Best Non-US Basketball Players at the Tokyo Olympics – 6 Stars to Watch
Despite a rough start in the exhibition period, the United States remain as the heavy favorite to capture the gold medal in Tokyo. Led by the likes of Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, and Jayson Tatum, the US roster is littered with All-NBA-caliber talent.
However, I am not here to boast about the individuals suiting up for Gregg Popovich – we’re already familiar with the stars of today’s NBA game. Additionally, I plan on assessing the United States roster in a future post.
Here, the goal is to highlight a handful of guys from the other teams who are set to put on a show in Japan. Call it six basketball players to watch at the Tokyo Olympics.
I’ll start with the crème de la crème.
Luka Doncic – Slovenia
- Current NBA Team: Dallas Mavericks
Just three seasons into his NBA career, the Slovenian sensation has already racked up a couple of All-NBA First-Team honors. Averaging a sweltering 28.3/8.7/8.7 since the start of 2019, Luka’s surged into the upper echelon of the league’s status and is quickly becoming the face of the league.
Doncic’s presence as the leader of Slovenia can’t be understated – 2021 marks the first time the mountainous country in central Europe has qualified for the Olympic basketball tournament.
Slovenia stamped their ticket to Tokyo by beating a loaded Lithuania squad in the final of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament on July 4th. All Luka did in that game was post a snazzy triple-double (31/13/11).
USA coach Gregg Popovich was quick to praise Doncic’s abilities leading into the Summer Games.
Rudy Gobert – France
- Current NBA Team: Utah Jazz
Evan Fournier might take the last shot for France, and Nic Batum is an integral member of the squad who helps keep things afloat on the perimeter. Nevertheless, the heart and soul of the Frenchmen as they saunter into Tokyo is undoubtedly Rudy Gobert.
Standing at 7’1”, the three-time reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year clogs the middle of the paint and dominates the glass. After averaging just 5.7 points and 7.2 rebounds (also 1.8 blocks) in Rio in 2016, look for Rudy to elevate his game and be a double-double machine in the Tokyo Games.
|Rudy Gobert – By the Numbers|
*Indicates he led the NBA.
Joe Ingles – Australia
- Current NBA Team: Utah Jazz
From becoming a vital member of the Jazz rotation to breaking John Stockton’s record for the most three-pointers in Utah’s franchise history, Joe Ingles is the real deal. He’s set to make his fourth appearance for the Boomers (2008, 2012, 2016) at the Olympics.
Despite bouncing around between being a starter and a reserve this past season, the 33-year-old lefty was ultra-productive. Joe tied a career-high with 12.1 ppg; he also chipped in with 4.7 apg and 3.6 rpg.
Aided by a resurgent Patty Mills, Ingles and the Aussies are expected to make some serious noise in Tokyo.
Rui Hachimura – Japan
- Current NBA Team: Washington Wizards
One of the teams not likely to make any noise in Tokyo is the host nation. If you’re betting on Olympic basketball, you might be interested to know that the top bookies have Japan listed with +50000 odds to win a gold medal
Having said that, this is a big moment for Rui Hachimura. Named as one of the two flagbearers (wrestler Yui Susaki is the other) for Japan at the Tokyo Olympics, it won’t be hard for Rui to feel invigorated when group play gets underway.
The 6’8” hybrid forward ended the season with a solid 13.8/5.5/1.4 slash line, but it was notably at the end of the season when Hachimura put forth his best contributions.
Rui tallied 17.0 ppg on 53% shooting during the final seven games of the regular season, plus he scored in double figures in all five of the Wizards playoff games. That includes pouring in 20 or more points in each of the final two.
Precious Achiuwa – Nigeria
- Current NBA Team: Miami Heat
Nigeria hit the ground running in exhibition play with a thrilling upset victory over the United States. Two days later, Nigeria obliterated Argentina in another game in Las Vegas that “they weren’t supposed to win.”
I could point to the play of Gabe Vincent and showcase names like Caleb Agada or Jahil Okafor, but the motor that keeps this team running is Precious Achiuwa. After a quiet rookie season in South Beach, the 20th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft should see plenty of run in Tokyo.
On top of being a force in the post, Mike Brown told reporters he is opened to letting Precious shoot from the outside. All in all, pencil Achiuwa in as one of the basketball players to watch at the Olympics.
Tomas Satoransky – Czech Republic
- Current NBA Team: Chicago Bulls
Tangled in the Bulls backcourt depth chart, Tomas Satoransky hasn’t been featured enough to become a household name in the states just yet. Over in the Czech Republic, the 6’7” guard is already a hero.
Earlier this month in a do-or-die matchup against Canada in the semifinals of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Final, Satoransky had the ball in his hands in the waning seconds of overtime with the game tied at 101.
The shifty 29-year-old proceeded to do this.
During Czech Republic’s four-game run in Victoria, BC., Satoransky averaged 16 points, 5.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds on his way to being named as the Tournament MVP.
Other Athletes to Watch at the Tokyo Olympics
You probably already know about the stars littered on the United States Olympic basketball roster. Hence, I highlighted a six-pack of basketball players to watch at the Tokyo Olympics who aren’t suiting up for the Red, White, and Blue.
If you’re into the other sports that are a part of the Summer Games, now’s a great time to get familiar with some of the other burgeoning names.