Winners and losers from the Worlds
Tournament MVP Kevin Durant stepped up when Team USA needed him most
Luis Scola was tourney's leading scorer; Timofey Mozgov could be steal for Knicks
Among this year's disappointments: Pacers' Danny Granger, FIBA's rule
The book is officially closed on the 2010 World Championship. After 16 years, Team USA reclaimed its spot atop international basketball, striking gold after a 9-0 run and earning a ticket to the 2012 Olympics in London. Here's a look at who fared the best at this year's Worlds and who's probably wishing for a do-over.
Kevin Durant, USA (Oklahoma City Thunder) -- The ceiling was sky high for Durant entering the Worlds and he smashed right through it, earning the tournament MVP award to go along with his gold medal. Far and away the best player in Turkey, Durant (22.8 points, 6.1 rebounds) raised his level of play when the games mattered most: In the U.S.' last three contests, he scored 33, 38 and 28 points. Over the last few years, U.S. players have gotten a bounce from competing on the world stage; Durant could be the next American star to follow suit. Look out, Western Conference.
Luis Scola, Argentina (Houston Rockets) -- With Manu Ginobili sitting out, Scola was suddenly thrust into the role of top offensive option. And he filled it, brilliantly, averaging a tournament-high 27.1 points. Scola, who averaged 16.2 points with the Rockets last season, is unlikely to duplicate this type of overwhelming offensive production with Houston -- not with Yao Ming and Kevin Martin already on board -- but he proved he can be a go-to guy in a pinch and, at the very least, made Houston feel better about investing $47 million in him this offseason.
Timofey Mozgov, Russia (New York Knicks) -- The 24-year-old, 7-foot-1 center impressed USA and Lakers forward Lamar Odom when the two went head to head in the quarterfinals (Mozgov went 4-for-4 in the first quarter), but the Russian struggled with fouls late in the game. Mozgov, whom the Knicks signed to a three-year, $9.7 million contract in July, is loaded with potential. He's an excellent pick-and-roll player with soft hands and a nice touch around the rim, and though he's raw and needs to become a better rebounder, his 13-point average in the tournament suggests he could quickly develop into a steal for New York.
Andre Iguodala, USA (Philadelphia 76ers) -- Could there have been a better role for Iguodala? With Durant shouldering the scoring load, Iguodala did what he does best: rebound, run the floor and defend. His numbers (5.7 points, 4.6 rebounds) are irrelevant; Iguodala provided all the intangibles USA Basketball boss Jerry Colangelo was looking for when he added him to the roster. Lining up against Linas Kleiza and Hedo Turkoglu in the U.S.' last two games, Iguodala held the two international stars to 20 points on 6-for-19 shooting. With Evan Turner on board in Philadelphia to assume some of the scoring load, Iguodala could be poised for a breakout season.
Kirk Penney, New Zealand -- Any NBA teams in need of a shooting guard should consider bringing Penney to camp. The ex-Wisconsin star averaged 24.7 points (on 45.8 percent shooting) for the Tall Blacks. He didn't inflate his stats against pushovers, either. Penney scored 37 points against Lithuania and pumped in 21 apiece against Spain and Russia. At 6-5, 212 pounds, Penney has good size for a two-guard. Playing in the NBA Development League last season, Penney had games of 31 and 40 points for Sioux Falls and averaged 21.3 points in the playoffs with the SkyForce.
Toronto Raptors -- Anyone who watched Turkoglu's play for Turkey -- he looked more like the impossible-to-defend swingman from the 2008-09 season with Orlando than the malcontent player the Raptors paid $9 million last season -- knows Toronto has to be annoyed. But the Raptors, who shipped Turkoglu to Phoenix this offseason, can feel at ease knowing they have Kleiza and Leandro Barbosa coming in. Lithuania's Kleiza, 25, averaged 19 points in the tournament and looks to be worth every nickel of the four-year, $20 million deal the Raptors handed him in July. Meanwhile, Brazil's Barbosa, whom Toronto acquired in the Turkoglu trade, averaged 16.2 points and was one bucket away from knocking off the U.S. in preliminary play.
Yi Jianlian, China (Washington Wizards) -- A salary dump by New Jersey this summer, Yi opened a few eyes with his play in Turkey. He was aggressive, attacking the rim at every opportunity and often finishing with a flourish, something that was rarely seen during Yi's two injury-plagued seasons with the Nets. The fluid jump shot that made the 7-footer so attractive to NBA teams before the 2007 draft looked sharp, too. Despite battling an Achilles injury that limited him to 11 points in China's final game against Lithuania, Yi averaged 20.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in the tournament.
Eric Gordon, (USA), Hamed Haddadi (Iran), Carlos Delfino (Argentina), Juan Carlos Navarro (Spain), David Blatt (coach, Russia), Nenad Krstic (Serbia), Ante Tomic (Croatia)
Danny Granger, USA (Indiana Pacers) -- When the U.S. team was coming together in the Round of 16, Granger had broken in a seat on the bench. He didn't play a minute against Russia and took off the sweats for a combined two minutes against Lithuania and Turkey. Coach Mike Krzyzewski just couldn't seem to find a role for Granger. Don't expect Colangelo to find a spot for him on the 2012 Olympic team, either.
Goaltending rule -- FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann has been trying to talk the NBA into adopting the organization's goaltending rule -- which allows players to knock the ball off the rim -- for years. Note to NBA rules guru, Stu Jackson: Please don't listen to Baumann. Watching players slap the ball off the cylinder is maddening. And don't you think NBA coaches, who have access to much better athletes, will start positioning leapers around the rim in a sort of quasi-zone designed to knock away anything that touches the iron? It's an absurd rule the league should stay a million miles away from.
Fran Vazquez, Spain -- Remember Vazquez? Orlando's lottery pick (11th overall) in 2005 who has never played a minute in the NBA? Vazquez had a couple of big games, highlighted by a 16-point performance against Slovenia and a 19-point showing against Canada. But he didn't make a consistent impact, and he vanished in Spain's loss to Argentina. What's more, Vazquez sounds indifferent in interviews about ever playing in the NBA. No question Vazquez's size (6-10, 229 pounds) and natural shot-blocking skills make him an intriguing prospect, but at 27 it might be time to write him off.
Tyson Chandler (USA), Greece