With the wrap-up of what was a fun, entertaining, intense Olympic basketball tournament, it’s time to take a look at what we just saw.
Players stepped up big-time while representing their countries, and though some, like that guy who plays for the Brooklyn Nets or the younger dude who suits up for the Dallas Mavericks, were to be expected, the production of other slightly lesser-known players was surprising.
Below, check out the Top 10 players from the Tokyo Olympic basketball tournament.
Zach LaVine (USA) 🇺🇸
Stats: 11.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 4.5 apg
One could easily make the argument that Zach LaVine was one of the five most influential players for Team USA at the Olympics, and the fact that was the case despite the talented NBA scorer putting up just 11.0 points per contest made the feat all the more impressive.
LaVine provided intense defense for the Americans off the bench, along with his usual explosive production in transition. Even more impressively, LaVine was extremely efficient with his scoring opportunities, shooting 60 percent from the floor for the tournament and knocking down 45.5 percent of his three-point looks.
For a USA team that would often go cold from three, especially to start games, having LaVine enter games midway through first quarters and provide that level of shooting was massive in their path to gold.
Jock Landale (Australia) 🇦🇺
Stats: 13.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg
Though his production prior to the Olympics probably had more to do with it than anything, the fact that Australian big man Jock Landale was reported to be joining the San Antonio Spurs next season during this tournament was probably not a total coincidence, as Landale was excellent in Tokyo.
The soft-touch big man was great spacing the floor in the Olympics for Australia, doing so while standing at 6-foot-11, and his dirty work down low on both ends was massive.
Landale was particularly great in the bronze medal game against Slovenia, scoring 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting and hitting two of his three attempts from beyond the arc.
Jayson Tatum (USA) 🇺🇸
Stats: 15.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.3 apg
One of the main stories for the Americans in Tokyo was that, outside of one player, one with a ton of high-level FIBA experience prior to this summer, the majority of the roster was young players, especially by international standards, as it was the first major tournament for a lot of Team USA.
That led to a lot of hesitancy with the ball for various players, especially early in the tournament, and shyness when it came time for someone other than a certain Nets player to score.
The one guy who stepped up in that regard was Jayson Tatum, as he wound up being the team’s second-leading scorer at 15.2 points per contest while shooting north of 49 percent from the floor and nearly 45 percent from three.
Durant believes Tatum is next in line to be the guy for Team USA, and based on his performance in his first taste of senior-team action, he may not be wrong with that assessment.
Evan Fournier (France) 🇫🇷
Stats: 18.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.3 apg
The silver medalists’ leading scorer in Tokyo at 18.7 points per game, Evan Fournier continued the tradition of good NBA players transforming into great FIBA players while wearing their country’s colors, perhaps even earning the honored title of FIBA Fournier thanks to his play in the Olympics.
Fournier’s best performance came in the first outing of the Games when he dropped 28 points on 11-of-22 shooting in an upset win over the Americans to kick off the tournament.
In hindsight, France probably wishes that performance came in the last game of the Olympics and not the first, considering Fournier went 5-for-15 (and 2-of-9 from three) in the gold medal match against Team USA, but it would have been very difficult for anyone to have that level of production against a loaded American roster twice in a little over a week.
Either way, Fournier was clearly one of the very best players of the tournament.
Ricky Rubio (Spain) 🇪🇸
Stats: 25.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.0 apg
The lone player of the Spanish golden generation of basketball still in their prime, Ricky Rubio performed like it in these Olympics, looking to score way more often than we’ve seen him do in his NBA career, and worrying less about being the team’s playmaker.
The results were fantastic for Spain, too, with Rubio finishing as the tournament’s second-leading scorer at 25.5 points per game to go with 3.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists, the fourth-highest mark at the Games.
And despite being eliminated before the medal rounds by Team USA, Rubio went down swinging, scoring 38 points against the Americans, the highest-scoring mark ever for a player against Team USA in the Olympics.
Jrue Holiday (USA) 🇺🇸
Stats: 12.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.5 apg
We’ve reached the point where we can’t call Jrue Holiday underrated anymore, because after winning an NBA title and Olympic gold medal in a two-week span, whoever doesn’t consider the Milwaukee Bucks and Team USA guard one of the best two-way players in the world has their head buried very deeply in the sand.
Holiday was inarguably the Americans’ second-most important at the Games, scoring the bar at an efficient level while, more importantly, being an absolute pest defensively, hounding opposing ball-handlers up and down the floor and jumping passing lanes for steals to ignite transition opportunities for Team USA.
