One of the most experienced teams in the tournament and the gold medal winners in the 2004 Olympics, Argentina will be among the top contenders to medal in London. This could become the last Olympics for the core of Manu Ginobili, Pablo Prigioni, Andres Nocioni and Luis Scola.
Head coach Julio Lamas will bring five players who won the gold medal in 2004, and also have loads of experience on the bench, as only four players of Argentinean squad are under 30 and only one is under 25.
Argentina won the last FIBA Americas Championship, finishing with a 9-1 record, where they beat Venezuela in the finals by a final score of 79-56. Ginobili, Prigioni, Nocioni, Scola and Delfino averaged a combined 71.7 points per game in the FIBA Americas Championship, proving that they still have enough fuel left in the tank to lead Argentina.
However, a short bench and failing to control the game tempo could lead Argentina to come up short. Argentina lost last two friendly games against quicker teams from Spain and Brazil, 85-105 and 75-91, respectively. Four of the 10 oldest players in London are from Argentina, and that could lead to a struggle against faster teams.
Argentinean national team:
Point guards: Pablo Prigioni (New York Knicks, NBA) and Facundo Campazzo (Penarol de Mar del Plata).
Shooting guards: Manu Ginobili (San Antonio Spurs, NBA) and Carlos Delfino (Milwaukee Bucks, NBA).
Small forwards: Andres Nocioni (Caja Laboral, Spain), Hernan Jasen (Cajasol, Spain) and Marcos Daniel Mata (Penarol de Mar del Plata).
Power forwards: Luis Scola (Phoenix Suns, NBA) , Federico Kammerichs (Flamengo, Brasil) and Leonardo Gutierrez ( Penarol de Mar del Plata).
Centers: Juan Gutierrez (Obras) and Martin Leiva (Penarol de Mar del Plata).
French is making an Olympic comeback, after missing the Olympics in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008). Moreover, France will be a part of Olympic basketball tournament in London, where they won silver 64 years ago in 1948.
France is full of NBA players – there are seven this year – but one big man will be particularly missed. For sure, three NBA players, Rodrigue Beaubois, Ian Mahinmi and Mickael Pietrus, could be useful as well, but the absence of Joakim Noah could be decisive for France. The 6-foot-11 center will miss the Olympics due to a knee injury and now the tallest guy on French squad is just 6-foot-9.
Nevertheless, there was some positive news on French camp, as the biggest star of France, Tony Parker was cleared to play in the Olympics. No surprise, it was huge relief for Vincent Collet and French fans, as Parker holds their entire game in his hands. Parker suffered a scratched left cornea during a nightclub brawl on June 14, but later was cleared to play with protective goggles.
Thanks to schedule makers, we’ll see what France is made from in the early days of the tournament, as they will face the strongest teams of the group A, United States, Argentina and Lithuania, in the first three games.
French national team:
Point guards: Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs, NBA) and Yannick Bokolo (BCM Gravelines Dunkerque).
Shooting guards: Nando De Colo (San Antonio Spurs, NBA), Fabien Causeur (Cholet Basket) and Mickael Gelabale (Khimki, Russia).
Small forwards: Florent Pietrus (Valencia Basket, Spain), Yakhouba Diawara (Climbero Varese) and Nicolas Batum (Portland Trail Blazers, NBA).
Power forward: Boris Diaw (San Antonio Spurs, NBA).
Centers: Kevin Seraphin (Washington Wizards, NBA), Ali Traore (Lokomotiv-Kuban, Russia) and Ronny Turiaf (Miami Heat, NBA).
Lithuania has made five Olympic appearances in a row. Sounds impressive for a nation of 3.2 million people? Moreover, Lithuania reached the semifinals in all five Olympics since the country gained its independence; winning three bronze medals and finishing fourth in two.
The Olympic hope is alive for Lithuania this year as well as their leader, Linas Kleiza, rejoins the team after missing EuroBasket 2011 due to knee injury. Kleiza already proved he is capable of carrying Lithuania on his back as he led the team in scoring in three out of four Olympic qualifying tournament games.
However, things are not perfect for Lithuania, as starting center Robertas Javtokas left camp right before the Olympics due to leg injury and head coach Kestutis Kemzura had to recall national team debutant Antanas Kavaliauskas. The frontcourt could be a serious problem for Lithuania, as both power forwards lack athleticism and both centers lack experience.
Another talented big man Donatas Motiejunas would definitely fit in this year’s Lithuanian national team roster, but surprisingly, the 7-footer decided to play in the NBA Summer league with the Houston Rockets. Motiejunas will certainly wear the Lithuanian jersey in the future, while the team is still good enough to compete for another place in the semifinals without him.
Lithuanian national team:
Point guards: Sarunas Jasikevicius (Panathinaikos, Greece) and Mantas Kalnietis (Zalgiris)
Shooting guards: Rimantas Kaukenas (Montepaschi, Italy), Martynas Pocius (Real, Spain) and Renaldas Seibutis (Lietuvos Rytas).
