The best basketball team in the world – the one with LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard – won’t be competing in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro. Only DeAndre Jordan from the 2015-16 All-NBA First Team is on the United States roster this time around. But as usual the American basketball talent pool is so deep that the U.S. men’s team will be one of the safest bets to win gold in this Olympiad. The USA is listed as 1.01 favorites by the oddsmakers at M88.
It used to be the knock against the American ballers that even though they far outstripped the rest of the world in talent they were unprepared for the style of basketball on the world stage. No more. Since Team USA sleepwalked to a bronze medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, they have been dedicated to shoring up the country’s reputation in the world basketball community. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was put in charge of the national team and all he has done is go 78-1 – the last loss on the international stage for the Americans was in 2006 when they stumbled against Greece in the semifinals of the FIBA World Championship.
As usual, the last player on the USA bench would likely star for any other country. If bettors are worried about experience, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant return from the 2012 squad. In London, Durant became the first American to score over 30 points in a gold medal game. The veterans will be joined by young guns Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan and DeMarcus Cousins who all cut their teeth in international competition as members of the winning 2014 World Cup team.
There won’t be any value betting on the USA in men’s basketball but for those casting about for an upset victor the first place to drop a line is in Spain. Team Spain has claimed silver in each of the past two Olympics, losing to the Americans by relatively small margins of 11 and 7 points. Familiar NBA names like Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka won’t be suiting up for Spain this go-round but six-time NBA All-Star Pau Gasol will be back to lead a veteran squad that includes Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, and Rudy Fernandez. Ricky Rubio of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who started playing in the Spanish ACB League when he was only 14 years old in 2005, will trigger the Team Spain attack. The Spaniards are 8.00 favorites to steal the gold medal and a short 1.56 choice to win Group B.
France, led by San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, has a collection of NBA players in its line-up as it searches for the country’s first ever hoops gold medal. The French (13.00) are given the best chance to unseat the Americans from Group A. Argentina, the last non-USA gold medal winner at the 2004 games, will still be relying on the ageless Manu Ginobili who has been a part of the Argentina national team since 1998. His supporting cast this time is not awarded much chance in Rio – they are listed at 26.00.
Also at 26.00 will be Lithuania, an intriguing longshot for punters, especially in individual game action. Led by Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, Team Lithuania has been a tough out in recent international competition falling by only five points to the USA in the 2014 FIBA World Championship. They have opened eyes in the exhibition games leading to Rio De Janeiro racking up a series of victories including a pair against Spain. Lithuania, at 6.00 to win Group B, could be the best value bet on the board.
The women’s tournament will be much of the same; the American team is only slightly less well regarded as their male counterparts. They are listed at 1.05 to win the Olympic tournament. The United States has won the past five gold medal games by margins that dwarf even the men: 36 points over France in London, 27 points over Australia in Bejing, 11 points again over Australia in Athens, 22 points over the hard-luck Australians in Sydney and 24 points over Brazil in Atlanta.
Can Rio be any different? Not likely. The American women are on a 41-game Olympic winning streak that has boosted its overall record to 58-3. Since the national team was formed in 1995, the American record in international competition is 86-1. The team going to Rio has been hampered by a lack of preparation due to the WNBA summer season but expect that to be only a minor inconvenience. The 2016 U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball Team boasts nine returning Olympic gold medalists and the newcomers are three of the brightest stars in the women’s game: WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart. Coach Geno Auriemma has handled the women’s national team since 2010 and compiled an overall 23-0 record.
For bettors looking for an American alternative the pickings are slim. Even Australia’s run of five consecutive medals is in jeopardy as star Lauren Jackson, a four-time WNBA MVP, has retired. Without Jackson, Australia is listed at 8.5 and a 1.74 favorite to win Group A at online bookie M88. The other squad meriting consideration is France at 19.00. The French rolled through their Olympic qualifying tournament and unlike neighbor Spain have escaped the USA in group play at the Olympics. The reigning silver medalists can be expected to get another crack at Team USA in the finals – but few envision them avenging their 36-point demolition in 2012.