Spain's Olympic basketball team has been hailed as the biggest favorite to knock off the powerhouse United States team. Spain possesses plenty of NBA talent throughout their roster, but the size of Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol are what make the Spaniards such a threat to Team USA.
Entering the summer, Team USA was already weak up front with injuries to Dwight Howard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Andrew Bynum's opting to get extra rest instead of playing also hurt Team USA. Then in camp, Blake Griffin suffered a knee injury and that was that.
Now Team USA features only one true center in Tyson Chandler. The other two big-men on the team are Kevin Love and the young and inexperienced Anthony Davis. Nobody else on the team stands taller than 6'9".
While it hasn't been a problem in the warm-up games leading up the Olympics, Team USA hasn't had to face a team with the size and experience of the Gasol brothers. Pau stands at 7'0" and Marc at 7'1" to form a dominant and towering frontcourt.
In addition to having the Gasol brothers, Spain also has the 6'10" Serge Ibaka as a backup center and threat to clog the paint.
Against every other team outside of Team USA, Spain's superior height should give them a clear advantage and opportunity to win.
Spain's size can become an even bigger factor during the tournament if Team USA suffers an injury to Chandler, Davis or Love. With only three players that can play as true big men down low, another big problem for Team USA could be foul trouble.
Pau Gasol is very talented at drawing fouls and getting to the line with his pump-fakes and post moves. The Team USA big men are going to have to be extremely careful in defending the Gasol brothers and guarding the paint.
In the NBA finals, Erik Spoelstra, head coach of the Miami Heat, was forced to use LeBron James at power forward due to injuries and lack of quality big men. Team USA may have to go in the same direction during the London games with James or Carmelo Anthony possibly playing some power forward.
Spain's height advantage is likely to show up most if they can forced a slower tempo against the US. If they can get into their sets and pound the ball down low, they have a better chance than anybody to knock off Team USA.
That's easier said than done as the ultra-athletic Team USA is going to want to run every chance they get. While the Gasol brothers allow Spain to threaten Team USA, the key to actually pulling off a victory lays in the hands of the Spanish backcourt.
Jose Calderon and Juan Carlos Navarro will need to be efficient with the basketball in the Spanish backcourt. They can't force bad shots or turn the ball over as both will allow Team USA to get out and run the fast break.
While the Spanish team possess the biggest threat to Team USA because of the Gasol brothers, they still need to play a near-perfect game and likely benefit from foul trouble or a US injury in order to take down the favorites.