If you're sitting here expected Kevin Seraphin and Nene to average over 20 points and over 10 rebounds for France and Brazil in the 2012 Olympics, you're going to be disappointed. This isn't because Seraphin and Nene are overrated players. This is because international basketball isn't like the NBA, since coaches substitute frequently, limit touches for big men and try to defeat squads with their deep frontcourts. Both France and Brazil do, in fact, have deep frontcourts.
That said, it's reasonable to expect that both players have strong Olympics for their teams. What constitutes a "strong" Olympics for either player, and what areas are worth watching to see how they translate back to the NBA? We consider these questions below the jump.
First and foremost, we need to be tracking Nene's health. He was obviously hurt for a good portion of last year after the trade, and while he's been pretty healthy of late in his NBA career, he also has a longer history of injuries prior to that. He also returned to action late in the year specifically to get himself ready for the Olympics. My hope is that he has no nagging injuries that he carries through the tournament. If he does, those could very well linger into the season.
Beyond that, I think Nene's play could be very instructive, because Brazil's frontcourt is very similar to the Wizards' next year. Nene will likely share time with Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter, two NBA big men that are stronger around the hoop than they are from the perimeter. That likely means we'll see Nene playing in the high post offensively and occasionally guarding smaller power forwards defensively, much like he did with LeBron James in the exhibition against Team USA in D.C. With Emeka Okafor in town and Seraphin emerging, Nene will likely play more power forward and more in the high post with the Wizards. How he fares in London will give us a clue about how he adjusts to this new role with the Wizards.
Kyle Weidie had a good post on this subject on Truth About It recently. In it, he argued that Nene will have to play more like David West for the Wizards' offense to be successful. I agree and think that, with a greener light, there's a chance it happens. That's why I'm hoping to see Nene confidently taking 17-footers in the Olympics while Varejao and Splitter stay inside. If he does, and he's hitting that shot, it'll bode well for next year.
MORE ON BRAZIL: Read Tom Ziller's preview.
- July 29 vs. Australia, 6 a.m., NBC Sports Network (replay at 8 a.m., NBC basketball channel)
- July 31 vs. Great Britan, 11:45 a.m., NBC basketball channel
- August 2 vs. Russia, 11:30 a.m., NBC basketball channel (replay at 1:30 p.m.)
- August 4 vs. China, 11:45 a.m., NBC basketball channel
- August 6 vs. Spain, 3:30 p.m., MSNBC.
France in general has been an enigma during the preliminary exhibitions, losing at home to teams like Australia and Belgium. To be fair, Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum have been in and out during these games, but for all their talent, France has often underachieved on the big stage. That's why I'm looking for consistency from Seraphin more than anything else.
Seraphin, like Nene, will share minutes with two other accomplished frontcourt players: Ronny Turiaf and Boris Diaw. Of the three, Seraphin has probably shown the most in terms of inside scoring in the preliminary games, posting strong numbers against Spain and Italy. But Seraphin still has to work on his post defense and rebounding, qualities that will get him more minutes if he does them well. His minutes have been pretty limited throughout the preliminary rounds, and I suspect those might be the reasons why.
In other words, while I want to see Nene be more confident offensively, I'd like to see Seraphin continue to develop in other areas of his game. We know Seraphin can score on the block, because we saw what he did at the end of last year. France will take advantage of that. But Seraphin's rebounding has to get better, and while his defense in the NBA has been pretty good, international ball will test his ability to process plays with multiple reads. If he rebounds and defends well in London, it'll bode well for his development. If not, he'll have more work to do to get to the next level.
Seraphin will have plenty of chances too. His first two games: vs. Team USA and vs. Argentina.
MORE ON FRANCE: Read Tom Ziller's preview.
- July 29 vs. Team USA, 9:30 a.m., NBC Sports Network (replay at 1:30 p.m.)
- July 31 vs. Argentina, 3 p.m., NBC Sports Network.
- August 2 vs. Lithuania, 4 a.m., NBC Sports Network (replay at 8 a.m.)
- August 4 vs. Tunisia, 4 a.m., NBC basketball channel
- August 6 vs. Nigeria, 9:30 a.m., NBC basketball channel
What are you looking to see from Nene and Seraphin in the Olympics?