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Breaking down Argentina
by Jorge Sierra / August 6, 2002

Argentina will show up in Indianapolis at the end of August with their best team in history. Ginobili, Oberto, Scola, Nocioni... All those players will be there. All those players that already demolished last summer every squad they faced in the qualifying tournament – including a Canadian team led by Steve Nash and Todd MacCulloch. Now the South Americans hope they can write another story of success and bring some joy to a country hard hit by a huge crisis. One thing is for sure: they won't do it worse than their soccer counterparts in the World Cup.

THE STAR: Emanuel Ginobili

One of the best decisions made by the San Antonio Spurs in recent memory was an unlikely one. In 1999, they used the commonly expendable 57th and last pick of the NBA Draft to select an Argentinean project called Emanuel Ginobili. Soon after that, "Manu" signed with Virtus Bologna – the best team out of the NBA – developed into a perfect replacement for the prematurely retired Predrag Danilovic – a former Miami Heat and a hero in Bologna – and became widely recognized as the most outstanding player left in Europe.

After playing a secondary role in the last World Championship and prior to making his debut in the NBA with the Spurs, Ginobili will have the chance to hit a large audience. He could very well be one of the biggest attractions of the tournament with his flashy dunks and big shooting streaks.The future of the Argentinean team will greatly rest on his shoulders.

THE BACKCOURT: It won't be easy for the US National Team to overpower the Argentinean guards in an hypothetical game during the World Championship. The South Americans will have quite a physically gifted backcourt in Indianapolis. Andres Nocioni, for example, is one of the very few players that can boast of having dunked on Kevin Garnett. The 6-7 small forward stayed out of the NBA radar over the last couple of seasons, but could be NBA material in a near future. He is clearly better than the highly scouted Carlos Delfino (projected as a first-round pick next summer) and Federico Kammerichs (51st pick by Blazers last June), which won't probably make the final roster of the Argentinean team in the tournament.

Hugo Sconochini is another great athlete in the Argentinean backcourt. Well in his thirties, Sconochini -suspended two years ago for use of drugs- will bring a lot of defensive toughness on the shooting guard spot. He is not very much talented on the offensive end, though. Same thing can be said with the former Temple standout and Sixer benchwarmer point guard Pepe Sanchez. Along with the flashy playmaker Lucas Victoriano, a Latin version of Jason Williams, Sanchez will be used as a backup for Alejandro Montecchia at the point guard position.

THE FRONTCOURT: The surplus of physical talent that is enjoyed on the backcourt will sorely be missed on the frontcourt. At 6-10, the former Sonic Ruben Wolkowyski will be the biggest man on the roster. However, the lack of size will be balanced with tons of offensive talent. Luis Scola will make many NBA scouts realize that he is worth more than a 55th pick in the Draft. Playing as a Sixth Man, he was the top scorer in his club last season. Has enough talent to embarrass several NBA players during the tournament. Watch out for his footwork! Fabricio Oberto, teammate of Scola, Nocioni and Sconochini in the Spanish League champion last year, has also a nice low post moves and will be the best defensive asset -along with Wolkowyski- in the paint.

STRENGTHS: Defensive toughness and athleticism on the perimeter. The higher the tempo of the game is, the better for the Argentineans. Many players can become offensive threats.

WEAKNESSES: Although many people can shoot the ball, they have no pure shooter. Could struggle against zone defenses. Lack of size in the paint will also be a concern when facing bigger talented players. Emanuel Ginobili is an outstanding player, but also inconsistent at times. Takes a lot of risks.

WILL PLAY IN... Group D with Russia, New Zealand and Venezuela.

PROJECTION: Bronze medal.

Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com

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