Olympic Basketball Primer Part 2
How to Watch Each Team as an NBA Fan
Welcome to Part 2 if you don’t want to feel left out on all the inside jokes that were definitely formed in Part 1 click the link below:
Now that you’re all caught up, or hate me for my shameless plug, let’s move on to part two. Starting with blue again, right in the middle.
Many see France as medal favorites. Led by Tony Parker, France has had a more consistent output of talent than the likes of Argentina or even Spain for that matter. This gives them a decently well-rounded roster with 5 NBA players and 2 former NBA guys. They would have been the definite number 2 (to the U.S.) if they had brought Evan Fournier, but his omission rids them of some solid wing depth and great (super thinly veiled) subtweeting. The two to watch are new Utah Jazz teammates Rudy Gobert and Boris Diaw.
It will be fascinating to see how they gel together as a big man duo, two fellow countrymen that couldn’t be any more different. Diaw, the most interesting man in the NBA, came into the league as a point guard and is currently a small ball center or power forward. He is silky smooth and has an espresso machine in his NBA locker. Gobert “the Stifle Tower” is a walking landmark, his gargantuan wingspan and standing reach make his rim protection practically inevitable. But he has good instincts too. I am sure that Jazz fans and staff alike will be watching team France for a sneak peak at “French Connection UT”.
Fun Storyline: Florent Pietrus, older brother of former NBA player Mikael Pietrus is on this French team at 35, as a 6'7 power forward. All I am saying is that this dude must be the greatest teammate because nothing else makes this make sense. I am excited to see his sideline celebrations or watch him calm Nic Batum down in case he tries to do this again. BREATHE NIC, BREATHE!
With Al-Farouq Aminu sitting this one out Nigeria loses its best player. They would have been a long shot even if Aminu had played but now they look almost guaranteed to finish last in Group B. The African champs only have one active NBA player on their roster and he’s the first of my two to watch, Piston’s Rookie Michael Gbinije the second player is athletic former NBA player Ben Uzoh.
Gbinije has a chance to score some real minutes in Detroit this year after the Jodie Meeks forever-injury-then-trade. He has an NBA ready-ish body and played as a big (6'6) point guard at Syracuse last year. If Gbinije can show skills on the International stage Stan Van and Co. might feel a little better making him a key bench cog. Uzoh is an athletic point guard who doesn’t have the skills you would hope for on the offensive end. But he is a plus athlete and if he can speed up and frazzle some of his counterparts maybe Nigeria and steal a game.
Fun Storyline: Ike Diogu is back in our lives. The round lovable former Warriors big man is back (possibly a little bigger). He represents the experience on this Nigeria team and maybe he’ll give Gbinije a few good screens. If Nigeria wins a game it will be a huge success.
How Venezuela got here is surprising but they have somehow dominated South American basketball over the last two years. They are also missing their only NBA player (Greivis Vasquez) but it is OK because they didn’t have him for their past tournament successes. I am excited to watch this Venezuelan team to figure out how they have cultivated this prosperity. Is it great coaching or phenomenal play? Maybe both? I am excited to find out and my two to watch are leading scorer Gregory Vargas and former Dougie McBuckets teammate Gregory Echenique.
The Greg show should be exciting but the two are very different players. Vargas is a high-scoring guard who will probably shoulder most of the load on offense. Echenique is the guy who would shoulder the load if it was an actually physical load to shoulder. From what I remember about him at Creighton, he has a decent motor and works the glass well. If Venezuela is able to continue their improbable form it will be largely because of these two Gregs.
Fun Storyline: There are no NBA players on this roster, not only that but nobody even has NBA prospects. Despite that, they have beaten both Brazil and Argentina recently and seem to play very well as a national team. Can they keep it up?
This Croatia team is very basketball-hipster to like. And I mean basketball-hipster as in the guys who mount dark horses and ride them as favorites. When it goes well they bask in the limelight, if it goes poorly they point to their dark horse status. I promise you have at least one basketball-hipster friend, it is the guy who told you the Jazz were going to finish second in the West this year (gulp… I might be a little bit of one). But Croatia is the team with the young guns that many of the other countries haven’t seem to be producing at their usual rates. And the two to watch are the best of that bunch, Mario Hezonja and Dario Saric.
Dario and Mario have the talent to help usher in Croatia’s “Golden Generation” but these Olympics may be a few years too soon. Hezonja struggled last year in Orlando and now that Oladipo is gone it will be important for him to show out a little on the Olympic stage to lock down a big role this year. He is an exciting wing with just about every tool in the toolbox on his best days but also forgets that toolbox at home sometimes. Saric is much different, a point forward who brings in every night. I wrote more on him below:
Think of these Olympics a preview of Team USA’s next big competitors.
Fun Storyline: Despite these two being the most talented, the leading scorer for the team is Nets swingman Bojan Bogdanovic. The Nets have made a lot of moves this offseason and Bojan may play an even bigger role in Brooklyn next year. Come watch the guy who is going to help the Celtics get the number one pick next year. I jinxed it. Thank me later.
Bogut is back for the Boomers. (Note: please try to read this entire section in an Aussie accent, it will make it better, I promise.) Having missed the last few opportunities to represent his Nation because of injury he decided to gut it out this time (he got injured in the Finals). A decision he seems to have instantly regretted. There are few old guys who are as grumpy-funny as Bogut but he isn’t in my two to watch, those would be the backcourt former Gael duo of Patty Mills and Matty Dellavedova.
Patty and Matty are Straya’s answer to Mario and Dario. Patty Mills has to be one to watch, he led the 2012 Olympics in scoring and is back to defend his title. He’s got limitless range and probably the green light (shameless plug) to pull up from anywhere. Dellavedova has added a lot of skill to his game since becoming a pro but is still known more for his hustle. He will be tasked with defending be best guard most opponents have and this “Hustle and Flow” duo are the lifeblood for the Boomers this year.
Fun Storyline: The aforementioned Andrew Bogut bed situation. I just want to know why more of his compatriots haven’t come forward and also commented on the situation. He isn’t the only tall guy on this team, there is David Andersen, Aron Baynes and the tallest guy Assistant Coach Luc Longley. Did they all get acceptable beds and only Bogut was shorted? I just want more on this bed situation.
The Serbs are the darkhorse team I want to hitch my wagon to. They are in a much easier group to get to the knockout rounds and are led by their youngest players. Nikola Jokic is no joke and should help Serbia push for a medal finish. The two to watch are the Fenerbahce swingmen Bogdan Bogdanovic (rights held by Sacramento) and Nikola Kalinic.
Bogdan Bogdanovic (not to be confused with Brogan BamBrogan) led Serbia in scoring in qualifying and is the much better of the two. Bogdan might be the best Euro-stashed prospect right now and the Sacramento Kings need hope right now. I will be watching closely to see how Boogie interacts with him. Kalinic could use a big Olympics to give him an outside shot at making an NBA roster one day. He would be an unrestricted free agent and possibly could find his way over to American shores.
Fun Storyline: What if I told you that European-Derrick Rose was on this team? Excited? No? Well in 2013 people were. Nemanja Nedovic is a former first-round draft pick who is an athletic guard. The European-(Insert Athletic NBA Player Here) thing is one of my favorite moments of any Draft. I still remember falling in love with the European-Blake Griffin (I really fell in love with his girlfriend). Who knows, maybe this is #TheReturn.
Any feedback is greatly appreciated. The Basketball starts Saturday with Australia and France. Hit the heart for Mario and Dario or comment for Patty and Matty. Let the games begin. I hope you can be excited for every one of them now. I know I am.