Former international pro on Australia’s chances, why the Czechs might surprise and more – the Athletic

If you’ve followed international basketball over the years, you know the playing field is leveling off – some of the most accomplished and well-known college athletes, as well as former NBA players, continue to grow. establish abroad at the highest level. competition, alongside both emerging global talents and great veterans. Plus, if you’ve only devoted your attention to the NBA, it shouldn’t take long for you to recognize the tremendous impact international players have on the league. Look no further than the latest MVPs: Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The NBA’s opening night rosters for the 2020-21 season consisted of 107 international players from 41 countries.

And each of those 41 countries is represented – across all sports – at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which will take place without spectators. Does it sound strange? Without a doubt, but these quirks are completely normal considering what has happened in the world over the past 17 months. Despite the unusual nature of the event, the United States will likely continue to dominate the competition – having won nearly 2,000 more medals than the next country, including 121 medals (46 gold) at the 2016 Olympics. those gold medalists featured the United States men’s basketball team, whose gold medal aspirations this year are considerably darker than in previous years.

Chances of winning the gold medal

TEAM CHANCES TEAM CHANCES

United States

-350

Australia

+750

Spain

+900

France

+1500

Slovenia

+2000

Nigeria

+2500

Argentina

+3300

Italy

+4000

Germany

+6600

Czech Republic

+8000

Iran

+100000

Japan

+100000

(all BetMGM odds)

Since the United States beat Serbia by 30 points in the 2016 men’s gold medal game, Americans have looked rather ordinary, while the rest of the world has apparently caught up. The Americans were knocked out by France in the 2019 FIBA ​​World Cup quarter-finals, which Spain went on to win after beating Argentina in the final. And now, two years later, the Spaniards, Australians and others seem more capable than ever of capitalizing on some recent struggles of the United States.

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With that, I bring you my overview of men’s basketball from the Tokyo Olympics, including my picks for who might win, who the sleepers are, and what to watch out for:

TOP 3

United States (-350)

FIBA basketball is a radically different game from the basketball we Americans play in the United States. If you weren’t in the know before, or maybe forgot, you’re probably in the know now after watching some of Team USA’s exhibition games over the past couple of weeks.

Chances of winning group A

TEAM CHANCES

United States

-1000

France

+700

Czech Republic

+2500

Iran

+50000

The rules are different – no three defensive seconds in the key, which I found to be the most significant difference from my time playing in Europe compared to the NBA G League. With the defender allowed to camp in the paint without restriction, the defenses have the ability to eliminate a lot of offensive action while encouraging more shots in the air and eliminating straight-line practice towards the basket.

Another differentiator between FIBA ​​and NBA is the level of physique. Fouls are harder to find, as officials often turn the other cheek to the draw tactics that NBA players have mastered. While I appreciate that referees don’t fall into the trap, adjusting to refereeing will take time. Fortunately, it seems to have gotten better for American players as the exhibition games unfolded.

As much as we over-analyze the inferior or even downright disappointing projections over the two weeks in Las Vegas, it’s important to remember that the cohesion and familiarity with one another is only around two weeks old. Over time the chemistry will improve and this should lead to more exceptional basketball; although the trail is decreasing day by day.

Australia (+750)

Perhaps what makes me optimistic about the Australians’ gold medal prospects is the team’s ability to put key players in a role they have thrived in for the vast majority of their careers. Joe Ingles was a part-time rookie specializing in shooting and defense and was only a 6th man of the year candidate. He had the best and most successful season of his career for the Utah Jazz and will occupy a similar role with this Australian Olympic team. Aron Baynes should have no problem being the same brick wall he’s always been at both ends of the floor, with a few more three-pointers to his arsenal. Patty Mills has been Australia’s top scorer since the Rio Olympics and will continue to play that role and be the offensive spark he has been throughout his days as San Antonio Spur – at the both off the rebound and the catch. Meanwhile, Delly and Matisse Thybulle bring their defensive prowess to the NBA and into the Olympic game, and if Chris Goulding occasionally contributes to the shot he showed in the Vegas exhibition games, watch out!

