We all know that Team USA is the fire breathing dragon in Olympic basketball, but we still don’t know all of the nations that will fill the role of terrified villagers. The final three spots in Rio this summer will be decided by qualifying tournaments played in Italy, Serbia, and the Philippines from July 4-10.
There will be plenty of familiar faces in these three tournaments, vying for a chance to represent their countries at the Summer Games, and possibly win a silver medal. Today we take a closer look at each of those tournaments, and highlight the teams and players to watch. Who are the favorites? Who are the underdogs? The answers probably won’t surprise you.
Odds to Win Olympic Qualifier in Manila
- France: 1/1
- Canada: 9/2
- Turkey: 7/1
- New Zealand: 8/1
- Senegal: 12/1
- Philippines: 20/1
In the vein of the actual Olympics, this qualifier will be haunted by the ghosts of NBA players not-attending. From playoff standouts like Steven Adams and Enes Kanter to young studs like Andrew Wiggins, this tournament will be lacking the punch it could’ve offered at full-strength.
Even the favored French side will be shorthanded in a big way with no Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier, or Ian Mahinmi. Nicolas Batum is also unlikely to play unless he can quickly reach a new deal with the Hornets. But the other red, white, and blue are still led led by Tony Parker in what likely should be his final summer with the international squad. Throw in Boris Diaw and Euroleague standout Nando de Colo, and France have enough scoring to navigate their way back to the Olympics.
Cory Joseph, Omer Asik, and Gorgui Dieng will provide some NBA flavor for Canada, Turkey, and Senegal, respectively, as they battle to finish on top of Group A, but each side will be in tough to top France and move on to Rio. And even if they do, what then?
Odds to Win Olympic Qualifier in Turin
- Greece: 3/2
- Italy: 8/3
- Croatia: 4/1
- Mexico: 9/1
- Tunisia: 22/1
- Iran: 40/1
The “Greek Freak” is a growing phenomenon in the NBA and this, summer, Giannis Antetokounmpo will have another stage to show off his incredible game, as he tries to lead his country back to the Olympics after missing out in 2012. Greece will have a their share of difficulties getting back thanks to a pair of tough European competitors.
For Americans, it might sound silly to be worried about a team led by Andrea Bargnani. But the Italians are a veteran-laden team that did some impressive things in last year’s EuroBasket championship. With the support of their home fans, they’ll be tough to beat.
Mario Hezonja and Croatia will also be a massive obstacle on the Greek’s path. Greece pulled out a tight 72-70 win over the Croatians last fall.
Odds to Win Olympic Qualifier in Belgrade
- Serbia: 10/13
- Czech Republic: 4/1
- Puerto Rico: 7/1
- Latvia: 10/1
- Japan: 20/1
- Angola: 30/1
The host Serbs couldn’t have gotten an easier draw if they paid for it (but that couldn’t be what happened, since there’s no way FIBA is corrupt). Led by the likes of Boban Marjanovic and Nikola Jokic, Serbia has a giant, powerful frontcourt that Japan, Angola, and Puerto Rico will have trouble pushing around.
As for their fellow European competitors, Serbia trounced Czech Republic in last year’s EuroBasket, and the Czech’s in turn trounced Latvia. By the transitive property, that means the Serbs should run away with this tournament. And the transitive property is foolproof!
(Photo credit: [ Greg ] (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.])