NBA Ballers Who Could Surprise at the Tokyo Olympics

NBA | February 17, 2021

The media doesn’t want you to enjoy the Tokyo Olympics. In fact, American reporters seem hell-bent on trying to cancel the Summer Olympics by themselves. Doomy headlines about Japan’s “impossible” task of hosting the 2020-slash-2021 Summer Olympics appear to willfully overlook a steep decline in Japanese coronavirus cases since January. If Far East doctors keep kicking butt and statistical trends hold, sushi poisoning could be the biggest health threat in Olympic Village.

If nobody’s willing to get to the fun part, i.e. previewing and predicting Olympic events, Hidden Take is happy to take on the chore.

While the NBA has agreed to participate in the Tokyo Olympics, the wear and tear of NBA playoff action and lingering COVID-19 travel concerns could keep some of Team USA’s superstars away, opening the door for underdog nations to compete for a gold medal and bringing new household names into the fold. Here are four NBA ballers from around the world who could make a surprise impact in Tokyo.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

There’s nothing surprising about Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scoring points in a basketball game. Gilgeous-Alexander is scoring 22.6 points and averaging 6.5 assists per-game for the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, the former Kentucky Wildcat’s national team could earn Cinderella gold with a lineup of nearly a dozen NBA standouts, including Tristan Thompson, R.J. Barrett, and Andrew Wiggins. If a pretty good NBA club can beat the Utah Jazz on a given night, then any Team USA roster short of a “Dream Team” redux will be vulnerable to a Canadian upset bid.

Bogdan Bogdanović

2020-21 MVP candidate Nikola Jokić is expected to lead the way for Team Serbia, and for good reason. If the Joker doesn’t threaten to score a triple-double for the Denver Nuggets, he’s having a bad night. Joker’s national-squad teammate Bogdan Bogdanović (whose name sounds like the old Russian joke “Ivan Ivonovich Ivanov”) is not as well known, partially because injuries have held the latter player back from clocking more minutes or sticking with an NBA club. But there can be no doubting Bogdanović’s accuracy from the field. The sharpshooter averaged almost 40% from three-point range in his rookie year with the Sacramento Kings. In a short Olympic tournament following a light year of NBA work, the oft-injured Bogdanović could become a crucial drive-and-kick marksman for Jokić’s team.

Ben Simmons

Australia will be a popular dark-horse pick to win a medal, but there’s a question as to who will emerge as the team’s top contributor. Ben Simmons of the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia 76ers is an intriguing candidate, having frustrated fans of the “Boomers” for years with reneged promises to play for Team Australia. Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills, and Andrew Bogut should suit up again, though the event will be a last hurrah for Bogut and other Boomers. Hopes could hinge on whether Simmons, who scored 42 points against Utah last Monday, will finally suit up.

Dario Šarić

Šarić is another up-and-coming sharpshooter who could help make Team Croatia into one of the best three-point shooting teams in Tokyo. As is the case with Bogdanović, the Atlanta Hawks, and Team Serbia, the Olympic format could help overshadow some of Šarić’s flaws relative to his NBA career. Šarić’s injury issues have kept the 26-year old from playing more than 10 games for Phoenix this season, but once again, a lack of NBA miles could add up to a speedy offense for more than one Olympic squad.

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Kurt Boyer

Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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