The latest version of Team USA has been compared endlessly to the Dream Team, but the biggest difference between the two teams may not be their players but their opponents.
While the Dream Team rampaged through international squads mostly comprised of non-NBA players, the 2012 team has to face teams stacked with elite NBA players who won't be intimated by the Americans. The Gasol brothers, for one, won't be asking Tyson Chandler for his autograph.
Over at the excellent basketball blog The Painted Area, M.Haubs ranks all 12 teams in the field and points to Spain as the most likely team to knock the US of the top of the medal podium:
After following up its 2008 Olympic silver medal with dominant performances at the 2009 and 2011 EuroBaskets, Spain remains a formidable world basketball power. Most notably for 2012, Team España will have the best collection of bigs in London, with the combination of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
Rather, we think the serious Spanish injury concerns revolve around Juan Carlos Navarro, who had an up-and-down 2011-12 season while battling plantar fascitis throughout, and Rudy Fernandez, who is recovering from back surgery in March, because Spain can't really adequately replace what those two provide. Navarro is a point machine whose scoring bursts won him the 2011 EuroBasket MVP and nearly put Team USA on the ropes in 2008. Fernandez plays with a more attacking style for Spain than he did in the NBA.
The Spaniards will have a legitimate edge on Team USA inside. Tyson Chandler is the NBA's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, but he isn't nearly the two-way player that Marc Gasol is.
However, the most important matchup will come at the power forward position, where Pau Gasol could be facing off against converted 3's like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. With Spain likely struggling to keep up on the wings, they'll need their second big man to force the Americans into a more conventional lineup and slow the pace of the game down.
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