2016 Olympic Basketball Rosters – Meet the Teams!
The summer Olympics are always a coming-out party for athletes that many of us have either never heard of, or haven’t seen compete in a meaningful away since four years earlier. This year in Rio will be no exception, and like many others, I can’t wait to be captivated by the fresh faces like Simone Biles and watch returners like Missy Franklin Kerri Walsh and Galen Rupp back for another run.
In basketball, on the other hand, we already know all the stars from the USA and see them in action constantly through the year. Just last month we saw more than half of this U.S. roster playing in the Western or Eastern Conference Finals.
So, while it will be interesting to see how that team gels and who becomes an alpha-dog on a team of stars, we know they are overwhelming favorites to win. What is less-frequently discussed and is often a surprise until they show up on the court, is how the competition stacks up against the NBA’s best. Here’s a look at the other international rosters for the upcoming games, in reverse order of expected finish.
12.Venezuela – inexperienced long shots.
- 1 NBA Player (Greivis Vasquez)
- Greivis Vasquez is the lone NBA player on this roster and won’t have a ton of support around him. Bay Area natives like me might also recognize veteran John Cox, who played his college ball at USF and has been playing internationally for over a decade.
11. China – the post-Yao generation.
- 0 NBA Players
- This team has former NBA lottery pick Yi Jianlian, who will likely be the primary scorer as a versatile wing, while 2nd round international draft-and-stash picks from this year’s draft, 20-year-old Zhou Qi and 22-year-old Wang Zhelin. All three of those guys are 7 feet tall, so maybe they’ll try to win by controlling the boards? Unlikely.
10. Lithuania – probably set up for a mediocre showing.
- 3 NBA Players (Jonas Valanciunas, Domantas Sabonis and Mindaugas Kuzminskas)
- Kuzminskas just recently signed with the Knicks, so New York fans will be watching this team hoping he can become another Porzingis. You’ll also get a good look at Sabonis to see what kind of value the Thunder can expect from their draft day acquisition. That’s two PFs and a Center to battle inside, but not much else on the outside.
9. Nigeria – not another African pushover team.
- 3 NBA Players (Al-Farouq Aminu, Festus Ezeli and Michael Gbinije)
- This team starts with a pair of Trail Blazers – Aminu on the wing and newly signed center Ezeli – so Blazers fans will have their eye on this squad. They fill out the roster with Pistons 2nd round pick Michael Gbinije and a few former NBA journeymen Ike Diogu and guard Ben Uzoh.
8. Serbia – Is this some kind of Jokic?
- 1 NBA Player (Nikola Jokic)
- Let’s get a quick explanation out of the way, Serbia has a player named Bogdan Bogdanovic – that is not BOJAN Bogdanovic, who plays for Croatia and will also be in this tournament. This Bogdan guy is a Serb was drafted by the Suns in 2014 and his draft rights were traded to the Kings a few weeks ago. So, although they only have one current NBA player in Nuggets rookie sensation Nikola Jokic, they have likely future NBA player Bogdan, plus former Warriors bench warmer Nemanja Nedovic and Mrioslav Raduljica who played in the league with Minnesota and Milwaukee from 2013-2015.
7. Argentina – not what they once were.
- 3 NBA Players (Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Nicolas Brussino)
- Ginobili and Scola have led this team for over a decade of international glory, and Brussino is a newly signed Dallas Mavericks prospect who plays two-guard. This squad also has two former NBA Players Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino. With that mix, maybe they’ll play Scola at the 5 and go a little bit small, which could work against some of these Olympic teams. Other teams are deeper this year, so I see them falling short of the semi-finals.
6. Croatia – a young team to watch.
- 3 NBA Players (Bojan Bogdanovic, Mario Hezonja and Dario Saric)
- Bojan of the Nets and Hezonja of the Magic are both sharpshooters, and Saric is a forward who is finally coming over to the NBA this year for the 76ers after being drafted in the lottery a few years back. All three of these guys are sort of wild cards for their NBA teams this year, so watching them in the Olympics should help reveal what we can expect from them this coming year. Expect them to be middle of the pack with a chance to go far if things go well.
5. Brazil – the home team will be inspired to play well.
- 5 NBA Players (Anderson Varejao, Nene, Marcelino Huertas, Leandro Barbosa and Raul Neto)
- Sort of a weird group as far as NBA players go, with two 5s in Varejao and Nene, plus several experienced small guards, without any NBA-experienced wings. Who on this team could guard Paul George, Kevin Durant or Carmelo? But the rest of the Brazil team is filled with guys in their 30s, so they are veteran laden and have been preparing for this Olympics for a while now. Expect them to perform well for the home crowd.
4. Australia – a good core of talented players.
- 6 NBA Players (Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles, Andrew Bogut, Aaron Baynes and Cameron Bairstow)
- The new Maverick Bogut is working his way back from the injury that knocked him out of the NBA Finals. Add him to a mix with Mills and Dellavedova and that’s an aggresive bunch that will fear nobody. They will care about winning this thing. If Bogut plays and can solidify that front line, expect them to do well in this tournament – if he doesn’t, they likely fall behind Brazil.
3. France – medal contender.
- 5 NBA Players (Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Rudy Gobert and Joffrey Lauvergne)
- We all know Parker will run the point for the French as usual, and he’ll have a supporting cast whose gotten more high profile in recent years. Expect Batum and Diaw to start at the forward spots and get a lot of the shots for this team, with Gobert taking charge of the defense at center. Utah fans should be watching closely since a Diaw-Gobert front court could be part of a lineup the Jazz use often next year. Lauvergne of the Nuggets is also on the roster as another forward – while the other guard spot time could be split by former NBAers Nando De Colo, and Mickael Gelabale. This is a solid team that should stick around and possibly contend for a silver medal.
2. Spain – Veteran laden contenders.
- 8 NBA Players (Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Sergio Rodriguez, Alex Abrines and Willy Hernangomez)
- Mostly this is the same cast of Spainards that has battled the USA in the recent world championships and the last Olympics. You’ll have to go up against both Gasol brothers in the middle of the paint, surrounded by a slew of veteran guards who are crafty and aggressive. The list includes Calderon and Rubio at the point, flanked by some former NBA players in Juan-Carlos Navarro and Rudy Fernandez, plus Rodriguez who just returned to the NBA with Philadelphia and youngster Abrines who just signed with the Thunder. New Knicks reserve Willy Hernangomez will be one of the young up-and-comers to watch on this team, while Bulls stretch four Mirotic could be the leading scorer on this team. There’s no doubt they are the deepest team outside of the U.S. and should be the favorites to reach the final game.
1. USA – The juggernaut
- 12 NBA Players (Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, DeAndre Jordan, Kyle Lowry, Draymond Green, Demarcus Cousins, DeMar Derozan and Harrison Barnes)
- You already know this group and that they’ll likely win the whole thing. Go USA!