The London Olympics are almost upon us, and it's time to predict who the winners and the losers will be for these Summer Games. Everyone knows who the favorite is, but can they win it?
USA Prohibitive Favourite (Consensus Odds)USA 1.15 Brazil 41.00 Spain 7.50 Australia 101.00 Argentina 29.00 Great Britain 251.00 Lithuania 34.00 Nigeria 301.00 Russia 34.00 China 401.00 France 31.00 Tunisia 1001.00
USA Delirium Or Disappointment?As I've written in the past, the current version of the U.S. basketball team is hardly the "Dream Team." The reason for this though may have escaped some people. They have key injuries to many of their front line players, namely, Derrick Rose, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and last, but not least Dwight Howard. The speculation is the US team is challenged inside with the lack of a big man, referencing directly Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard. On the surface it looks like this is a fact, especially when you watch the US team jacking up threes from all over the court. In reality it's really difficult to resist the temptation of shooting a three when no one is covering you because they are packing it in and playing zone 90 percent of the time. Not to mention the 3-point line is 6.75 meters away in FIBA, while the NBA line is a full 7.22 meters away. The other day Kevin Durant scored 21 points against Argentina from 3-point range, going 7 for 11, illustrating his proclivity to fire them up. In total the team shot 34 threes. Photo Credit: www.bleacherreport.com
Major ThreatsSo who are the major threats to the US team? Just looking at the odds it would be Spain and Argentina, followed by France, Lithuania, Russia and Brazil. There is no doubt that Spain and Argentina could - on a bad day for the US - win the gold. It is however, highly unlikely. First let's take a look at Spain. Spain has it all, an inside and outside game with Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Oklahoma City Thunder stalwart Serge Ibaka upfront. Jose Calderon and Carlos Navarro are an excellent back court. With Navarro the Spaniards have almost a 20 point a game scorer, and both he and Calderon can pass. Ricky Rubio however will be missed, and the bench is a little suspect. Argentina on the other hand is also loaded, with four NBA players including Manu Ginobili, the perennial sixth man of the San Antonio Spurs. They also put up what appeared to be a stellar effort the other night with a six point loss to the USA. They stayed with the NBA superstars on the boards in a game that actually saw the USA team draw more fouls. The Argentines have claimed medals at the last two Olympics, so you can't count them out. France has a number of NBA players and is sporting a second place finish in the summer EuroBasket. The French will miss Joakim Noah but have some people worth mentioning, including Ronnie Turiaf, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw. The real key of course is Tony Parker, who as of July 8th was cleared to play. Parker can make a difference on any team and gives France a shot at a medal. Brazil, with Leandro Barbosa, Varejao Anderson, Nene Hilario and Tiago Splitter look as though they could be a team in contention for a medal and if past performance is any guide, Brazil will be a tough out in the Olympics. They haven't picked up any hardware in the Olympics since the sixties but they are certainly a dark horse to medal here. Most pundits are picking the big three, the USA, Spain and Argentina to carve up the medals, and believe me it certainly looks that way. Does anyone else have a shot? Photo Credit: www.slam.canoe.ca
Contenders Or Pretenders?Lithuania in days gone by was a real powerhouse and always a threat to medal in the Olympics. Now with two NBA players from the Toronto Raptors, Linas Kleiza and Jonas Valanciunas as the only players that are in the least bit used to the speed the USA team will throw at them, their chances look unlikely. Russia, once a formidable foe with the likes of Sergey Belov, Aleksandr Belov and Zurab Sak'andelidze are not the team of the seventies when they dominated European basketball as the former Soviet Union. For the time being, those days are gone. Australia looks like a team on the verge of something. With two close loses to Spain and a forty point blow out of Greece, the Patty Mill-led squad seems to be rounding into form. Even without Andrew Bogut in the lineup, I look for the Aussie contingent to be vying for a medal. Great Britain, the host team, put up a valiant effort against the USA last week but were clearly outmatched. They also don't appear to have any way to contend with pre-tournament favorites Spain or Argentina. As much as I like Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu it's going to be a rough go for the host team. I do however expect them to advance to the quarter finals. I don't believe Nigeria, China and Tunisia have any serious chance to medal in this year's competition. Photo Credit: www.london2012.olympics.com.au
What Does This All Mean?I've always maintained that with all things considered it's field goal percentage that makes the difference in wins and losses. Not rebounding, not turnovers, but field goal percentage. One has to look no further than the havoc the Oklahoma City Thunder caused the Laker big men Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in the NBA finals. I also believe that the so-called lack of a big man from the USA is not quite the problem that most of the pundits believe it is. LeBron James can play all five positions on the court, including center. There is also no one in this tournament that can contend with him at any position, including center. It is however not offensively where the USA is dangerous. It is on the defensive end where they really shine. They currently have four players on this year's first or second all defensive team including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler. Chandler was not even on the first team, but was Defensive Player of the Year. They also have not shown at all how much they can really turn up the heat defensively. It's going to be a huge factor in the fourth quarter when the opposing guards can't get the ball to the supposed big men. Also, don't forget at crunch time when the ball touches the floor under the USA basket it will be in the hands of a USA defender.
- Gold - USA
- Silver - Spain
- Bronze - France
As always we would love to hear from you, so please leave any comments or tips you may have. Who do you think will win the gold? Do the Boomers have a shot at a medal?
Photo Credit: (top) www.nba.com