Odds of winning group B

TEAM CHANCES

Australia

-145

Nigeria

+250

Italy

+600

Germany

+900

I would say there is no better top-down built men’s basketball team in these Olympics than Australia. The Australians are a seasoned bunch of guys who have been through many battles together, a mix of young and seasoned NBA players, and a team that has moved in the right direction in recent years. Placing your money on Australia, with +750 digits of odds to be a move that could pay off.

Spain (+900)

Settling on a third team to complete my top 3 was difficult, but I ended up going for Spain against France because of the history of the Spaniards. Despite its aging roster which has seen mostly the same core for much of the past decade, the Spaniards still play arguably the purest brand of basketball. Furthermore, Spain are the only team that consistently competes with the United States in every basketball competition when they meet expectations and achieve success – which should be the case for other Olympics.

Odds of winning Group C

TEAM CHANCES

Spain

-110

Slovenia

+160

Argentina

+400

Japan

+20000

At the end of my season in Spain in 2018, I left with the realization that Spanish players are the smartest and most IQ offensive players in the world. And although Spain’s Olympic roster grows even more year after year, the team is still successful, which validates my point of view. Spain won the 2019 FIBA ​​World Cup with many of the same guys who won a bronze medal in Rio and now return similar staff to Tokyo.

The Spaniards could have a shot at winning just about any game if the team keeps the pace. From the Gasol brothers to Ricky Rubio to Sergio Rodriguez and Sergio Llull, Spain has the weapons to produce considerably in the half-court. But his older legs could struggle if an athletics meet breaks out during games. As it stands, the third best odds seem correct in this practice.


SLEEPING

Czech Republic (+8000)

What are the odds that you thought you would read about the Czech Republic Olympic basketball team today? Probably low, which is what punters think of the country’s chances of winning the tournament. Still, the Czech team were impressive en route to the Olympics, knocking out a stacked Canadian team in overtime, then blasting the Greeks by 25 points in the final. His squad is well-rounded and led by Chicago Bulls’ Tomas Satoransky and Washington Wizards alumnus Jan Vesely, who each have both international and top NBA experience that could be of benefit.

France (+1500)

France beat the United States in the quarter-finals on their way to third place at the 2019 FIBA ​​World Cup and sack at least seven of those players registered for the Tokyo Olympics, including five current players and three former NBA players. Anchored by Rudy Gobert’s defense and Evan Fournier’s score, France’s polished veteran supporting cast of Nicolas Batum and Nando de Colo should provide the French with more than enough talent to turn a few heads. So, although their +1500 rating is the fourth of 12 participating countries, there is a realistic chance that this team could beat anyone. Betting on France might be the best low risk, high reward option for bettors.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Luka Doncic

“DUH” you are probably thinking to yourself as you read this. And to your credit, I feel ridiculous for even throwing Luka into this category because he’s arguably the best player in this tournament. But I had to include him here since I made no reference to his team in this article. And while I don’t thought Slovenia has enough to win a medal, i know It’ll be fun watching Doncic and his team try it out at this point – a la the Dallas Mavericks vs. Los Angeles Clippers clash of the last two NBA playoffs.

Simone Fontecchio

Italy narrowly missed making my list of potential sleepers but for what it’s worth I’m still very intrigued by this team. Nico Mannion will be an enjoyable watch, and Danilo Gallinari should entertain with his skill, strength and sneaky finesse on the pitch. However, my favorite for the player I look forward to watching is Simone Fontecchio, a 6’8, 25-year-old forward with the ability to score from anywhere on the pitch. Fontecchio had an exceptional year with Alba Berlin in the EuroLeague and followed him with an average of 19.7 points per game over the three Olympic qualifying games, helping his team to qualify for an Olympic berth. Young, dynamic players are dangerous for opposing teams, so I can’t wait to see if Fontecchio can keep his foot on the gas.

As the games draw closer, there are still many unanswered questions that could influence the outcome of these Olympics. With COVID-19 protocols cushioning the United States roster day by day and the NBA Finals delaying the addition of important players, will the United States team have enough to overcome the odds? Are these the last Olympic Games for the Spanish core? If so, will they finally win the gold they seek after winning the bronze and silver medals in the previous three Olympics? Time will provide answers to these questions, but for now we can at least expect an entertaining and unpredictable game roster, which creates tons of opportunities for fun bets.

(Top photo: Ned Dishman / NBAE via Getty Images)


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