Shooting forwards: Jonas Maciulis (Montepaschi, Italy), Simas Jasaitis (Lokomotiv-Kuban, Russia) and Linas Kleiza (Toronto Raptors, NBA).
Power forwards: Paulius Jankunas (Zalgiris) and Darius Songaila (Blancos de Rueda, Spain).
Centers: Jonas Valanciunas (Toronto Raptors, NBA) and Antanas Kavaliauskas (VEF, Latvia).
The biggest surprise participant of the Olympic tournament, Nigeria, still can hardly believe their luck in Venezuela. Beating European powerhouse Greece in quarterfinals and later upsetting the Dominican Republic to make it to the Olympics for the first time in its history – it still looks surreal for the Nigerian players.
Nigeria is the clear underdog of group A, but the African team shouldn’t be overlooked. Only three players from the team were born in Nigeria, while the other nine born in the States.
That means Nigeria is full of players who went through American basketball schools and have great individual skills. Former and current NBA players like Ike Diogu and Al-Farouq Aminu proved they can lead Nigeria against teams such as Lithuania, Greece and Dominic Republic.
All in all, Nigeria still has more weaknesses than strengths and that will hurt African team in the group stage straightaway.
Nigerian national team:
Point guards: Anthony Skinn (Ironi Ashkelon, Israel) and Ade Dagunduro (Stella Artois, Belgium).
Shooting guards: Chamberlain Oguchi (Meralco Bolts, Phillipines), Richard Oruche (Academica Coimbra, Portugal) and Derrick Obasohan (FIATC Joventut, Spain).
Shooting forward: Koko Archibong (Giessen 46ers, Germany).
Power forwards: Ekene Ibekwe (BBC Bayreuth, Germany), Ike Diogu (Capitanes de Arecibo, Puerto Rico), Al-Farouq Aminu (New Orleans Hornets, NBA) and Ejike Ugboaja (Jahesh Tarabar Qom, Iran).
Centers: Alade Aminu (Elan Chalon, France) and Olumide Oyedeji (Quingdao Double Star, China).
The Tunisian national team made it to the Olympics by ending 12 years of Angolan domination in Africa. In the final of the 2011 African championship, Tunisia defeated Angola, which had won all African tournaments since 1999.
Adel Tilatli’s squad made its international debut two years ago in the 2010 FIBA Worlds where Tunisia didn’t win a single game. Same as back in 2010, it’s difficult to see Tunisia winning any games in a tough group A. For the fact, if Tunisia or Nigeria would make it out of the group to the quarterfinals, it would be the first African team to finish the Olympics in the top eight.
The biggest hope of Tunisian basketball is 26-year-old 7-foot-1 Salah Mejri, who is one of two members of the team playing out of home country. Mejri plays for Antwerp in Belgium and also has experience of playing in the NBA Summer league. Obviously, Mejri’s potential is limited, but getting loads of playing time in a competition like Olympics will definitely benefit to his development.
The friendly games have only proven the slight chances of Tunisia even winning a single game in the Olympics, as they were destroyed by China and Spain. The Tunisians even lost to the second Russian team, but surprisingly upset Great Britain.
Tunisian national team:
Point guards: Marouan Kechrid (US Monastir, Tunisia), Omar Abada (E.S.R Rades, Tunisia) and Marouan Lagnej (JS Kairouan, Tunisia).
Shooting guards: Lassaad Chouaya (Club Africain, Tunisia) and Mourad El Mabrouk (Eszahra Sport, Tunisia).
Shooting forwards: Amine Maghrebi (Eszahra Sport, Tunisia), Amine Rzig (Etoile Sportive du Sahel, Tunisia) and Radhouane Slimane (An Nasr Dubai, UAE).
Power forwards: Macram Ben Romdhane (Etoile du Sahel, Tunisia) and Mohamed Hadidane (Stade Nabeulien, Tunisia).
Centers: Salah Mejri (Antwerp, Belgium) and Mohamed Ghyaza (ES Rades, Tunisia).
Team USA is going to London to do one thing, and one thing only – win gold. As is always the case for the USA, anything but winning gold is a failure.
Since 1936, the United States has never been off the podium and since losing to Greece in 2006, Team USA hasn't suffered a single loss. The Americans are coming to London, holding a 27-win streak.
As always, Team USA looks incredibly impressive, but they don’t seem quite as unbeatable this year. Injuries of Dwight Howard and Blake Griffin will give some opponents hope to have an advantage inside the paint as Team USA has only three true post players on its roster.
However, days when Team USA treated international tournaments more like holidays than serious competition are over. Great preparation and strong opponents in friendly games will make Team USA ready for another run for gold.
The USA national team:
Point guards: Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers, NBA), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA) and Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets, NBA).
Shooting guards: Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers, NBA) and James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA).
Small forwards: Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA), Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks, NBA), Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers, NBA) and LeBron James (Miami Heat, NBA).
Power forward: Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA).
Centers: Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks, NBA) and Anthony Davis (New Orlean Hornets, NBA).
1. United States