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On July 26th, 2021, the U.S. Men’s National Basketball Team start their games of the Tokyo Olympics, as 11 countries try to dethrone them as champions. The United States has won six of the last seven gold medals with NBA players being allowed on the rosters. Unlike previous Olympics, the road to the gold medal will potentially be the most difficult in history.
We’re going to take a look at what you need to know heading into the Olympics, starting with Group A.
Number of NBA current Players: 12
Number of Former NBA Players: Zero
Best Player: Kevin Durant
Team USA will be defending the Gold Medal under some interesting circumstances. Missing some of the NBA’s elite for various reasons, head coach Gregg Popovich will have an interesting time leading this group in Japan. The good news is that he has the most dangerous player in the world with Durant leading this squad. The U.S. has 10 current or former NBA All-stars on the roster and top to bottom, they are the deepest.
The bad news is even with all of that talent, there are still major holes on the roster. Outside of the Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo and the newly added JaVale McGee, the United States’ lack of size could hurt them throughout the tournament. The lack of size and the delayed arrival of four players (Zach LaVine, Jrue Holiday, Devin Booker and Khris Middleton) could put this group in danger before the medal round.
Number of Current NBA Players: Six
Number of Former NBA Players: Three
Best Player: Evan Fournier
The biggest threat to beating Team USA in this pool would be the French. With nine current and former NBA players, France has enough familiarity with the favorites in the group. Led by NBA Defensive Player of the year Rudy Gobert, France has the perfect rim protector and rebounder to make the Americans pay for their lack of size.
Even with Gobert controlling the paint, it’s Fournier who will be the difference maker. With a team full of talented defenders, it will be the Boston Celtics’ guard that will have to carry the offense. If he can play at the same level like he did in 2019, when he lead France to a victory against the United States at the FIBA World Cup, France has a chance to get their first medal in Olympic Basketball history.
Number of Current NBA Players: One
Number of Former NBA Players: Two
Best Player: Tomas Satoransky
The surprise winner of the Victoria elimination round heads to Tokyo as a dark horse. Led by Chicago Bulls’ point guard Tomas Satoransky, the Czech have a chance to make a big splash on the biggest world stage. What could get them out of the group could be the play of big man Ondrej Balvin.
Balvin led the qualifying tournament in rebounding with 11.6 per a game. His size at 7 foot 1 could be a problem for teams in the pool trying to defend him. Also, the experience of former Washington Wizard lottery pick Jan Vessely on the wing will provide versatility in defending the other three teams’ wing players.
Number of Current NBA Players: Zero
Number of Former NBA Players: Zero
Best Player: Samed Nik Bahrami
Even though they have the lowest ranking of any of the twelve teams that are headed to Toyko, Iran will not be an easy victory for the other three teams in the pool. After missing the previous two Olympic games (2012 and 2016), Iran won the Asian group in the 2019 FIBA World Cup to earn this spot.
Led by Iranian veteran Samad Nik Bahrami, the most decorated player in the country’s basketball history, this group will try to win the country’s first medal in their basketball history in their third Olympics.