Tag:Pau Gasol
Posted on: December 5, 2011 3:27 pm
Edited on: December 5, 2011 5:51 pm
 

Lakers talking Gasol or Bynum for Chris Paul?

Posted by Ben Golliverkobe-cp3

As NBA teams race to spend their Mid-Level Exceptions on the likes of Kwame Brown, Jeff Foster and Samuel Dalembert in free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers lay back in the cut, holding two of the league's premier big men -- Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum -- on their roster. Both players have questions about their long-term fit in L.A. and both ended their 2010-2011 seasons in disappointing fashion. Add up the ever-present demand for quality big men and the Lakers' surplus of potentially ill-fitting low-post parts and it's a recipe for trade rumors galore.

Indeed, Yahoo Sports reports that New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul, who is eligible to sign an extension this season but reportedly desires a new team and/or bigger stage, has been the subject of recent conversation between the Lakers and the Hornets involving Gasol or Bynum. 
The Lakers and Hornets talked several days ago, league sources told Yahoo! Sports, but it was one of those circuitous conversations that left the sides unclear what it would take to get a deal done, and the talk ended with no formal offers. The Lakers and Hornets expect to speak again this week, sources said. The prospect of Pau Gasol as the primary player going to the Hornets won’t be acceptable, sources said. The Lakers will ultimately be willing to let New Orleans pick its player in the deal – Bynum or Gasol – but New Orleans is determined to get quality, and quantity, in a deal.

Bynum has privately been heard to say this offseason that he wants his own team, and the chances of him getting that – in New Orleans or Orlando – have never been higher. Years ago, Kobe Bryant wanted Bynum moved for Jason Kidd, but Bryant’s been insistent all summer that he still believes in this core, isn’t interested in wholesale change.
The Hornets face the prospect of rebuilding their entire roster from zero should Paul eventually communicate that he wants out and if former All-Star forward David West signs elsewhere in free agency. If you're the Hornets and you're aiming for a slash-and-burn rebuild, you want to shed center Emeka Okafor's 8-figure contract that potentially runs through 2013-2014 in any Paul trade, and the Lakers have a handy piece in facilitating that thanks to forward Lamar Odom, whose contract is only fully guaranteed through this year.

Emerging from the Chris Paul fracas with Gasol locked in through 2013-2014 or Bynum through 2012-2013, a chance to re-sign Odom, loads of cap space to build a roster and whatever other tertiary trade pieces L.A. can scrounge up (money, future draft picks, etc.) wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for New Orleans. Not by a long shot. The preference is probably for Gasol, despite the fact that he's 31, but either player gives you a platform to build around. Other potential suitors -- particularly the New York Knicks -- can't make an offer that's even in the vicinity. As for Gasol not being enough as the centerpiece? Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams both moved last year without anyone nearly as good as Gasol being part of the return package. Once that leverage kicks in, demands crumble.

Meanwhile, for Los Angeles, it would mean better roster balance, more room for the remaining big man to breathe and a dynamic playmaking point guard to extend the career of All-Star guard Kobe Bryant. It would amount to a gigantic upgrade at the position of greatest need while taking a step back at the position of greatest depth. If included, Okafor would be one of the best reserve big men off the bench or could be flipped in another deal. For roster chemistry reasons, the Lakers probably want to ditch Bynum instead of Gasol, although contractually he is a better value as long as his knee issues don't recur. Parting with either one is a no-brainer if it Nets Paul in return.

The Lakers are built and paid to win now, and Paul brings that promise to any team he plays on, especially one that's already as loaded as the Lakers are. If there's a risk, it's that both Paul and Bryant have issues with their knees, but pairing two of the game's top-8 players, not to mention elite competitors and most marketable faces, would make this a risk well worth taking.

