25 July, 2021
07 August
Men's Olympic Basketball Power Rankings - Volume 2
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Men's Olympic Basketball Power Rankings - Volume 2

TOKYO (Japan) - The games in Saitama Super Arena tip-off in two days. Sounds like a good time to check up on the form of the teams in our second edition of the pre-event Power Rankings.

Last week, we had the first Power Rankings, based on the exhibition games all over the world. Due to team's international travel and various healthy and safety precautions, there weren't as many games in the build-up to the second edition of the Power Rankings, but we got to see the teams in their Media Day photo-shoots, we saw them practice and feel the court of the gigantic Saitama Super Arena, so there is something to write around here.

Remember that Power Rankings are highly subjective and in no way an official ranking of any sort. It's just a barometer to feel who's handling the pressure the best, so save your "Man are you crazy!?" and "There is no way this team will finish higher than that one" messages for another day. We aren't predicting anything. We're just telling you who is feeling really good coming into the Games.

Now that we've gotten the intro part out of the way, it's time for the actual rankings.

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#1 Australia

Qualifiers Record: Qualified through the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike:

The other game that they were supposed to play against the USA was cancelled, so Australia did not get the chance to cement their number one spot here. However, they come to Tokyo unbeaten, feeling really good, and looking as relaxed as a team could possibly look during Media Day.

We've already highlighted Jock Landale as one of the possible breakout players of the event, and we've also added Josh Green to the list of the young guns ready to shoot their shot in Tokyo, despite their age. Add two #1s here over two weeks - yep, safe to say we're feeling good about Australia picking up a medal here.

#2 USA

Qualifiers Record: Qualified through the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike:

So, here's what happened during the Media Day:

And then, Kevin Durant responded:

Of course, it didn't take long for people to take this more seriously than it actually was, so Durant added another piece of message the day after.

Fun times. Coach Gregg Popovich only had eight players available on Thursday, still waiting for Zach LaVine, Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Devin Booker to join the squad. The atmosphere among the eight who are in Tokyo feels perfect; those two wins over Argentina and Spain helped them click together, which is a worrying sign for the rest of the world.

Three Group Stage games could also be used as a mini-camp for the guys who played the NBA Finals, so even though the USA are number two on the list here, they are number one favorites to win their fourth straight gold.

#3 Spain

Qualifiers Record: Qualified as the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 winners
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike:

Usually, teams have a superstar. Or a dynamic duo. Or a big three. Or, if they are really lucky, a recognizable starting five. With this version of Spain, it's more like the Dirty Dozen remake.

Who do you stop primarily when you're playing Spain? Ricky Rubio? One of the Sergios, Llull or Rodriguez? One of the Gasols, Pau or Marc? One of the Hernangomezes, Juancho or Willy? Maybe Rudy Fernandez? Or Usman Garuba, the youngster?

They only lost to Team USA during the preparation camp, and that defeat is the only reason why they dropped one place, but Spain not winning a medal in Saitama would be a gigantic surprise.

#4 Nigeria

Qualifiers Record: Qualified through the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike:

Of all the teams to fly into Tokyo, Nigeria were the last ones to arrive. Should we be worried about the late arrival? They still have a couple of days to feel the arena and get their legs back under them after a long flight to Japan, but maybe other teams catch them off-guard, especially now that everybody has Nigeria on their watchlist for the Olympics.

The D'Tigers aren't the underdogs anymore. They are now feeling the expectations on their backs and shoulders. But, hey, that's not stopping Josh Okogie and the rest of the crew from saying out loud that they want gold in Tokyo!


#5 Slovenia

Qualifiers Record: 4-0 to win the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Lithuania
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike:

Medal winners on their first try at the Olympics:
USA, Canada and Mexico in 1936, because those were the first basketball Olympics;
Soviet Union in 1952, because they chose to skip the ones in 1936 and 1948;
Croatia and Lithuania in 1992, straight after gaining independence.

Slovenia want to join that list in Tokyo. And it would be a different kind of first-try-medalist. Because it would be a surprise, coming 30 years after their independence. And at the same time, it wouldn't be a surprise, because we're talking about the defending FIBA EuroBasket champions here.

