2010 FIBA World Championship Overview
• FIBA Worlds team previews: Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D
The 2010 FIBA World Championship tips off in Turkey on Saturday, and runs through the medal games at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul on Sunday, September 12. The winner earns an automatic berth in the basketball competition of the 2012 London Olympics. Games can be watched for free in the U.S. via ESPN3.com.
The 2010 FIBA World Championship is not nearly the star-studded affair that the 2006 Worlds or 2008 Olympic were, with players such as Mssrs. Gasol, Ginobili, Nowitzki, Yao, Parker, Bogut, Papaloukas, Kirilenko, as well as the entire 2008 U.S. Redeem Team and others, sitting this one out through some combination of rest and injury. This tournament will feature a younger generation of players taking the stage, a table-setter for the 2012 London Olympics.
Beyond the expected absences has been some last-minute chaos affecting several medal contenders, with Jose Calderon (Spain), Andres Nocioni (Argentina), and Nene (Brazil) all late scratches due to injury. Meanwhile, last week's brawl between Greece and Serbia has resulted in suspensions to key players, and may have thrown off the momentum of two of the more impressive teams in pre-tournament play.
After all of the pre-tournament friendlies, the United States and Spain have essentially established themselves as tournament co-favorites, and seem to be on a collision course for a semifinal matchup on Sat., Sept. 11, which would likely decide the ultimate gold-medal winner.
After some shaky performances early in the summer, Team USA started to come into its own with impressive road wins over Spain in Madrid and Greece in Athens. The aggressive American team defense has been a disruptive force throughout, creating turnovers to ignite a lethal transition game. The half-court offense has been more erratic, and will lean heavily on Kevin Durant for production in big games.
How much did we learn from the Americans' exciting 86-85 win over Spain last weekend? It's hard to say.
In some ways, the game did not seem as close as the final score indicated, as the U.S. was beset by some trademark curious FIBA officiating throughout.
In others, it seemed like Team España may have been playing possum. Lanes to the basket were uncharacteristically available to the opponent, as Spain did not really show the 3-2 zone defense which they have played effectively in recent years.
Also, Marc Gasol and Fran Vazquez split the minutes at center, which seemed to negate a size advantage that Spain could exploit vs. Team USA with a twin-tower lineup. Vazquez was effective in his 14 minutes, and runs the pick-and-roll extremely well with Barcelona teammate Ricky Rubio.
Meanwhile, it's also hard to read into what the absences of point guards Jose Calderon (injury) and Rajon Rondo (cut) will mean for their respective teams.
Calderon has a much lower turnover rate than Rubio, which could be key vs. the ball-hawking Americans, yet the Spanish were significantly better with Rubio on the floor Sunday (+19 vs. -20 plus-minus).
If Spain or Greece is able to successfully pack its defense in, I wonder if the U.S. might miss Rondo's ability to distribute in the drive-and-kick game to set up open 3's at the short three-point line. Derrick Rose is better scorer, for sure, but Rondo is a much better distributor. That said, the proof is in the pudding: Team USA has played its best basketball, by far, since Rondo was removed from the lineup.
Ultimately, we see U.S. vs. Spain as pretty much a 50-50 call at this point - the teams look to be very evenly matched. Since we've had Spain no. 1 all summer, we're not going to hedge and play both sides of the coin flip, that would be lame. We'll predict Spain to beat the United States narrowly in the semifinal which should decide the tournament. We can't wait to watch.
A few notes on our silver-medal pick, Greece. They were playing the best ball of anyone a couple weeks ago, but did they peak too early, as ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said that Greek coach Jonas Kazlauskas feared? Did they lose their mojo after the huge brawl vs. Serbia?
Maybe, but two pieces of news were highly favorable to Greece on Thursday. One was the withdrawal of Andres Nocioni due to injury, which is a devastating blow to an Argentine team with little depth, and which helped open up a path to the finals for the winner of Greece's Group C.
The other was the suspension of Greek bigs Antonis Fotsis and Sofoklis Schortsanitis for just two games, meaning they will still be available for the critical third game vs. Turkey. The Greece-Turkey game on Tuesday is definitely one to watch, as the Ankara Arena should be rocking for this matchup of intense rivals, which could also decide Group C... and possibly even the ultimate finalist.
Greece will still have to overcome Puerto Rico on Sunday without its two bigs, but we still favor them to win the group. Nocioni's injury increases Serbia's chances of winning Group A, which means that we could be looking at an intriguing rematch of the Greece-Serbia brawlers in the semifinals.
Also note that, while Greece's chances vs. the U.S. have to be discounted a bit, after the blowout on Wednesday, whoever plays the winner of a presumptive USA-Spain semifinal will have the luxury of catching that team the day after what should be an intense matchup.
FINAL PRE-TOURNAMENT POWER RANKINGS
10) Puerto Rico
19) New Zealand
23) Ivory Coast
Note that teams 9-15 are extremely tough to separate.
