with full participation, it's understandable that NBA players from around the world would decline to play, simply because the NBA season is so grueling. It's especially tough because tournaments like the EuroBasket and FIBA Americas qualifying in the odd years put pressure on players to play for their national teams every year. At some point, something's gotta give.
Liam Canny, who became something of a cult star for his spirited calls of the Group D games in Izmir, appeared on the Sept. 5 version of the Daily Dime Live on ESPN.com, and wrote something which caught my eye:
- I want to give the DDL fans a window into the minds of the players that I gathered in a conversation with one of the technical directors of one of the national teams in the tourney .
I asked why so many NBA players (Parker, Noah, Gasol...) had withdrawn from this tourney. The technical director told me that this is the order of preference for players from European teams:
1. Olympic games
2. EuroBasket in the year in which Olympic berths are won
3. World Championships
4. EuroBasket tourneys in non-Olympic qualifying years
I was surprised by that answer but FIBA have a problem because they ask pro basketball players to play international tournaments every summer. Soccer doesn't do that. FIBA need to give the issue some thought.
As such, I think the Olympic basketball field is overdue to expand from 12 to 16 nations. There are too many quality European squads to have such a limited field. Some have suggested that 24 is too big of a field for the World Championships. I have no problem with it, though I might add one extra bid each for Europe/Americas while removing same for Africa/Asia. There is talk of expanding to 32, however, and I think that that is too much.
Despite all that, there were still several impressive individual showings at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. Here are our top choices:
THE PAINTED AREA'S ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Kevin Durant, USA [MVP] (28 min, 22.8 pts, 6.1 reb, 1.8 ast)
Duh. This was simply one of the greatest individual performances in FIBA history, and it was certainly the best by an American player in the NBA era. Durant's scoring average was the best by a U.S. player in that time, and he was the only American player in double figures - Team USA has never had fewer than three in double figures in the NBA era.
KD averaged 33 per game in the final three games in the knockout round, and his shooting numbers throughout the tourney were off the charts: 56% FG, 46% 3PT, 91% FT, for an eFG% of .654 and a True Shooting Percentage of .693.
To put the cherry on top, Durant's two 3's to start the second half of the gold-medal game essentially put Turkey away for good. As no-brainer of a choice as there's ever been.
Luis Scola, Argentina (36 min, 27.1 pts, 7.9 reb, 1.2 ast)
Luis was a magician of a scorer in the tournament, largely unstoppable with his array of moves in the post plus a reliable mid-range J. Scola's 37-point game in Argentina's 93-89 win over Brazil in the Round of 16 was his highlight. For the tournament, Scola shot 57% from the floor and 80% from the line in an iron-man performance for the thin Argentina squad (Rockets management must have been thrilled that Luis logged 40 minutes in the 5th-place game vs. Spain).
Linas Kleiza, Lithuania (31 min, 19.0 pts, 7.1 reb, 1.4 ast)
Linas was a flat-out beast at the 2010 FIBA Worlds, much as he was during the 2009-10 Euroleague season, using his combo of explosiveness and skill to lead the surprise bronze-medal winners. Kleiza's best performance came in the bronze-medal game vs. Serbia, when he tallied 33 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals on 12-18 FG, including 5-7 3PT, leading Lithuania to a 99-88 win and setting the stage for a hero's welcome back in Vilnius.
Nenad Krstic, Serbia (24 min, 13.5 pts, 7.5 reb, 0.8 ast)
The second OKC Thunder on the all-tourney team, Krstic narrowly gets the first-team nod over teammate Milos Teodosic with more consistent play over the course of the tournament. After missing the first three games due to suspension from the pre-tournament Serbia-Greece brawl, Krstic anchored the young Serbian team with strong play on both ends down low. With a fourth-place finish following a 2009 EuroBasket silver, the Serbian national team seems back on track.
Andre Iguodala, USA (19 min, 5.7 pts, 4.6 reb, 1.9 ast)
No, those numbers aren't anything to write home about, but the story of the dominant U.S. showing (24.6 margin of victory) was "Durant + defense", and there was no better defensive player in the tournament than Iguodala, who was a disruptive force every single game, with steals, deflections, strips in the low post, plus sound defensive play that was a function of both smarts and superior athleticism. Andre also averaged 1.8 steals per game, and his best game came in the semifinals, when he completely took Kleiza out of the game, holding him to 4 points and 4 turnovers on 1-11 FG.
Hedo Turkoglu, Turkey (26 min, 12.3 pts, 4.2 reb, 3.4 ast)
It's fairly tough to single out individuals in Turkey's run to a silver medal in Istanbul - they seemed to have different stars every night. Hedo was horrendous in the early going, shooting just 8-34 FG (23.5%) in Turkey's first three games, but he picked it up as the tournament went on, averaging 15.5 points in Turkey's four knockout games. He shot 42% from three-point range for the tournament, including 55% (11-20) in the knockout round.
Milos Teodosic, Serbia (28 min, 11.3 pts, 3.4 reb, 5.6 ast)
The Serbian floor leader was one of the top assist men in the tournament, and hit Serbia's biggest shot, the last-second, game-winning, 28-foot three-pointer vs. Spain. Teodosic's best all-around game came in the semifinals, when he had 13 points, 6 rebounds and 11 assists against just 1 TO in Serbia's 83-82 loss to Turkey. Milos did make some sloppy, untimely miscues, but it was an impressive showing for the Euroleague MVP overall. Wish we could have seen him against Team USA, to better gauge his NBA potential - there are still questions about his athleticism, though his size, shooting ability and floor smarts are undeniable.
