Golden State Warriors guard Nico Mannion helped his country’s basketball team reach the Olympic stage for the first time in nearly two decades with lights-out shooting and strong ball-handling, and his stellar play could help him earn a spot on the Warriors next season.
Mannion shined in Italy’s 92-82 win over Germany to start pool play, scoring 10 points and adding seven assists. After splitting time between Golden State and the team’s G-League affiliate last season, Mannion has taken a key role for Italy as the team looks to make noise in its first Olympic appearance since 2004.
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Mannion Leads Italy Back to Olympics
As NBC Sports Bay Area noted, the 20-year-old guard was a key part of bringing Italy back to the Olympics, averaging 17.7 points and 4.0 assists in the qualifying tournament while hitting 48.4 percent of his shots from the field and 45.5 percent from behind the three-point arc.
Mannion continued the strong play to start the Olympics, taking over primary ball-handling duties for Italy and dishing a game-high seven assists. As NBC Sports Bay Area noted, the road gets significantly more difficult after the match against Germany, with Italy facing the more experienced Nigeria and Australia, two teams filled with NBA veterans.
As USA Today’s Rookie Wire noted, Mannion has actually plenty of experience on the international stage.
Mannion, who was born in Tuscany, became the fourth-youngest Italian (17) to play with the national team in 2018 at the European qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. He recorded nine points during his lone game in a loss to the Netherlands.
Helping His Standing with the Warriors
The summer experience could be key for Mannion, who last season split time between the Warriors and the team’s G-League affiliate in Santa Cruz. As Wes Goldberg of the Mercury News noted, he had some ups and downs through 30 games, excelling in the G-League but averaging 4.1 points and 2.3 assists in 12.1 minutes for the Warriors. His play grew stronger as the season went on, becoming the primary point guard with the second unit, but Goldberg noted that he still struggled at times.
“His 34.2% shooting ranked last on the team and, with defenses sagging off of him, it made driving and kicking much more difficult, especially since he’s not an elite athlete. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Mannion is too small to be a high-level defender. Over the course of his rookie season, the only thing Mannion proved he could do was to take care of the ball (just one turnover per game), but he did not create for himself or others.”
Mannion, who is a restricted free agent this summer, could use the Tokyo Olympics to secure a place on the Warriors next season. Mannion’s performance in the qualifying tournament — where he led all scorers — had already earned some praise from ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla, who noted that he may have improved his standing with Golden State.
“More importantly for the Warriors, he was sensational in the qualifying round. Italy came out of nowhere, Nico was a big part of that, and I think his confidence level grew a little bit more. I think Steve Kerr and the staff and Bobby Myers are going to love that,” Fraschilla added.