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2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments Preview

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Greece, Serbia, and France are our picks to grab the final three olympic bids.

Some say these guys could give the USA a run for their money.
Some say these guys could give the USA a run for their money.
Pool/Getty Images

It's the Summer of the Olympics, and the field is almost set. But there's three final slots to be decided! FIBA has organized three qualifying tournaments with six teams each. The winner of each qualifying tournament will earn a spot in the Olympics. The three tournaments are being held in Turin, Italy, Belgrade, Serbia, and Manila, Philippines.

FIBA has inconveniently split all three qualifying tournaments into different websites. So for ease of viewing the schedule, I put all three of the tournaments into a Google Calendar. You can see it below. The Belgrade and Turin tournaments will happen concurrently, while the Manila tournament will be about 18 hours behind. All three tournaments will run from today until Sunday.

Anyway, I'm an international basketball fanatic. So I'll be doing some light coverage of the tournament over here at WTLC. I'm not going to be recapping so much as putting my thoughts out there on each match that I get the chance to watch. I've seen most of these teams and players many times before, and I know that the list of who's in and who's out can get confusing. So below I've organized a list of which NBA players are playing for which teams, along with the non-NBA players that are notable. I've also jotted down some thoughts on which teams I expect to be the strongest heading into this week's tournament. Hope you enjoy!

Turin Tournament

Greece (Group A)

NBA Players: Giannis Antetokoumpo, Kosta Koufos, Thanasis Antetokoumpo

Other notable players: Nick Calathes, a former NBA guard with a slow but accurate release. Ianis Borousis, a longtime national team rotation big with a good post up game.

2014 World Championship Result: Lost in Round of 16

Hot take: Greece is undergoing a bit of a youth movement, utilizing a team that's almost completely different from the one they used in 2014. There will be growing pains, but Greece is always well coached and organized. Egos rarely get in the way. They're definitely my favorite to grab the Turin olympic bid.

Mexico (Group A)

NBA Players: Jorge Gutierrez

Other notable players: Francisco Cruz and Paul Stoll, decent combo guards who play in Lithuania and Russia, respectively

2014 World Championship Result: Lost in Round of 16

Hot take: Mexico overachieved by getting into the 2014 World Championship Round of 16, and it would take a miracle for Mexico to win this tournament. Former NBA player Gustavo Ayon is not on the Mexican national team this year, and they haven't seen a significant improvement in talent.

Iran (Group A)

NBA Players: None

Other notable players: Hamed Haddadi, former NBA Center and the focus of their offense. Mohammed Hassanzadeh, a  pick and roll big that can score off the dribble.

2014 World Championship Result: Lost in Group Stage

Hot take: Iran is consistently strong when playing against fellow Asian teams, and may possess the strongest front line of this entire tournament. But Iran's team lacks talent and athleticism beyond that, despite being quite seasons and familiar with each other.

Tunisia (Group B)

NBA Players: None

Other notable players: Makram Ben Romhdane, a stretch four who can shoot. Michael Brandon Roll, who's originally from California. Accomplished European player who plays in Spain, can shoot off the dribble and pass well for a SG.

2014 World Championship Result: Failed to Qualify

Hot take: Salah Mejri, who made a name for himself by entering the Dallas rotation this season, won't play for Tunisia. But Tunisia is a regular powerhouse in Africa, with a nice mix of veterans and youngsters. Unfortunately, the majority of their team plays domestically, and it would take a near-miracle for Tunisia to capture an Olympic bid.

Croatia (Group B)

NBA Players: Bojan Bogdanovic, Mario Hezonja

Other notable players: Dario Saric, future 76er and developing post scorer. Krunoslav Simon, the team's leading scorer from 2015 who takes half his shots from three.

2014 World Championship Result: Lost in Round of 16

Hot take: Croatia is really strong, and could easily capture the whole thing. The main challenge with this team is getting players who are relatively unfamiliar with each other on the same page. Furthermore, they have to overcome the fact that their leaders are relatively young. Lastly, Croatia lacks athleticism. I don't Croatia will beat Greece, but they're an easy #2.

