FIBA Americas 2013: Most Surprising Developments from Venezuela

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIISeptember 3, 2013


There's no question that the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship in Caracas, Venezuela, has failed to go as expected. Contenders haven't lived up to expectations, under-the-radar teams have transformed into favorites, and individual game results have been unpredictable.

The question is, what have been the most surprising developments from the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament?

There's no shortage of options to choose from, as the results have been unlike anything that we expected to see. Certain results have been more surprising than others, however, as teams and players either surpass or fail to live up to the levels of expectation placed upon them.

That's why they play the games.

Brazil Winless

Entering the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament, one of the most popular choices to strike gold was Brazil. Led by star guard Marcelinho Huertas, Brazil had a fair blend of star power and young players with something to prove.

Instead, Brazil has failed to win a single game during group play.

Huertas is still a star, and his ranking of third at the event with 4.3 assists per game should be evidence enough to prove it. Unfortunately, Guilherme Giovannoni is the only player on Brazil's roster to average at least 10.0 points per game.

The fact that Brazil is shooting 22.2 percent from beyond the arc certainly doesn't help, either.

Brazil has a chance to end its winless streak against Jamaica, but the Samardo Samuels-led squad won't be an easy out. Instead, the Brazilians will be forced to overcome their biggest void with Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao all out and unable to protect the paint.

At this rate, it doesn't appear as if Brazil is a safe bet to make a run to the gold, after all.

Canada Contending

Canadian basketball has a very bright future in international play with the likes of Anthony Bennett, Kelly Olynyk and Andrew Wiggins leading the charge. At the 2013 FIBA Americas, however, all three of those men are out for their own reasons.

As a result, Canada has been viewed as an underdog. 

Canada is currently 2-1 in three games played, owning victories over Jamaica and Brazil. Without its three most notable young stars, this has surprised many, as there isn't much depth on Canada's roster.

Depth or not, Andrew Nicholson of the Orlando Magic and Tristan Thompson of the Cleveland Cavaliers have dominated the interior. Nicholson is averaging 13.7 points and 4.3 rebounds, while Thompson is posting 12.7 points and 8.3 boards.

Throw in Levon Kendall averaging 7.0 rebounds, and you have yourself a dominant force down low.

With all of this being established, point guard Cory Joseph of the San Antonio Spurs has been the true star for Canada. He's currently averaging 16.3 points and a tournament-best 5.3 assists per contest, leading the charge offensively.

There's no question that Canada has the skill players, but it has surpassed the underrated nature of its pre-tournament hype.

Renaldo Balkman's Dominance

Puerto Rico has, arguably, the best roster at the 2013 FIBA Americas, led by Jose Juan Barea and Carlos Arroyo. The quality of the squad has been on full display, as Puerto Rico finished group play with a perfect record of 4-0.

While many projected Puerto Rico to shine, few expected Renaldo Balkman to be the best player at the event.

Balkman is second in scoring, at 20.0 points per game, and leads all at the FIBA Americas in rebounds, at 9.0, and steals, at 2.5. This is a surprise based not on Balkman's ability, but instead on his style and the tumultuous ride he's had in recent months.

With water under the bridge, Balkman is putting on his best NBA-tryout performance in Venezuela.

Having a deep group of facilitators helps, but Balkman's pure rebounding ability has played a major role in his success thus far. Not only is it enabling him to score around the basket, but it plays into his defensive prowess and enables dominance down low and along the perimeter.

It's pleasant to see, but no one expected Balkman to play this well offensively.


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