Team USA Challengers in 2016


0,,17921462_303,00Team USA’s men’s basketball team just captured their second straight world championship in dominating fashion in winning the Gold Medal at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Team USA never had a game that was closer than 21 points as the final margin. Their athleticism, quickness and overall talent overwhelmed their competition. The one team who could have beaten them was the host Spain, who melted down in a quarterfinal matchup against France.

Spain had the size, defense and skill to cause problems for Team USA, but Spain played like a team with pressure. Missing wide open threes, blowing layups, rushing shots, getting completely out of their offense. They had more talent than France but couldn’t get out of their own way.

Ricky Rubio had an awful game against France. France had no respect for his ability to shoot and he couldn’t make them pay. Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka were equally awful, missing chippies at the rim with regularity. The Spain coaching staff showed an inability to make a single adjustment. Calderon was their best shooter and was criminally underutilized. Rubio wasn’t making plays whatsoever. He should have been riding the pine and Spain should have gone with Calderon and Rudy Fernandez in the backcourt for nearly the whole 4th. Both are excellent passers and can knock down the three ball. Spain’s big man also far too often would not slip the pick when setting the screen. This allowed France to trap the ball handler and push Spain’s offense out well behind the three point line. All of Spain’s big men can knock down the elbow jumper, they should have slipped the pick each time until France adjusted and played high-low with their two big guys in the game. It would present major matchup issues for France. The man guarding the other big man would have to come up to contest either Gasol brother or Ibaka at the elbow which would result in an easy lob or sit back and let the screener kill them with the elbow jumper at will.

France would then have to change up their pick and roll defense drastically. If they go under the pick with Calderon or Fernandez handling the ball they probably get burned from the outside. If the man goes over the screen but the defender guarding the screener sits back then Calderon and Fernandez can attack the paint and cause havoc.

Instead, Spain ran a stagnant offense and ran it with guards who couldn’t make France pay and Spain fell victim to a serious upset.

Most people thought it was Spain’s time to knock off the US with no Durant, LeBron, Love, Paul or Griffin. It just wasn’t meant to for the Spaniards. This was likely their last chance to make a run. Pau Gasol will be 36 for the 2016 Olympics. No telling how much he really has left in the tank. Juan Carlos Navarro will be 36 as well and Spain is lacking in true young talent.

The contenders for Team USA in 2016 are likely to be France and Australia.

France should put together a really strong roster in 2016 that can give team USA fits. Beyond 2016 France as a contender is a little questionable but they’ll be very strong in Rio. Joakim Noah is expected to represent France in the 2015 Eurobasket and should help them qualify for Rio in 2016. Tony Parker likely will join him. Having those two along with Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw and emerging young PG Thomas Heurtel and young players in Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier, France will pose a real threat to team USA. Noah is an elite defender and a solid offensive player in the NBA. He should feast playing along with Parker who can get into the lane at will and knock down the jumper. It will opens things up for Batum, who often had to create his own shot in the World Cup, which is far from a strength of his. Parker will make things so much easier for France and make their offense far more explosive.

Another team who should pose a significant threat is Australia. They’re a virtual lock to make the Olympics in Rio. They’ll face New Zealand in the Oceania Championship and should win that fairly handily. Them challenging the US in 2016 will depend a lot on health and progression of young talent. Patty Mills and Andrew Bogut have recently had some injuries, if they can be healthy and ready to go in 2016, it changes a lot for the Aussies. It gives them a legit driver and creator at the PG position who can also bomb away from three. He led the 2012 Olympics in scoring but he’s a much better player now on both ends. Bogut is the big key to their squad. If he’s healthy and willing to play, he gives Australia a true defender in the paint. He can protect the rim and take on the best offensive bigs and frustrate them.

Young talent will be another big factor for the Aussies. Dante Exum was just drafted 5th overall in this year’s draft. If he can develop quite a bit in his first two seasons, he’ll give Australia another creator and penetrator, which will be crucial. Ben Simmons is another young player from Australia. He’s regarded as the #1 high school recruit right now. By 2016 he’ll be most likely a newly drafted lottery pick and he’ll make this team. Only question will be how much can he realistically contribute. The likelihood is he’ll come off the bench for a few minutes but won’t be a big time contributor at age 20. Much like Exum at 19 in this year FIBA Basketball World Cup. Australia hopes he can become a key player in the future with their new wave of young talent down under.

As for the rest of the world……good luck. The gap between the Americans and the other teams is getting bigger each year. The only hope of someone knocking off team USA in 2016 is France and Australia. Nobody else has anywhere near the talent and especially young talent. Regardless though, the task is tall for anyone to beat team USA. They haven’t lost a game whether it is exhibition or FIBA/Olympic play in 8 years. A remarkable accomplishment. It will take a lot to upset them in Rio, but if anyone can do it, France and Australia are the ones who could.

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