THE CANDIDATES - MEN
The EuroBasket 2007 MVP led Russia in rebounding, steals and blocked shots at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In his seventh season with the Utah Jazz of the NBA, Kirilenko averaged 11.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in leading the Jazz to the second round the playoffs, where they lost to eventual Western Conference Champions the Los Angeles Lakers.
Biedrins averaged 22.3 points, 13.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots per game in leading Latvia to qualification for EuroBasket 2009. The Latvians finished with a 4-2 record in Group B, just below fellow qualifiers FYR of Macedonia. On the domestic side Biedrins led the Golden State Warriors of the NBA in rebounding (9.8) and blocked shots (1.24).
Diamantidis has been a key cog for the Greek national team for years and in 2008 helped lead his home country to qualification for and an eventual fifth place finish at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, their best result ever in the Games. Widely regarded as one of the best defensive players on the planet, he helped lead Panathinaikos to the Final 16 of EuroLeague in the 2007-2008 season.
After too long a wait an emotional Nowitzki led Germany through the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament and into the Olympic Games in Beijing where he topped the team in points and rebounds. The German also had another fantastic season for club side the Dallas Mavericks, averaging 23.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He led the Mavericks into the playoffs where they suffered a disappointing defeat to the New Orleans Hornets.
This longtime leader for the Turkish national team led his squad to a perfect 6-0 record in qualifying for EuroBasket 2009, averaging 12.0 points and 5.2 rebounds over five games. On the domestic side the 2.03m forward averaged 19.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game for the Orlando Magic of the NBA, leading them to the Southeast Division title and a spot in the semi-finals where they fell to the Detroit Pistons.
Deng was the clear leader for a Great Britain squad which finished 4-2 and at the top of Group D in qualifying for EuroBasket 2009 in Poland. Deng averaged 24.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest for the Brits who find themselves in the final round of EuroBasket for the first time since 1981. On the domestic side Deng in the captain of the Chicago Bulls of the NBA for whom her averaged 17.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in 2007-2008.
Montenegrin big man played brilliantly in leading his home nation to a perfect 4-0 record in EuroBasket Division B play, leading the team in points (17.3), rebounds (6.8) and blocked shots (1.3), all while shotting nearly 66% from two-points. Pekovic helped lead Partizan Belgrade to the Euroleague play-offs last season before moving to Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos in the off-season.
Leading light for Spain at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing where he was the leading scorer on the way to a silver medal finish. Domestically, Gasol flourished following a mid-season trade from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Los Angeles Lakers, helping lead them to a spot in the NBA Finals. He averaged 18.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest in 27 games for his new team.
The 1.98m guard helped lead Lithuania to a fourth place finish at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, averaging 11 points and four rebounds per game. He was his team's leading scorer in their bronze medal game loss to Argentina. Siskauskas hoisted a Euroleague title in 2008 as a member of CSKA Moscow, where he averaged 14 points and 3.2 rebounds per game and was voted the MVP of the regular season.
Fernandez helped lead Spain to a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, scoring 22 points in a gold medal game loss to the United States. Domestically he led DKV Badalona to the ULEB Cup (now EuroCup) championship in 2008. For the 2008-2009 season he made the move to the NBA to play for the Portland Trailblazers where he is teamed with fellow Spanish national team star Sergio Rodriguez.
Parker turned away from some much needed down time this summer to try and help France qualify for EuroBasket 2009 in Poland. Though the French failed to qualify directly they did earn a spot in the Additional Qualifying Round, with Parker averaging 26.8 points, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals per contest. In the NBA Parker was once again a key to a deep playoff run for the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 18.8 points and 6.0 assists per game as the Spurs came up just short against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
The 1.97m guard was the leading light for Croatia at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he led the team in scoring despite being forced to sit one game out due to injury. The Croatians finished sixth in the compeition thanks in large part to their star guard who turned in big games against powerhouses Russia and Spain. On the domestic side Planinic helped lead Tau Ceramica to the Euroleague Final Four, averaging 10.6 points and 3.1 assists per contest.