2010 FIBA Worlds Power Rankings
• Also see: Plays of the NBA Playoffs: What Was No. 1?
The FIBA Worlds are just about three weeks away and the prep games are starting up, so we decided to take an early look at the field of 24.
Keep in mind that rosters are not finalized and injuries/drop-outs could crop up in the next few weeks, so these rankings could be tweaked over the next few weeks.
The Worlds start on August 28 with preliminary-round play. The 24 teams are divided into four groups of six teams. Each team plays every other team in their group once. The top four finishers in each group advance to the Round of 16 where the tourney turns to a single-elimination format.
Here are the preliminary-round groupings (in predicted order of finish):
Group A: Argentina; Serbia; Australia; Germany; Angola; Jordan
Group B: USA; Brazil; Slovenia; Croatia; Iran; Tunisia
Group C: Greece; Turkey; Russia; Puerto Rico; China; Ivory Coast
Group D: Spain; France; Lithuania; Canada; New Zealand; Lebanon
Below we rank the teams into tiers and the top 16.
TIER I (The Main Contenders):
1) SPAIN (Group D): No Pau, so what. This team should still be the favorite. Everyone is back from the EuroBasket championship team besides Pau. Plus, Jose Calderon and Fran Vasquez have been added to the mix. Plenty of firepower with Rubio, J. Navarro, S. Llull, Rudy, Vic Claver, F. Reyes, Garba and Marc Gasol at Coach Scariolo's disposal. Just expect more minutes and more touches for Marc. Expect uptempo play combined with lots of ball pressure in group play. Spain just needs to avoid the complacency that plagued them at the start of EuroBasket last summer. Spain played with half-hearted effort in the first four games. Then midway through the Lithuania game, Spain decided to flip the switch and they rolled the rest of the way. In its first four games, Spain had a total point differential of +4. In their last five games, +96. They outscored their last five opponents by an average of 19 ppg. Keep Sept. 11th clear on your calendar, as that's the date of a probable Spain-US semifinal.
2) USA (Group B): Won't spend too much time on Team USA since my partner thoroughly covered Team USA recently. We're still giving Spain the slight edge over the US and the recent loss of Brook Lopez makes us feel stronger about our pick. Also, no Lopez means Team USA finishing above Brazil in Group B could be in serious danger.
3) ARGENTINA (Group A): Right now, we have Argentina ranked 3rd overall, but things could change with A. Nocioni's status unclear. No Manu, but still have one of the top starting fives in the tourney (Prigioni-Delfino-Nocioni-Scola-Oberto). Though, their depth is worrisome, especially on frontline. SG Paolo Quinteros can give some quality minutes and provides shooting off the bench. Coach Hernandez kept a tight rotation in 2008 and might need to do the same. Did get a favorable draw as they can avoid Spain and Team USA until the finals (if they win their group). Expect tremendous teamwork and exacting offense. If Noce can go, expect them to reach the semis where they should face Greece. That semi is a toss-up.
4) GREECE (Group C): Like Spain, basically the same roster they had at EuroBasket but have added Dimis Diamantidis back to the mix. Greece took home the Bronze last summer led by the dynamic play of V. Spanoulis. Always had been known for their aggressive half-court defense, but showed last year that they could be equally dangerous on the offensive end. No filler on this roster--deep upfront and in the backcourt. Guys like Sofo Schortsanitis, G. Bourousis, Antonis Fotsis, G. Printezis dot the frontline. Veteran big Kostas Tsartsaris is back this year to add more quality to the frontline. Like Argentina, many of these guys have been playing together awhile and know their roles. Group C is tough and Greece will be tested by Turkey, Russia and Puerto Rico.
TIER II (Could win a game or two in playoff rounds):
5) BRAZIL (Group B): After underachieving the last few years, Brazil played some of the best ball they've ever played at the FIBA Americas tourney. The tandem of Tiago Splitter and A. Varejao was superb at both ends of the floor last summer. Add Nene to rotation and you have the best defensive frontline in the field. L. Barbosa was an offensive force at the FIBA Americas, finishing behind only Scola in scoring average with 21 ppg. This team is dangerous in transition thanks to great speed across the board. Marcelo Huertas and Alex Garcia add more quality speed next to Barbosa in the backcourt. Really think this team could wreck havoc with defensive pressure and force an uptempo game like Team USA. Have all the makings to be tough defensively. The small forward position could be a little dicey. Marcelo Machado remains a deadly shooter and passer, but he is 35 and suffers defensively. Former NO Hornet Marcus Vinicius has raw talent but tends to be inconsistent. Maybe even more important than adding Nene this summer was the addition of Ruben Magnano as coach. Magnano was the mastermind behind Argentina's rise to prominence on the int'l scene and he's one of the best coaches in the tourney. Tempted to put them in Tier I, but we'll leave them in Tier II right now.
