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FIBA Day 6: Turkey cruises, Argentina loses

Turkey and Argentina both entered the final day of group play undefeated and atop their respective divisions, but only Turkey could say the same after the games were over. The host Turks won their fifth straight game despite resting Ersan Ilyasova and three other starters, dismantling the Yi Jianlian-less Chinese 87-40 in Ankara. Carlos Delfino and his Argentine mates weren't as lucky in their final group game, losing by a narrow 84-82 margin to Serbia (4-1), which claimed the Group A title on the tiebreaker.  After the jump we review the Bucks' performances in the tournament thus far and look ahead to what awaits them in the elimination rounds.

Ersan Ilyasova: 4 games, 29.8 mpg, 16.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.8 to, 1 stl, 0.5 bpg, .477/.600/.750

Ilyasova's final group game came in Turkey's 79-77 win over Puerto Rico on Wednesday, struggling from the field (5/15 fg) but still managing a tidy 13 points and 13 rebounds. And while Hedo Turkoglu has struggled to find his shot (9.8 ppg on 32% shooting), Ersan has flourished under the spotlight of playing in front of Turkey's basketball-crazy home fans. He's been deadly from three point range (12/20) while giving his usual terrific effort on the boards, giving him a clear claim to the title of Turkey's most indispensable player thus far. 

Still, from a developmental standpoint we're also not seeing a brand new Ersan. He looks perhaps a bit thicker than he was at the end of last season, but that's not surprising given it can be difficult for many guys to keep weight on through 82 games plus the playoffs. He's still not the kind of guy who can consistently take anyone off the dribble, and when he has put it on the floor it usually ends in something off-balance from mid-range (though he's also drawn a few fouls that way) rather than a strong take to the cup. And he still looks as bad as ever in the post, preferring to shoot tough fadeaways rather than trying to back his man down or make an actual move. Fortunately he mostly knows his limitations, splitting his time between drifting around the perimeter looking for three pointers and crashing the boards when a shot goes up.

I don't see Ersan being a huge upside guy in the NBA, so to me the key issue is consistency. --at his peak I think he's probably no more than a very nice 14-16 ppg, 8-9 rpg guy--but he could be an exceptional rotation player or even solid starter if he was a bit more consistent offensively and held his ground a bit better on defense. Heck, he's already a very solid 6th or 7th man, so it's not like he needs to grow by leaps and bounds to become a worthwhile NBA player. He's been fairly consistent so far in this tournament, but generally speaking Ersan's been a very good international player for a few years now, dating back to his time at the European junior championships in 2006.  

The Turkish team next plays France (3-2) on Sunday, which should match Ersan up against Boris Diaw a fair bit. Turkey has the benefit of being on the opposite side of the bracket as the US, and would face the winner of Slovenia/New Zealand in the quarters. However, they're likely to face either Greece, Spain or Serbia in the semis should they get that far. Overall I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see them reach the finals given the home crowd and strong play we've seen from them thus far, though we'll also need to see more from Hedo. 

Carlos Delfino: 5 g, 35.6 min, 17.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.2 stl, 0.4 blk, 1.6 to 

Delfino is five years older than Ilyasova, but I think there's a similar story in terms of consistency. At 28, Delfino largely is who he is at this point: a streaky shooter who can do a bit of everything at the 2/3. That makes him an ideal complementary player in the NBA, but he's been asked to do more for an Argentina squad missing Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni and (for much of the tournament) Fabricio Oberto. He's been a capable deputy to the nearly-unstoppable Luis Scola so far, but he's so reliant on his jump shot that you never know exactly what you're going to get from him offensively. 

He's handled it a bit more than usual given Argentina's lack of pure playmaking PG, and he's generally been unselfish and good at knowing when and where to get Scola the ball, even if it's not always reflected in his assist totals. He really hasn't caught fire from three in any of his games, shooting 33% or worse in each one, but it's probably just a matter of time given he's proven to be a very solid shooter from the longer NBA three point line.

Argentina next faces their nemeses from Brazil (3-2) on Tuesday, so both teams will have time recharge their batteries after the hectic group schedule. Should Argentina win, they would get the winner of China/Lithuania (almost certainly the Lithuanians) in the quarters and would have to go through the US in the semis.