Yes im from Argentina. Yes Im still hoping for the miracle of winning it all. But right now I think we are not even the 3rd best team.
Everyone is talking about Spain and Usa...while adding argentina a notch below. While that's somewhat acurate, I think many people are overlooking another contender: Greece. Dont sleep on them. In fact, I have them winning it all. Forget about the eurobasket. They will get their shit together. They are STACKED and ready to go. You cant say the same things about the other 3 contenders.
Usual stuff: they are by far the most talented team...but are they really a team? Can they have enough cohesion to win it all? My gut says NO. A big difference with other Team usa versions is the lack of size. Maybe it doesnt hurt them much offensively, but on defense....there's just no one to protect the rim or defend the skilled big guys of some nations. Im just salivating at the thought of Scola going against these guys.
Im not sold on their perimeter shooting and experience on international competition. You've read a lot about Team Usa everywhere, so lets focus on other teams.
Gasol and Calderon are out. I dont care how deep is your team, those 2 are VERY important loses. That means Spain lost his best player and perenial MVP candidate. Also, the absence of Calderon means Ricky is going to see heavy minutes. Yep he is great, im a big fan of his game. But he is a 20 year old prone to lots of mistakes. Felipe Reyes can really play at the 4, but he is no Gasol, and garbajosa looks out of shape and out of game. And I havent even mentioned one of my favoite spanish players: Carlos Jimenez. He is the historic starting SF, a guy who goes unnoticed but trust me...he has always been a BIG reason behind Spain's success. Think of him as their Bruce Bowen. A difference maker.
That's 3 starting players, 3 very key players who are missing. They are still a deep team, but you are as good as the best 5 you can put on the floor.
It hurts to say this, but we were a notch below the other contenders EVEN IF MANU PLAYED. But he isnt...so I dont like our chances at all. We are old (have you hear that one before?) but experience only gets you that far. Besides, we have a couple of newcomers on the world championship. Add the fact that Oberto and Nocioni are injured and their games seem to have regressed a bit (playing for the Wizards and the Kings will do that to you) and we are royally screwed. Yes we have the guy I think will win MVP honors (Luis Scola) who can carry us for a whole tournament. But when your only real creator and playmaker is Carlos Delfino, when you are trusting him to be the outside presence....you are going to be disapointed eventually. Carlos will look like the best SG on some games, showing an all around game remniscent of the one and only Manu. And the next night he will spend the game shooting bricks from the 3 point line will avoiding any kind of contact. That's who Delfino is. He has looked AMAZIN in preparation games. But I have been disapointed so many times before.
As for the rest of the team, they are all capable players. Argentina will show its chemistry, but its not as strong as past incarnations (Magnano I really miss you....what the FUCK are you doing as Brazil's coach?). But their limitations are really obvius. There's a reason those guys play on the local argentinean league. We have a really good league, the one that produced all the great players that have acomplished so much internationally and in the NBA. But still, you cant compare it with european competition and of course the nba.
So after the starting five (NBAers Delfino, NOcioni, Scola, Oberto and one of the better point guards of europe, Pablo Prigioni) Argentina's bench looks like this:
PG-Cequeira: an injury replacement of the injury replacement of the original backup point guard (we were screwed on point guard depth before the injuries...now we have the argentinean version of Earl Boykins going against some BIG guards like Billups, Rose, Rubio, etc)
SG-Paolo Quinteros: I love this guy. I really do. He is ridicously short for a SG, but man....he may be one of the best shooters in the tournament. Expect to be surprised.
SF-Jasen: the guy that always makes the right play. Nothing spectacular about his game, just solid all around
SF-Kammerichs: you may remember this guy. The "lost Barry brother". A lanky forward who relies on atlheticism and long arms to make defensive plays and attack the rim. A poor's man Kirilenko with a lot more heart.
PF-Leo gutierrez: He is a star in the Argentinean league. He has been with the national team for like 10 years. And he always SUCKS on international competition. I have lost all my faith in Leo. He was supposed to be our Robert Horry 05. Instead he is Robert Horry 08.
C-Roman Gonzalez: he doesnt look like a baketball player (except for his stature). He looks like a fatty member of the Hells Satans or something like that. Cant jump or move much. But HE CAN PLAY. Trust me. That elbow jumper looks forced. But its going in. Great against teams lacking size. Very shitty against a defender bigger than him.
C-Juan Gutierrez: our lame attempt at an "athletic seven footer". He isnt even 7ft tall. And he is as atlhetic as Bonner. Enough said.
After all...my national team doesnt sound that bad on paper. But overall we lack speed, we lack creation, we dont have any guy who can properly defend the paint. More now than ever, we rely on team defense and offense. Enough to get to the podium? I hope so. Enough to win it all? I dont think so.
GREECE....you heard it here first!!
Basically, they have the same team that beat a much better Team Usa a couple of years ago. They are missing their star playmaker Papalukas, the big point guard that shreded Usa with pick and rolls. But still, they have enough depth to make up for it. Ex NBAer Spanoulis is really a force to be reckoned with in international play. Dude can really score. Add enough scoring talent from up and down the roster and they are very balanced (remember Sofo? he is back and fighting serbians). But that's not where their strength lies. Its their D. They are withouth a doubt the best defensive unit in the tournament. Led by all around monster Diamantidis (another personal favorite), the greeks have the cohesion, heart and chemistry to lockdown any team. I remember that Argentina beat them on the 2008 olympics just because Delfino made like 20 straight points on some uber ridicoulus contested long jumpers in the 4th quarter. Even then we needed a couple of clutch Manu plays to get the narrow win. THESE GUYS CAN DEFEND. AND REBOUND. And they are the only other team, outside Argentina, that I trust them to give their 120% effort. They have an easy path until they met us (I dont like Argentina's chances then) to the finals. And then, probably USA or spains awaits, two powerhouses that would fear the greeks even at full strength.
They have the right mix of depth, experience, chemistry, scoring, defense and heart that the other contenders are lacking. Someone can point me where to bet?
As for the other nations, they all have BIG flaws: Brazil and Turkey (backcourt), France (shooting,surrendering), Serbia (too young). They have enough to surprise the contenders on one game, but not enough to make it all the way to the top.