The FIBA 2010 World Championships get under way on Saturday and Emmet Ryan is betting against the USA ending its drought in Turkey.
Where are the big names?
There’s no doubting the USA is bringing 12 talented players to Turkey for the FIBA World Championships but this is hardly the type of unit that will intimidate opponents. Where are Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, or indeed any of the team that won gold in Beijing at the Olympics? In international Basketball the World Championships ranks just as high as the Olympics in prestige, yet the USA has sent a team missing all of the Redeem Team from 2008. It’s been 16 years since the USA claimed the World Championship title and this may well be the most average team sent to date.
Yes, Kevin Durant finished second in MVP voting and Stephen Curry is blossoming into a star but look at this line-up. It has many of the same glaring deficiencies that hampered the USA in Athens 2004, where they only picked up an Olympic bronze. It’s hardly mediocre but this team is the lowest percentage gap between its average player salary and the average NBA salary since the USA started sending teams to major championships in the 1990s. A lack of big salary stars does not make this team mediocre but it does indicate a dearth of game-changing talents. This ain’t the Dream Team.
No shortage of BIG players elsewhere
The biggest of those deficiencies is a lack of inside presence. There’s no Dwight Howard on this unit to open up the middle. This is going to prove problematic as with Marc Gasol, Tiago Splitter, and Sofoklis Schortsanitis amongst the host of big men on hand in Turkey, the USA will be forced outside more often than not. Durant and Curry are the only two bona fide outside shooters who can compete with the specialists present on almost all of their opponents in the FIBA Championships.
This is going to be a major hindrance for the USA, where the NBA style game has made them become increasingly reliant on its superstars’ talent advantage in order to compensate for clearly tactical deficiencies. That advantage has been getting smaller for decades and this current line-up is not going to get by on talent alone.
A South American surge?
NBA fans will get their first chance to look at Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter ahead of him joining up with the San Antonio Spurs in the forthcoming season. Splitter has been a giant in Europe, making the All-Euroleague first team in 2008 and claiming the Spanish League and Spanish League Finals MVP awards in 2010 in a career that saw him witn two Spanish Championships with Caja Laboral. He’s joined by Leandro Barbosa of the Phoenix Suns and Anderson Varejao of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brazil’s other big man Nene is out with injury but this is a serious outfit which won the FIBA Americas Championship last year. Monday’s clash with the USA could tell us plenty about this team’s potential.
The 2004 Olympic Champions, Argentina, will also fancy their chances. Manu Ginobili is sitting out this tournament but this team is ready for one last championship charge. NBA players Luis Scola, Fabricio Oberto, and Carlos Delfino join a team loaded with experience domestically and in Europe. With a favourable draw, Argentina is poised to go deep in Turkey.
Believe in Ricky
Spain, the reigning Eurobasket champions, come to Turkey without its most recognisable name as Pau Gasol is taking the summer off to recover from injury. This team won’t miss a beat in his absence. Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez join the most exciting young talent in Basketball, Ricky Rubio, in a team looking to retain the title it won in 2006. Much like their Football counterparts who won in South Africa, this team is a joy to watch. At just 19, Rubio has already proven himself as one of the best point guards in the world, which Derrick Rose learnt the hard way:
It’s not just the flashes of brilliance, Rubio has shown tremendous ability to read the court and marshall a game that make him a threat against any opponent. Spain is the rising power in the global game, one that could legitimately threaten the USA’s dream line-up in London 2012. For now look for them to keep hold of the FIBA World Championship title.