The 2014 FIBA World Cup will commence Saturday, and it promises to be one of the most competitive international basketball tournaments in recent memory.
Although the United States is favored to win it all, it is far from a lock. With injuries and player withdrawals galore, Team USA has come back to the field and given other nations some belief that they can potentially take gold in Spain.
There are several teams that have a legitimate chance to vie for a spot on the podium at the very least, and it is anyone's guess who might emerge aside from the United States and host Spaniards.
Here is a closer look at the rosters for some of the top teams in the event, along with predictions for how they will ultimately fare.
|C||DeMarcus Cousins||Sacramento Kings|
|PG||Stephen Curry||Golden State Warriors|
|PF||Anthony Davis||New Orleans Pelicans|
|SG||DeMar DeRozan||Toronto Raptors|
|C||Andre Drummond||Detroit Pistons|
|PF||Kenneth Faried||Denver Nuggets|
|SF||Rudy Gay||Sacramento Kings|
|SG||James Harden||Houston Rockets|
|PG||Kyrie Irving||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|C||Mason Plumlee||Brooklyn Nets|
|PG||Derrick Rose||Chicago Bulls|
|SG||Klay Thompson||Golden State Warriors|
As the No. 1 team in the world, there is a great deal of pressure on Team USA to perform in this tournament. The Americans have been dominant since Mike Krzyzewski took over as head coach, and anything less than winning the FIBA World Cup will be considered a failure by basketball fans in the United States.
With that said, Team USA doesn't boast as dominant a roster as most expected. Indiana Pacers star Paul George suffered a gruesome leg injury in a scrimmage, while Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder pulled himself from consideration soon after. With two elite wing players out of the equation, the United States' depth will certainly be tested.
Experience is also a concern with just five players on the 12-man roster having competed in one of the two major competitions, according to ESPN Stats & Info:
Team USA announced its FIBA World Cup roster last night. Will experience be an issue? pic.twitter.com/KuDRIWqZGY— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 23, 2014
The talent is still there, though, especially at guard. Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose are all dynamic offensive players who will give opposing teams fits with their athleticism and shooting ability.
Even when Team USA is at full strength and utilizing its top players, the interior game is somewhat of a question mark. Young players like DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee will be called upon to play big roles.
The key factor, however, is New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis. The Kentucky product has quickly developed into a dominant force on both ends of the floor, and he will be the United States' go-to presence in the paint.
Per Chris Strauss of USA Today, Coach K is expecting big things out of Davis in this tournament.
Anthony would have had a huge role no matter what. Anthony's one of the best players in the NBA. Scoring wise, he'll get more opportunities. If you have Durant, you're going to put things in for him. When he's not there those things aren't in so for everybody it becomes a little more available. Anthony played a great game against Brazil, not a good game. He had an influence on every exchange offensively or defensively while he was in there.
There are certainly some holes on Team USA's roster, but the Americans still boast the best and deepest team on paper. As long as Davis, Curry, Harden and the other top stars on the team produce as expected, the United States will reign supreme.
|F||Alex Abrines||FC Barcelona|
|PG||Jose Calderon||New York Knicks|
|PF||Victor Claver||Portland Trail Blazers|
|SF||Rudy Fernandez||Real Madrid|
|C||Marc Gasol||Memphis Grizzlies|
|C||Pau Gasol||Chicago Bulls|
|PF||Serge Ibaka||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|SG||Sergio Llull||Real Madrid|
|SG||Juan Carlos Navarro||FC Barcelona|
|PF||Felipe Reyes||Real Madrid|
|PG||Sergio Rodriguez||Real Madrid|
|PG||Ricky Rubio||Minnesota Timberwolves|
Being the host nation can be a great thing in terms of fan support, but it can also be difficult due to the pressures that come along with it. Spain will have to deal with that tricky balance throughout the 2014 FIBA World Cup, but it is unquestionably the team to beat outside of the United States.
Although Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro and Sergio Rodriguez give the Spaniards a good mix on the perimeter, they won't necessarily be able to match up with Team USA in that regard. Where Espana figures to have an advantage, though, is around the basket in the painted area.
With Pau and Marc Gasol as well as Serge Ibaka in the fold, Spain is a team that will be extremely tough to penetrate against. It will also present a challenge on the offensive end since all three of those players possess impressive scoring arsenals.
Basketball fans are well aware of what that trio brings to the table, but they reminded everyone in a recent exhibition game against Argentina, according to David Pick of Eurobasket.com:
Spaniards statement to USA: Demolish Argentina by 30+. Gasol bros, Serge Ibaka combine for 40 points & 29 boards.— David Pick (@IAmDPick) August 25, 2014
The United States clearly focused more heavily on bigs than usual in response to what Spain brings to the table. The Americans' post players may not be quite as developed as Spain's, but the gap isn't as wide as some might think.
In fact, the true difference may be Spain's ability to defend Team USA's perimeter players. The Spaniards' perimeter defense is somewhat suspect, and that is what will prevent them from winning the FIBA World Cup on their home court. A second-place finish looks to be in the cards for Spain.
|PG||Thomas Heurtel||Laboral Kutxa|
|F||Nicolas Batum||Portland Trail Blazers|
|PG||Antoine Diot||Strasbourg IG|
|SF||Charles Kahudi||Le Mans|
|SF||Edwin Jackson||ASVEL Basket|
|SG||Evan Fournier||Orlando Magic|
|PF||Florent Pietrus||SLUC Nancy|
|C||Rudy Gobert||Utah Jazz|
|PF||Boris Diaw||San Antonio Spurs|
|C||Ian Mahinmi||Indiana Pacers|
At full strength, France is a team that can cause problems for the likes of the United States and Spain. With superstars like Tony Parker and Joakim Noah not in the mix for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, though, it will be extremely difficult for the French to win this event.
Which team will win the 2014 FIBA World Cup?
With that said, France still has enough firepower to make some noise and finish in the top three. It may not have a dominant player, but there is a definite NBA presence. Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum will shoulder much of the load on both ends of the floor, with bigs Boris Diaw, Rudy Gobert and Ian Mahinmi giving France an extremely strong presence inside.
Also, Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier will be counted upon as a key offensive player. He is coming off a season in which he averaged over eight points per game in a reserve role for the Denver Nuggets, so it will be interesting to see how he fares with more responsibility.
In addition to being without Parker and Noah, France suffered a big blow leading up to the start of the World Cup when it was announced that point guard Nando De Colo would have to withdraw due to a hand injury, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:
France's Nando de Colo sustained an injury to his left hand in tune-up game vs. Ukraine & is questionable for FIBA World Cup, per federation— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) August 17, 2014
Charles Kahudi replaced Nando de Colo on France national team for FIBA World Cup, per federation.— Jeff Zillgitt (@JeffZillgitt) August 18, 2014
De Colo is no Parker, but he almost certainly would have thrived as a distributor for France at this event. Being without him will make things more difficult for France without question, but the French still have a lot of talent and will find a way to grit their way to a third-place result.
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