Here we are ! 5 years after Rio, Olympic Games are back ! Covid-19 made things difficult as Japan and Tokyo had to postponed the event for one year but everything is finally ready and the biggest sport event in the world is ready to start ! 2 days before the opening ceremony and the begining of the basketball tournaments, let’s have a look at what’s waiting for us on the court, starting by the 5v5 tournament.
Teams and players to follow
In both men’s and women’s tournament we got a bunch of teams and players that you’ll need to watch closely.
In the men’s tournament we got 6 teams for you : United States, France, Slovenia, Argentina, Spain and Australia. Obviously, Team USA will be the team to beat but in order to get another gold medal, KD’s teammates will have to go through some solid opponents, starting by France, member of USA’s Group A. Gobert’s teammates are coming in Tokyo with a slightly different team than the one they had at 2019 World Cup, a team that in my mind, is a bit less competitive. However don’t sleep on them, as Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert gained stepped up since the 2019 World Cup. Gobert became an NBA all-star with the Utah Jazz and a top 5 center of the league while Evan Fournier became an important player in Orlando (and later in Boston). France’s Olympic journey starts with the hardest opponent possible : Team USA. In Group B, Australia is a contender for a medal but Patty Mills’ teammates gotta be careful as they form a tough group with Germany, Italy and Nigeria. If Australia seems slightly in front of the rest thanks to its experienced NBA players, Germany, Italy and of course the solid Nigerian team will be as favourite as Australia to get out of this group B. In Group C, we’ll have a legendary fight between Slovenia, Spain, Argentina and Japan. If Japan seems to be the weakest team of the group, they might be galvanized by the idea of playing at home (despite games being played without fans). The deal in this group C is simple : 3 gold medal contenders, only 2 spots avaible. The well organized and skilled Argentina, the unbreakable Spanish team or Slovenia led by NBA golden boy Luka Doncic ? A third spot may be avaible but only if Group A and B third places get worst results, so whatever happens, no one among the contenders wants to be in this third spot. In Group A, things should be easy for France and USA as they are well above of Iran and Czech Republic but in Group B and C, every game will be a fight.
Regarding who will make a difference we got 6 players for you : Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, Luka Doncic, Patty Mills, Rudy Gobert and Facundo Campazzo.
Hard to keep only 2 players among all the stars of this Team USA but Dame and KD are in my mind the two most dangerous players of this team. They both represent a constant threat anywhere in the court, especially Dame’s long range and KD’s deadly mid-range game. You may be wondering how a 32 years old guard averaging 10 points in the NBA can be important ? Patty Mills wearing the Australian jersey is a next level player. Like many, playing for his country means a lot and Mills is the masterpiece of this Australian team as he can easily score and create during 40 minutes. Him alone makes Australia a hard team to play against. Then we have Dallas Mavericks superstar, Luka Doncic. What can I say about Doncic ? His stats in the NBA and the impact he had since he arrived in Dallas speak for him. After leading Slovenia to a win at Euro Basket 2017 (while he was only 17 years old), Luka is back with Slovenia with one objective : lead his country to the gold medal as he also said that an olympic gold medal means more than an NBA championship to him. Three times NBA defensive player of the year, two times NBA all star : I think we don’t need to present Rudy Gobert anymore. Alongside Evan Fournier, Gobert will be France most important element. Brave will be the opponent center who will dare facing challenging Gobert in the paint. Let’s end this list by a surprising player : Facundo Campazzo. Mostly in the shadows before playing in the NBA with Denver, Campazzo confirmed he was a skilled player by quickly becoming an important of Denver’s game, thanks to his creative and defensive skills, but also by his talking and roughness on the court. In a Argentina team that relies a lot on its collective strengh, Campazzo counts a lot as he is at the base of the offensive creation.
And what about the women’s tournament ? Here is the 6 teams we got for you : Serbia, Canada, France, United States, Australia and Belgium.
