Hosts Spain appear to be more than capable of stopping the Americans…
The FIBA World Cup 2014 tips off on Saturday, and Team USA are considered the strong favourites to continue their recent dominance with another tournament triumph.
With all participating nations set to start their tournament this weekend, fanatix Basketball experts Sumeet Paul and Scott Hazlewood discuss why the Americans aren’t guaranteed to return home World Champions…
Scott Hazlewood: For me there are just a couple of holes in this USA team, which is something that cannot be said too often at all since NBA players have been allowed at tournaments like the Olympics and the World Cup.
The loss of Kevin Durant, LeBron James and to a lesser extent Paul George does weaken the side dramatically as the American’s lose players who can play 3-4 positions on the court with the ball and guard about as many away from the ball.
The team could also struggle guarding on the perimeter with players like Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan and James Harden can leak like a sieve at times.
Sumeet Paul: Completely agree, but I think the USA’s frontcourt could be their undoing. Everyone is expecting the final to be between Team USA and Spain, so ultimately looking ahead you have to consider how they match up.
While I would choose the American backcourt all day long, despite there still being some concern with Derrick Rose, you have to think that the Spanish will dominate them in the paint. Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka against Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and most probably Andre Drummond will likely be key battles, and in my opinion, that is where the game will be won by the hosts.
I’ve picked Ricky Rubio to be the ‘X-factor’ for Spain, would you agree or is there another individual who will make the difference?
SH: Rubio can be rocks or diamonds as we have seen at times during his NBA career to date so of course he will be crucial for Spain, but with so many weapons around him, he doesn’t have to do too much with the ball so that should help him cut down the turnovers which have plagued him at times to date.
Anybody who has NBA experience has to be also included in the conversation with who is important in Spain’s likely battle with the USA. Rudy Fernandez is not elite but will provide hustle and Jose Calderon can be a spark-plug for any side, can shoot from deep and when handed the keys to the offence will do a suitable job.
Mind you Spain’s ball-handlers might not be pressured quite as much on the outside by the likes of Rose and company because they cannot let the back-court of Spain penetrate too often as the USA only really has Davis as a legit shot-blocker guarding the rim.
SP: While I believe that all those questions will be answered in the Final, we do have to consider some of the other potential candidates to cause a shock. Both France and Argentina would be in this conversation if Tony Parker, Joakim Noah and Manu Ginobili were part of the respective rosters, but they are not.
As a result, I see Serbia as a potential outside bet along with Greece, while the steady defense and efficient shooting of Lithuania make them a viable alternative. However, one nation in particular that has supporters excited is a young Australian outfit. How do you assess their chances despite the absence of Andrew Bogut and NBA champion Patty Mills?
SH: I rate their chances very highly actually and they could be a bit of a dark-horse for a top three spot if they can play well on defence.
They have got some up and coming names in their side despite their two of their biggest stars in Bogut and Mills being out. Keep an eye out for Ingles, Baynes, Anderson and Jawai who will all do time in the front court.
Matthew Dellavedova, who I think might surprise some people in the NBA this season with Cleveland, will be another important player for them. While of course the biggest name on their roster is one of their youngest players with Dante Exum pulling on the green and gold of his homeland.
The World Cup will be a great chance for Exum to show people that he can take his game to the next level after a patchy NBA Summer League with the Utah Jazz, but on talent alone he could have a big World Cup for the Aussies.
SP: The gap between Team USA and the chasing pack has undoubtedly closed in recent times, and I don’t believe that this will be an easy feat for the Americans in Spain this summer. While it remains their tournament to lose, they will need to tread carefully through the pool stage and thereafter, but a final clash against the hosts in front of a raucous Spanish crowd could be a step too far for this particular roster.