The Hornets should slow play this so as to maximize the total package for Paul. But the main pieces are there: a centerpiece player in return, financial relief and the odds and ends that go into dealing with a team as loaded as the Lakers (picks, millions in cash, etc.). It's difficult to imagine that another team can make as compelling of an offer without totally demolishing their team's core or identity. Swing a trade like this, and the Lakers as potential contenders don't skip a beat, at least for the next two or three seasons.
Posted on: November 29, 2011 9:31 am
Edited on: November 29, 2011 10:46 am
 

Report: Lakers want Chris Paul AND Dwight Howard



By Matt Moore
 


The Los Angeles Lakers have a championship core. This same group of players were responsible for two out of the past three titles, and even without the services of Phil Jackson, there's every reason to believe that this team as-is can win another title with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum as its engine. But what comes after? The Lakers have begun looking to the future. They don't just want to stay competitive towards the end of Kobe Bryant's career, they want to transition seamlessly into their next phase of dominance.

And that means acquiring one of the big free agents in 2012, Dwight Howard or Chris Paul. Except they don't want one of those two. They reportedly want both.

From Mark Heisler, who covered the Lakers as a beat writer before taking up with SheridanHoops.com:
When the NBA couldn’t get a full ban on sign-and-trades, it left his Lakers in position to pull off a coup they’re dreaming of, which would make signing LeBron James pale by comparison.

If Dwight Howard and Chris Paul wind up on the market — a safe assumption as far as I’m concerned — the Lakers could offer Andrew Bynum for Dwight and Pau Gasol for CP3, or vice versa.

Nothing says that they will be enough to land either player, but it should put the Lakers in the running for both.

Oh, and Dwight likes the Lakers. Asked which All-Star he would most like to play with last season, he answered “Kobe Bryant.”
via Lakers will look to acquire Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

Just to review. We just had a five-month lockout because teams were upset about large market teams acquiring multiple stars, scavenging small markets and leaving them with nothing. And the Los Angeles Lakers and their 17 professional basketball championships are aiming for both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. Glad we lost those 16 games over this.

There are a large numbrer of reasons why this is unlikely to happen. For starters, Chris Paul reportedly has New York as his first choice. Secondly, the biggest advantage the Lakers have is the assets to trade for Paul which the Knicks don't have. But the new CBA does have one new stipulation to prevent such dealings, the extend-and-trade adjustments. While sign-and-trade restrictions don't take effect until 2013, early reports indicate that extend-and-trade restrictions are immediate. The changes say that the same setup that Carmelo Anthony used to get his way to New York and get the extra year on his deal via Bird Rights is different.

The changes to the CBA suggest that teams that extend-and-trade a player can only extend him for three, versus the maximum four-year extension or five year re-sign he gets for staying with the home team. The only way around that is a six-month waiting period. The Hornets could re-sign Paul to the full Bird rights extension and then trade him, but they would have to wait six months. But a more likely scenario would see the following scenario: the Lakers can trade for Paul in the final year of his contract and then extend him, but that must be done after six months. Which means, they have to acquire him six months prior to his free agency beginning on July 1. Which means they have to acquire him by... January 1. With a season starting on the 25th. Not exactly a lot of time to pull that off.

All of these elements are in place for Dwight Howard, and Deron Williams (should the Nets just give up for some reason) as well.



The most likely scenario involves Paul entering free agency, and then signing a four year contract with Los Angeles or New York. But if the Lakers were to acquire Paul prior to free agency, it would give them an extra year to offer Paul, and it's hard to imagine him passing that up. Max contracts with bird-rights are five years, as opposed to the four-year counting option-year of an extension.

But if the Lakers want to acquire either player (or both, if we like fantasies), then they're going to need to trade some of that core. Specifically, Jim Buss would have to give up on his pet project, Andrew Bynum. Lamar Odom and pieces might be able to acquire Chris Paul, but there's no sense in bringing in Howard and pairing him with Bynum. Either playing power forward would be clunky and awkward. Where this leaves Pau Gasol is yet to be seen.

