The 2019 FIBA World Cup is less than a month away, and the Australian Boomers have lofty goals of claiming their first medal at a major international tournament. Despite the absence of many NBA big names --headlined by Philadelphia 76ers star, Ben Simmons-- achieving those goals will be no easy feat.
The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are now less than a year away, and the World Cup isn't just a tournament. It also poses as a direct qualification event, with the easiest path to an Olympic berth coming via a strong performance in China.
Edit: Olympic qualification rules ensure that each continent will be represented at the Olympics, with the Boomers needing to finish the top performing team from Oceania to escape a potential play in tournament on their way to direct entry.
Image via: https://www.fiba.basketball/qualification-og
Australia currently sits eleventh in the FIBA World Rankings, with the next closest rival in the Asia qualification zone being Iran, ranked 27th. Other rival nations to qualify include China (30th), Philippines (31st), Korea (32nd), New Zealand (38th), Japan (48th) and Jordan (49th).
Australia has drawn the daunting group stage task of facing a Canadian squad with a heavy NBA presence and the 6th ranked Lithuania squad.
On the surface, Australia is clearly the dominant force in the Asia region, with a 10-2 record through qualifying, and an average winning margin of 34 points, but it will be their performance against some of the other world basketball powers that will determine their fate.
This is where not having Ben Simmons on the Boomers this year, might really make a difference. If the Boomers fail to achieve automatic qualification, they will be forced to earn their place in one of four qualification tournaments, with the winner of each tournament gaining a place in the Olympic draw. 24 nations will make up the four tournaments, with only four moving on, in what will be a tense battle for the final available positions.
With Simmons, Thon Maker, Ryan Broekhoff and Dante Exum missing the World Cup, the Boomers are missing some of their biggest names, but the path to the Olympics is clear, and Andrej Lemanis' squad will be hoping it's a path that brings little anxiety along the way.
The Boomers will kick off their pre World Cup training camp tomorrow in Melbourne, with the initial 18-man squad set to be cut to 12 at the camp's conclusion.
Australia tips off their World Cup campaign against Canada on September 1, 17:30 AEST.