#6 Italy

Qualifiers Record: 3-0 to win the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike:

The fact that France are slipping down the rankings also pushed Italy up the rankings. Nico Mannion is in the running for the best youngster in Tokyo, most of the teams would be happy if they had one of Simone Fontecchio, Danilo Gallinari, Nicolo Melli or Achille Polonara, and Italy have all four of them available, and with Alessandro Pajola deserves to be in the talks for the best defensive player of the Olympics award*.

The Italians are going to be trouble. Ideally, they defeat Germany and feel relaxed against Australia (which is kinda the same as what happened in Belgrade against Serbia), and at 2-0, they are already safe and sound and use all of their experience to defeat the young Nigeria squad and win the group. Trouble is, it could all go downhill just as fast if they lose that first one on Sunday...

*Not an actual award.

#7 Argentina

Qualifiers Record: Qualified through the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike:

Argentina did not play a single game since the last time we talked, so instead of writing they could be really good, or they could be as bad as they were in the exhibition games, I'm just offering you this amazing photo of this amazing Facundo Campazzo tattoo. Thank me later.

(Facu loves videogames, obviously.)

#8 France

Qualifiers Record: Qualified through the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike:

Losing to Spain twice wasn't good news, but it wasn't shocking either. Losing to Japan, though, changed the perspective of those two defeats to Spain, too. Because all of a sudden you hear people saying France aren't as good as in 2019.

They should still be safe to advance to the Quarter-Finals, and the good thing for them is that they face the USA on opening day. Team US will not be at 100 percent yet, you catch them on a bad day, you win, you rise, you become favorites to win a medal straight away. A lot could change on Game Day 1. And France need some kind of change to happen as soon as possible.

#9 Japan

Qualifiers Record: Host nation
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike:

Good news? Winning against France proved that Japan are a mighty team when they have all their guys available.

Bad news? They are still in the same group as Spain, Slovenia and Argentina. World champs, European champs, and the world cup runners-up, respectively. Tough task ahead. They will need their flying fortress ready to attack 24/7.


#10 Czech Republic

Qualifiers Record: 3-1 to win the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Canada
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike:

How big is basketball in the Czech Republic right now? So big that Tomas Satoransky will be the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony on Friday, which is just another way of the entire nation showing how much trust they have in their point guard and his teammates.

And this is all good news in a wider context, too. Czech Republic will host one of the groups of the FIBA EuroBasket 2022; new kids will soon see Tomas and company walking to the Olympic Stadium, playing these Games and then competing at a major event at home in a year. All of these factors will contribute to building a whole new generation of Czech Republic basketball. Fathers won't need to create completely new clubs for their kids to play basketball anymore...

#11 Germany

Qualifiers Record: 4-0 to win the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Croatia
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike:

It's completely unfair to Germany that they ended up this low. Apologies for that, but ranking the teams that didn't play after the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments is extremely difficult. Their draw isn't the easiest, either, so it's just a big time enigma what kind of Germany awaits in Tokyo - the one that won the event in Split, Croatia; or the one that failed to advance to the Round of 16 in China two years ago.

But at least we know this: Henrik Rodl will face Meo Sacchetti in a who-did-it-better battle. The German coach played at the Olympics in 1992 and now gets a chance to coach at the Olympics. Sacchetti played in 1980 and 1984, will coach Italy against Germany (and others) to also join the elite club of coaches who also competed at the Olympics as players.

#12 Iran

Qualifiers Record: Qualified through the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019
FIBA World Ranking presented by Nike:

Iran still seem like the bottom-placed team here, but at least they learned in Japan that their summer won't be as tough as it seemed. That's because the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 has been moved to July 2022, and now they get another year to use this Olympic experience and build on it. Australia blew them out in the Final of the last FIBA Asia Cup. Maybe they use 2021 to close that gap in 2022.

*The power rankings are entirely subjective and is in no way a true, accurate ranking system. All comments are purely those of the author.