State-side fans cringe, online sports bettors rejoice.
Gregg Popovich and USA Basketball have problems and issues headed into the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in about 2 weeks.
Not long ago, Team USA lost a practice game to a G-League outfit…if that help to lend any indication of the greybeard coach’s challenge in getting a squad ready for China. But if the Red, White and Blue has decided to dig its way there, other countries at the FIBA tournament could take flight.
The bailing-out of A-list NBA athletes from the World Cup reminds me of college gridiron recruiting disasters. It’s as if Nick Saban was the coach of the team, suddenly quit, and then every freshman “commit” begins typing up tweets that begin, “After speaking with my family…”
Except we know what kind of respect Popovich commands among Association ballers. There’s just a malaise and a snowball effect pervading the program and degrading the depth chart. James Harden, Anthony Davis, and Bradley Beal are just 3 of the key names who have begged off a Yank roster that was already missing the biggest name-brands in professional hoops. Even Zion Williamson won’t play.
The shamble we observe in Team USA – reminiscent of losing Stars & Stripes incarnations at the Olympic Games in Athens and at a recent succession of FIBA Basketball World Cup events – has opened up the door for other Group Stage favorites playing in Asia.
USA’s lineup for Shanghai is about as talented as an ordinary NBA roster. Having previously counseled gamblers to buy into FIBA Group-winner futures and not to hunt for a jackpot on the championship betting board, I am eating a whole lot of Chinese crow.
Not only do the United States’ woes add up to a whole lot of medal-round opportunity for programs like Turkey, Spain, Canada, and Greece, but we could see more fireworks in the round-robin now that teams don’t have that looming prohibitive favorite in the back of their minds.
FIBA Basketball World Cup: Team USA Line-Movement and Odds for 16 Teams
The United States was once a (-1000) bet to-win gold at NBA betting sites while iconic cagers sat sketched-in on preliminary squad lists.
Team USA is a now (-350) wager at MyBookie as of mid-August. Yet most of the other contenders are still represented with long lines (read: high payoff on a winner) in Las Vegas.
Let’s look to the silver lining, as ice hockey bettors should do when the NHL doesn’t send its very best to Europe. We all know who the likely blow-out winner would be in a match-up of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Russell Westbrook against the finest lineups other lands could muster. By sending a “B” team to China our basketball federation has done the world a favor – perhaps on accident – by giving the FIBA World Cup a truer sense of unpredictability.
1-to-10 favorites aren’t thrilling teams to gamble on anyway. A (-350) futures betting line actually brings Team USA into the fold as a viable wager for gold.
The World Cup will suffer as an exhibition without King James and the Assassin present. Yet FIBA’s celebration might also exhibit more signs of a real-life tournament without them there.
Here’s a look at Group Stage and gold-medal futures odds for each of 16 teams in 4 groups, including Team USA’s Group E, tipping-off on September 1st in the Eastern Hemisphere. Scroll for roster previews and a few familiar names from the NBA…and not from the United States and Canada lineups.
FIBA World Cup Group E Lines and Previews
USA (-350) Odds-to-Win World Cup, (-10000) Odds-to-Win Group E
Speaking of silver linings, the much-maligned Yanks have a chance to earn an historic 3rd consecutive World Cup title for USA Basketball. It’s not as if the nation’s qualifying-round roster did a lot of losing en route to the pole position for Group E.
The backcourt should look OK, with Kemba Walker and 2018 NBA All-Rookie shooting guard Donovan Mitchell highlighting the guard position.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum will bring a dash of Beantown ballin’ to the offense.
Brook Lopez and Kyle Kuzma lead an interior group that lacks depth, however, and who can say for sure that we’ve seen the last All-Star jump ship before the jets load for Shanghai?
In case you’re feeling like that steep (-350) futures market is a sure thing, here’s a clip of Team USA losing to what they’d politely refer to as “reserve players” across the pond.
To be fair, the NBA cagers are playing cautious get-up-get-down defense and not lunging for rebounds, and they were getting decent looks against the G-League unit as well.
But speaking of getting up and down, the squad also made few of the fast-paced, cross-court passes that exemplify FIBA basketball and must be utilized to keep up with Turkey or Serbia on the scoreboard.
America meets the Czech Republic on Sunday 9/1.
Turkey (+15000) (+1400)
Turkey has not qualified for the Olympics since 1952 when finishing 22nd overall. But like Latvia in ice hockey and several soccer nations I can think of, the team has floundered on the world’s biggest stages only to shine at other prestigious competitions, making FIBA into a playground.
Head coach Ufuk Sarıca is an institution among Turk basketball fans, helping the squad leave for China with a plane-load of confidence.
Philadelphia 76er shooting guard Furkan Korkmaz was a star of qualifiers, posting an average of 20.3 points and 4.3 rebounds. Veteran power forward Ersan İlyasova has bounced around the NBA and most recently played for the Milwaukee Bucks in the postseason.
Cedi Osman of the Cleveland Cavaliers is a young talent who could dominate in Group E.