Against a field that had multiple high-level, FIBA-specialist guards, Holiday’s contributions were absolutely crucial, helping slow down the likes of Fournier (5-for-15 in the gold-medal game against Team USA) and FIBA Patrick Mills, who we’ll talk about more just a bit, and without him, one has to wonder who else on the American squad would have been capable of taking on such a role and making the same impact.
The answer is: probably no one.
Rudy Gobert (France) 🇫🇷
Stats: 8.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.8 apg
The proven most impactful defender in the world, Rudy Gobert was huge in the Olympics, figuratively and literally, blocking shots all over the place while protecting the paint and even attacking mismatches with success offensively, often scoring over smaller players down low with vicious dunks.
For a French team that wound up being the tournament’s second-best behind only to the Americans, no small feat, Gobert was without question the squad’s most important player.
With him at the helm, France will be a force to be reckoned with in international tournaments to come.
Luka Doncic (Slovenia) 🇸🇮
Stats: 23.8 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 9.5 apg
After what was a terrifyingly effective start to the tournament, we finally saw some cracks in Luka Doncic’s armor as he faced two of the three best countries, basketball-wise, in the world in back-to-back games, though, in fairness, those cracks may have been injury-related, as Doncic was sporting a banged-up wrist late in the Games.
First, facing France with a chance to reach the gold-medal match, Doncic scored just 16 points, require 18 field-goal attempts to do so, while going 2-for-9 from beyond the arc. What’s wild is that even in a game where he clearly struggled overall, Doncic still had the third Olympic triple-double in tournament history, dishing out 18 helpers against the French and securing 10 boards, showing what a spectacular talent he is.
Then, with a chance to bring home the first Olympic basketball medal in his nation’s history against Australia in the bronze medal match, Doncic scored 22 points but went 7-for-20 from the floor and 3-for-13 from three while turning the ball over eight times.
Still, overall, Doncic was one of the best players of the tournament, and finishing fourth despite being from a Slovenia that has a population of two million is no small feat whatsoever.
Doncic and Slovenia will be back.
Patrick Mills (Australia) 🇦🇺
Stats: 26.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 6.5 apg
We were between Doncic and Patrick Mills for this spot, but the veteran guard having the game of his life when the stakes were highest – with a shot at winning the first Olympic basketball medal in Australia’s history – was the deciding factor in placing Mills as the No. 2 player of the tournament, especially once it was clear Australia was going to take home bronze.
In the bronze-medal game against Doncic and Slovenia, Mills was unreal, going off for 42 points on 15-of-31 shooting to go with nine assists and just two turnovers. Those 42 points were the most a player has ever scored in a bronze-medal match, so Mills’ performance wasn’t just fantastic, it was historic, too.
Mills may have had one notable hiccup in the Games – namely, his quiet 5-for-14 performance against the Americans in the semifinal – but overall, his performance in Tokyo, including finishing the tournament as the competition’s leading scorer, was what we have come to expect from FIBA Patty: spectacular.
Kevin Durant (USA) 🇺🇸
Stats: 18.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.3 apg
We took a bit of a gamble prior to the tournament when we had the nerve to rank Kevin Durant the second-best player at the Olympics, trailing Doncic, a decision we deserve to be panned over after what we just witnessed over the past couple of weeks.
As was the case in this year’s NBA playoffs, Durant oftentimes looked like the best player in the world in Tokyo, scoring absolutely effortlessly while putting in huge effort defensively, guarding opposing wings, banging with All-NBA-level bigs in the paint like Gobert when he had to and protecting the paint as the last line of defense for the Americans.
Who knows where Team USA would have been had Durant not decided to join them for the Olympics, a decision many rightfully deemed risky considering his injury history, but it almost certainly would not have been where they ended up with him, with gold draped around their necks at the end of the tournament.
Durant saved his best performance at the Games for last, scoring 29 points against a tough French squad to go with six rebounds and a blocked shot in 35 minutes of action.
Afterwards, Gobert summed up Durant’s gold-medal-winning showing pretty well (via CBS Sports):
“We tried to make him work as hard as we can, but he’s Kevin Durant,” France center Rudy Gobert said. “He’s going to hit shots that only him, in the world, can hit. … I think he’s the best scorer in basketball. He’s going to do what he does, especially on the biggest stage.”
He’s Kevin Durant. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.
Now, the great Durant goes home with his third Olympic gold medal (and his fourth gold medal overall, as he has one from the 2010 World Cup, too), the tournament’s all-time leading scorer for Team USA, with his legacy in international play completely secured as one of the greatest FIBA competitors of all time.
Maybe the greatest.