6) SERBIA (Group A): Coming off a surprising 2nd-place finish at the 2009 EuroBasket. Went with a youth movement last summer which really paid off. Serbia got great effort from nearly the whole roster--10 guys played at least 13 mins./game last summer. Very deep team that does not lose much when they go to their bench. PG Milos Teodosic had a breakout tourney last summer and kept his great play going throughout his club season--was named Euroleague MVP this season. Nenad Krstic gave the Serbs solid leadership throughout EuroBasket. Multi-skilled forward Novica Velickovic was a key contributor as well. Serbia even saw some strong efforts from NBA castoff Kosta Perovic at Eurobasket. The loss of sharpshooter Uros Tripkovic could be an underrated blow since this Serbian team is not as proficient from the perimeter as classic Serb/Yugo teams. Terrific frontcourt rotation of M. Macvan, N. Velickovic, Krstic, K. Perovic and M. Raduljica. Should challenge Argentina for Group A supremacy.
7) TURKEY (Group C): Started the '09 EuroBasket strongly but kind of lost steam as the tourney progressed. The Turks are led by their combo of multi-skilled 6-9 forwards, Hedo Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasova. The frontline is the strength of this club. Recent Bulls signee Omer Asik had a very strong showing last summer (besides the FT shooting) and gives Turkey an athletic presence in the painted area. Recent Celtics signee Semih Erden and Oguz Savas can provide quality minutes behind Asik & Ilyasova. Veteran forward Kerem Gonlum returns after having to sit out last year because of a PED suspension. Expect to see Hedo running the offense a good chunk of the time. Have had issues with getting steady play at the PG spot in the past, but got nice contributions from Kerem Tunceri and Ender Arslan last summer. The shooting guard position could be a weak link. Should be intense when they play Greece (always is between these rivals) and the winner is the likely Group C 1st-seed. Turkey has the goods to get to semis and could sneak into the finals since they could avoid Spain or USA if they win Group C.
8) RUSSIA (Group C): Don't write this team off because of Kirilenko's absence. David Blatt squeezed as much as you could ask from his undermanned Russian club last summer and expect the same this summer with an even better roster. Vik Khryapa and Sasha Kaun will be at Blatt's disposal this year. Khryapa is one of the best all-around players in this tourney. Should have one of the best defenses in the field. They were terrific last year and did their usual strong job of shutting down the painted area. And Blatt is a master at mixing up his defensive looks. Good athletes dot the roster. Very strong forward rotation of Khryapa, Sergey Monya and Kelly McCarty--all terrific defenders. The Timo Mozgov-Kaun combo at center gves the Russians an athletic tandem that can finish strong and board. Need to get more consistent play from their PG tandem of Sergey Bykov & Anton Ponkrashov. Hopefully, Coach Blatt lets Alexey Shved take the reins on occasion. Can compete on the same level as Greece and Turkey in Group C, don't be surprised if Russia wins Group C.
9) FRANCE (Group D): Right now have Les Bleus tentatively in Tier II. Currently have some concerns about the frontcourt depth. Have no idea if Jo Noah will join Team France. Not to mention Ali Traore's health is questionable. Add to this that Ronny Turiaf is out with injury. Though they finished in 5th place at Eurobasket, France's only loss of the tourney came in the quarters vs. Spain. Should continue to be a strong defensive unit and tough on the boards. Led by their trio of forwards Boris Diaw, Flo Pietrus and Nic Batum. Might see Diaw running the offense quite a bit in Parker's absence--Boris did a solid job in '06 when Parker was out. Will likely see Roddy Beaubois and Spurs draftee Nando De Colo sharing ball-handling duties. De Colo was surprisingly productive last summer in his first appearance on the Senior team. After Team USA, the most athletic team in the field. But France has notoriously struggled in the half-court offensively. They struggled because they could not space the floor at all. They were one of the worst shooting teams on the int'l scene. But last summer they shot the ball fairly well and seem to be turning into an adequate shooting team. Have them grabbing the 2-seed in Group D, but we'll see how the frontcourt situation shakes out.
