Even though Australia comes to London without its biggest star, the injured Andrew Bogut, the hope to make another semifinal appearance is alive for the Boomers.
Not many teams have played in three semifinals of the Olympics, but Australia has always fallen short in the Bronze Medal game. This year might be no different as the main Australian opponents, Spain, Brazil and Russia, have looked stronger in friendly games. If Australia finishes fourth in the group stage, they will likely face Team USA in the quarterfinals.
The biggest advantage of Australia should be the players who played at the top levels of Euroleague and Eurocup last season. David Andersen, Matt Nielsen, Brad Newley and Joe Ingles should be the core of the team that carries Australia to the next round. However, the later success of Australia will depend on Patrick Mills and how efficient he will be in the Olympics.
Overall, Australia, as usual, looks solid but not strong enough to compete against the world‘s dominating teams like USA, Spain and Argentina.
Australian national team:
Point guards: Patrick Mills (San Antonio Spurs, NBA), Matthew DellaVedova (St Marys Gaels, NCAA) and Adam Gibson (Gold Coast Blaze).
Shooting guards: Brad Newley (Valencia Basket, Spain) and Peter Crawford (Townsville Crocodiles).
Small forward: Joe Ingles (Regal FC Barcelona, Spain).
Power forwards: Matt Nielsen (Khimki, Russia), David Barlow (UCAM Murcia, Spain) and Mark Worthington (Gold Coast Blaze).
Centers: Aleks Maric (Panathinaikos, Greece), David Andersen (Montepaschi, Italy) and Aron Baynes (Ikaros Kallitheas, Greece).
The Brazilian national team returns to the Olympics for the first time since 1996. Back then, the Brazilians finished in sixth place and this year they have enough talent and ambitions to achieve something far greater.
These Olympics will be special for Brazilian basketball, as head coach Ruben Magnano is finally able to bring the most talented players. Nene Hilario, Anderson Varejao, Tiago Splitter, Leandro Barbosa and Marcelinho Huertas will finally play together and will have a real shot at winning a medal in London.
The key strength of Brazil will be its frontcourt. Four 6-foot-11 big men will be a huge advantage against most of the teams and probably only Spain has same size as Brazilian national team. Also, an unselfish point guard in Huertas should help to use the best Brazilian frontcourt can give.
Over the past few years, many things like injuries or chemistry problems hurt Brazil. Finally, everything seems to be ready for Brazil to make a long run and be on the medal podium in London.
Brasilian national team:
Point guards: Marcelinho Huertas (Regal FC Barcelona, Spain) and Raul Neto (Lagun Aro GBC, Spain).
Shooting guards: Larry James Taylor (Bauru) and Alex Garcia (Universe),
Shooting forwards: Marcelinho Machado (Rio de Janeiro), Marquinhos Vieira (Pinheiros) and Leandro Barbosa (Indiana Pacers, NBA)
Power forwards: Guilherme Giovannoni (Universe) and Anderson Varejao (Clevelend Cavaliers, NBA).
Centers: Tiago Splitter (San Antonio Spurs, NBA), Nene Hilario (Washington Wizards, NBA) and Caio Torres (Flamengo).
After Yao Ming retired from basketball in 2011, Chinese basketball fans knew that their national team was about to face hard times. China, which made it to the quarterfinals in the last two Olympics, will have a very difficult task in London to make it out of the group.
China didn't have an easy entry to Olympics, defeating Jordan by only one point, 70-69, in the Asian championship final. Later, the runner-ups seemed to be hopeless as they lost two games by an average of 42.5 points and demonstrated that Asian basketball is significantly behind other areas of the world.
Of course, China has a few strengths such size as an average height of 6-foot-8. Also, a lot depends on Yi Jianlian’s ability to step out and lead this year’s China team throughout group stage. After Ming left, Jianlian is the top candidate to become a leader of the team and his performace will directly influence team results.
As the Chinese players failed to demonstrate solid shape in friendly games, it is very difficult to see Asians moving to the quarterfinals.
Chinese national team:
Point guards: Jianghua Chen (Guandong Southern Tigers), Wei Liu (Shanghai Sharks)
Shooting guards: Shipeng Wang (Guandong Southern Tigers), Su Yue (Beijing Aoshen Olympian Ducks)
Shooting forwards: Ailun Guo (Liaoning Hunters), Li Yi (Jiangsu Dragons) and Fangyu Zhu (Guandong Southern Tigers).
Power forwards: Jinhui Ding (Zhejiang Wanma Cyclones), Jianlian Yi (Dallas Mavericks, NBA) and Peng Zhou (Guandong Southern Tigers).
