By Dennis Berry
Basketball fans around the world will have their eyes on London at the end of July as the Olympics begin. The best basketball teams from across the world will compete to take home the gold medal.
The United States will look to defend their 2008 gold medal. They will face tough competition and there are some teams that could knock off the United States. Here is a look at the teams with the best shot at winning gold in London.
Brazil is back in the Olympics for the first time since the 1996 Summer Games. That year they finished 6th overall. This time around, Brazil should be better with a roster that is full of NBA talent.
Perhaps Brazil’s biggest strength will be their front court. They are loaded with Nene of the Washington Wizards, Anderson Verajao of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Tiago Splitter of the San Antonio Spurs. With that group, they will have the size to match up with any front court at the Olympics.
Brazil also has a great backcourt. The name most NBA fans will recognize is Leandro Barbosa of the Indiana Pacers. He will be joined in the backcourt by Marcelo Machado, who is a good outside shooter and Marcelo Huertas is an outstanding point guard who can make any pass needed.
Brazil is an experienced team in international play. They are in Pool B and their toughest competition in the pool will be Spain. They should easily make it to the medal round of the Olympics.
France is back in the Olympics thanks to their second place finish in the 2011 EuroBasket Tournament. They will not be going into the 2012 Olympics at full strength, though.
The will be missing a key player in the post. Joakim Noah will be out of this Olympics after hurting his ankle during the Chicago Bulls' series against the Philadelphia 76ers. This loss hurts the French team, which is not a deep team.
The good news for France is that they will have Tony Parker. There was worry that Parker’s eye injury would keep him out of action, but he will be able to play. If France has any shot of medaling in these Olympics, it will be Parker that carries them to it.
Parker will be joined in the backcourt by Nicolas Batum. He has spent the last four years in Portland and his play has improved each year. Last year he averaged a career high 13.9 points a game.
France's strength will be in the post. They will have Boris Diaw of the Spurs, Ronnie Turiaf of the Miami Heat, and Kevin Serafin of the Washington Wizards. With that group they should have no problems battling with other teams in the paint.
The negative for France is that they are in Pool A with the United States and Argentina. They will be in for tough games from them, but should ultimately advance to the medal round.
Argentina won the gold medal in the 2004 Olympics. They followed that with a bronze medal in the 2008 games. Can they win another medal in 2012?
They will be lead by the Spurs' Manu Ginobili. He has been a part of the Argentina national team since the 1998 FIBA World Championship. He will turn 35 during the Olympics, so this could possibly be his final time there as a player.
He will have plenty of help. He will be joined by NBA players Carlos Delfino of the Milwaukee Bucks and Luis Scola of the Phoenix Suns. Former NBA player Andrés Nocioni is also a member of the team.
Scola had a productive past NBA season for the Houston Rockets when he averaged 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds a game. He will have some help in the paint with big men Leonardo Gutierrez and Federico Kammerichs. That trio will be able to hold their own against any team in the paint during the Olympics.
Argentina does have a tough road though. They are an older team and in the tougher Pool A with the United States and France. If they get hot, they could make the gold medal game.
The one team – outside of the United States – that has the best shot at the gold medal is Spain. They lost to the USA in the 2008 gold medal game and have revenge on their mind.
They will be missing point guard Ricky Rubio, but Spain has plenty of NBA talent that they will be able to throw against the rest of the world. They will feature Marc and Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon, and Rudy Fernandez. If they want, they can throw out an NBA starting lineup as well.
With the Gasol brothers and Ibaka in the paint, Spain may have the strongest front court of any team in the Olympics. They should have no concerns about being dominated in the paint.
They are loaded in the backcourt as well. They are deeper than just proven NBA players Calderon and Fernandez. Juan Carlos Navarro and Victor Sada will be able to match up with any opponent’s backcourt and Spain will not lose a thing.
Spain will be the best team in Pool B and should face the United States for the gold medal.
Another Olympics with nothing else but a gold medal being the goal for the United States. It might not be the Dream Team, but this roster is loaded with talent.
If there is one area of concern for USA it is in the front court. They are missing Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard because of injury. That means that Tyson Chandler will see plenty of time. He will be joined by Kevin Love and Anthony Davis – who will probably only play limited minutes. Expect LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to help the play in the post.
The United States are loaded on the wings as well. Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul will handle the point guard duties. On the outside James Harden, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant will be out on the wings.
The United States is too loaded with talent to not win the gold medal in 2012.
Gold – United States
Silver – Spain
Bronze – Brazil