Breaking Down 2012 Olympic Basketball Teams

It may be a slow, dry evening for sports, but the Olympics are around the corner, and you can turn on your television sets tonight and watch the U.S. Basketball team beat the snot out of the Dominican Republic. (Interesting fact – the D.R. has a kid on their team who is currently in high school, born in 1995 – I kid you not.)

You don’t have to know much of anything about basketball to know that the USA is the favorites in the upcoming Olympics. Despite what you may think of the roster choices, they’ll pretty much always be the favorite, as long as the rules allow for NBA players to participate.

But – its still always interesting to see who shows up for the other countries at the games, and sometimes it can be a nostalgic group of guys from NBA past and present. So, who are the other teams that they’ll be running up against in London? Here’s a breakdown from worst to first.

12. Tunisia

NBA experience: None. Should be a tough run for Adel Tlatti and his boys. They’ll play their 2nd game against the U.S., and there might be several dozen dunks in store. Congrats on making it to the games though!

11. Australia

NBA experience:

  • Patty Mills, PG Spurs.
  • David Anderson, C,  Houston Rockets (2009) and Toronto Raptors/New Orleans Hornets (2010)
  • Brad Newley, drafted by Rockets in 2007

This squad also has current St. Mary’s College start Matthew Dellavedova, and Golden State Warriors 2009 Summer league star Joe Ingles. So, not really much. They’ll miss not having Andrew Bogut dearly.

10. Nigeria

NBA Experience:

  • Ike Diogu, C, eight NBA teams from 2005-2012
  • Al Farouq-Aminu, SF, New Orleans Hornets

Aminu’s older brother Alade, who also played at Georgia Tech but went undrafted, starts at PF for this team. They’ll also start Tony Skinn, star of the George Mason run to the final 4, at PG.

9. China

NBA Experience:

  • Yi Jianlian, PF, Dallas Mavericks
  • Wang ZhiZhi, C, Dallas Mavericks, LA Clippers, Miami Heat 2001-2005
  • Sun Yue, SG, 2008 LA Lakers

Sleeper pick – former Cal basketball star Max Zhang (one of my favorite Cal players of all-time) should get serious minutes as the backup center.

8. Great Britain

NBA Experience:

  • Luol Deng, SF, Chicago Bulls
  • Joel Freeland, C, drafted in 2006 by Portland Trail Blazers, signed to play starting in 2012
  • Pops Mensah-Bonsu, PF, sparingly for five teams from 2006-2010
  • Robert Archibald, C, sparingly for four teams from 2002-2004

Rounding out the lineup are former Duke star Eric Boateng and not much else. Still, having an NBA all-star like Deng on this team should be enough to keep them competitive with the likes of China and Russia in the middle tier.

7. Lithuania

NBA experience:

  • Linas Kleiza, SF, Toronto Raptors
  • Jonas Valanciunas, C, Toronto Raptors. No, not the guy who made out with his girlfriend on draft night in 2011, but the guy who was drafted right before him.
  • Darius Songalia, PF, five teams from 2003-2011
  • Šarūnas Jasikevičius, PG, Indiana Pacers 2005-2007

Arvydas Sabonis is NOT walking through that door. But you also might recognize Martynas Pocius from his days at Duke, or center Robertas Javtokas from being one of those late round Spurs draft picks (2001) that didn’t pan out.

6. Russia

NBA Experience:

  • Timofey Mozgov, C, Denver Nuggets
  • Andrei Kirilenko, SF, Utah Jazz 2001-2011
  • Viktor Khryapa, PF, Trail Blazers/Bulls, 2004-2008
  • Sergei Monia, PF, Trail Blazers/Kings 2005

Not much experience behind Mozgov and Kirilenko but never trust the Russians. They’ll come up with some crazy guys you’ve never heard of. I’ll make a prediction that Russia makes it a close game with Spain before losing late.

5. Brazil

NBA Experience:

  • Nene, C, Washington Wizards
  • Tiago Splitter, C, San Antonio Spurs
  • Anderson Varejão, PF, Cleveland Cavs
  • Leandro Barbosa, SG, Indiana Pacers
  • Marcus Vicinius, F, New Orleans Hornets 2006-2008
  • Alex Garcia, G, eight total games with the Hornets and Spurs in 2003-2004

Now we’re getting closer. This is a team with 4 legit current NBA players. They’ll be big, and in order to win they’ll need Barbosa to do a lot of scoring, but I expect this team to make it to the semi-finals and play in the 3rd place game for the bronze.

4. France

NBA experience:

  • Tony Parker, PG, Spurs
  • Nicholas Batum, SG, Blazers
  • Boris Diaw, PF, Spurs
  • Ronny Turiaf, C, Heat
  • Kevin Seraphin, C, Wizards
  • Nando De Colo, SG, signed to play with the Spurs in 2012-13
  • Mickael Gelabale, SF, played with Seattle Supersonics 2006-2008
  • Yakhouba Diawara, SF, played with Heat and Nuggets from 2006-2010

An experienced team that should contend with Argentina for a spot in the semi-finals. Look for a starting five of Turiaf and Diaw as the bigs, Batum and Parker in the backcourt and a combination of former and future NBA guys at the 3.

3. Argentina

NBA experience:

  • Manu Ginobili, SG, Spurs
  • Carlos Delfino, SG, Bucks
  • Andres Nocioni, SF, Chicago Bulls and others 2004-2011
  • Luis Scola, PF, Rockets

On paper, they are less deep than France, but Manu always comes to play in these games, and Argentina has historically had some good non-NBA talent. I’m picking them to defeat France in the quarters, fall to the USA in the semifinals, but pick up a bronze medal win.

2. Spain

NBA experience:

  • Pau Gasol, PF, Lakers
  • Marc Gasol, C, Grizzlies
  • Rudy Fernandez, SF, Nuggets and Blazers, but heading back to Spain next year
  • Jose Calderon, PG, Raptors
  • Serge Ibaka, C, Thunder
  • Sergio “Spanish Chocolate” Rodriguez, PG, Blazers, Kings and Knicks 2006-2010
  • Juan Carlos Navarro, SG, Memphis Grizzlies 2008
  • Victor Claver, SF, joining the Blazers in 2012-2013

A huge team with both Gasols and Ibaka to rebound and block shots. Calderon, Fernandez and the rest of the crew should be able to hold their own in the backcourt – but who gets the ball if they need a big 3? I expect them to be the silver medalists in London.

1. USA

Stacked to the brim, and obviously everyone has NBA experience (except Anthony Davis, who will replace Blake Griffin on the roster.) The U.S. is the obvious favorites, but I still think they’d be hard pressed to beat the dream team in their prime, but that’s a post for another day. Happy Olympic watching!

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