What, you thought there was only one World Cup this summer? Basketball's FIBA World Cup begins in a little more than a month in Spain as a nice appetizer to get ready for the 2014-15 NBA season. The USA is a heavy 2/7 favorite on basketball odds.
While the United States probably won't win a soccer World Cup in your or my lifetime, clearly it's the country to beat in basketball. At least it is if guys stop dropping out. In the past few days alone, both the Clippers' Blake Griffin and Timberwolves' Kevin Love have done so, with Love all but announcing to the world that he's going to be traded from Minnesota. He was replaced on the roster by Atlanta's Paul Millsap.
There are 24 teams in the FIBA World Cup, with the Americans as the defending gold medal winners in 2010 in Turkey. The USA went 9-0 that year, beating Turkey 81-64 in the gold-medal game behind 28 points from Kevin Durant, who is the biggest star playing again this year (no LeBron James). For Bulls fans, it's also a rare opportunity to see Derrick Rose actually on the court and not in a suit on the bench nursing an injury. He also played in 2010.
The Americans, coached again by Duke's Mike Krzyzewski (think he uses that as a recruiting tool?) open play on Aug. 30 against Finland (they play basketball in Finland?). If the Americans win gold as they did four years ago they won't have to compete in the Olympic qualifying tournament next summer. With the losses of Love and Griffin, and previously LaMarcus Aldridge, I suppose if there's one weakness for Team USA it's in size. The bigs on the current roster are led by the Kings' DeMarcus Cousins, Pistons' Andre Drummond, Pelicans' Anthony Davis and Nuggets' Kenneth Faried.
The roster is currently at 18 players for training camp in Las Vegas and will be shaved to 12 for the competition (note: this roster will not be the same as the Olympic one in 2016 in Brazil; James will no doubt play then, for example). Love was one of four players who were on the 2012 Olympic gold medal team along with Davis, Durant and Houston's James Harden. He was also one of four players from the 2010 World Cup-winning club. The USA is ultra-deep in guards even with Russell Westbrook also pulling out. There's Rose, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, John Wall and Steph Curry alone at point guard. I do wonder if Rose makes the team as he has to be rusty. The Basketball Odds have Team USA at a ridiculous 1/100 favorite to win Group C, which also includes Turkey (9/1 to win group), the Dominican Republic (25/1), Finland (33/1), Ukraine (33/1) and New Zealand (200/1).
Host Spain is the 5/2 second-favorite at sportsbooks and realistically is the only team that can beat the Americans. The Spaniards, who are 4/9 favorites in Group A, have plenty of size with brothers Pau and Marc Gasol and Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka. The Spaniards also have two very good point guards in Minnesota's Ricky Rubio and new Knick Jose Calderon. Spain was the silver medalist in the 2012 Olympics, losing in the finals 107-100 to the Americans. Spain gave the USA some trouble in the 2008 Games as well.
France and Greece are 25/1 co-third favorites to win the tournament. The French, ranked eighth in the world, don't have Spurs star Tony Parker but do have some familiar names, led by another Spur, Boris Diaw, and Portland's Nicolas Batum. The Greeks, ranked No. 5 in the world, have the "Greek Freak," Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo.
There are four groups of six teams and the top four from each group advance. If the Americans win Group C as expected, they would face the fourth-place team from Group D in the knockout round. That group is comprised of favored Lithuania (40/1 to win tournament, 5/6 to take group), Slovenia, Australia, Angola, Mexico and South Korea. The gold medal game takes place Sept. 14 in Madrid.
Basketball Free Picks: Take a shot on Spain to win it as your basketball futures pick for this event. Winning this tournament likely means more to the Spaniards than it does the USA, and they have the home-court advantage.