The Men's competition kicks off on Sunday afternoon in what is set to be the most fascinating Olympic basketball campaign in quite some time. With an influx of international players in the NBA, the competition has grown and with the USA losing two games in the lead up, it looms as the most competitive tournament since Athens 2004. We’ve got you covered with a full preview and tips for the basketball at this year’s Olympic Games!
Teams: Iran, France, USA, Czech Republic
The USA were shaky in their early practice games before finishing with wins against Argentina and Spain. With Kevin Durant and Damien Lillard running the offence, there isn’t a team that will be capable of going with them when the whips are cracking. With Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton to come once the NBA Finals are finished, this team will be a stacked offensive unit. The Czech Republic upset Canada and Greece to qualify for the Olympics, however with just one NBA player on their roster in Tomas Satoransky, they don’t have the talent to compete with the likes of the USA and France. Iran doesn’t have an NBA player on its roster, and after finishing 23rd at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, they’re going to be on the end of some serious blowouts. France will be Team USA’s biggest challengers in Group A, bringing an impressive squad to Tokyo. The team is headlined by three time NBA Defensive Player of The Year winner Rudy Gobert, with Evan Fournier, Nicolas Batum, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot and Frank Ntilikina also in the squad. Gobert will be an incredible force with the FIBA rules which allow for more physical play, however the USA simply have too much scoring power for the French to compete with.
Teams: Australia, Germany, Italy, Nigeria
Australia will be the team to beat in Group B as the Boomers strive for their first ever Olympic medal. Australia suffered agonising fourth placed finishes at Rio 2016 and the 2019 FIBA World Cup, but with a roster stacked full of NBA talent, expectations are high for this Australian side. Patty Mills was dominant in the warm up game against the USA, with first time Olympians Matisse Thybulle and Josh Green providing the Boomers with a massive x-factor of the defensive end of the floor. Add to that, the offensive capabilities of Joe Ingles and Chris Goulding, this is the most well rounded team to ever wear the green and gold. Germany are back in Olympic basketball for the first time since Beijing 2008, with the Germans edging out Brazil to win their qualifying tournament. Dennis Schroder is a notable absence, meaning that Mo Wagner and Isaac Bonga are the only NBA players on their roster. Italy and Nigeria will likely be battling out for second place in the group after the Italians upset Serbia in qualifying to make their first Olympic basketball appearance since Athens 2004. Nigeria is slowly rising to become a potential powerhouse in international basketball, with eight NBA players on their roster - the most of any team outside of the USA. Their upset victory over the USA in the warm up games, showing the side has the potential to push for a medal at this tournament. However, Australia’s 42 point win over Nigeria in their warm up game shows the Boomers chemistry and continuity has them as the best team in Group B.
Teams: Argentina, Japan, Spain, Slovenia
Group C provides the most value of any group, with an evenly poised group. Although Spain come in as favourites, their roster is an ageing one and could struggle against an up and coming Slovenian side that love to push the ball. With Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic at the helm, he has the capability to take Slovenia to a medal at this tournament. Goran Dragic provides a steady hand and big game experience at the NBA level. Slovenia will be full of confidence coming into this tournament as the reigning EuroBasket champions, and they defeated Spain by 20 points in the semi finals en route to the title. Argentina will be no push over with Leandro Bolmaro, Gabriel Deck, Facundo Campazzo and Lucas Vildoza current NBA talent accompanying veteran Luis Scola who is playing at his fifth Olympics. Host nation Japan, who are the lowest ranked FIBA nation at the Olympics, will have a tough time remaining competitive in the group games. NBA duo Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanbe will lead the way, but the talent drops off severely from there. Donicic has shown throughout the last two NBA playoffs that he can carry solid teams to victories against far more talented opponents on the big stage. Slovenia are primed to cause an upset and top this group, tournament basketball is all about momentum and if Doncic gets on a roll, they’re going to be hard to stop.
Despite this tournament set to be the closest Olympic basketball tournament in quite some time, the USA are still the team to beat. It won’t be by the landslide margins we saw in London 2012 and Rio 2016, however with the talent this roster possesses, anything short of a gold medal would be a failure. The team will continue to get better as the tournament goes on as Booker, Middleton and Holiday are integrated into the team. While the addition of Javale McGee provides a crucial rim protector that the USA needs. The shooting they have in their stocks is going to be their biggest weapon, with a serious ability to stretch the floor and put up points in a hurry. With the ability to go small ball with Durant at the five, set to be a scary sight for anyone who comes up against them. With legendary coach Greg Popovich leading the way, the USA should be able to handle any adversity that comes their way. Team USA are set for a fourth consecutive gold medal, as they continue their Olympic dominance.
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