Hornets fans have to love all this. LOVE IT.
Posted on: October 27, 2011 8:25 pm
 

Phil Jackson: Lakers fell apart in the clutch

Posted by Ben Golliverphil-jackson

Former Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson has a track record of opening up about his players once he's out the door. Who could forget his 2004 book The Last Season -- which should have been subtitled "Kobe Bryant is a Big Meanie" -- in which he was highly critical of his All-Star guard.

Now that he is officially retired, Jackson is once again able to speak candidly about his former teams and players. And, no surprise, the sharp-tongued coach pulls no punches.

ESPNLA.com reports that Jackson said in a recent interview that the 2010-2011 Lakers, who were swept out of the second round of the Western Conference playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks, were undone by their inability to perform in the big playoff moments.

"There is nothing that could have gone worse for a basketball team than the way we finished our season last year," Jackson said when he joined "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. "Struggling with New Orleans ... and going into the next round [against Dallas] we needed everyone to start playing well and we just couldn't find that little magical thing that you always hope you have as a coach, the chemistry that makes a team work well."

"To lose an 18-point lead in the first game [against the Mavericks], not being able to outscore your opponent on your home court in the fourth quarter," he said, "to give them life in the very first game of the Dallas series was foreboding what was going to happen to us. We didn't have the ability to play in the clutch like we had in the previous years."
Jackson didn't use the "choke" word but it's certainly there, hovering between the lines. That's one of the heaviest criticisms a respected coach can levy against a veteran, prideful group. 

But this assessment winds up seeming tame when you think back to what really happened during the playoffs. Ron Artest clotheslined J.J. Barea in a remarkably dirty play. Then, Andrew Bynum nearly killed J.J. Barea with the dirtiest play of the year. Who could forget Steve Blake shooting 2-for-12 from downtown against the Mavericks? Then there was Lamar Odom getting wrapped up in a reality show and Pau Gasol no-showing for the postseason amidst rumors about his personal life.  Bryant was dealing with injuries throughout the postseason so he can be forgiven, but his postseason numbers were way down across the board from the 2010 championship run.

From top to bottom, last year's group melted down in a major way. Certainly, they were bad in the clutch, but they were pretty bad in all facets against the more disciplined and focused Mavericks.

None of this is to say that the talented Lakers are a total lost cause. (Well, Blake is likely a lost cause, but that's beside the point.) But they certainly needed a new voice -- which they got in Mike Brown -- and they need to find a new sense of purpose and motivation coming out of the lockout. A fresh start will do wonders. As will a little chip on the shoulder, which Jackson's comments very well might serve to provide.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 2:41 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 2:41 pm
 

What players are losing the most in a lockout?

Posted by Royce Young

The whole strategy for owners in cancelling games is to make players miss paychecks. Maybe them miss out on collecting their large lump sums of money and ideally, you force them into taking a less than attractive deal.

That's the plan, at least.

The question is, how much will players be losing exactly by missing paychecks? We already know it's something like $80 million collectively per week, but who's taking the hit in their wallet the most? The Post Game did some crunching and here are your top 10 losers in this lockout.

10. Joe Johnson: $1,387,582.54 per paycheck
9. Amar'e Stoudemire: $1,401,361.92 per paycheck
8. Carmelo Anthony: $1,423,076.92 per paycheck
7. Pau Gasol: $1,439,550 per paycheck
6. Dirk Nowitzki: $1,468,682.54 per paycheck
5. Gilbert Arenas: $1,482,254.46 per paycheck
4. Kevin Garnett: $1,630,769.23 per paycheck
3. Tim Duncan $1,638,461.54 per paycheck
2. Rashard Lewis: $1,704,000 per paycheck
1. Kobe Bryant: $1,941,846.15 per paycheck

How did they arrive at those numbers. Here's the explanation:
Methodology: During the 1998-99 lockout, players lost pay based upon games missed. So, if a player missed one game due to the lockout, it would have cost him 1/82nd of his salary. However, since all players have slightly different schedules, we calculated pay on a paycheck basis.

