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Athens stars
by Jorge Sierra / August 29, 2004

1. Emanuel Ginobili, Argentina - 19.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.3 spg, 57.6 FG%

The best player on the best team in the competition. He was a leader on the floor and hit big shots when needed – like the buzzer-beater against Serbia-Montenegro in the first game of the tournament. Played his heart out for the Argentinean squad, which nearly cost him an injury several times. In the end, it was all worth it.

2. Pau Gasol, Spain - 22.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 1.1 apg, 61.4 FG%

If Pau Gasol is to sign a contract extension before the season begins, it will have to be for the maximum based on what we saw in Athens. Not only was he even more dominant than usual in the low post, but he also displayed an aggressiveness never shown before in Memphis. He even made clutch plays down the stretch – not one of his strengths with the Grizzlies – in several games. Gasol was held to just four points in the fourth quarter of the game vs. the U.S., but you can't blame him. His teammates just didn't get him the ball enough for some reason. Worth noting: Gasol dunked on budding NBA stars Yao Ming and Amare Stoudemire on the course of becoming the leading scorer in the Olympic tournament.

3. Luis Scola, Argentina - 17.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.2 spg, 65.5 FG%

Scola scored in the low post, on putbacks, from mid-range, on the break... He basically put on an offensive show in Athens. Any doubt about his ability to play in the NBA should be erased after his performance in the Olympic basketball tournament. His wide array of offensive skills would make him a good addition for any NBA team willing to overlook his obvious defensive deficiencies – only four blocks and 31 fouls in eight games.

4. Yao Ming, China - 20.7 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 1.5 apg, 0.5 bpg, 55.9 FG%

The incompetent play of Chinese guards makes life harder for Yao Ming on the national team. He was still a dominant force in the paint in Athens – except when Pau Gasol was in front. The Grizzlies forward outscored Yao, top rebounder in the Olympic tournament, 58-28 in two games.

5. Sarunas Jasikevicius, Lithuania - 14.1 ppg, 5.6 apg, 3.3 rpg, 1.3 spg, 39.2 3P%

Jasikevicius had won it all in the last two years in club and national team competitions. The streak was broken in Athens – and he was partly to blame for that. While NBA scouts have usually pointed at his lack of quickness as the main reason why he's not in the league, that's not really his main weakness. The Maccabi Tel Aviv star has anger-management issues and can really get frustrated on the course of a game if things don't go his way. That was never more obvious than in the fourth quarter of the semifinal game against Italy. His questionable decisions, ill-advised shots and constant complaining to the officials did nothing to help Lithuania in its quest for gold. That said, Jasikevicius was pretty impressive both shooting the ball and running the team. But that's nothing new.

6. Tim Duncan, United States - 12.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.2 bpg, 56.7 FG%

Had a hard time getting used to the international rules and got into foul trouble very often. His impact was diminished for that reason and the fact that opponents double- and triple-teamed him on a regular basis well aware of the Americans' inability to hit outside shots. Team USA was able to survive without him against Spain in the quarter finals, but Argentina was just too much.

7. Carlos Arroyo, Puerto Rico - 18.0 ppg, 5.0 apg, 2.1 rpg, 2.0 spg, 43.4 FG%

Although not as brilliant as two summers ago in the World Championships – when he was not still an established NBA player – Carlos Arroyo was one of the top guards in the tournament. His best performance came in the game against the U.S. team, where he dominated a disappointing Stephon Marbury.

8. Arvydas Macijauskas, Lithuania - 15.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.1 spg, 54.0 3P%

Macijauskas did in Athens what he always does: score in bunches thanks to his outstanding shooting skills. While he's not the second coming of Drazen Petrovic – something often said in Europe last season – Macijauskas is one of the most NBA-ready players left in the Old Continent.

9. Lazaros Papadopoulos, Greece - 12.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.2 apg, 57.3 FG%

Greek center Lazaros Papadopoulos will get second looks from the NBA after being ignored in the 2002 draft. He is not the most mobile or agile big man around, but he has a pretty good touch near the basket and more defensive toughness than your typical Euro center.

10. Shawn Marion, United States - 9.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.1 spg, 53.1 FG%

Arguably one of the least talented men on the U.S. team, Shawn Marion provided the most consistent contribution of all the American players in Athens. His hustle, rebounding and ability to score on the break were important assets for a squad in which most players clearly underachieved. Additionally, Marion was the second best three-point shooter on Larry Brown's team – which may tell you something about its deficiencies in this area.

Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com

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