Czech Republic (+40000) (+3300)
The Czechs debut at the FIBA Worlds boasting of notable success at the 2015 EuroBasket. Israeli coach Ronen Ginzburg leads the squad.
Versatile backcourt player Tomáš Satoranský is the star of the team, averaging 19 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists in a pair of qualifiers. Primarily a point guard, the 27-year-old standout spent the 2018-2019 regular season with the Washington Wizards.
Japan (+125000) (+15000)
Argentinian coach Julio Lamas brings his wealth of experience to an upstart Japanese squad.
2019 NBA Draft selection Rui Hachimura will get an opportunity to showcase his talents on the world stage. The 21-year-old forward averaged 19.7 points and 6.5 rebounds during his final season with the Gonzaga Bulldogs and was selected by the Wizards with the 9th overall pick.
Group E Analysis and Prediction
The USA is a regrettably-shaky overall favorite, and I like the Turkish team at (+1400) behind Osman’s talent.
FIBA World Cup: Group F Vegas Lines and Previews
Greece (+1000) Odds-to-Win World Cup, (-340) Odds-to-Win Group F
Greece got a monumental lift when reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo confirmed his participation at the FIBA World Cup. The Greek Freak had a career season with the Milwaukee Bucks with a 27.7 point, 12.5 rebound, and 5.9 assist average during the 2018-2019 season.
Point guard Nick Calathes and 7’1” center Ioannis Bourousis held down the fort during European qualifiers, each averaging 15+ points per game.
But the Greek squad is unproven in the medal round, having finished a mediocre average of 10th in the previous 2 cycles.
Thanasis Skourtopoulos became the national team coach in 2017, a sweet-spot contract signing with the ascention of the Freak to NBA stardom.
Greece opens against Montenegro – “Little Montenegro!” as Fitzgerald once wrote – in Nanjing on September 1st.
Brazil (+15000) (+450)
Brazil has a storied history at the FIBA World Cup, but its gold-medal triumphs are far in the past. Recently the nation has been coming heartbreakingly close to the international podium, but there’s no bling around any necks just yet.
NBA champion shooting guard (which is not to say “NBA shooting champion”) Leandro Barbosa led the Brazilian team in qualifiers with a 14.7 point average. Veteran center Anderson Varejão brings tons of leadership and experience from a lengthy NBA career with Cleveland and Golden State.
Youthful small forward Bruno Caboclo saw more NBA action for the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2018-2019 season than at any time during his career. The up-and-comer averaged 8.3 points and 4.6 rebounds in 34 appearances.
Head coach Aleksandar Petrović took the job with Brazil after leading the Croatia National Team to the quarterfinals of the 2016 Olympics.
Montenegro (+25000) (+900)
“Little” Montenegro will be making its maiden appearance in the FIBA World Cup in 2019. The team has competed in the EuroBasket on 3 occasions with unremarkable results.
7-foot center Nikola Vučević is anything but little. The big man received an NBA All-Star nod in 2019 for shining with the Orlando Magic, averaging a career-best 20.8 points and 12 rebounds. 6’9” power forward Bojan Dubljević is another low-post threat who averaged 18.2 points and 6.8 rebounds during FIBA qualifiers.
New Zealand (+25000) (+2000)
New Zealand made a Cinderella run at the 2002 World Cup but has yet to muster a similar performance since then. The squad finished 12th in 2010 and 15th in 2014.
6’8” forward Isaac Fotu is a formidable post player, tallying 13.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in qualifiers.
Handicapping FIBA Group F
Greece might seem to be the true “lock” among the Group Stage futures favorites. But does the country have more than 1 dominant player? Brazil could be overrated as well, but a 9-to-1 pick on Vučević’s side to surprise makes a lot of sense at low risk.
Group G Winner Futures Odds and Roster Highlights
France (+3000) Odds-to-Win World Cup, (-360) Odds-to-Win Group G
Massive French center Rudy Gobert had a productive season for the Utah Jazz, averaging 15.9 points and 12.9 rebounds while earned a 2nd-consecutive NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.
Nicolas Batum of France had another productive season with the Charlotte Hornets too, and adding to France’s NBA pedigree, Evan Fournier was a double-digit man for the Magic in 2018-19.
But it takes more than NBA talent to win the FIBA title, just as it takes more than NHL or Premier League talent to win international events in other sports. France is taking decent betting action (even to win the gold medals in China) because Les Bleus (the other “Les Bleus”) is viewed as a program on the rise with hungry talent on the hardcourt.
France earned bronze at the World Cup in 2014 and is led by a dynamic head coach in Vincent Collet. Maybe we’ve found our Group Stage futures lock…but a look at the other 3 nations is obliged.
Germany (+15000) (+375)
Germany is also on a trajectory upward, but when a 6th-place EuroBasket finish is cause for celebration, there’s little reason to think Henrik Rödl’s squad is on a level with the French.