Players are only paid during the regular season and receive checks bi-weekly for work that occurs the previous two weeks. The 2011-12 NBA season was supposed to have started on Nov. 1 and end on April 18. During the course of the season, that can be divided into 13 bi-weekly paychecks. The numbers were calculated by equally dividing each player's 2011-12 salary 13 times to find what they earn every two weeks during the season.

It shouldn't surprise you that Kobe is losing the most per paycheck in a lockout as he's the highest paid player in the league And the crazy thing about Kobe losing nearly $2 million per paycheck missed during the lockout is that he can recover that by playing one little exhibition game in Italy.

But it's always strange to see Rashard Lewis' name atop any of these type of lists. Yeah, I know he signed a massively ridiculous six-year $118 million deal a few years ago, but the fact he's second on this list blows the mind.

I know it's not big news to know that NBA players are going to lose a lot of money by missing paychecks, but it kind of stunned me just how much when broken down like this. I mean, think about two months missed for someone like Dirk. That's a whole lot of cash. Everyone says the players that will end up folding are the mid-level guys that make substantially less. I'm sure they will. But if I'm Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett, I'm not exactly excited about losing $1.5 million or so every couple weeks.
Posted on: September 16, 2011 2:20 pm
 

Brown says Laker offense goes through the bigs

By Matt Moore

With no summer workouts, no summer league, no contact being players and coaches whatever, Mike Brown has entered the Lakers organization quietly. There's a lot of mystery. There will be defense, sure. But what's the offense going to look like? Will it be anything like the triangle that won five championships there? How will Kobe Bryant be used? Is there any chance of more touches for the big men? Turns out the answer to the last one is a big "yes." Brown sat down with the Orange County Register and had a conversation about his plans for the offense. 

 
And whether you want to read a lot or a little into it, note this: When talking about the contrasting offensive styles Brown will show from Cleveland to here, the new Lakers’ coach summarized the coming Lakers offense as feeding Gasol and Bynum inside, not being the Kobe show.

“This team is completely different from what I had in Cleveland,” Brown said. “In Cleveland, I had a guy who liked to come off the top of the floor, liked to play in space and play pick-and-roll and make plays for others. Here, I’ve got two guys similar to what we had in San Antonio; you’re able to throw them the ball on the block.”
via New Lakers coach Mike Brown: passion, positivity | brown, lakers, coach - Sports - The Orange County Register.

Kobe Bryant had a 35.1 percent usage rate (percentage of possessions used) last season, compared to 21.8 percent for Pau Gasol and just 17.6 percent for Andrew Bynum. The last impression from the Lakers was that of Bryant playing well and the big men failing versus the Mavericks. But during the season, the narrative was quite different. If the Lakers had turned to Gasol and Bynum more during the regular season, not only would Kobe Bryant have had more energy, but they likely would have won more games and possibly gotten the top spot instead of the Spurs. Everything could have been different. But then, that's a hypothetical.

What is certain is that the Lakers are changing, and you're going to see more of a role for Andrew Bynum. He's no longer the young up and coming center. It's time to discover if he's worth the investment Jim Buss wants to make in him, or if the Lakers need to look for a different superstar of the future. Kobe Bryant will still be a huge part of the Lakers, all the way until he retires. But his role is shifting. How he handles that will be something to watch closely as the Lakers try and cash in for a third championship with this core.  
Posted on: September 5, 2011 10:35 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 10:53 pm
 

Report: Lakers F Pau Gasol OK after ankle injury

Posted by Ben Golliverpau-gasol

If you were worried about the health of Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol, it sounds like you shouldn't be.

Gasol, representing team Spain at EuroBasket 2011, sprained his ankle in a Sunday game against Lithuania but has reportedly been cleared to return to action for the rest of the tournament.

