In establishing the hierarchy of teams competing in the FIBA World Championships, Team USA and Spain are clearly on the top tier. Both squads have superior talent to the rest of the Championship pool, and while both have their respective kinks to workout before the competition really ramps up, they’re rightfully considered co-favorites.
However, it’s no stretch to say that Spain may have the slight edge over the Americans, particularly since Team USA has yet to prove itself against a worthy competitor. Thus far, USA has only played friendlies with China and France, neither of which is a particularly competitive squad. Spain, on the other hand, is a proven team with long-established chemistry and plenty of depth. Overlooking any game with the Spanish national team is an easy way to take a loss.
Even then, the Spaniards aren’t merely a team that can take their opponents by surprise. Even other national teams looking to tech against them will have trouble slowing down Spain’s impressive offensive balance. Team USA will need to execute well in their head-to-head games with Spain, lest they surrender some early tournament. Spain is more than formidable, and it’s clear that the Americans have a lot of respect for the members of the Spanish team and their success over the years.
Kobe Bryant, for example, though he isn’t playing in the World Championships, picked out Spain as “‘that one’ team that could really challenge the Americans in the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey,” according to Adriano Torres of ESPN Los Angeles. His comment isn’t a token tossed to a would-be contender, either. Bryant has a firm understanding of what Spain can accomplish in these types of tournaments, and he considers the Spaniards to be a real threat to the Americans in the FIBA World Championships.
Americans invented the game and, when actually interested in giving international competition a proper go, tend to do quite well. Yet with this year’s Team USA a B-team and Spain returning all of their vital cogs aside from Pau Gasol, the Spanish national team could definitely take their second straight World Championship. Kevin Durant et al will have a say in that, but should the Americans not continue to improve from now until the elimination rounds, the WC looks like Spain’s for the taking.