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2015 FIBA Asia Championship - Power Ranking: Week 2
CHANGSHA (2015 FIBA Asia Championship) - In the lead-up to the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship on September 23, our experts will be ranking the 16 teams bound for Changsha, China, based on their respective player compositions and preparations for the biennial tournament.
Though these rankings are entirely based on out experts' opinions and have no mathematical or theoretical grounding, keep in mind that player injuries, eligibility issues, training camp reports, and pre-tournament game results will all have considerable impact.
In this edition of the Power Ranking, many of the teams have already had more than a few tune-up games, with a handful actually playing in the 2015 William Jones Cup. Several teams have also finalised their 12-man rosters for the FIBA Asia Championship, and this should give us a clearer picture of where they stand.
Iran just buried the competition in the 2015 William Jones Cup, winning all but one of their games en route to annexing the championship. Both Hamed Haddadi and pint-sized Mahdi Kamrani were also named to the tournament’s Mythical Five. This bodes well for the defending champions, who are expected to dominate the proceedings once again in Changsha. Oh, and did we mention that the team’s top forward, Samad Nikkhah Bahrami, didn’t even play?
China have been quiet of late, choosing to hold training camp at home after a series of tune-up games abroad. Yi Jianlian’s tired body is recovering nicely, but promising young playmaker Liu Xiaoyu appears to be sidelined with a stiff back, which is probably why he was left out of the final 12-man team. With Yi playing alongside Wang Zhelin, Zhou Qi, and Li Muhao, coach Gong Luming easily has the biggest team in the competition.
The Filipinos move up one spot owing to their inspired play in the Jones Cup, where they won six of eight games and finished second overall. And they did that WITHOUT Andray Blatche and Jordan Clarkson, who is still seeking a release from his NBA club to join the Philippine national team. Coach Tab Baldwin has proven before that he can bring the best out of any player under his wing, and that is slowly shaping up to be the case in Manila.
Chinese Taipei placed on the podium in the Jones Cup right behind Iran and the Philippines, and they are set to have one more pocket tournament by the week’s end. It sure looks like coach Chou Jun-San is leaving nothing to chance as his team are in the tournament’s toughest preliminary group and are pressured to build on their top four finish in 2013.
The Koreans were very inconsistent in the Jones Cup, eventually winding up in fifth place. Swingman Yoon Ho-Young looks doubtful for the FIBA Asia tourney, and star guard Kim Sun-Hyung has been suspended for suspected involvement in game-fixing issues back home. It hasn’t been the best of weeks for this perennial powerhouse, which is why they slide two spots.
Jordan are fresh from a two-game bashing of West Asian rivals Palestine, and are set to join a four-nation pocket tournament in China. Stalwarts Zaid Abbas and Sam Daghlas reportedly didn’t even play in their twin wins over the Palestinians, so their addition in China should make coach Rajko Toroman’s squad that much stronger.
Japan had a very slow start in the Jones Cup, losing their first five games, but they regained their bearings and wound up winning two of their last three assignments to avoid the cellar. There is much improvement to be done, sure, but one has to love the fact that despite not having star center Kosuke Takeuchi and having no naturalised player, Team Hayabusa continues to compete and put a scare in other teams.
The Kazakhs are still reportedly in basketball hotbed Lithuania, honing their skills and sharpening their shooting away from the prying eyes of their continental opponents. That should serve them well once they get to Changsha, where they are bound to encounter very tough opposition in the tournament’s Group of Death.
Qatar, given their size, talent, and experience, are expected to give Kazakhstan (and many other teams) quite a difficult time in the FIBA Asia Championship. They have currently been sighted in Manila, playing a couple of PBA clubs in tune-up games before flying out to China for the real thing. Mohammed Yousef, Khalid Suliman Abdi, and Trey Johnson are the ones expected to carry this team in the expected absence of Yaseen Musa and Mansour El Hadary.
Lebanon were expected to join the Philippines, Chinese Taipei, and a New Zealand club in the four-nation MVP Cup in Manila, but they reportedly backed out in favor of joining the four-nation tourney in China, from which they also backed out. Additionally, iconic player Fade El Khatib’s release from his CBA club hasn’t reached a resolution yet. In short, the Cedars are in limbo.
Yes, Palestine got plastered by Jordan in a couple of tune-up games, but they can only get better, right? They fly to China to join the hosts, Jordan, and the UAE in a four-nation competition that should give the Palestinians an opportune time to continue jelling as a team. This is still a potentially dangerous squad when the FIBA Asia Champinship begins.
This competitive and perhaps underrated team has, like Qatar, been spotted in Manila, playing against a couple of PBA clubs in tune-up contests. Kuwait should benefit greatly from that, but that won’t address their biggest problem — the lack of size. This team reportedly has just one player standing taller than 196cm (6ft 5in). Yikes.
Nothing much from India except for the fact that they have no confirmed head coach yet and two rival factions threaten the stability of their national federation. Still, with both Amjyot Singh and Amrit Pal Singh being signed anew by a Japanese semi-pro team, one cannot deny that there is talent here to maybe spring a couple of upsets.
With not much coming out of Hong Kong about their team’s preparations for the FIBA Asia Championship, it’s reasonable to suspect that they won’t fare as well as they did in 2013, when they managed to advance to the second round. Even if they bring in guys like 204cm (6ft 9in) Duncan Reid, Fong Shing Yee, Lo Yiting, and Lee Ki, it’ll be tough for Hong Kong to make any sort of splash in China.
Unbeknownst to many, Malaysia were the second-best team in the 2015 SEABA Championship, and though they’re young and raw, the Malaysians are still hoping they can maybe spring a surprised in a game or two. To say that it’s highly unlikely, however, is a gross understatement.
Coach Neo Beng Siang is ruing the fact that he can barely have enough people to have a scrimmage in practice. This team was very far from being the strongest already, but hampered training camp only serves to make things worse.