2013 FIBA Americas Preview, Part 1

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J.J. Barea and Carlos Arroyo are hoping to lead Puerto Rico to a trip to the 2014 World Cup in Spain.

The FIBA Americas tournament kicks off on Friday, and the stakes are high -- the top four finishers will earn a trip to next year's World Cup in Spain. Team USA has already qualified and decided to sit out the Americas tourney for the third time in a row.

This year's field will be lacking in star power -- Argentina will be without Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino, Pablo Prigioni and Andres Nocioni; Brazil will be missing Nene, Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa; the Dominican Republic won't have Al Horford; Venezuela lost Greivis Vasquez to injury; and Canada's Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk are rehabbing injuries. But there will be some NBA players participating, including: Luis Scola (Argentina); Tristan Thompson, Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson and Joel Anthony (Canada); Francisco Garcia (Dominican Republic); J.J. Barea (Puerto Rico); and Gustavo Ayon (Mexico).

So depth is important in this tournament, especially because the Americas' schedule is as brutal as you will find in FIBA play. Most of the teams in the field will end up playing eight games in 10 days.

Quality depth is also important to avoid the pitfalls of FIBA officiating. The combination of the five foul-out rule and the fact many FIBA refs have little feel for the game can wreak havoc with teams with short rotations.

Puerto Rico is the best team in the field, but by no means an overwhelming favorite. Argentina, Brazil, Canada and the Dominican Republic are closely bunched. These five teams could conceivably finish in any order and are the top contenders for the four World Cup bids.

Upstart Jamaica could sneak into the top four thanks to its athleticism, but right now I have Jamaica in the same range as Venezuela with an outside shot of stealing a World Cup bid. Mexico, Uruguay and Paraguay have little chance of making noise.

Let's take a closer look at each team in the tournament, grouping them by tiers:

TIER I (Contenders for a World Cup bid)

•  Click here to read the 2013 FIBA Americas Preview, Part 2

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