The 2016 Olympics are only a month away, and the hype surrounding the games in Rio is reaching a fever pitch. While Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and many other olympic athletes are obviously on the minds of Americans (and non americans too for that matter), the real attraction for most sports fans has to be USA Basketball. Ever since the days of MJ, Magic, Bird and The Dream Team, US ball has captivated the hearts of Mericans.
This year, the Olympic Team lacks some of the expected big names that it seemed to always secure in years past. The obvious glaring absence is the best player in the world, the Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James. And while new addition Kevin Durant, as well as Klay Thompson and Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors are on the team, fans can’t help but wonder, “Where Steph at though?” Regardless, the lack of the the top 2 players in the world doesn’t mean that on paper the US doesn’t have an incredibly stacked lineup.
While the US always enters the Olympics as heavy favorites, there is always that chance that one of the very solid international teams, who have experience playing with each other over the course of years , could come away with gold. Here are the three teams most likely to achieve that lofty goal.
The French will head to Rio with seven players with NBA experience. Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Gobert, and Boris Diaw will lead France. Parker and Diaw know how important pace and space is in basketball and will be sure to exploit that in USA’s defense. Gobert will give any big man problems, as he will be locking down the paint and be protecting the rim against USA slashers. Parker will be attacking the paint and kicking it out to France’s shooters, so the USA better be ready to play defense when they play France.
Americans have grown to respect Spain due to their outstanding play in the last two Olympic Games. Spain has won the silver medal the last two Games, losing to USA both times. Luckily for USA, Marc Gasol will not be playing this year due to injury, but Pau is still the leader of this team. Gasol is still one of the most productive players in the NBA and has major Olympic experience. At the age of 25, Rubio will be playing in his third Olympics and is one of the best point guards playing in Rio. It may not be his brother Marc, but Nikola Mirotic will be a great compliment to Gasol. The two already have played together in Chicago and Mirotic is a legit three-point shooting threat. As usual, USA has to keep it’s eyes out for the Spaniards
Watch out for the Aussies! Team Australia has five NBA players on its roster: Patty Mills, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes, and Joe Ingles. Mills was the leading scorer in the 2012 London Games averaging 21 points per game. Bogut gives them the much needed rim protector you need to compete with Team USA and Dellavedova is a proven perimeter defender. It may not have the star power of France, Spain, or USA, but the Aussies have a nice squad that will compete.
It is obviously hard to envision Team USA losing at all this summer. The roster is stacked with the best players in the world, including Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, and Klay Thompson. Team USA is 75-1 under Coach Mike Krzyzewski, with that one loss coming 10 years ago in the 2006 World Championship Games. Expect the USA to win gold again, but look out for Spain, France, and Australia to be serious competitors as well.