As NBA fans, all we want is for the season to begin. The thrill of the offseason free agent bonanza has worn off and although Summer League games are fun to watch, fans want games that matter. Although the 2016 Rio Olympics aren’t necessarily the NBA, these games very much matter. With the group stage concluding later today, there have been some intriguing stories in Rio.
Team USA hasn’t lost a game, but hasn’t dominated either. After finishing second in Group A, Australia has established themselves as a serious medal contender. Spain, Argentina, Lithuania and Croatia could find themselves at any of the top four positions in the Group B standings. Hosts Brazil may eliminated later today in the Group Stage.
As basketball fans, we watch the Rio Olympics to see which players are the best in the world. As NBA fans, we have a specific interest in how our players are doing, regardless of what flag they represent. Here are the teams with the top performances in the Olympics. I’ve only considered teams that had three or more players head to Rio.
While Chicago is Jimmy Butler‘s team, the former Marquette man has found himself with a much smaller role with the stars and stripes. Disappearing in tight contests against Australia and France, Butler did break out against Venezuela. In twenty minutes, Butler dropped 17 points on route to a dominant victory.
If you account for offseason departures, Nikola Mirotic is Chicago’s second leading scorer returning to the club. Just like with the Bulls, Mirotic is seeing an increased role with Spain. Currently, Mirotic’s 12.2 points per game rank second among the Spaniards. Averaging over 26 minutes a game, Mirotic will play a key role in Spain putting their first two losses behind them.
Cristiano Felicio is coming off his rookie season in Chicago where he averaged 3.1 points per game in 31 appearances. Felicio plays the same role with Brazil as he does with Chicago: Rotation big man. In Rio, Felicio is averaging just under ten minutes and 3.2 points per game.
The Mavericks wanted a piece of Golden State’s history so they went out and acquired Harrison Barnes as well as Andrew Bogut. Barnes, Dallas’ prized free agent signing, has only appeared in two United States games. As a $94 million man, expect Barnes to carry a much bigger role than he did at Golden State or in Rio. Nicolas Brussino, a much more low key free agent signing, has only appeared in one of Argentina’s games.
Bogut, who carved himself a well-defined complementary role with the Warriors over the past few seasons, is one of the top dogs for the pleasantly surprising Australia team. Although his 13 points per game are only the second highest on the team, Bogut’s field goal percentage is astronomical. Bogut is shooting over 82% from the field.
Golden State Warriors
The Bay Area trio of Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson have featured prominently for Team USA. Durant, NBA’s hottest free agent, is also Team USA’s brightest star in Rio. KD leads the team in minutes played (28.3 MPG) and points (16.8 PPG). Along with Durant, Thompson’s name has been penciled as a starter for the majority of Team USA’s games.
Unlike Durant, Thompson had not been able to make an impact in Rio. That is until Sunday. In a three point victory against France, Thompson exploded for 30 points. Aided with seven made 3-pointers, Thompson proved to be the most valuable player on the court against France. Of all Americans that have played in every game, Green has averaged the least amount of minutes.
New York Knicks
Carmelo Anthony is playing for his third straight Gold medal in Rio. Anthony ranks second on team with 15.2 points per game as well as second with 26.1 minutes per game. In a matchup between then-undefeated teams, Anthony led the United States to victory over Australia with 31 points and 8 rebounds.
In over 12 minutes per game, 2015 2nd-round draft pick Willy Hernangomez has averaged 6.7 points per game. The Spaniard has been used of the bench as a depth big man. Free agent signing Mindaugas Kuzminskas has been stable for Lithuania, averaging 14.5 points per game. He’s also averaging slightly under five rebounds per game for the Lithuanians.
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio is making the greatest impact in Rio so far. It all begins with Pau Gasol, who is looking to upgrade his two Olympic silver medals. The two time NBA champion has headlined Spain’s basketball team for years and Rio is no different. Gasol is averaging 19.5 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game. He’s also third on the team with 2.5 assists per game.
Like Gasol, Manu Ginobli is the face of his nation’s basketball program. Unlike Gasol, Ginobli has already chased down his Olympic gold. Argentina hasn’t been solely dependent on Manu as his 15 points per game rank 4th among the team. Although a career as a backup point guard has greeted him in the NBA, Patty Mills is Australia’s superstar. Mills leads the Aussies with 20.5 points per game and is a vital reason with Australia is a medal contender.
As Gasol is to Spain, Ginobli is to Argentina, and Mills is to Australia, Tony Parker is to France. The Frenchman is averaging 13 points per game, which is 2nd highest on the team. His 3.8 assists per game rank 3rd. The Spurs’ only Olympian who isn’t a superstar in his country is Patricio Garino. Garino isn’t doing too shabby for Argentina, however. Averaging 27 minutes a game, Garino has put 7.5 points per game.
DeMar DeRozan is one of Team USA’s superstars who serve a vastly different role than the one that is served for his NBA team. For the Raptors, DeRozan is one of the top dogs, but in Rio, the former USC Trojan has found himself on the second unit. DeRozan is averaging slightly under 12 minutes a game and slightly under seven points per game.
Along with DeRozan, Kyle Lowry has featured off the bench. Lowry’s breakout season in Canada assured him of backup point guard minutes for Team USA. Lowry’s four assists per game is the second highest among Americans. After averaging a near double-double for the Raptors this past season, Jonas Valanciunas hasn’t found his offensive game in Rio. The Lithuanian big man is averaging 5.5 points per game. However, Valanciunas is leading the team with seven rebounds per game.
The Jazz provide France with a couple of valuable pieces to their team. 24-year old Rudy Gobert has averaged a double-double in his last two season in Utah. Gobert is leading all Frenchmen with 6.2 rebounds per game, although his 5.2 points per game could use some work. Boris Diaw has been effective with 8.4 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game and 4.6 assists per game, with the latter two ranking 2nd among the team.
Reserve winger Joe Ingles is stabilizing Australia’s attack with the 2nd highest amount of assists per game (3.8). Ingles has also chipped in with 7.2 points per game. Raul Neto started in over 50 games for the Jazz last season, but in Rio hasn’t been able to make much of an impact for the host nation.