The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup promises to be one of the most competitive ones in recent history, with the added incentive of qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games thrown in spice up the action.
The 18th edition of the championship will be held in China for the first time ever and hostilities will begin on August 31 with the Finals slated for September 15.
32 teams have been split into eight groups comprising four teams each. While the Unites States are the most decorated side in the history of the tournament with 12 medals, they are tied with Yugoslavia on five gold medals.
But, they will have the chance to claim top bragging rights when it all kicks off in Beijing.
Let’s take a look at the chances of the top teams likely to pip Team USA to the crowning moment in mid-September.
Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets will lead Serbia’s charge towards dethroning USA after falling at the last hurdle to the same opponent at the 2016 Olympics.
The 2019 NBA MVP candidate along with Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica, both of the Sacramento Kings, possess serious skills that may see them go all the way in the far East.
More impressively, the Orlovi are yet to lose any of their preparation games so far, beating Italy and Lithuania twice and also over-powering Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Greece without the presence of key players, like Jokic and Milos Teodosic.
Serbia have powered to the top of the Basketball World Cup Power rankings and are going to be able to call on just about all of their big guns for this championship.
Head coach Sasha Djordjevic will have more than enough artillery to shoot down oppositions when their championship begins in Group D games in Foshan.
Arguably the finest ever Spaniard to play the game of Basketball, Pau Gasol, will miss the action for the Spanish contingent heading to China for this year’s FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The 39-year-old veteran will not recover on time to feature, having had a foot surgery earlier. In his absence, younger brother Marc, who is making great strides, having won his first NBA crown with the Toronto Raptors, will lead the team’s assault for the title.
Spain also have NBA players such as Willy Hernangomez of the Charlotte Hornets, Ricky Rubio of the Phoenix Suns and Juan Hernangomez of the Denver Nuggets to help sustain a title charge.
Spain are currently at +1600 odds to claim the crown in China this year, according to Greek betting sites, and are also ranked number two in the world.
However, coach Sergio Scariolo believes that, despite the absence of some of their key players, the players available are capable of helping Spain return to the podium in September.
The United States’ side remain the most dominant team in international basketball, with their rosters glittering with top-class talents from the NBA.
Their dominance is further evidenced by the fact that they are yet to lose a game in international competitions since 2006 and have also won the previous two editions of the FIBA World Cup.
Despite coach Popovich not being able to call on players, such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, there remains so much talent at his disposal to reach the summit.
The US team have history in their sight with a record to be set as the only side to win the tournament six times and for a third consecutive time, if they go all the way in China.
If they can avoid complacency, this US team, comprising Kris Middleton, Kemba Walker, and Donovan Mitchell among other stars, have more than enough to extend their reign.