Italy (Group B)

NBA Players: Marco Bellinelli, Danilo Gallinari, Andrea Bargnani

Other notable players: Gigi Datome, former Piston and decent stretch big. Alessandro Gentile, the team's shoot-first point guard. Marco Cusin and Nicola Melli, the team's two interchangeable bigs who can score but lack in defense.

2014 World Championship Result: Failed to Qualify

Hot take: Italy is the dark horse of the group. If everything aligns perfectly, Italy could feasibly capture the Olympic bid. But I've watched this exact same crop of players suffer from the exact same problems. No defense. No rebounding. No ball movement. No athleticism. New coach Ettore Messina might fix things a tad, but I'm not expecting any miracles.

Belgrade Tournament

Serbia (Group A)

NBA Players: Nikola Jokic

Other notable players: Milos Teodosic, long time star point guard with a excellent nose for decision-making. Miroslav Raduljica, former Milwaukee Buck who mostly focuses on power play. Bogdan Bogdanovic, a future Sacramento King. Bogdanovic is an emerging three point threat.

2014 World Championship Result: Silver Medal

Hot take: Serbia are the odds on favorites to win the Olympic bid. With a hometown crowd and passionate fans, it's going to be hard to stop this star-studded squad. The team will miss Nemanja Bjelica and Nemanja Nedovic, who played big roles in the team's 2015 run. But Nikola Jokic wasn't on the 2015 team, and is easily the most talented player in this group. No team has the defensive oriented big to match up.

Angola (Group A)

NBA Players: None

Other notable players: Carlos Morais, generally the team's best scorer. Reggie Moore, a decent scoring big but aging at 35. Silvio Sousa and Bruno Fernandes, two 17 year old prospects currently enrolled at Montverde Academy in the United States. They are easily the two most highly touted prospects from Angola ever. Other Montverde Academy grads include Joel Embiid, D'Angelo Russell and Ben Simmons.

2014 World Championship Result: Failed to Qualify.

Hot take: Angola has long been a powerhouse of African basketball, and still perform at a high level as a unit. But a talented Nigerian team left Angola in the dust. Now, with the Angolan team effectively between generations of players, it's hard to see them making a big run.

Puerto Rico (Group A)

NBA Players: Jose Juan Barea

Other notable players: Renaldo Balkman, a former Knick that has a strong game at the rim and through contact. Angel Vassallo Calon, a good back to the basket scoring pg with a decent three point shot. Peter Ramos, a 7'3" center.

2014 World Championship Result: Eliminated in Group Stage.

Hot take: Puerto Rico has run these same guys for years. The team is really fiery and can put on a show, but just doesn't have the depth or discipline to make an impact.

Japan (Group B)

NBA Players: None

Other notable players: Makoto Hiejima, a crafty guard who finishes well off the dribble and through contact. Joji Takauchi, a quick forward with a decent mid-range shot. Yuta Tabuse, the first Japanese player to ever play in the NBA and a solid assist man in his old age. Yuta Watanabe, a small forward at George Washington University.

2014 World Championship Result: Failed to Qualify.

Hot take: I've actually never really watched Japan play. But I do know that they don't list anybody over 6'9". That tells you all you need to know. No height, no rebounding, no inside d, no chance.

Czech Republic (Group B)

NBA Players: None

Other notable players: Jan Vesely, former Wizard and sporadic post scoring big with good athleticism. Tomas Satoransky, and athletic wing who works well around screens. Blake Schilb, born and raised in America with a good shot. Jiri Welsch, only the second Czech to ever play in the NBA (now 36 years old).

2014 World Championship Result: Failed to Qualify.

Hot take: The Czech Republic was a bit of a European laughingstock until the combo of Vesely and Satoransky lifted them out of obscurity. This team can play some long, slow paced games. But Vesely can't contain Jokic, and the Czechs don't really have the athleticism to contain Teodosic. So It's hard for me to see the Czechs taking the Olympic bid.

Latvia (Group B)

NBA Players: None

Other notable players: Davis Bertans, the team's main gunner. Janis Strelnieks, a pg who can drive to the basket and dish. Kaspars Berzins, 7 foot center with decent scoring ability.

2014 World Championship Result: Failed to Qualify

Hot take: Kristaps Porzingis would be a game changer were he playing, but he's not. So the Latvians are left in the same predicament as ever. Latvia is well coached, and has an assortment of solid players that are suited to a running style. But there's no standout talent or guys who can score night after night. Lastly, Latvia doesn't protect the rim very well.