ESPN.com reports that Gasol is good to go after sitting out Spain's loss to Turkey on Monday.
Pau Gasol is expected to be fit for the second round of EuroBasket ...

"He is day to day," said Spain coach Sergio Scariolo. "He's having treatment and the doctors will assess him before the second round begins."
Obviously, Gasol's availability is great news for Spain, as they are the tournament favorites and defending champions. Spain next plays against Germany, led by Dallas Mavericks All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, on Wednesday.

Having already qualified for EuroBasket's second round and securing the Group A top spot by virtue of winning their first four group games, the 65-57 loss to Turkey was meaningless for Spain. Spain has advanced to Group E, where it is joined by France, Serbia, Turkey, Lithuania and Germany. The top four teams will advance to the quarterfinals, where they will square off against the top four teams of Group F, which is made up of Macedonia, Russia, Slovenia, Greece, Georgia and Finland. 

Through four EuroBasket 2011 games, Gasol is averaging a team-high 21.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

Gasol started all 82 games for the Lakers in 2010-2011, averaging 18.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
Posted on: August 31, 2011 4:12 pm
 

Gasol optimistic about lockout and titles chances

Posted by Royce Young

It's been a strange few months for Pau Gasol. He went from the guy that helped bring two more championships to the Lakers to the guy getting finger-stabbed by Phil Jackson in the sweep by the Mavericks. The guy that was a savior to Kobe to the guy criticized for being unfocused.

Gasol himself even proclaimed that he "collapsed" in the playoffs. And now he's facing the potential of a lost season with no shot to immediately redeem himself.

He's in Lithuania right now playing for his home country of Spain in the EuroBasket tournament and talked to the LA Times about the Lakers unceremonious exit from last postseason and the nasty lockout.

Do you feel like you have anything to prove given the way the Lakers' postseason ended? 

I do not think there's anything to prove on my side. Last season we didn't perform during the playoffs as we were supposed to. But people do not forget our previous championships. You cannot win every year, there are a lot of very good teams in the league. That will give more value to our previous championships. I don't think I have to prove anything but of course I want our national team to win the championship.

What are your plans if the NBA lockout persists?

I have not been thinking about that yet, although I follow all the negotiations. As far as now, I see the situation has not changed much. I am optimistic that there will be an agreement and the lockout could end soon. I will think about everything when it will be the moment to do so. As far as now, I am focused on the European Championship.

Pau Gasol sounds like a glass half full kind of guy. Yeah, the Lakers might've been trounced in four games by the Mavericks, but hey, you can't win 'em all. Yeah, the labor negotiations might be in a dark place with the very likely situation of games being missed, but hey, they're going to get a deal done.

I can appreciate that type of outlook. Especially the you-can't-win-everything stance. Fans don't want to hear it, especially when they've been as spoiled with trophies as the Laker nation, but it's not like the other 29 teams in the league aren't trying to win too. (Well, 28 I guess. I forgot about Donald Sterling's Clippers.) Teams aren't just going to roll over for the Lakers. If anything, they're going to gear up even more to knock off the defending champs.

Gasol already has two championships on his resume and though he wasn't able to help the Lakers to a third straight one last season, all you can do is regroup and go again. And once his career gets a nice bow put on it, if he has three, four or maybe more championships tied to it, I don't think anyone will think he failed.

As for the lockout optimism: Thanks Pau. It may be grim and it may be ugly, but little comments like that are exactly what keep fueling my pathetically optimistic view of the negotiations.
Posted on: August 30, 2011 3:11 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 4:03 pm
 

EuroBasket preview: Spain and then everybody else

Posted by Royce Young



Actual competitive basketball being played in an actual arena with actual NBA players! No, this isn't another Drew League versus Goodman League showdown -- it's better. It's Eurobasket 2011 and if you're completely starved for some quality hoops, then welcome your all-you-can-eat buffet of basketball.

