The 2016 Rio Olympic Games basketball tournament commences this weekend. With high ambitions on securing a medal, we take a look at the competition the Boomers will face in their group and evaluate their chances.
- 7 August, Sunday 3:15am
Key Players: Tony Parker, Rudy Gobert, Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum and Nando de Colo.
X-Factor: Joffrey Lauvergne – The 24 year-old plays for the Denver Nuggets and in his most recent season averaged close to 8 points and 5 rebounds per game. With the likes of Parker and Batum drawing most of the attention, Lauvergne has the chance to step up and prove his worth. In doing so he could help lead his team to a medal, and potentially land himself more minutes in the 2016-17 NBA season.
How we match up: France is one of the strongest teams in Rio, and there is no doubt they will be a handful. Patty Mills has had years of watching and playing against Tony Parker, and has also had experience against de Colo, who also used to be a Spur. Anything Mills can pass on to his fellow guards will be of use; the Spur champion and the reigning Euroleague MVP will be a tough combo to stop.
The athleticism of Rudy Gobert in the center could cause problems for the Aussies. The ‘Stifle Tower’ is a dunking, shot blocking, beast of a player, and if the Boomers were missing Andrew Bogut, we would be in serious trouble. The addition of the Dallas Maverick has meant that against the likes of Rudy Gobert we are much better off. How many minutes he can provide in just his second game back from injury, will be telling.
Ryan Broekhoff’s improved defense will hopefully be enough to limit the impact of Nicolas Batum, however he will need help. Australia’s lack of athletic swingmen on the side could hurt most (where is Brad Newley?). France’s depth could be a problem, but if the Aussie bench can step up then the Boomers have every chance of claiming a win.
- 9 August, Tuesday 3:15am
Key Players: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Milos Teodosic, Nikola Jokic, Nemanja Nedovic and Nikola Kalinic.
X-Factor: Miroslav Raduljica – The inked up center once played for Milwaukee and recently featured for Panathinaikos, averaging a double-double. Winning is in his nature; he has taken home four gold and three silver medals across his junior and senior international career.
How we match up: To Australian basketball fans, there might not be many familiar names in the Serbian roster. One potentially familiar name is Bogdan Bogdanovic, and he could be a match-up problem for the Boomers. His length and shooting ability is something that is hard to guard, and like Raduljica, he has a winning history.
Milos Teodosic is a do-it-all point guard who has the ability to pour points in and also facilitate for his teammates. Look for Andrej Lemanis to give Matthew Dellavedova the job on Teodosic, something the Milwaukee Buck will likely relish.
The explosiveness of Patty Mills could prove to be too much for the Serbian defense, while Aron Baynes’ brute strength will no doubt cause problems for the likes of Jokic and Raduljica.
- 11 August, Thursday 8:00am
Key Players: Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins and Klay Thompson.
X-Factor: Carmelo Anthony – The New York Knick seems to go to another level in international competition. This will be his fourth Olympics, having won two golds and a bronze in his previous three. The FIBA 3-point line seems to be a favourite of Anthony’s and he has the capability of turning a game on its head from beyond the arc.
How we match up: No team is going to match up well with the USA in Rio. Despite missing the likes of James, Curry and Harden, this is still a team that can strike fear into the hearts of its opponents.
Delly has had plenty of practice guarding Irving, however Lemanis might look to Mills to guard the Cavalier due to his speed. Baynes will have the job of banging with Demarcus Cousins, while Bogut will have to try to contain DeAndre Jordan.
It is the wing players and tall guards that will likely cause the most headaches for the Boomers. You only have to look at what Kobe Bryant did against the Aussies in London. Broekhoff is a good defender, but against the likes of Paul George and Demar DeRozan he will need a lot of help and Australia lack depth and options at this position.
For a more in-depth look at what could happen when the Boomers play Team USA, check out Jack Hutchison’s piece here.
- 13 August, Saturday 3:15am
Key Players: Yi Jianlin, Zhou Qi, Guo Ailun, Sui Ran and Li Muhao.
X-Factor: Wang Zhelin – The 7-foot giant was pick 57 in this year’s NBA draft going to the Memphis Grizzlies. At just 22 years old, Zhelin will have a great opportunity to pit his talents against some of the best in the world. He can fill it up and clean the glass and is relatively nimble and athletic for a man of his size.
How we match up: Australia should dominate the Chinese in the back court. The likes of Mills, Dellavedova, Lisch and so on will be too much for Guo Ailun and his running mates.
The inside should be a much tighter battle. Yi Jianlin, Zhou Qi and Wang Zhelin are all high-caliber players and should serve as good competition to Bogut, Baynes and co.
Looking at China’s warm-up games including their outing against the Boomers, it is tough to see the Aussies dropping this one.
- 15 August, Monday 8:00am
Key Players: Gregory Vargas, Dwight Lewis, Jose Vargas, Gregory Echenique and John Cox
X-Factor: David Cubillan – The former Marquette Golden Eagle is an explosive point guard who can wreak havoc if given the opportunity. He is one of the best home-grown players in the Venezuelan national league and averaged 18.4 points per game last season.
How we match up: Across the board, the Boomers are stronger than Venezuela. It’s going to be a tough tournament for the South American side and Australia will need to make sure they are not the team that is on the end of the big upset.
The skill of our guards matched with the power and talent of our front court means that Australia will be way too much for Venezuela to handle. The only way the Aussies can drop this game is if the likes of John Cox or David Cubillan go off and have the game of their lives.
Australia cannot afford another notorious slow start in a major competition. Dropping close, winnable games in the group stage normally means tougher opposition when it comes to the knockout phase.
China and Venezuela are the two teams who will most likely not make it past Group A. It then comes down to where the Boomers place in their group, aiming to avoid playing Spain in their qualifying final. The Boomers open the tournament playing the three strongest teams on their group. Wins against France and Serbia are possible, however with the USA following, the Boomers will not want to be 0-3 ahead of their game against China. A 2-1 record would be a great effort at that stage, and could well set up the Boomers for a run at the medal rounds.
A lot has to go right for Australia to challenge for a medal. With just 3 teams with a FIBA world ranking lower than the 12th ranked Australia, a finish in the top 8 should be considered a good achievement. However with highly publicised expectations of a medal, most experts outside Australian shores would believe the Australians over achieved if they do in fact reach the medal rounds.
For more information on where and how to watch both the Boomers and the Opals in Rio click here.
All times listed are AEST.