Manila Tournament

Canada (Group A)

NBA Players: Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Tyler Ennis, Joel Anthony

Other notable players: Brady Heslip, decent shooter who plays in Europe.

2014 World Championship Result: Failed to Qualify

Hot take: There's lots of NBA talent here, but they're all role players. I could see Joseph and Ennis igniting some points, but it's hard to see this Canadian team getting consistent high level production out of anyone. Canada is probably a good bit better than Turkey, but it would have to be an off-night for them to beat France.

France (Group A)

NBA Players: Nicholas Batum, Tony Parker, Joffrey Lauvergne, Boris Diaw

Other notable players: Thomas Huertel, a clutch shooting point guard with deep range. Mickael Gelabale, former NBA player with an excellent flair for on-court style. Florent Pietrus, brother of former NBA player Mickael, as well as a all-around solid power forward.

2014 World Championship Result: Failed to Qualify

Hot take: Easily the most talented team here, and they've had success as a unit before. Of all the teams in all of these tournaments, I'm most certain that France will secure a bid. They've got a lot to prove after the failure of 2014. For me, the better question is whether France can give Team USA a run for their money.

New Zealand (Group A)

NBA Players: None

Other notable players: Tai Webster, athletic combo guard for the University of Nebraska. Mika Vukona, long time team leader and scrappy power foward. Thomas Abercrombie, solid shooting forward. Michael Karena, 6'10" center from Wright State university.

2014 World Championship Result: Lost in Round of 16

Hot take: This is a well-coached team that always seems to overachieve. But I don't know what fool put them in a group with France and Canada. Because of the difference in talent level, New Zealand has one of the hardest possible roads to an Olympic bid. Generally speaking, New Zealand has good shooting but lacks size. *cough*Adams*cough*

Philippines (Group B)

NBA Players: None

Other notable players: Andray Blatche, former NBA center with great off the dribble scoring skills. Jayson Castro William, flashy PG with a lot of off-the-dribble skills. Ranidel De Ocampo, a player who thrives in one on one situations and post ups.

2014 World Championship Result: Eliminated in group phase.

Hot take: They'll have an extremely passionate home crowd to cheer them on, and Blatche provides them with star power. But the Philippines have never really proven themselves to be a well-coached team. Every time I've seen them play, it's a stagnant offense full of players who don't like to pass. And the defensive hustle can be laughable at times. Until this changes, the Philippines will continue to underachieve.

Senegal (Group B)

NBA Players: None

Other notable players: Antoine Mendy, athletic forward who plays in France. Maleye Ndoye, more of a mid-range scorer who also plays in France. Clevin Hannah, former Wichita State pg, scoring first. Maurice Ndour, young forward with a ridiculous wingspan. Abdoulaye Ndoye, 20 year old center who plays in France.

2014 World Championship Result: Failed to Qualify.

Hot take: It was the fantastic play and leadership of Gorgui Dieng that got Senegal here. But Dieng won't be playing this Summer. But Senegal did pick up Hannah, Ndour, and Ndoye since the 2015 Afrobasket. Senegal has a lot of players coming in and out, and they suffer from an extreme lack of three point shooting. The talent is there with many high level European players, but Senegal is a longshot at best.

Turkey (Group B)

NBA Players: Omer Asik

Other notable players: Cedi Osman, a versatile young forward drafted 31st in 2015. Semih Erden, former NBA player and solid pick and roll big. Sinan Guler, a slash-first guard. Ender Arslan, a 33 year old PG who provides a steady hand.

2014 World Championship Result: Eliminated in Quarter-Finals.

Hot take: The return of Semih Erden will boost Turkey's scoring capabilities inside, as will the presence of Osman. But without guys like Kanter and Ilyasova, Kanter is really just a collection of role players. They can grit and grind you, but have a hard time finding open shots on offense. I expect Turkey to be well coached, but ultimately lack the scoring to go the distance. Dark horse of this tournament for sure.

Are you watching any team or cheering for anyone in these tournaments? Sound off in the comments! (I know there's Kiwi fans out there!)