NBA Saturday: Draft Prospects In Olympics
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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The 2012 London Olympic Games officially kicked off on Friday night with the opening ceremonies. On Sunday 12 men’s basketball teams will begin competing for the gold. Most eyes will be on the record-setting 40 current NBA players participating and 18 former NBAers. However, there will also be a handful of future draft prospects who are worth keeping an eye on as well. While none of them are currently projected as first-round picks, they are all talented enough to potentially be picked in the second-round or eventually find themselves in the league.
Matthew Dellavedova (Australia, 1990) – 6’4, 190 lbs. Shooting Guard
College basketball fans are very familiar with Dellavedova, who has been a standout for the St. Mary’s Gaels over the last three years. He’s helped lead them to two NCAA Tournaments and an overall record of 80-21 in his time with the program, consistently improving year in and year out.
The Olympics mark Dellavedova’s fourth tournament with the Australian National Team. His name has some buzz surrounding it right now due to his performance against Tony Parker and France in their final exhibition. His ability to play both guard positions should come in handy for Australian head coach Brett Brown, who also serves as an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. With a strong showing in London, especially shooting wise, he will enter his senior year firmly on the NBA radar.
Andrew Lawrence (Great Britain, 1990) – 6’1, 185 lbs. Point Guard
Unlike Dellavedova, Lawrence just came into his own on the collegiate level this past season. As a junior he averaged 13 points, 2.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists for the College of Charleston. He’s played for Great Britain longer than he has Charleston, making his debut for his country in the 2008 U18 European Championships.
There is no better preparation for Lawrence as he gets set for his final year of eligibility. Playing alongside a successful and consummate professional in Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls is a great opportunity for Lawrence. He should return to Charleston ready to dominate the Southern Conference thanks to the experience he gains in London. The biggest key for him will be gaining confidence in his own offensive skills as he’s already proven to be a solid playmaker.
Ailun Guo (China,1993) – 6’3, 170 lbs. Shooting Guard
The Chinese are without center Yao Ming, who retired from basketball in 2011, but that hasn’t dampened their expectations in the least bit. They have a lot of experience and a talented guard in Guo who has dominated for them in U19 and U17 tournaments in the past.
Guo, who plays for the Liaoning Hunters in China, excels at getting to the rim and is an underrated playmaker. He could see extended minutes at point guard for the Chinese, which could be good for his draft stock. Guo has to continue to be aggressive no matter what position he plays, but what will be most important for him is showing an improved jump shot. That has long been his biggest weakness.
Sergey Karasev (Russia, 1993) – 6’7, 205 lbs. Small Forward
It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of role Russia head coach David Blatt gives Karasev, quite possibly the most intriguing prospect in the Olympics. He was not a major part of the rotation in the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where he averaged just 3.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in 27 total minutes of action in three games.
Karasev, a member of Triumph, is a quality three-point shooter with a growing arsenal. Given the playing time and freedom, he could really help Russia in their quest to medal. In order for him to see the floor extensively he has to defend better than he has previously, otherwise it won’t be until he joins back up with Triumph that he can really help his stock.
Raul Neto (Brazil, 1992) – 6’1, 168 lbs. Point Guard
Over the last two years Neto has seen his share of highs and lows on the big stages. He remains a name to remember because of his speed and effectiveness with the ball in his hands. He’s coming off of a noteworthy year for San Sebastian. He’s stuck behind some veteran guards in Leandro Barbosa, Marcelo Huertas and Alex Alexander, though, which seemingly leaves very little playing time for him in London.
Neto has to make the most of his opportunities and use his speed to be disruptive on both ends of the court. Knocking down open jump shots would go a long way in helping him climb up the draft boards as well.
Facundo Campazzo (Argentina, 1991) – 5’10, 194 lbs. Point Guard
Like Neto, Campazzo will have to make the most out of limited minutes on a very talented Argentina squad. Despite being small in size, Campazzo holds his own defensively. He’s a solid three-point shooter who is quite capable of creating for his teammates.
Campazzo isn’t really on the radar just yet and may not be after this tournament either, but he’s certainly a big part of Argentina basketball’s future. Look for him to show promising flashes when his number is called.
Wroten Ready To Help Replace Mayo
The Memphis Grizzlies lost a potent offensive threat in guard O.J. Mayo this offseason to the Dallas Mavericks. Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins was hoping the team would find a way to keep him, but it was clear from early on that he was going to be out of their price range. That’s part of the reason why they renounced his rights and let him become an unrestricted free agent.
Another reason why they did that was their faith in young guards Josh Selby and Tony Wroten. Both players had strong showings at the Las Vegas Summer League and Wroten feels like he’s ready to come in and help them make a playoff push.
“Definitely, by being a big guard who can play multiple positions,” Wroten said to HOOPSWORLD. “They’re already a good team without me, I just feel like I can help.”
Coach Hollins was in attendance and talking to Wroten after games to help get him acclimated to what he is looking for.
“I take everything in, all the negative and positive,” Wroten said. “I’m not perfect, so I can always get better.
“They just want me to be me, do everything, play a lot of positions and just be myself.”
Wroten slipped in the draft because of questions about his ball-handling skills and jump shot, especially from distance. There was no denying his ability to produce in Las Vegas despite those weaknesses, though. On a team like the Grizzlies where he won’t be asked to carry an excessive load he’ll be able to fill in where needed and potentially be the piece that helps push them into unchartered territory.
Up Close With Keith Benson
After playing in just three games his rookie season in the NBA, Keith Benson finally got the chance to get some extension 5-on-5 under his belt at the Las Vegas Summer League for the Atlanta Hawks. He performed well, averaging 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks. In an exclusive interview with HOOPSWORLD he talked about how nice it was to get some extensive playing time and how much he prepared for the increased levels of physicality.
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