Lamar Odom, USA (22 min, 7.1 pts, 7.7 reb, 0.4 ast)
As is his wont, Lamar did a little bit of everything as Team USA's undersized center, not the least of which being solid team defense on the interior. Odom really stepped up his game in the knockout round, averaging 11.3 points and 11 rebounds on 58% FG in Team USA's last three games. Still amazing that Team USA's starting center was a guy who is a reserve forward on his club team.
Carlos Delfino, Argentina (36 min, 20.6 pts, 4.7 reb, 2.8 ast)
C-los once again provided consistent scoring punch for Argentina. He also shot 39% from three-point land, and averaged 2 steals per game.
Rudy Fernandez, Spain (26 min, 15.6 pts, 6.1 reb, 0.7 ast)
Tough call here for the last spot, in terms of whether to go with Rudy, teammate Juan Carlos Navarro, or a fourth American (and third OKC Thunder) in Russell Westbrook. We go with Rudy, who had the best all-around production for a disappointing Spain team which was knocked out in the final seconds of the quarterfinals. Rudy nearly led Spain in rebounding from the small-forward slot, and his shooting numbers were impressive: 62% FG, 46% 3PT, 92% FT, though his outside shot betrayed him (0-5 3PT) in Spain's quarterfinal loss. He also led Spain with 16 steals.
Was it enough to make NBA teams want to give up a first-round pick for Rudy? Hard to say. Rudy was definitely more active than the player seen in Portland last season, and we think a team like Chicago, desperate for more outside shooting, could use him. We hope Rudy's NBA career is not over, as we still think he can be an effective player.
Other Player Thoughts
Ricky Rubio, Spain (25 min, 4.4 pts, 3.1 reb, 5.1 ast)
It was not a good tournament for Ricky Rubio, there's no way around it. His shooting numbers were horrific, with just 2-17 threes made (11.8%) and just a .277 FG% overall. Yikes. More troubling is that Ricky's worst games came in Spain's three losses, in which he averaged just 4 points and 2.7 assists on 4-15 FG (26.7%) in those games.
All that said, our opinion of Ricky Rubio as an NBA prospect didn't really change that much this summer. His per-minute passing and rebounding numbers still project him to be elite in those skills for a point guard (note as always that assists are awarded much less frequently in FIBA games). His poor outside shooting is actually somewhat of an aberration at this point, as he's proven that he can knock down the FIBA 3 at a decent clip over the course of a season (Ricky was 42% in Spanish League play, 36% in the Euroleague in 09-10).
His biggest weakness, by far, remains his complete inability to be an effective shotmaker in the lane, and his truly horrendous finishing at the rim. There is no doubt Rubio needs to drastically improve in both areas to be a top-tier NBA point guard. But these were known issues.
We'd note the following caveats:
- We've noted in the past that we think Rubio is especially effective in the pick-and-roll, where his ability to see the entire court is truly Nash-like (even if his shotmaking ability truly is not). It was one of many curious decisions by Spain Coach Sergio Scariolo to play very little pick-and-roll basketball with Rubio over the course of the tournament. Further, Rubio was rarely even on the court with Barcelona teammate Fran Vazquez, whom we've found to be an especially effective PnR partner with Ricky.
So often, Ricky's role consisted of initiating the offense by merely passing to the wing and cutting to the weak side, where he often just stood there, apparently as a spot-up shooter. It was an extremely poor use of Rubio's abilities overall by Coach Scariolo, who also oversaw a team which often failed to get touches inside for Marc Gasol. Scariolo's poor coaching hurt the Spanish national team, and did not allow Rubio to fully showcase his strengths.
- Rubio's most important game of the summer from an NBA prospect perspective was still the friendly vs. Team USA prior to the tournament, and I thought he was impressive in that game, with 7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals in 21 minutes, though he did commit 5 turnovers. Ricky's outstanding court vision was on display, though he was overly flashy at times, and he played solid D against the likes of Derrick Rose and Steph Curry. Considering again his production in per-minute terms and FIBA terms, his stat line was deceptively good.
- As always, the most underrated statistic when it comes to Ricky Rubio is his age. Even if he has already been a known player for a while, he is still just 19 years old (he turns 20 in October), and was one of the youngest players in the entire tournament. Yes, we know that Kevin Durant is just 21, but we're not suggesting that Rubio will be anywhere near as great as KD. Yes, Rubio desperately needs to improve his shotmaking - desperately - to reach his expectations as an NBA player, but all in all, he is still well ahead of the game for the age of 19.
Yi Jianlian, China (35 min, 20.2 pts, 10.2 reb, 1.0 ast)
We've never been big fans of Yi, finding him to be too passive, but he looked like a different player in this tournament - so assertive, so smart and versatile with the ability to either work his varied post moves or face up. Especially impressive was his 26-14 in the tournament's opening game vs. Greece, as Yi was able to hold his post position well even against Greece's big brutes inside. Jay Aych was surprised by Yi's tournament showing, as he had not been particularly impressive in pre-tournament friendlies. Now, the challenge is for Yi to do it consistently, but for the first time, we saw signs that Yi actually has the chance to be a quality rotation player on a good NBA team.