TIER III (Should advance out of group play):
10) SLOVENIA (Group B): A few months ago we had these guys as a Tier I medal candidate but once again Slovenia can't find a way to get their top players together. The loss of Beno Udrih hurts some, but no Erazem Lorbek and no Matjaz Smodis are more significant losses. The absence of Lorbek is a huge blow and pretty much sinks their hopes of medaling. Thought Slovenia was the second-best team at EuroBasket and had the 2nd-best player in the tourney in Lorbek. Think they would have beaten Serbia if Goran Dragic had been healthy. Still should be a solid team in Turkey thanks to a nice backcourt rotation of Sani Becirovic, Goran Dragic, Jaka Lavovic and Samo Udrih, who can all handle the ball and shoot. The strong play of Becirovic and Dragic was the key to Slovenia taking gold at the recent Stankovic Cup. Bostjan Nachbar is a great option at SF and was Slovenia's 2nd-best player last year. The projected starting frontcourt of Primo Brezec and Uros Slokar is OK, but it's clearly a dropoff from Lorbek-Smodis. Not much behind Primo & Uros besides Gaspar Vidmar. They might need to play Nachbar some minutes at the 4-spot. Their quality perimeter players and overall ability to shoot should allow this team to advance to the knockout phase. But what coulda been if Lorbek and Smodis were going to Turkey.
11) AUSTRALIA (Group A): Even without A. Bogut and N. Jawai, the Boomers have a solid interior rotation of Dave Andersen, Matt Nielsen, AJ Ogilvy and former Wazzu bruiser Aron Baynes. Euroleague standout Aleks Maric didn't play at the Stankovic Cup, but is expected to join the team, which provides another quality big body. Made the Round of 16 in 2006 where they were bounced by Team USA. Portland Trail Blazer Patty Mills will run the point and made a quite a splash the last time he performed on the int'l stage. Though, Mills can get out of control and pile up turnovers. Multi-skilled SF Joe Ingles and Brad Newley (Rockets hold rights) provide the Aussies some talented athletes on the wings. Right now, see the Aussies finishing in 3rd-place in Group A. A fairly deep team that can be competitive with Argentina and Serbia.
12) PUERTO RICO (Group C): Strong showing at the '09 FIBA Americas tourney, finishing in 2nd place behind Brazil. Also, just took home the Centrobasket title a few weeks ago. A very deep team (can go two deep at each position) that likes to bomb the 3-ball. Quality playmakers in the backcourt with Carlos Arroyo, JJ Barea and Larry Ayuso. Three servicable 7-footers in PJ Ramos, Dan Santiago & Ricky Sanchez. Have also added Nugget forward Renaldo Balkman to the mix this summer. Might have an advantage over other squads since they been playing together since late June and have competed in two tournaments (Centrobasket & Centro America Games). Expect them to secure the 4th-place seed in Group D.
13) LITHUANIA (Group D): Dealt a crushing blow when Saras Jasikevicius decided to take the summer off. Saras and Rimantas Kaukenas gave indications they would be in Turkey around the time FIBA was deciding wild-card berths. But both pulled out of repping Lithuania in Turkey. R. Siskauskas could not be coaxed out of retirement, either. Were forced to gain entry through the wild-card process after underachieving at EuroBasket. Their only win came against Bulgaria last summer. The crux of Lith's problems last summer revolved around a patchwork backcourt that could not come close to replicating the playmaking brilliance of Jasikevicius and Siskauskas. The usually deep frontcourt rotation has taken a serious hit as well. The Lavrinovic twins are a scratch, same with wide-body Marijonas Petravicius, who happened to be Lithuania's most consistent player last summer. Robertas Javtokas and Linas Kleiza are still around, so it is not a total loss for Lithuania. Will see if promising combo guard Martynas Gecevicius can solve some of their playmaking problems. Won't be as formidable as past Lith. squads but still enough talent to challenge the French for the 2-seed in Group D.
14) CROATIA (Group B): Next to Lithuania, might have been the biggest underachiever at '09 EuroBasket. Even though Croatia finished in 6th place, they finished 4-5 overall and played uninspired ball throughout the tourney. The players seemed to tune out Coach Repesa, so his recent departure might help this team refocus. Their strength lies on the perimeter with a collection of quality vets. Really missed the services of swingman Marko Tomas last summer. Tomas' return coupled with addition of Bojan Bogdanovic (possible NBA prospect) makes the SF position considerably better than last summer. The PG combo of Roko Ukic & Zoran Planinic was the one consistent element for the Croats last summer. Though, Planinic's health status is up in the air. The frontcourt is going through a transition phase with the dumping of aging vets N. Prkacin, N. Vujcic and Mario Kasun. Jazz draftee Ante Tomic should see more responsibilities this summer alongside Marko Banic. Evenly matched with Slovenia and expect them to advance to the knockout round, but must not take Iran lightly.
