Summer Olympics 2012: Teams That Will Challenge USA for Basketball Gold

Alex FieldCorrespondent IIJuly 19, 2012

BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  Deron Williams #7 of the United States lays the ball up past Pau Gasol #13 of Spain in the gold medal game during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

Despite the USA men’s basketball team steamrolling through their exhibition schedule, the Summer Olympics will provide the team with a more challenging schedule.

The first true test will come when they take on France in their first game of the preliminary round. France, a team that boasts more NBA talent than many other teams in Group A, is led by San Antonio Spurs guard, Tony Parker.

Perhaps the scariest thing about the French national team is Parker's backcourt mate, Nicolas Batum, a talented, athletic wing player capable of playing either at the two or three. With both Parker and Batum, the French team surely will torment the American squad.

Along with their guard play, French team boasts Boris Diaw, a pure all-around player with good size. International play is much more fast-paced, which bodes well for the French team.  

With Diaw making outlet passes and Batum occupying the wing, the French team has the talent to match up well with the Americans.

Although Team USA won’t see them until the playoff round, Brazil is another team that can cause problems at the Olympics.

After they held a 27-17 first-quarter lead in an exhibition game against USA, Brazil was unable to hold onto the lead. Brazil will be out for revenge if the two teams play again.

Brazil features three talented NBA big men—Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter—which should cause fits for the USA team.

With the loss of Blake Griffin and the relative inexperience of Anthony Davis, the three-pronged interior attack of Brazil should cause problems.

Outside of their post presence, the Brazilian team also boasts the speedy Leandro Barbosa and a rather unheralded guard who has been compared to Steve Nash.

That man is Marcelinho Huertas, who runs point for the Brazilian team. In the exhibition match between the two teams, Huertas thrived, notching a double-double, with 11 points and 13 dimes.

With Huertas executing a high level and the big men crashing the boards, Brazil could be a likely opponent in the gold-medal game.

But Brazil will first have to make it through the preliminary round where they will face the USA's biggest competition, Spain.

Spain will surely be missing point guard Ricky Rubio, who is still nursing a torn ACL. Nonetheless, Spain features an even more talented trio of big men than Brazil, with both Marc and Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

With the three, Spain has an excellent mix of rebounders, shot blockers and playmakers necessary to thrive in international play.

The Gasol brothers will cause nightmares for Team USA. Tyson Chandler, the USA center, will likely guard Marc, leaving Pau unaccounted for.

With Pau’s range and smooth passing, Spain will be able to work from the inside-out, with sweet shooting Juan Carlos Navarro on the outside.

Spain also has Rudy Fernandez, another ultra-athletic wing player who is deceptively fast and has some serious bounce ability, and Jose Calderon who will replace Rubio.

If Spain can dominate the glass and restrict the American team from getting easy looks at the hoop, they should be a lock for the gold medal game.

Spain took home silver at the last Olympics, and they will certainly be eager to grab the gold this time around.