The high flying Frenchmen is the mainstay in the Trailblazers starting lineup. He is a big reason why the team isn’t looking for perimeter help, despite key subtractions to the Portland roster including Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster, as well as the numerous trade requests from Rudy Fernandez. Though Batum is usually touted for his defense, it was his offense that did the talking in Turkey as he paced the French squad with 12.5 PPG.
The 7-foot Persian center was the only player of note on an Iranian team that only won one game in the tournament. Still Hadaddi was amongst the leading scores in Turkey at 20 PPG. In addition, Hadaddi made it difficult for the opposition to get easy looks at the basket with his shot blocking prowess in where he finished at 2.6 BPG. Further, from the games and in looking at the numbers a closer you can see that Hamed’s acumen for the game is steadily increasing. His footwork and hands are both above average for man of his size evidenced by his ability to time shot blocking opportunities as well as his ability to be the primary scoring threat for Iran, which more than usually was overmatched. Look for Hadaddi to seriously challenge incumbent starter Marc Gasol and former #2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet for minutes in Memphis this coming season.
Splitter’s debut in the NBA has been long anticipated by basketball people from all over. The 2007 28th overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs has spent the last few years playing out his contract (which had an extremely high buyout clause) with Tau Ceramica of the Spanish ACB League. And by the looks of it, that was best thing for the Brazilian big man. Fast-forward 3 years and Splitter is widely considered the best big man in Europe. He proved it in the World Championships with his all around game as he came in second in points, rebounds and assists for his home country.
The versatile Milwaukee Bucks forward was big part of the team making it to playoffs in 2009-10. And it looks like Ilyasova will help Jennings and company do more than just squeeze into the post season just to lose in the first round in 2010-11, like they did in 2009-10. Ersan was the leading scorer and rebounder for the host country that made it to the championship game against Team USA. At 13.4 PPG and 7.6 RPG Ilyasova’s contributions are even more impressive considering he was playing alongside Turkish legend and NBA all-star Hedo Turkoglu.
The Knicks off season free agent pick up might be the least known of the five players mentioned, but he may also have the most upside. Playing for US nemesis Russia, Mozgov paced his team in scoring at 13 PPG on 63% from the field and whopping 78% from the free throw line (which is remarkable for a big man). Not to mention the 7-footer led the Russians to 4-1 record in pool play and a berth in the round of eight. Furthermore, against Greece, a nation that which has given the US trouble in past (especially on the interior where man giant Sofoklis Schortsanitis controls the middle), he went off for 18 points.
Normally I wouldn’t do this, but I just want to take the time to point out a strong individual performance from Yi who was a World Championships top five scorer at 20.2 PPG and also led China in rebounds at 10.2 RPG. However, China didn’t have a particularly strong showing finishing up at 1-4.