2012 Olympic Basketball Preview: U.S.A. v. France
France is a team that should not be underestimated:
C- Ronny Turiaf
PF- Boris Diaw
SF- Mickael Gelabale
SG- Nicolas Batum
PG- Tony Parker
They sport a talented cast of players, led by Finals MVP Tony Parker and defensive stalwart Nicolas Batum. That duo is joined by an above average group of role players that includes NBA players such as Kevin Seraphin of the Washington Wizards, veteran Boris Diaw, journeyman Ronny Turiaf, and career D-leaguer Mickael Gelabale.
While France does have a lot of talent, they do lack size. Seraphin will be forced into playing center, though he is just 6’9″, and the 6’10” Turiaf represents the only true center on the squad (The 6’10” Ali Traore can also play center, but likely won’t see much time in a game of this magnitude).
The lack of size might not be as problematic against the U.S. with only Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love patrolling the paint, but it will cause problems on the interior, and the Americans have plenty of players to slash to the hole. Russell Westbrook in particular could potentially feast on the weak interior defense of the Frenchmen.
One thing to keep an eye on is how France employs the services of the newly re-signed Portland Trailblazer Nicolas Batum. Batum was courted by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but ultimately the Blazers decided to match that offer to retain a young talent who is capable of playing either wing spot.
Batum will have the unenviable task of drawing the best perimeter player on the court for the U.S., be it Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or Kobe Bryant. Simply: Batum is going to be worn out, regardless of the assignment. Rendering Batum’s offense ineffective by virtue of wearing him out on defense will be the M.O. of the US squad.
While Batum is hardly an offensive juggernaut in the NBA, he makes up for it with his efficiency. Last season, Batum scored 13.9 points per game, while hitting 39.1% from behind the arc. With the International three point line being only 20’6″, expect Batum and the Frenchmen to launch plenty of threes.
Tony Parker is clearly the best player on the French team, but he may be outclassed by the US floor generals Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and the aforementioned Westbrook. Parker sports the experience over these three, but the fact that Coach K is able to rotate the three of them in and out of the lineup will prove crucial, as Parker will simply be worn out late in the game and thus be unable to pull any late game heroics, if France is even anywhere within striking distance.
All in all, France is still a huge underdog to win the gold medal, and their odds are set at 25/1 by a popular Vegas booking site. Still, quite remarkably, those odds are the third longest shot of the tournament, with only Spain boasting a better chance of beating the US out for the gold.
While France does have a lot of talent and team unity, it’s difficult to imagine them giving the American squad much trouble. The US team is too deep, too good, and too prepared to let a team with only a handful of NBA players beat them. I’m not suggesting it is an absurd blowout of the 40+ point magnitude, but the US will take care of business and remind the world why basketball flourishes here in the United States.
We may even see 12th man Anthony Davis get some burn during garbage time…
Score Prediction: US by 21