By: Enrique Castellano / @baskethoopsnet
The city of Alhambra will take in the group of the host, Spain. Maybe, Group A would be the toughest to get the best spot in 16-final round. It seems that Spain, Brazil, Serbia and France will get this spot, but the order is hard to predict. Spain is the favorite. They were the best team in the world (without USA) the last 5-10 years and they host the World Cup when their Golden-Boys (Pau Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Felipe Reyes and Jose Calderón) are in the last years of their lives as ballers. They have a unique opportunity to bring back the gold medal to Spain. They will face the last EuroChamp, France. Tony Parker won’t be there, but they will have Nic Batum and Boris Diaw, one of the best front courts in the tournament. Along with them will be Brazil, the most unpredictable national team. They have size and talent, but they are quite close to Dr. Jekill/Mr. Hyde in the last international tournament. They’ll look to redeem themselves due to this last FIBA Americas Tournament where they didn’t win any games. Serbia would be the last team to get a spot in the group. Sasha Djordjevic’s team has gotten a lot of injuries, but Bogdan Bogdanovic wants to get back Serbia where they belong. Egypt and Iran have nothing to lose in Spain and they will try to surprise someone in the World Cup.
They are the host and the second best team in the tournament. It could be the last team that we could see Navarro, Reyes, Calderon and Pau Gasol together so they will try to do their best. They have the best front court in the tournament: the Gasol brothers + Ibaka + Felipe Reyes (Best role player ever). However, they have a big problem at the point guard position. Calderon is not playing as well as he does in NBA, Ricky Rubio can’t shoot threes and Sergio Rodríguez, the best PG in the Euroleague last year, seems to be the best fit for the team. Actually, Spain has a big problem in 3-point shooting percentage when Navarro or Rudy Fernandez are on the bench. On the other hand, Coach Orenga is in a very controversial situation, because press and fans think he is not experienced enough to coach such a good team.
They redeemed themselves in Slovenia last summer and now they want to get a medal in a World Championship, something that they never reached with this generation of players. They are without Tony Parker, Nando De Colo and Leo Westermann due to injuries, but they have the rest. Their front court has NBA taste with Ian Mahinmi, Diaw and Rudy Gobert and Batum is leading the scoring from the outside. They combine size, athleticism, scoring and defense very well. Maybe they need a leader on the court. Batum is their best player, but he didn’t take a step forward in FIBA Tournaments. Diaw is probably the best replacement for Tony Parker’s leadership absence. They haven’t got as much pressure as they are use to do and they would be a scary team to face off.
I know, Pietrus would be the last men on their rotation, but he is one of my favorite players in FIBA tournaments. It is very exciting watch Pietrus playing for France. Heurtel should try to score as good as Tony Parker does when he plays for Les Blu.
They are a national team that always are a candidate for medal, but they never have a good tournament. They were 17th in the last World Championship and they come to Spain with a FIBA Wild Card because they failed in the last FIBA Americas. They have a lot of NBA talent in their roster, but they probably aren’t in their best moment. Brazil has a terrific front court with Anderson Varejao, Nene Hilario, and Tiego Splitter. Plus two great shooters like Leandrinho Barbosa and Alex García and Marcelinho Huertas is leading the team at the point. It can’t be so bad. Magnano should try to get back their confidence and find what they really are in the tournament.
They are big, they’ve got three-point shooting and Marcelinho is one of the best playing Pick and Roll players in the world. They are a medal candidate if they play as a team.
They come to Spain in a bad moment. Coach Djordjevic has got serious problems to make a roster. On one hand, they have important players injured like Vasilije Micic, Vladimir Lucic, or NBA players like Ogzen Kuzmic or Nemanja Nedovic. On the other hand, he renounced to play with Dusko Savanovic and Zoran Erzeg and reciently, Djordjevic decided to dismiss Vladimir Micov due to a bad attitude. However, they keep Milos Teodosic and Nenad Krstic and Bogdan Bogdanovic is playing his best basketball ever (reciently drafted in the 1st round by Phoenix Suns and signed by Fenerbaçe Ulker). They are young, big and talented, but they need to step forward to the next level.
They have serious problems knowing who will play at SF and PF position. They haven’t got the top SF and they have a lot of centers in their final list. Nemanja Bjelica seems to be the key of the team. He is the best player in both positions and the men to keep an eye on.
They are the last FIBA Asia Champions. They are not as good as China was when Yao was playing, but they want to play a good tournament. Hamed Hadaddi is one of the best centers there and he will be playing along Arsalam Kazemi (former University of Oregon player).
They were the starters in the last FIBA Asian Cup and I think Mami Becirovic plans to do the same in Spain.
They are the cinderella in Group A. It is their first participation in the World Cup since 1984. Keep an eye on Ibrahim El Gammal (shooting guard), he is their best player.
Most Watchable Team: Spain
Spain used to play the 1st round as a preseason and they would not play so well, BUT they have the best team in the tournament (without USA). They also wants to give a title to their country after 2007 fail (JR Holden shot). Navarro, Pau and Marc, Sergio Rodríguez, Ricky Rubio… do you really want to miss them?
Lineup You Really Want To See
Spain: Sergio Rodríguez - Juan Carlos Navarro - Rudy Fernández - Pau Gasol - Marc Gasol
Sergio Rodríguez is the best point guard in Spain right now and I think he would be better than the current NBAers. Ibaka is playing better than Pau Gasol in friendly games and he probably is better than Pau, but Gasol is the spirt of this team. The power in the front court would be the key.
G Sergio Rodríguez, Spain - He is playing at the level that we thought he could when he won U’18 European Tournament in Zaragoza. He could sit Calderon and Ricky.
G Thomas Heurtel, France - He will try to help people forget Parker. It will be a challenge for him, but he isn’t a scared player.
F Nemanja Bjelica, Serbia - As I said before, he is the best player in two positions in his team. If he does have a great tournament, Serbia will have a serious chance to get a medal.
F Serge Ibaka, Spain - He seems to have one more year in the Spanish National Team. He has adaptation problems in other tournaments, but he was the best player in friendly games this year.
C Miroslav Radulicja, Serbia - He would be a great replacement for Krstic. I want to see what he can do after one year in the NBA.