With the FIBA World Championship wrapping up yesterday with a USA victory over Turkey, a few lessons and interesting side notes stand out.
1. USA basketball is here to compete on the international level
The US has shown increased willingness to remain competitive on the international stage after some embarrassing performances at tournaments in the late 90s and early 2000s. In fact, this is the first World Championship gold medal since 1994. After the Redeem Team's gold meal in Beijing and Team "B" bringing home the gold in this tournament, it's safe to say the USA is committed to remaining competitive. While big names like James, Wade, Bosh and our own D Will did not play, the US has enough depth to consistently field competitive teams, and enough of the top players seem committed to representing their country.
2. Kevin Durant is the future of the NBA
The conclusion is inescapable. Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan are aging. Dwight Howard has no post moves. The Super Friends opted for safety in numbers over carrying a load on their own. Kevin Durant may not have the complete game that Lebron James does at this point in his career, but I would consider Durant to be in the near future the "face" of the NBA. At this tournament, Durant was phenomenal. He took personal leadership of the team in a way I personally do not think James or Bosh would have (I do think Wade or Bryant would have; Anthony would have to a degree, but not as effectively as Durant.) At times he was utterly unstoppable. His play and leadership at this tournament is reminiscent of the same leadership Jordan gave the Bulls, Bird gave the Celtics or that Bryant is giving the Lakers--a brand of leadership James never mastered at Cleveland and will never develop in Miami. His humble and likeable attitude, the antithesis of many (though not all) NBA superstars, sets Durant apart from the rest of the league. To put it a different way--I would be more afraid of the ball in Durant's hands in a game 7 against the Jazz, tied score, 2 seconds left, then I would be in the same situation against Miami with the ball in James' hands. Call me crazy, but Durant is the future face of the NBA, and this tournament shows he has it in him.
8. The Suns aren't over yet....and other NBA gems
- Hedo Turkoglu had some solid games for a very solid Turkish team. Nothing eye popping--20 points was his highest effort--but he had every appearance that he could be a solid contributor for the Phoenix Suns. Losing Stoudemire was tough, but the additions they made-- especially if FIBA and not Toronto Turkoglu shows up to Phoenix-- could keep them relevant in a very tough conference. Don't count them out yet.
- Linus Kleiza played great for a Lithuania team that did very well. 19 points and about 7 boards a game. He's not going to turn the Raptors in an Eastern juggernaut, but will be a valuable piece to their rebuilding efforts.
- Luis Scola- Had Argentina won gold instead of USA, Scola would've been a shoo in for MVP.Around 27 points and about 7 or 8 boards a game. With a healthy Yao Ming, Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks, the Houston Rockets have every reason to be excited for the upcoming season, and the West has every reason to fear them. Scola is 30. He could have 5 more seasons at the top of his game, he could burn out quickly. But if this tournament was any indication, and I believe it was, then Scola is a player capable of being a first option for a team, and potentially an All Star.
- Carlos Delfino, also for Argentina, played well to the tune of about 20 and 5. The Bucks have to pleased with the game he showed, and the increased confidence he'll have next NBA season.
- Yi Jianlin, China. Averaged right around 20 and 10. The Wizards have to be feeling good about about their frontcourt with McGee, Blatche and Jianlin. If Arenas can behave, they could be on the right path for rebuilding.
4. How the Jazz Man did
The Jazz had one player in competition. Ante Tomic. He averaged 8.5 points and 6 boards a game. Two notable performances came against Tunisia, 15 points, 9 boards on 7/11 shooting, no steals and a block; and against the US, 12 points, 8 boards, 3 steals, 2 block, 4/10 shooting (he put a similar stat line against Iran.) I didn't get to watch him play any games, so I can't comment much on intangibles (and you can really only tell so much by stats), so I'm going to refrain from any speculating on how he will perform in the NBA, except to say he probably won't be a bust, but he probably won't be the next David Robinson either. I also think he can contribute right away. We'll see. I've read a lot of positive things about him and his highlights look promising. Jazz fans have every reason to be excited about the prospect of him on our team.
Which team should be most encouraged by the play of their player at this tournament?
Suns (Hedo Turkoglu) (32 votes)
Bucks (Carlos Delfino) (9 votes)
Wizards (Yi Jianlin) (38 votes)
Rockets (Luis Scola) (223 votes)
Raptors (Linus Kleiza) (50 votes)
Jazz (Ante Tomic) (93 votes)
445 total votes