As you might know, we've been hard at work profiling all of the Olympic teams here at Welcome to Loud City. In case you've missed a link to a preview or just want a handy cheat sheet for all of the teams in Group A, here's a nice preview. The order in which the teams are ranked is my prediction as to where they'll finish. And yes, the outlooks are basically copy/pasted from the original team articles.
NBA Players: None
Outlook: At this point, they really don't have much of a shot. Their talent level is just too far below that of the teams in this competition. Still, I do think that they'll be good enough to at least give one team a run for their money. It's something that's hard to quantify, but the team is essentially a collection of role players. They don't have a go to guy who can score it on every possession, and because of their loose structure, guys will overcompensate and fail miserably. They also rely too much on things like rebounds and defensive disorganization, which they won't get at this level of international play. Plus, they were recently destroyed by Spain.
Outlook: For Lithuania, it really depends on matchups. I'd say they have the ability to beat any team not named the USA or France. Those two teams are just too athletic, and will beat them 9 times out of 10. But they'll also face stiff competition from Nigeria, who are also very athletic, and Spain and Russia, who have powerful front lines. If they can get the right matchups and defeat a powerful foe or two, I could see Lithuania getting the Silver or Bronze in these Olympic games. But all luck aside, they'll probably end up fighting someone they don't want to and finish in fourth or lose in the Quarter-Finals. (In this case, they're in fifth because I predicted Nigeria to upset them.)
Below, Nigeria, Argentina, France, and Team USA!
NBA Players: Al-Farouq Aminu (New Orleans Hornets)
Outlook: I'll say that Nigeria is definitely this Olympics' biggest wildcard. They have the potential to finish as high as second in Group A, but I could also see them falling apart completely and finishing in 6th, behind Tunisia. The big question for Nigeria will be whether their coach, Ayo Bakare, can find a way to consistently generate offense. The team was totally unprepared for the Olympic Qualifying tournament going in, and they still have a few problems deciding which players fit in which roles, and how to distribute the ball. If they can continue to play as well as they have, they have a dark horses shot at a medal. But if they come out flat-footed again, they could find themselves with a very early exit.
Outlook: They certainly have the talent to beat any team in the tournament. And by any team, I mean yes, they could beat Spain and the United States. They might have problems with high scoring teams like Lithuania and France, but as long as their offense doesn't severely falter, they'll always have a chance to win. However, on the flip side of the coin, they'll always have a chance to lose. I could see this team surprisingly choking and not advancing beyond the group stage, and I could also see this team taking it all the way and grabbing gold. It really depends on how well their bodies hold up, and whether they can come out on every single night with the energy that younger teams do. Then again, the Spurs manage to win every single friggin' year, so I don't even see why I'm questioning their endurance.
Outlook: France is a medal favourite, as they are probably the third most talented team in the world, behind Team USA and Spain. And I'd pick them as the favourites in any matchup France had outside of those two teams. But, the problem is, they will get obliterated by Team USA in any head-to-head game, and probably Spain as well. The only reason they might beat Spain is the added defense of Ronny Turiaf, but I doubt that would make much of a difference in terms of turnovers, which Spain are very good at forcing. So I'll say this. If they are to somehow, someway, able to avoid a matchup with the USA or Spain in the tournament, they could very easily win the Gold. Otherwise, in my opinion, they're the leading competitor for Bronze. Not a lock though, as there are other teams who could still potentially beat them.
1. Team USA
NBA Players: LeBron James (Miami Heat), Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks), Deron Williams (Brooklyn Nets), Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers), Tyson Chandler (New York Knicks), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder), Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves), Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers), James Harden (Oklahoma City Thunder), Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets)
Outlook: As I've said before, they're the odds on favourites to win the gold, and anything less than a gold would be disappointment for the team. The only thing that could stop them would be an upset, because the rest of the world still isn't at the point Team USA is. As far as teams go, the teams that have the biggest chance to upset Team USA would be Spain, Argentina, and Russia. Spain has a solid trio of big men in Gasol, Gasol, and Ibaka, and they do a good job of stretching the USA defense. Argentina is a old and experienced team centering on two borderline All-Stars in Ginobili and Scola. They could get Team USA into foul trouble, and burn them from three. Lastly, Russia is a very defensively focused team, and has the tools to keep Team USA out of the lane. France and Brazil probably have the talent to take Team USA down, but both of them have turnover problems, which makes a win against Team USA impossible. But, again, an upset would be a mighty feat against this team.
Which team will finish top top of Group A? Are there any matchups you're looking forward to? Let us know! Vote in the poll, post a comment!