Aug 29, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT
The world’s 24 top international basketball teams are not flying to Spain just for the gambas al ajillo tapas or to play for national pride, there is a prize when the FIBA World Cup tips off on Saturday:
A berth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Win and your in, come in second to 24th and you need to go to qualifying tournaments next season.
Plus, you can win a medal. Gold, silver or bronze. And who doesn’t like getting a medal?
So who can win medals? Here’s a breakdown:
Gold/Silver medal contenders:
If the gold medal game is not the USA vs. Spain it will be an upset. These are the world’s two best teams and with Spain playing in front of their home fans it’s hard to imagine them getting beat. That final game likely will be close, but it’s far too early to predict an outcome. Only that the meeting is destined.
USA: The USA senior national team last lost a game in 2006 (at this World Cup) and has won everything since: gold at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics plus the 2010 World Cup. Despite late defections and other guys staying home, Team USA is still loaded and deeper than any team in the tournament — Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, James Harden will lead a USA squad that will use high pressure defense, three point shooting, transition scoring and superior athleticism to overwhelm teams.
Spain: They are the runners up the last two Olympics and they bring a lot of depth — Mark Gasol, Pau Gaol and Serge Ibaka form a formidable front line with Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, Felipe Reyes and Rudy Fernandez in the backcourt. Every guy on their roster plays NBA or high-level international ball, plus is experienced on the international stage. These guys have been playing with each other for years and have a real comfort level in what they do. They were right with Team USA in the London Olympics gold medal game until Marc Gasol got in foul trouble… you think that happens on their home court?
Bronze medal contenders:
Everyone else is competing for third, here are the teams that could win it.
France: They are the defending EuroBasket champions and they bring some NBA talent to the roster — Evan Fournier, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Ian Mahinmi, Rudy Gobert, plus you all remember Mickael Gelabale. However, they are without Tony Parker and Joakim Noah, two big pieces that keep them from being a dark horse gold contender. However they are still talented, still have plenty of shooting and versatility, and if Batum and Diaw can lead them they can get the bronze.
Brazil: They are loaded along the front line — Tiago Splitter, Nene, Anderson Varejao, — and are counting on guys like Leandro Barbosa and experienced internationals like Marcelinho Huertas to do enough in the backcourt. They will defend and score inside, if they get enough shooting and play on the wing they can certainly medal. But that’s a real big question.
Greece: They are in a transition from the older generation (led by the now gone Vassilis Spanoulis) to younger players, but they have some talent — NBA players Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Nick Calathes (Grizzlies), Kostas Papanikolaou (Rockets). They have real athleticism but do they have enough steady shooting to get the job done? If they knock down shots they are a medal threat. But we’re going to watch to see Antetokounmpo anyway.
Argentina: This is the last serious go around for Argentina’s golden generation, but they will have to do it without Manu Ginobili (a stress fracture that is not fully recovered). Still they have Luis Scola, Pablo Prigioni, Andres Nocioni, and even Walter Herrmann. Argentina will need to integrate good play from their younger stars and they will need to get past a very big internal controversy about the handling of money in the Argentinian basketball organization. But they might medal.
Lithuania: The world’s fourth ranked team has the advantage of being on the soft side of the draw — they should win group D handily and while they are not better than the USA only Turkey might really be a threat after that on their side of the bracket. This is a team that could and really should reach the bronze medal game, if they can overcome the loss of starting point guard Mantas Kalnietis (dislocated shoulder). They have real quality up front with Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors) and Donatas Motiejunas (Rockets) but they have solid, smart international players at every other position. Not great at any position, but solid to good at every one. Expect to see them playing for the bronze against one of the teams above.
Oct 2, 2014, 12:25 AM EDT
Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut dominated last season and return for more
Oct 1, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
Kobe takes championship-or-bust mentality
Oct 1, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT
George wants to re-join the Pacers for the playoffs
Oct 1, 2014, 9:25 PM EDT
Thunder forward says he doesn’t (unless he’s joking like Kevin Martin)
Oct 1, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Get fouled on a missed 2-pointer – one free throw worth two points
Get fouled on a missed 3-pointer – one free throw worth three points
Oct 1, 2014, 7:35 PM EDT
OK, what did I get wrong?
Oct 1, 2014, 6:40 PM EDT
Two young players trying to prove to new coaches they deserved minutes. This is a real setback for both.
Oct 1, 2014, 5:50 PM EDT
The show is on Disney XD. I suppose there are worse things your child could watch.
Man sues Madison Square Garden saying he was ejected from Knicks game for saying “Carmelo, you stink”
Oct 1, 2014, 5:01 PM EDT
A Madison Square Garden spokesman called the lawsuit “frivolous.”
Oct 1, 2014, 4:20 PM EDT
Dirk loves him some Hoff.
Oct 1, 2014, 3:40 PM EDT
Thing is, Rodman fit the triangle and what Jackson wants to do with a team. Smith…. not so much.
Oct 1, 2014, 3:01 PM EDT
Monroe had a busy offseason in terms of appearances in the NBA’s news cycle.
Oct 1, 2014, 2:21 PM EDT
LeBron is taking on a leadership role early in his second stint in Cleveland.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:41 PM EDT
Broken hand is supposed to sideline Rondo for 6-8 weeks.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
I list my personal picks for top five backcourts.
Oct 1, 2014, 12:21 PM EDT
Second round pick foregoing additional guaranteed dollars in order to bet on himself.
Oct 1, 2014, 11:39 AM EDT
Reminder not to believe everything you read, especially if it’s attributed to ‘a source.’
Oct 1, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
Cousins was tied for the league lead with 16 last season.
Oct 1, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
The new-look Hornets, with Lance Stephenson in tow, are hoping to build on a playoff run and a promising young core.
Oct 1, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Kobe wants to shake the rust off before the games count for real later this month.
- Hey John Wall/Dion Waiters, Stephen Curry says Warriors have best backcourt. And he’s right. 41
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Charlotte Hornets 5
- Kobe Bryant plans to play in all 8 preseason games for Lakers 11
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Miami Heat 9
- Mike Miller points to him being amnestied as start of LeBron James leaving Miami 15
- Kobe Bryant thinks he could physically play beyond contract extension 14
- Trey Burke, in wake of nude-photo scandal: ‘My judgments will be much better’ 11
- Report: Kevin Durant says he wants to play in 2016 Olympics (his free agent summer) 5