There’s some NBA talent to go around, though. 6’1” guard Dennis Schröder has had a fantastic career with the Atlanta Hawks and Oklahoma City Thunder, and is sure to try to light up the board when the Germans open against France at Shenzhen Bay Sports Centre.
6’10” small forward and team captain Robin Benzing was outstanding in qualifiers, averaging 18.3 points and 3.1 rebounds.
Dominican Republic (+50000) (+1000)
The Dominican Republic is coming off an exceptional performance at the 2014 FIBA World Cup – but 13th place was the cause for celebration at Federación Dominicana de Baloncesto.
Néstor García took over the reins as head coach in 2019 after spending time at the helm of the Uruguay, Argentina, and Venezuela national teams. His best player is old – 37-year-old Eulis Báez was a double-digit scorer in qualification games.
Shooting guard Víctor Liz also hit crucial jump-shots and got after the boards for the Dominicans.
Jordan (+125000) (+10000)
Jordan head coach Joseph Stiebing has the unenviable task of leading a nation that finished 23rd at its previous FIBA World Cup. However, the Jordanian offense has looked alive in 2019.
Veteran Zaid Ahmed Abbas was fantastic in qualifiers, averaging 14.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. 6’3” shooting guard Dar Tucker was a 20-point man.
Group G Handicap and Prediction
This is going to be a group in which the underdogs hope to challenge the favorite, but are challenged themselves by those even lower on the food chain. Look for Jordan to potentially score a massive upset on the moneyline. Meanwhile, France breezes through the round-robin with nary a scratch after beating the Germans by 10 or 15 points.
FIBA Group H Futures Odds and Preview
Australia (+4000) Odds-to-Win World Cup, (+120) Odds-to-Win Group H
Welcome to the Group of Death. Group H match-ups such as Canada vs Australia on 9/1 could have a profound impact on the outcome of both futures betting markets (to-win-gold and to-win-Group) despite coming at such an early hour in the tournament.
Team Australia is hoping to build off a stellar 4th-place run during the 2016 Olympics. The ‘Roos results in World Cups have been no kind of spectacular, though, calling a (+120) Group Stage gambling line into question.
Several NBA players will be manning the backcourt, including the duo of Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova. Mills has been a notable contributor for the San Antonio Spurs and has an NBA title ring, while Dellavedova has also reached the sport’s pinnacle with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
6’8” small forward Joe Ingles had another solid season with the Utah Jazz, and imposing Andrew Bogut will join forces with Aron Baynes and Jonah Bolden in the paint.
Lithuania (+5000) (+160)
The Lithuanians get it done at the FIBA level, not finishing out of the top 4 in the current decade.
Head coach Dainius Adomaitis won a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics and took over as a homeland-hero skipper in 2016. His team is led a its talented frontcourt duo of Domantas Sabonis and Jonas Valančiūnas.
Sabonis is coming off a 14.1-point and 9.3-rebound average with the Indiana Pacers during his 3rd NBA season.
Valančiūnas, a 7-foot center, averaged double-doubles with the Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies in 2018-19. 6’5” guard Mantas Kalnietis is the star of the backcourt.
Canada (+7000) (+300)
The Canadians were considered a promising futures pick throughout much of late 2018 and 2019, with the Toronto Raptors’ success helping to build fan anticipation north of the border. Nick Nurse will steer the squad…that helps get supporters excited too, ay?
But even though Canada has loads of talent in the NBA, many of the biggest names will not be competing at the World Cup. Forward Kelly Olynyk is suffering from a knee injury, Jamal Murray of the Nuggets can’t go, and highly-touted Duke alum R.J. Barrett won’t be there.
Cory Joseph will try to hold down the fort for a team that may be more noteworthy for who is missing than for who is playing. Remind you of anyone?
Someone should remind North America that this isn’t the same “Worlds” as occur on frozen ponds in Europe every year. FIBA only happens every so often, and there’s no “just wait for Sidney Crosby to finish out of the playoffs again” to fall back on.
Senegal (+150000) (+20000)
Senegal’s astronomical odds-to-win either stage of the FIBA World Cup are only rivaled by underdog Ivory Coast at 1500-to-1. But the Senegalese were solid at the 2014 World Cup, finishing 16th.
Newly-appointed head coach Moustapha Gaye will lead 1 of Africa’s truly formidable rosters, led by 6’11” center Gorgui Dieng of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
7’7” hardcourt god Tacko Fall has also been recruited from UCF to play for Senegal. I don’t know about you, but it seems like any fan of March Madness should be willing to admit Tacko’s presence creates an element of potential chaos in Group H.
What if somebody from a trio of strong favorites falls to Mr. Fall just as so many NCAA teams have?
Group H Handicap and Best Wager
The underlying betting narrative of this World Cup seems to be that 5 years is a loooong time in international hoops.
Australia would never be seen as an upset-proof unit based on the last few tournament cycles, but a strong cast of NBA and EuroLeague talent will help the favorite outlast Canada and Lithuania in a round-robin full of landmines.