Dream Team will need to earn their gold
The international level of basketball has risen dramatically since the days of the 1992 Olympics, when the US men’s basketball team established itself as The Dream Team.
They made basketball history by beating its eight opponents by an average of 44 points.
Team USA will still win gold this year, barring a massive upset. You can argue about it all day, but the reality is that the US have a bench full of All-Stars who could potentially walk away with a second-consecutive gold themselves.
With this being said, it won’t just be a matter of turning up. Here are the predictions of what we should expect from those who will give the US a run for their money.
In 2008, the Spaniards closely contested the Americans for gold and it won’t be any different this year.
Spain will dominate all competitors inside the key.
Marc and Pau Gasol will do serious damage, as no other team possesses such back-to-the-basket big men due to the loss of Dwight Howard for USA (back surgery).
That’s not to mention Serge Ibaka, who will most likely come off the bench. Ibaka leads the NBA in blocks in the 2011/12 season and is continuing to impress during the playoffs, averaging 11 points per game, 6.8 boards, 3.2 blocks and shooting at 65 percent from the field.
On a lower note, Spain will suffer seriously without point guard Ricky Rubio.
Nevertheless with Jose Calderon playing point in a strong offensive group the Spaniards will still pose as a major threat.
Four-time NBA All-Star Tony Parker will lead the French in their first Olympic appearance since 2000.
Parker will control the backcourt and rising Chicago Bulls Centre Joakim Noah will dominate the frontcourt, provided his ankle problems don’t rule him out.
Parker is currently playing remarkable basketball this year, averaging 18.3 points and 7.7 assists per game in the regular season and continuing to put up big numbers in the playoffs.
The 6″11′ Noah will play a key role and will need to be in form in order for France to succeed.
Other key players for France include Portland’s Nicolas Batum, who will spread the defence and has the ability to hit open threes and clutch baskets.
Mavericks rising star Ian Mahinmi is not likely to get big minutes but will be a weapon off the bench.
Argentina will again be a big competitor this year with Manu Ginobli, Luis Scola and Juan Pedro Gutierrez posing major threats.
This prediction, however, is made in the assumption that Ginobli remains healthy and doesn’t suffer another injury like those which kept him out of part of this year’s NBA season.
The Argentines will be looking to double their Olympic golds after coming up on top in the 2004 Games, however they will come up short.
The Australians will suffer severely without Andrew Bogut, whose slow-healing foot injury will keep him out of the Olympics.
They also caught an unlucky break when Kyrie Irving decided to withhold his international eligibility rather than represent the green and gold.
This makes Australia a long shot for stealing a medal this year.
The Aussies will be led by rising star Patty Mills who has recently made his mark in Australian NBA history.
However, without Bogut, Australia will struggle to make top five
USA for gold; Spain for silver; and France for bronze in London 2012.