By: Sam Meyerkopf / @HoopLikeDrazen
Built on size and experience, this Spanish team has been dominant for a number of years with a similar cast of characters. They work inside out with the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka forming one of the best frontlines in Olympic history. The Gasols will play off each other with beautiful touch and passing ability, while Ibaka will come in to protect the rim off the bench. Team captain Felipe Reyes is no slouch himself and the Real Madrid forward will be a rebounding bull when called upon.
G – Jose Calderon (Toronto Raptors)
G – Juan Carlos Navarro (Barcelona)
G – Sergio Rodriquez (Real Madrid)
G – Sergio Llull (Real Madrid)
G – Victor Sada (Barcelona)
F – Rudy Fernandez (Real Madrid)
F – Fernando San Emeterio (Caja Laboral)
F – Victor Claver (Portland Trailblazers)
F – Felipe Reyes (Real Madrid)
F – Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder)
C – Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)
C – Pau Gasol (LA Lakers)
Head Coach – Sergio Scariolo (Olimpia Milano)
On the perimeter everything usually starts with Rudy Fernandez and Juan Carlos Navarro. The problem is that both are banged up, while young Ricard Rubio can’t play at all thanks to an ACL he tore during his rookie season with the Timberwolves. Navarro, the 2011 EuroBasket MVP, has had a lingering foot problem all year and wasn’t the same offensive dynamo this year for Barcelona. But Navarro always puts his best foot forward with the National Team and will be looked upon to create shots and knock down clutch threes. Fernandez, who saw his NBA season end prematurely due to back surgery, usually glides around the court and looks like one of the best players in the world whenever he puts on that Spanish jersey. Had Spain been able to upset the USA in the Gold Medal game in Beijing, Rudy would have been the main reason. Not only is he one of the best players on this team off the bounce, but his offensive flow forces defenses to key on him and allows more one-on-one opportunities for the Gasols and open looks for Spain’s shooters.
Toronto Raptors’ point guard Jose Calderon will orchestrate the offense. His fancy-shmancy passing game works better in an open format, but mainly he’s here to feed the paint and hit open threes. He needs to bring his jumper to London or else backups Sergio Rodriquez and Victor Sada will get more looks. Rodriquez is here to be a dynamic passer and Sada will be subbed in purely to hassle the other team’s lead guard with his defense.
Sergio Llull, Fernando San Emeterio, and Victor Claver are the other reserves. Llull will play a huge role at either guard spot and will be especially huge if Navarro is nicked up at all. Llull’s game can be very inconsistent but his streaky jumper can roll to a boil at times and he will be one of Spain’s best ball handling options. San Emeterio can knock it down from deep and provide solid defense, and both could be crucial if Fernandez can’t go at full speed. Finally, Claver is the biggest curveball on this team. His athleticism, array of skills, and youth form a dangerous combination, yet he hasn’t shown much yet on the National Team level. If the Valencia forward could finally man up and turn potential into production, it could provide a new wrinkle to this Spanish team. A back up five of Rodriquez, Llull, San Emeterio, Claver, and Ibaka could really get up and down and provide a nice energy change-up a lot of other teams won’t be able to handle.
This Spanish team can play a variety of different ways and has great depth. They will rely heavily on their post players for offensive production, which is rare in this tournament and will provide a great mismatch most of the time. Lots of these players have been running together on the National Team for years and the chemistry should allow them to float through group play, even if players are still working through injuries. As a team that doesn’t always seem focused, Calderon needs to steady Spain’s hand if he wants to do what they couldn’t do in China: capture a gold medal.
The Swing Man
Jose Calderon. With a lot of the perimeter offense normally running through Navarro and Fernandez, Calderon’s role hasn’t always been giant on this team, especially when he’s sharing the load with a healthy Rubio. But with both starting wings still slightly injured, he will need to create more offense than he’s used to. If Calderon can get comfortable with his sometimes wild passing games and off and on jumper, Spain can really contend for gold. With Calderon shaky and others injured, Spain could have trouble finding their groove if they want to be at the top of the medal stand.
Best English Accent
Victor Sada, just to see that amazing smile come out. But I really imagine they’re all awful.
Even though they aren’t at full capacity with the Rubio injury and others still hurting, Spain still has the second best talent in this tournament. I expect them to give the USA a run for their money, but still be bringing silver medals back to España.