You're probably sick of people trying to convince you how quality the European game has become, and while no, it's not the NBA, it is about as good of basketball as you're going to get. And with the labor negotiations going about as well as Charles Barkley in a marathon, this might be one of your last chances to get competitive basketball.

The EuroBasket tournament features 24 countries all with the opportunity to put away an automatic bid to the 2012 Olympics in London. The top two finishers get an automatic bid while four bids to the Pre-Olympic qualifying tournament (for third through sixth) are at stake as well. But it's not only about the Olympic bids. It's about taking home a title for your country against the top competition in Europe. It's a big deal.

It starts up Aug. 31 and runs through Sept. 18. It's going to be a frantic few weeks of hoops with big names like Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Luol Deng and Tony Parker. Let's take a look at the field.

Group A: Britain, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, Turkey, Portugal
Group B: France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Serbia
Group C: Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Finland
Group D: Belgium, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Slovenia, Ukraine

(A heads up: Every game of EuroBasket can be watched free on ESPN3.com.)

THE FAVORITES

Spain -- Pau Gasol. Serge Ibaka. Ricky Rubio. Jose Calderon. Rudy Fernandez. Marc Gasol. If you're looking for your NBA fix, the Spaniards are your team to watch. They're going to play the most fluid, flashy game of anything and with players like Ibaka, Gasol and Rubio, will blend athleticism and skill together nicely.

It's really Spain's tournament to lose. There's just so much talent on the team, not even including the big names. Sergio Llull, recent first round draft pick Nikola Mirotic and the irresistible Juan Carlos Navarro make Spain the can't-miss team and clear-cut favorite.

NBA players: Pau Gasol (Lakers), Serge Ibaka (Thunder), Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves), Jose Calderon (Raptors), Rudy Fernandez (Mavericks), Marc Gasol (Grizzlies)

Lithuania
-- The Lithuanians are sort of a borderline favorite, but they are playing the tournament in their home country, so that's an advantage. Plus, there's talent scattered throughout the team with players like lottery pick Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas and Sarunas Jasikevicius.

NBA players: Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors), Donatas Motiejunas (Timberwolves)

France
-- Quietly, the French have assembled a pretty stellar team. Most aren't listing them as a top tier favorite, but it's hard to ignore the talent. A core of Nicolas Batum, Joakim Noah and Tony Parker make them a squad strong enough to consider. Add in Rodrigue Beaubois (if he's healthy), Kevin Seraphin, Mickael Pietrus and Kevin Seraphin and that's a quality rotation of players.

They don't have the same level of talent as Spain, but if Batum can emerge as a go-to scorer to supplement Parker, the French team could make noise in the knockout rounds.

NBA players: Tony Parker (Spurs), Nicolas Batum (Trail Blazers), Mickael Pietrus (Suns), Joakim Noah (Bulls), Rodrigue Beaubois (Mavericks), Kevin Seraphin (Wizards), Ronny Turiaf, injured though (Knicks), Ian Mahinmi (Mavericks), Boris Diaw (Bobcats)

Serbia -- One of Europe's most consistent powers, Serbia features a smooth balance of interior scorers and outside shooters. Nenad Krstic is the anchor but don't underestimate players like Milos Teodosic and Milenko Tepic. Serbia doesn't have anything all that flashy, but it's a team that's stayed together for a while and knows how to play extremely well with each other.

NBA players: None

THE DARK HORSES

Germany -- They have Dirk. That's enough to at least warrant consideration. Now after that it doesn't look extremely strong, but it's Dirk and if we learned anything, the dude can play in big moments. He can carry a team that otherwise looks like a batch of just mid-level players to a higher place and win with them. So I'm not doubting him one bit in this tournament.

Plus there's Chris Kaman and Thunder property Tibor Pleiss there with him, which gives Germany a pretty formidable front court.

