Meet the U.S. basketball team's competition in Rio

Spain, led by Pau Gasol, has the second-best odds of winning men's basketball at the Olympics. REUTERS/Jim Young

The U.S. men’s basketball team has dominated the competition during exhibition play in the run-up to the 2016 Olympics, winning games by an average of 43 points. But the U.S. hasn’t really played anybody yet, as four of the five games were against the three teams with the worst odds of winning gold (China, Venezuela and Nigeria are 500-1), according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, and the other game was against an Argentina team in the bottom half of the odds.

The U.S. is the heavy favorite to win the gold medal, at 1-20 (a successful $100 bet would earn $5), but the competition will get much stiffer through the end of group play and the quarterfinals. Here’s a look at some of the teams who have a better chance at competing with Team USA.


Odds to win gold medal: 12-1

NBA players: Seven (Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, Ricky Rubio, Sergio Rodriguez, Jose Calderon, Alex Abrines, Willy Hernangomez)

Did you know? Spain has won the past two silver medals, after losing relatively close gold medal games to the United States in both years (by 11 in 2008 and by seven in 2012). In this time, the U.S. has won only one other Olympic game by a margin that was under 20 points.

Player to watch: Gasol is the NBA's all-time leading scorer among players born in Spain, with more than twice as many points as any other Spanish-born player. Gasol, 36 and playing in perhaps his final Olympics, was Spain's flag-bearer at the 2012 Games and has averaged more than 20 points and seven rebounds per game in his Olympic career. Gasol’s performance could be even more crucial, with his brother Marc Gasol out due to injury.


Odds to win gold medal: 15-1

NBA players: Five (Tony Parker, Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw, Joffrey Lauvergne)

Did you know? Expect to see Spain and France in an elimination game at some point. The Spaniards eliminated France in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympics and beat France with an Olympic berth on the line at 2015 EuroBasket, which forced France to qualify this summer. France got a measure of revenge for the 2012 loss in London with a quarterfinal win over Spain in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Madrid.

Player to watch: Parker is the team’s legend, but Gobert might be the most important player. Among qualified players who defended five shots per game at the rim in the NBA last season, Gobert allowed the lowest shooting percentage, at 41.0 percent. His length could be critical in slowing down the U.S.


Odds to win gold medal: 30-1

NBA players: Five (Leandro Barbosa, Nene, Cristiano Felicio, Raul Neto, Marcelo Huertas)

Did you know? Besides the United States in 1984 and 1996, Brazil is seeking to become the first host country to medal in men’s basketball since the Soviet Union took bronze in 1980.

Player to watch: Barbosa, the 13-year NBA veteran, scored 16.2 points per game in the 2012 Olympics. That made him Brazil’s leading scorer by almost five points per game.


Odds to win gold medal: 30-1

NBA players: Three (Jonas Valanciunas, Domantas Sabonis, Mindaugas Kuzminskas)

Did you know? Lithuania is the only country in the past two Olympics that played Team USA to within five points (in 2012). In fact, since the 1992 Dream Team and excluding the U.S. 2004 bronze year (when the U.S. lost three times, including once to Lithuania), the United States’ only two Olympic victories by five points or fewer came against Lithuania during a stretch in which it won every contest.

Player to watch: Thunder rookie Sabonis stepped his game up big for Gonzaga in the 2016 NCAA Tournament and averaged 19.7 points and 14.3 rebounds per game. He is the son of Arvydas Sabonis, who won gold for the 1988 Soviet Union team and bronze medals in 1992 and 1996 for Lithuania. He averaged 18.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game as an Olympian.


Odds to win gold medal: 30-1

NBA players: One (Nikola Jokic. The Kings own the draft rights to Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic.)

Did you know? The country's most recent Olympic medal came in 1996 (playing as Yugoslavia alongside athletes from Montenegro), when its only loss of the Olympics was to the United States in the gold medal game. Serbia also reached the final of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup before losing to ... who else? ... the United States.

Player to watch: Milos Teodosic. With a style similar to that of Steve Nash, Teodosic was the 2009-10 EuroLeague MVP and ranked second in scoring and first in assists for the 2015-16 EuroLeague champions, CSKA Moscow.


Odds to win gold medal: 60-1

NBA players: Four (Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Patricio Garino, Nicolas Brussino)

Did you know? Ginobili (age 39), Scola (36), Andres Nocioni (36) and Carlos Delfino (33) are all current or former NBA players who are part of Argentina’s “Golden Generation,” which will be playing in its fourth Olympics for Argentina. They won gold in 2004 and took bronze in 2008, the only Olympic men’s basketball medals Argentina has won. Including 2016, this quartet has participated in more Olympics as teammates than the country had played in before their rise.

Player to watch: He will be 43 during the 2020 Olympics, so this is probably the last opportunity to watch Ginobili on this stage … and perhaps the rest of the Golden Generation.


Odds to win gold medal: 60-1

NBA players: Three (Bojan Bogdanovic, Dario Saric, Mario Hezonja)

Did you know? Croatia seeks its first medal since it lost to the original Dream Team in the 1992 gold medal game with a team that featured Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja.

Player to watch: Catch your first look at Philadelphia 76ers 2014 lottery pick Saric, a key playmaker for Croatia who signed with the team this offseason.


Odds to win gold medal: 250-1

NBA players: Five (Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills, Matthew Dellavedova, Aron Baynes, Joe Ingles)

Did you know? A member of Australia’s team has been on the past three NBA championship teams: Mills and Baynes with the 2013-14 Spurs, Bogut with the 2014-15 Warriors and Dellavedova with the 2015-16 Cavaliers. No other Olympic team -- not even Team USA -- can say that.

Player to watch: The big question for Australia is how healthy Bogut is after he suffered a leg injury in the NBA Finals. He’s a rare Olympian who can provide legit rebounding and interior defense against Team USA when at full strength.