Olympic basketball is starting to sweep the globe, as the sport becomes more and more popular across every continent. While up to this point the event has largely been dominated by a few countries, the rest of the world is catching up talent-wise as the years wear on.
Who will come out on top this year? Let’s power rank some of the favorites.
France would be higher on this list were it not for Joakim Noah’s injury, Tony Parker’s off-court woes and their falling on the wrong end of a lopsided bout with team USA on Sunday.
Nicholas Batum is a solid talent for France, but he has yet to reach his basketball apex and both Ronny Turiaf and Boris Diaw are at the dénouement of their basketball careers. Kevin Seraphin is a solid role player off the bench for France, but as stated, is exactly that—just a role player.
France will win some games in this tournament, but likely won’t go very deep past the prelims.
Former Utah Jazz star Andrei Kirlenko leads this Russian team; his basketball career newly rejuvenated from his MVP campaign overseas with CSKA Moscow during the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 NBA season.
Seven-foot center Timofey Mozgov of the Denver Nuggets gives the Russians a presence (though not very dexterious one) down low and Alexey Shved rounds out the backcourt nicely for Russia.
A medal might be a longshot for the Russians, but the team should at least be somewhat competitive throughout the course of the tournament.
Brazil challenged team USA in exhibition ball, coming within eight points in the fourth quarter of their friendly match just before the games began, and Brazil appears to be a bit of a dark horse entering the games in London.
Basketball fanatics will recognize names like Anderson Varejao of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Nene Hilario of the Washington Wizards, Tiago Splitter of the San Antonio Spurs and Leandro Barbosa of the Indiana Pacers as key contributors of the Brazilian roster.
Brazil has size and decent scoring ability, and could potentially snag a medal out of these games—though their international experience (or lack thereof) will limit them a bit.
Best known for their gold medal run in Greece in 2004, the Argentines will try at it again in London after their bronze medal finish in Beijing four years ago.
Most of the components of the roster have remained the same for the past decade, with Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola the headline NBA names Argentina will send to London this year. The team has plenty of NBA experience for an international squad; alongside Ginobili and Scola the team starts Andres Nocioni (formerly of the 76ers), Carlos Delfino (formerly of the Milwaukee Bucks) and soon-to-be Knick Pablo Prigioni.
These international ball veterans certainly pose a threat to anyone in the tournament and commandeer the respect of every opponent they face off against.
Despite not having Minnesota Timberwolves sensation Ricky Rubio at their disposal, Spain looks like a favorite to make a deep Olympic run in 2012.
It’s hard not to think of the Gasol brothers down low for Spain, giving the squad a low post offense and defense deeper than any other team in the games. Rudy Fernandez is a solid international player at the two-guard/small forward position, and Jose Calderon is the best kept point guard secret of the NBA.
Spain probably won’t win these games, but they’ll likely find themselves with a spot on the podium come medal time.
Surprise, surprise, team USA ranks atop this power ranking. Though the ‘Dream Team’ comparisons might be a bit lofty considering the Americans have just one true big man on the squad in Tyson Chandler, the Americans are clearly the most talent-laden team in this tournament and should have no problem coasting to gold in London.
The forward trifecta of Lebron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony simply gives team USA way too much firepower at their disposal for any other team to have a prayer with. Brazil came close to beating the Americans, and Spain and Argentina will surely give the US a run for their money, but it’s unlikely that any country in this tournament will be able to pull off the upset against team USA in 2012.