Centers: Zhizhi Wang (Bayi Rockets) and Zhaoxu Zhang (Shanghai Dongfang Sharks).
In the last six years, Spain won two EuroBaskets, a world championship, and proved to be one of the world’s dominating powers in basketball. This year they’ll try to get what they’ve been missing - an Olympic gold.
Traditionally, the frontcourt will be the main and possibly the only way, leading to gold. Pau and Marc Gasols, Serge Ibaka will form the best frontcourt in the tournament that will be hard to stop, even for Team USA. These three big men already demonstrated their domination in EuroBasket 2011, where they averaged 40.1 points and 19.5 rebounds combined per match.
Another strength of Spain will be the fact that the core of the team has been playing together for years. For example, Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Jose Calderon, Felipe Reyes teammed up long ago in 1998 when the golden generation won the first place in FIBA U19 World championship.
Spain beat five teams that will participate in the Olympics, won seven matches in a row in friendly games and only lost to Team USA in the last one. No doubt, Spain is eager for another shot to end Team USA domination and finally win Olympic gold.
Spanish national team:
Point guards: Jose Manuel Calderon (Toronto Raptors, NBA), Sergio Rodriguez (Real Madrid) and Victor Sada (Regal FC Barcelona).
Shooting guards: Juan Carlos Navarro (Regal FC Barcelona), Fernando San Emeterio (Caja Laboral) and Sergio Llull (Real Madrid).
Small forward: Rudy Fernandez (Denver Nuggets, NBA).
Power forwards: Felipe Reyes (Real Madrid) and Victor Claver (Valencia Basket).
Centers: Pau Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers, NBA), Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies, NBA) and Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder).
It’s been 64 years since Great Britain played in the Olympics and memories from 1948 are not very bright - only one win in seven games. For sure, this year’s host team is capable of beating that record and winning at least two games, especially when you have an international star like Luol Deng on your roster.
Deng has been the face of British basketball for years and the best example of how important he is for Great Britain is his performance in EuroBasket 2011. Deng led his team in all main categories as he averaged 24.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists per game. Great Britain's success unsurprisingly depends on Deng who can carry his team to quarterfinals.
However, the quarterfinals will probably be the limit for the Brits in these Olympics as their backcourt line is the weakest in group B. That could have been changed, but Ben Gordon once again refused to play for Great Britain this summer. Gordon is a missing piece on the British team and could have been a difference maker in London.
In the preparation period, Great Britain looked more than disappointing as they won only two games against Portugal and was defeated in 10 other matches. Nine of them were against teams that will participate in the Olympics.
British national team:
Point guards: Mike Lenzly (Nymburk CEZ, Czech Republic), Nate Reinking (Sheffield Sharks) and Andrew Lawrence (Charleston, NCAA).
Shooting guard: Kyle Johnson (Apoel Nicosia, Cyprus).
Small forwards: Drew Sullivan (Leicester Riders) and Luol Deng (Chicago Bulls, NBA).
Power forwards: Dan Clark (Asefa Estudiantes, Spain), Pops Mensah-Bonsu (Besiktas, Turkey) and Joel Freeland (Portland Trail Blazers, NBA).
Centers: Robert Archibald (CAI Zaragoza, Spain), Eric Boateng (Peristeri, Greece) and Kieron Achara (Assignia Manresa, Spain).
When Russia won gold in EuroBasket 2007, it seemed to be nothing more than a pure luck. As it can be seen now, it was the beginning of the rise of their national team, which is now considered as a true candidate to go all the way to the semifinals. in the Olympics.
This year’s Russian teams looks like a group of young talented players, guided by Andrei Kirilenko, the only player on the team who is in his thirties. Russia is the youngest team in the tournament, but most of the players know each other very well and five of them were even playing for the same team last season (Russian champions CSKA).
Even though Russia wasn’t particularly successful in the past few Olympics, during the preparation period the winners of bronze in EuroBasket 2011 seemed to be very confident. The Russians understand they have a great chance to grab a medal in London and they have enough talent needed to archieve this goal.
Russian national team:
Point guards: Aleksey Shved (Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA), Anton Ponkrashov (CSKA Moscow) and Dmitriy Khvostov (Khimki)
Shooting guards: Sergey Karasev (Triumph Lyubertsy), Vitaliy Fridzon (Khimki) and Evgeny Voronov (CSKA Moscow).
Small forwards: Andrei Kirilenko (Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA) and Sergey Monia (Khimki).
Power forwards: Victor Khryapa (CSKA Moscow) and Semen Antonov (Nizhny Novgorod).
Centers: Timofey Mozgov (Denver Nuggets, NBA) and Sasha Kaun (CSKA Moscow).
5. Great Britain