15) CANADA (Group D): Canada earned a trip to Turkey by slipping past Dom. Republic 80-76 for the last qualifying spot in the Americas Zone. Always a quality defensive unit anchored by a stout interior defense. Solid on the boards as well. Matt Bonner could be added to a decent frontline rotation of Joel Anthony, Jesse Young & Levon Kendall (Bonner's availability remains unclear as he awaits his paperwork to become a Canadian). What holds this team back is a lack of playmakers, which makes for a constant struggle on the offensive end. No player who really creates anything on the perimeter. Not to mention, no post scoring presence, which makes for a team with no one who needs to be doubled. Coach Leo Rautins smartly added some more motion to their half-court sets last summer, which helped to a degree at the FIBA Americas. Team Canada does collectively shoot the ball from range well with guys like Carl English and Andy Rautins. Currently have them as the 4th-best team in Group D, but the Maple Leafers are not a lock for the knockout phase and could be pushed by both New Zealand & Lebanon.
16) GERMANY (Group A): Dirk's decision to take another summer off shuts the door on any hope of a medal. This team is gonna have a hell of a time trying to score the ball with any consistency. They struggled mightily last summer with Jan Jagla as the main option. Really think Coach Bauermann needs to anoint Heiko Schaffartzik as his #1 option. Very dangerous shooter off the dribble who can go thru extended hot stretches. No Dirk and Kaman means more minutes for their young players like Tibor Pleiss, Robin Benzing, Elias Harris and Tim Ohlbrecht. Though, these guys are still rather inexperienced and not sure they will have a ton of impact at the Worlds. The Germans only won one game at EuroBasket, but were competitive in every game with a severely undermanned unit. Tentatively have them slipping into the Round of 16, though Angola has a great shot at knocking them off.
TIER IV (Outside shot at a Sweet Sixteen playoff berth) (listed in alpha order):
ANGOLA (Group A): An undersized, active bunch that is never an easy out for their opponent. Made it to the Round of 16 in '06 where they pushed France to the brink, losing 68-62. Olimpia Cipriano is their top perimeter player while Joaquim Gomes is active in the interior. Would not be stunned if they stole a spot from Germany. Gave Germany quite a scare in 2006 in group play in a triple-OT classic.
CHINA (Group C): Iran routed a Yao-less China in the Asian Championships that were played in China. Should be somewhat competitive with Yi Jianlian and Wang ZhiZhi leading the way. Very strong outside shooting team thanks to the aforementioned Yi & Wang, not to mention Wang Shipeng & Sun Yue on the perimeter. Were not overly impressive at Stankovic Cup and upending Puerto Rico for the 4th-seed in Group C seems a longshot.
IRAN (Group B): Led by Memphis Grizzlies' reserve Hamad Haddadi up front while Samad Nikkah and Mehdi Kamrani bring speed & skill on the perimeter. SF Arsalan Kazemi starred at Rice this year, where he was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team. Were impressive in the Asian Champs., where they finished 9-0 and crushed China (with Yi Jianlian & Wang ZhiZhi) 70-52 in the finals. Getting the 4-seed in Group B will be a tough task, but could trip up Croatia if the Croats play like they did last summer.
LEBANON (Group D): We stuck this wild-card entry into this tier because we don't think much separates them from New Zealand. Former NCAA standouts/fringe NBAers Matt Freije and Jackson Vroman give this team talent upfront. Pretty good shooting team. The health status of Fadi El Khatib is unclear and his possible absence would be a big blow to their chances of getting the 4th seed in Group D.
NEW ZEALAND (Group D): Won the Oceania Zone title last summer over Australia. Doesn't mean much since the Oceania Zone set-up is a joke and Austraila brought their B-team. Former Wisconsin Badger Kirk Penney is the top option. Very unimpressive play in their last Worlds appearance in 2006. There is some semblance of talent on this roster, they just have not played well over the last few years of int'l competition. Would not be a stunner if they stole a playoff spot from Canada.
TIER V (Slim chance of getting past group play):
IVORY COAST (Group C); JORDAN (Group A); TUNISIA (Group B)
• Also see: Plays of the NBA Playoffs: What Was No. 1?