PLAYERS OF INTEREST
NBA players in the tournament:
• USA: Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Andre Iguodala, Chauncey Billups, Russell Westbrook, Danny Granger, Rudy Gay, Lamar Odom, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love, Eric Gordon, Stephen Curry
• Spain: Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez
• Argentina: Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, Fabricio Oberto
• Brazil: Anderson Varejao, Leandro Barbosa, Tiago Splitter
• Serbia: Nenad Krstic
• Australia: Patty Mills, David Andersen
• France: Nic Batum, Boris Diaw, Ian Mahinmi
• Slovenia: Goran Dragic, Primoz Brezec
• Lithuania: Linas Kleiza
• Puerto Rico: Carlos Arroyo, J.J. Barea, Renaldo Balkman
• Canada: Joel Anthony, Andy Rautins
• Russia: Timofey Mozgov
• China: Yi Jianlian
• Turkey: Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova, Omer Asik, Semih Erden
• Iran: Hamed Haddadi
Players for NBA fans to watch:
1. The Brazilian Stud: Tiago Splitter
The MVP of the Spanish ACB will join the Spurs in the fall - the Brazilian center could be the pivotal player to determine if San Antonio will vault back into championship contention or fade into the sunset. Catch him against the U.S. on Monday, August 30.
2. The Spanish Point Guards: Ricky Rubio and Sergio Llull
With Jose Calderon now out of the Worlds due to injury, the spotlight falls on two young point guards - celebrated 19-year-old Rubio (Minnesota draftee) and 22-year-old Llull (Rockets hold rights) - to run the show for the tournament co-favorites. Both players displayed quite a bit of promise during the 2009-10 season, and Rubio looked very good in the USA-Spain friendly. Athletic prospect Victor Claver, a Blazers draftee, is not expected to get as many minutes for Team España.
3. International Big Men of Mystery: Timofey Mozgov (Russia), Omer Asik and Semih Erden (Turkey)
Little is known in the U.S. about these three centers who will join the Knicks (Mozgov), Bulls (Asik) and Celtics (Erden) for 2010-11. NBA fans can get a glimpse when Russia and Turkey match up on Sunday. Matchups against Greece's rugged big men should offer good scouting opportunities as well (vs. Turkey on Tue., vs. Russia on Thu.).
4. The Croatian Beanpole: Ante Tomic
The skilled-but-rail-thin 7-2 center, whose rights are held by the Jazz, turned heads with an impressive season at Real Madrid. Does Tomic have the body to handle the NBA? Check him out when Croatia faces the U.S. on opening day tomorrow.
5. Young Serbian Prospects: Nemanja Bjelica, Novica Velickovic, Milos Teodosic, Miroslav Raduljica
6. Young German Prospects: Tibor Pleiss, Elias Harris, Robin Benzing, Tim Ohlbrecht
Serbia rode a youth movement to a silver medal at the 2009 EuroBasket. Bjelica, a 2nd-round pick of the T-Wolves in June, has some echoes of Hedo Turkoglu in his game. The other three players' rights are not held by any NBA team. Teodosic was the Euroleague MVP in 2009-10, though his game may not translate to the NBA as well as the others'. [Note: Raduljica is reportedly a late cut from the Serbian roster.]
As far as the Germans, Pleiss is a 7-0 center who was drafted by Oklahoma City this year, while Harris starred at Gonzaga and is a likely lottery pick in 2011. Benzing and Ohlbrecht are both athletic young players.
Jay Aych offered more insight on all 8 players in his Group A preview. Serbia and Germany will match up on Sunday, though Teodosic will miss the game due to suspension.
7. The Greek Bruisers: Sofo Schortsanitis and Giannis Bourousis
Big Sofo may have blown his opportunity to join the NBA with a dismal showing with the Clippers at the Vegas Summer League, but we still find him to be an endlessly entertaining player to watch, with a body like no other at 6-9, 345. Bourousis was rumored to be signing with the Spurs last summer, and still stands atop the Draft Express list of overseas free agents at age 26.
Other Players of NBA interest (Jay Aych offers analysis of all these players in his group previews):
• Draft: Raul Neto (Brazil); Bojan Bogdanovic (Croatia); Robert Sacre (Canada); Edwin Jackson (France)
• Free Agents: Marko Tomas (Croatia); Aleks Maric (Australia); Marcelo Huertas (Brazil)
• Rights Held: Giorgios Printezis (Greece/Raptors); Nick Calathes (Greece/Mavs); Sasha Kaun (Russia/Cavs); Nando De Colo (France/Spurs); Fran Vazquez (Spain/Magic); Brad Newley (Australia/Rockets)
• FIBA Official Site: Home | Schedule
• Wikipedia: 2010 FIBA World Championship | World Championship overview, including past results
• Official site: Competition system
24 teams are split into 4 groups of 6 each for round-robin play. The top 4 in each group move on.
16 remaining teams will compete in a single-elimination tournament from there. All knockout round games will be played at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul.
Here's how the groups are set up for the first round (all groups are shown in predicted order of finish):
GROUP A (Kayseri)
[Note: Following Andres Nocioni's late withdrawal from the tournament, we now rank Serbia slightly ahead of Argentina.]
GROUP B (Istanbul)
GROUP C (Ankara)
GROUP D (Izmir)
MVP: Shaquille O'Neal
MVP: Dejan Bodiroga
MVP: Dirk Nowitzki
MVP: Pau Gasol