NBA players: Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), Chris Kaman (Clippers)

Russia -- One thing that constantly intrigues me with the Russian team is coach David Blatt. He's an American coach that played for Pete Carril at Princeton and has been extremely successful overseas with major clubs. The team has some talent, but nothing to get too excited about. It would take a breakout tournament from Timofey Mozgov or swingman Victor Khryapa a huge showing from Andrei Kirilenko for them to truly contend, but they could be medal contenders.

NBA players: Timofey Mozgov (Nuggets), Andrei Kirilenko (Jazz)

Slovenia -- Slovenia's the Atlanta Hawks of Europe. Always solid, never good enough to win. They have some quality players, but lack enough quality size to compete with Spain, Lithuania or France.

NBA players: Goran Dragic (Rockets)

Turkey
-- Last year's World Championship runners-up to the United States, Turkey has most of that team back. It's a good group and one that could certainly get hot and make a run again, but the World Championship run came largely because of a huge bump from a home court advantage. Not happening again in Lithuania.

NBA players: Semih Erden (Celtics), Omer Asik (Bulls), Ersan Ilyasova (Bucks), Enes Kanter (Jazz), Hedo Turkoglu (Magic)

THE MIDDLE GROUND

Greece -- When their fluid passing is leading to open 3s (which they make), the Greeks are a problem for people. But when they're missing, they're a team easy to run over. They're scrappy and will claw on each possession, but reality is, they just don't have enough talent to hang with the bigger clubs. They do have one of the funner players to watch in Dimitrios Diamantidis, so keep an eye on him.

NBA players: Kostas Koufos (Nuggets)

Croatia -- Much like Slovenia, Croatia is a squad that is always in the conversation, but lacks the firepower to truly contend. Hard to figure where the points will come from for them in big spots. They'll be good enough to likely win Group C, but after that, it'll be a tough road to advance.

NBA players: Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets)

Great Britain
-- I'm intrigued by this British team despite it not having any depth whatsoever. Had Ben Gordon been cleared to play, the Brits would've had a dark horse caliber team. Instead, they'll have to fight to get out of group play. Luol Deng is good enough to carry them some with Joel Freeland and Ryan Richards potentially adding some scoring pop from inside.

Don't worry though: They've already qualified for the 2012 Olympics. Because, you know, they're hosting it.

NBA players: Luol Deng (Bulls)

Italy -- There's a little something to the Italian team. Danillo Gallinari, Marco Belinelli and Andrea Bargnani give them some scoring. Problem is, can they stop anyone? It's a decent team and one that can probably make the knockout round, but not much after that.

NBA players: Danillo Gallinari (Nuggets), Marco Belinelli (Hornets), Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)

Montenegro -- Not a powerful team but one with some consistent shooters and a couple decent interior players. Montenegro could very well be every bit as good as Slovenia or Croatia, but their roster doesn't strike you as anything special.

NBA players: Nikola Vucevic (76ers), Nikola Pekovic (Timberwolves)

THE NO CHANCES

Belgium
NBA players: None

Israel
NBA players: Omri Casspi (Cavaliers) -- Casspi's unlikely though because of injury

Bosnia
NBA players: None

Macedonia
NBA players: None

Georgia
NBA players: Zaza Pachulia (Hawks)

Ukraine
NBA players: Kyrylo Fesenko (Jazz),

THE BLOWOUT FODDER

Poland

NBA players: None

Finland
NBA players: None

Portugal
NBA players: None

Latvia
NBA players: None

Bulgaria
NBA players: None

PREDICTION: If Spain doesn't reach the final, it's a massive disappointment and a massive shock. It's really just a matter of who will challenge the loaded Spaniards. I see the final four teams being Spain, France, Lithuania and a dark horse in Germany. A lot of people aren't necessarily on the French bandwagon, but I see a team with a bunch of talent that could possibly put together a little run. The safe bet is to go with a Spain-Lithuania final (this of course assuming the teams match up correctly in the knockout round), but I'm looking at France to fall to Spain in the gold medal game but still earn that automatic bid to London in 2012.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com