USA vs Spain: What Olympic Basketball Exhibition Will Tell Us About Each Team

Paul AblesContributor IIIJuly 23, 2012

LeBron will be a tough matchup for the Spanish defenders
LeBron will be a tough matchup for the Spanish defendersDavid Ramos/Getty Images

The Olympic men’s basketball tournament will finally get underway this Saturday, June 28 in London, England. With that in mind, the United States men’s team is set to complete its exhibition schedule on July 24 versus Spain.

This matchup could be a preview of the gold-medal game, as the two teams are heavy favorites to win the tournament. In fact, they squared off in the 2008 gold-medal game in Beijing. The Americans pulled away and won 117-108 to take home the gold.

While the U.S. team is full of NBA superstars, the Spain team is also loaded with talent and has played together longer than America’s finest, who have only practiced together since early July.

There are a few things to look forward to in this exhibition matchup. Each team is essentially the opposite of the other, with the United States’ strength being its backcourt, while Spain's is a dominant front line with plenty of size.

On the American side, it will be important to see how they handle Spain’s frontcourt of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. All three players are excellent rim protectors, and can also score in a multitude of ways. In fact, Ibaka is the reigning NBA blocks champion, and Pau Gasol has won two NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.

When looking at the United States team, they only feature one true center in Tyson Chandler. He is the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but he will be forced to defend the paint essentially on his own.

Chandler will have to avoid foul trouble throughout the Olympics. Currently, the Americans lack defensive options if Chandler is out of the game.

However, that could change if Anthony Davis continues to impress. He has played well so far in the exhibitions, and even blocked four shots in one of the matchups. He has yet to play a single game in the NBA, but his post defense will be key to the United States’ success.

The only remaining power forward on the roster is Kevin Love. He is a tough rebounder, but is not known for his defense down low. The Americans did have Blake Griffin on their original roster, but he is out of the Olympics because of injury.

As for Spain, they certainly have a big advantage in the paint. But the counter to that will be the backcourt play of the U.S. team. Spain certainly has talent in that aspect with players such as Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro and Sergio Rodriguez.

However, the Americans can counter with an unbelievable amount of talent, with the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Iguodala, Deron Williams and James Harden.

Each player on that list is a matchup nightmare for the opposing team, so it will be interesting to see how Spain handles them. If they can play good perimeter defense and funnel the Americans into their stout front line, then Spain might have the edge in the matchup.

However, the U.S. team has such an overall talent and depth advantage that it may overcome Spain’s huge frontcourt. On top of it all, they have the two greatest players in the world in James and Durant, and there is not a team anywhere who has a proper defensive matchup for either one of them.

These are some of the interesting matchups to watch for in the USA vs. Spain exhibition game. This game will be extremely competitive, even though it will not count towards either team’s record. Be sure to tune in and see how each roster stacks up against the other.

After all, these are two of the world’s best teams, and they could very well meet up again in a gold-medal rematch of epic proportions.