No need to talk about Team USA as they’re obviously THE favourite team and in my mind, more prepared and a more complete team than the men’s team. However let’s talk about those who can be an obstacle for Team USA. Serbia will certainly be the most dangerous team in these Olympics. After winning the Euro Basket a month ago, Serbia proved they’re currently the best team in Europe, and certainly a top 3 in the world. With the same roster than the one they had during Euro Basket 2021, Serbia is looking for a gold medal in Tokyo. Behind Serbia comes another European team : Belgium. After a good however disappointing tournament during Euro Basket 2021, the Belgian Cats are coming in Tokyo with a will of revenge over Serbia. Good news for Belgium because the roster they’ll get in Tokyo is better than the one they had in June as Ann Wauters skipped Euro Basket in order to be 100% ready for the Olympic Games. Watch Belgium closely because they won’t be far away from a gold medal ! France is also seeking for revenge in these Olympics. After a terrible loss against Serbia at Euro Basket final in June, the French girls are looking for something better than a silver medal. However and just like the men’s team, I’m doubting they have what they need in order to beat Team USA, Serbia and Belgium. With the exact same team than the one they had at Euro Basket, hard to imagine they can truly compete for a gold medal. Behind them we got Australia and Canada, two teams counting on a great chemistry and a talended roster. Despite the fact they lost WNBA star Liz Cambage (she finally decided to rest during the Olympics), Australia is still on its way to do something in Tokyo ! Just like Australia, Canada is counting on a strong and balanced team to go as far as possible !
And once again here is 5 players you’ll need to watch closely during the women’s tournament : Emma Meesseman, A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart, Sonja Vasic and Marine Johanes.
Just like the men’s team, Team USA is a team full of talents, the best of the best. But among all the starts, you’ll have to watch for Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson. Currently going through a highly productive WNBA season, Breanna Stewart is THE most efficient basketball player in the world. She has nothing to prove and she’ll be a nightmare for her opponents. Her game vision, inside defense and capacity to score from anywhere on the court makes her the most important element of this American team. Alongside Stewie ? A’ja Wilson. After she stepped up into another level last season, A’ja Wilson became a center piece of Las Vegas game plan. Alongside Breanna Stewart, she will be another dangerous opponent for anyone facing her. I already talked about Emma Meesseman in my Euro Basket 2021 preview. Once again she will be Belgium’s weapon number one and just like her teammates, she’s seeking for revenge in Tokyo. Sonja Vasic is on its way for another trophy with Serbia. After crushing her opponents at Euro Basket 2021 (and being elected MVP of the tournament), Vasic is back in Tokyo in order to face Team USA and add another gold medal to her summer. I was talking about Emma Meesseman seeking for revenge but she is not the only one. After the tough loss against Serbia at Euro Basket final, Marine Johanes is looking for something in Tokyo. Her creativity and shooting skills can be a lethal weapon for France as Marine Johanes can be unguardable when she’s on fire.
Who can beat Team USA ?
This is a question we’re all asking to ourselves. If I didn’t really talk about Team USA so far it’s because I wanted to go more in details on this American, considered (for the good reasons as the best team in the world). For the joke we’ve all been saying that the Olympic tournament is already over as the winner will obviously be Team USA and the rest of the teams will be fighting for a second place and third place. But is it really true ? Does Team USA already won the tournament due to its roster full of NBA and WNBA stars ? Well, not really. If you’re asking me which one of the two American teams is the most favourite I’ll tell you that it’s the women’s team for a simple reason : they don’t have any defaults. Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Jewell Lloyd, Britney Griner, etc. are all players that are playing to the top level AND are used to the FIBA rules and European style of play as they are spending half of their season in Europe and this is why the “USA already won the tournament” is kind of true regarding the women’s tournament. The players Team USA will play against are either their oponent/teammates in WNBA or in Euroleague. The American girls perfectly know what they will be against… which is not the case for the men’s team.
It’s not a mark of disrespect against Team USA or against the NBA, but we know how different FIBA games are from NBA games and we know how disturbing it can be to play in FIBA games for the first time, even for stars like the one in Team USA’s roster. In 2019, the American lost against France in 1/4 finals of the World Cup, with a totally different team they have for these Olympics, yet with some NBA stars such as Donovan Mitchell or Jayson Tatum. There is no doubt that this team will be hard to beat and that they’re all motivated to go for the gold medal but an Olympic tournament is not a 82 games regular season. It’s short, intense, and one mistake can cost you the tournament. In front of an international basketball stage that wildly stepped up since a few years, Team USA gotta be careful ’cause a team full of the best players in the world is not enough to win it all, every game will be a fight in this tournament, especially Team USA’s games as it’s a dream for any other team to beat the mighty Team USA…
No doubt Team USA is THE big favourite team of this Olympic tournament but nothing will be easy for them. Yes they’ll probably win, yes they have way better players than any other nation in this tournament but watch out because anything can happen on the court teams like Argentina, Spain, France, etc. can beat this American team if they are in a great day…
Whatever happens, this will be a great tournament with some exciting games every day ! See you on July 25 for the opening game !