Bold Predictions for Chris Bosh’s 2014 NBA Season

With LeBron James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer, Chris Bosh enters the 2014-15 NBA season as the Miami Heat‘s No. 1 option.

Bosh hasn’t held such a role since the 2009-10 season when he was a member of the Toronto Raptors.

While Bosh had success as “the guy” from an individual production standpoint, he was never able to lead the Raptors out of the first round of the playoffs.

Bosh has a real opportunity this upcoming season to prove the many naysayers wrong, that he’s capable of both leading a team to success and stuffing the stat sheet.

Let’s find out if he’ll do so by making some bold predictions.

 

Bosh averages at least 22 points per game

Bosh averaged just 16.2 points per game this past season but don’t let that number deceive you into thinking the big man won’t break out offensively in 2014-15.

Bosh was serving as the clear-cut No. 3 option in Miami in 2013-14, and the three seasons that preceded it. Bosh’s usage rate last season was 20.0, compared to 25.9 in his final season in Toronto.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra rarely ran plays for Bosh these past few years. 

That won’t be the case this season, with Bosh working as the focal point of the offense.

The Heat center won’t hit a 25.9 usage rate with talented players such as Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng surrounding him, but he also won’t be anywhere near the 20.0 rate he posted last year.

Simply as a result of increased touches and his great skill, Bosh will make a huge jump offensively in 2014-15.

 

Bosh averages at least eight rebounds per game

Bosh has seen his rebounds per game decline in each year since posting 10.8 rebounds per game in his final Raptors season. The 30-year-old was down to just 6.6 per game in 2013-14.

But count on Bosh reversing that trend this season.

The Heat have been the NBA’s worst rebounding team in each of the past two years. That was, in part, by design. Miami was willing to sacrifice boards, knowing it could still contend for championships because of its strengths in other areas.

However, with James gone, Miami doesn’t have those advantages to the extent it used to. The Heat will have to place a greater emphasis on rebounding the ball and that will start with its center, Bosh.

CB won’t get back to his double-digit per game rebounding days simply because he plays out of the paint much more than he used to these days but expect to see Bosh crash the glass more in 2014-15 than he has in the past four years. 

 

Bosh leads the Heat to a No. 3 seed in Eastern Conference

The Heat are going to surprise some people this year with Bosh perhaps being the principle reason why.

He might not have been skilled enough to lead a top team when he was with the Raptors, but he is now. Bosh’s offensive game has grown tremendously in the past four years and now serves as a player that can score from just about every area of the court.

Bosh has also improved significantly on the defensive end in the past few years, which is another element of his game that will help Miami survive in a post-LeBron world.

With Bosh leading the way, alongside Wade, Deng, Mario Chalmers and others, the Heat will field a very competitive lineup.

Miami might be done winning championships for right now, but a No. 3 seed in the East and a trip to the conference finals is well within reach.

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Bold Predictions for Carmelo Anthony’s 2014-15 Season

What’s in store for the New York KnicksCarmelo Anthony during the 2014-15 season? It’s not an easy answer, but yours truly will try to predict what comes next for Anthony.

After wavering a bit during the offseason, Anthony re-signed with a Knicks squad now spearheaded by Phil Jackson and led by first-time head coach Derek Fisher.

Considering that Jackson previously coached Fisher with the Los Angeles Lakers and utilized the triangle offense, it’s pretty safe to say its principles will heavily influence all things New York.

This philosophy beautifully spreads the floor and keeps every player engaged, which means that Anthony’s teammates will get opportunities to dictate the flow of the offense.

In trying to predict what we will see from Anthony, it’s important to understand both his situation and that of the team. I’m not sure the pieces all fit (yes, that includes Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert), but Jackson’s tutelage has helped teams compete for postseason berths despite marginal talent (example: 2005-06 Lakers).

Where does that leave Melo? I thought you’d never ask!

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Top Storylines and Predictions Heading into FIBA World Cup Medal Rounds

And then there were two.

Well, OK, it’s actually four, but…you know what we mean.

Partakers of the 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball had to wait more than a week before witnessing the tournament’s first real upset. And oh, what an upset it was—a 65-52 win by France over heavily favored (and hated rival) Spain on Wednesday.

Sadly, the magic ran out in the semifinals, where Nicolas Batum’s blistering 35-point performance wasn’t enough to close the gap on hot-shooting Serbia, which weathered a late flurry from France to walk away with a 90-85 win.

Waiting at the other side of the bracket: Team USA, whose path of basketball destruction continued with a 96-68 dismantling of Lithuania in the tournament’s other semifinal Thursday night.

The pairing might not be the one most expected, but as an exercise in opposing basketball styles, Sunday’s gold medal game promises intrigue aplenty—pregame point spreads be damned.

Meanwhile, Lithuania and France each look to add to their already impressive collections of hardwood hardware with a bronze showing Saturday afternoon.

With four of the game’s biggest global powers set to write the next chapter in FIBA’s already riveting history this weekend, we’ve put together seven storylines and predictions to bear in mind.

The host country might have met an untimely demise. But for the millions of basketball fans around the world, FIBA’s final two showcases are far from short on international intrigue.

Let us be worldly!

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FIBA World Cup 2014: Championship Schedule, Predictions After Semifinal Results

The United States and Serbia successfully navigated the 2014 FIBA World Cup’s 24-team bracket to earn seats in Sunday’s final.

Team USA applied a scorched earth tactic against its helpless foes, decimating the competition in a pile of routs. Serbia, meanwhile, needing a gripping close call against France to become the underdog in this tale. Anyone facing the U.S. will succumb to acting out that role.

Will the mighty favorite impose its will once again, or can Serbia shock the world during the World Cup’s curtain call?

 

Final Preview: United States vs. Serbia

It’s not the championship clash everyone expected, but the United States will still fight for the gold. Instead of facing Spain’s Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka, Team USA must combat the surging Serbians, who ride into this matchup with a wave of good will.

Despite allowing 39 fourth-quarter points against France, Serbia salvaged a 90-85 victory during an incredible semifinal showdown. Nicolas Batum went off with 35 points for France, including eight three-pointers, but Milos Teodosic led the way for Serbia with 24 points.

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann believes the U.S. should circle Teodosic’s name upon crafting a game plan for Sunday’s final.

First, we should probably figure out who he is. The 27-year-old has played for CSKA Moscow since 2011, and he’ll remain there for three more years. USA Today‘s Adi Joseph said the 6’5″ guard could hold his own in the NBA if he wanted to.

His 24 points marks a FIBA high, but just barely after recording 23 in a quarterfinal victory over Brazil. He is now averaging 14.0 points and 4.1 assists per contest, both team bests.

Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving are scoring dynamos, but neither will ever get mistaken for Gary Payton guarding the perimeter. Team USA’s offensive-minded point guards will have their hands full against a premier international scorer, who will need to manufacture another huge performance for Serbia to stand any chance.

Mike Krzyzewski might not admit it, but there’s probably a binder sitting in his trash can with notes on Spain, Team USA’s anticipated opponent. Yet he said after dismantling Lithuania that anything is possible, even his star-laden squad losing. Per USA Today‘s Sam Amick.

I’m not surprised about anything in international competition. All these teams are good. That’s why we haven’t mentioned anybody that we might play, because we don’t know if we might play. That’s the very first thing. We can lose. If we feel we can lose, we feel anybody else can lose because there’s so many good teams.

Yet anyone not needing to keep up appearances with reporters will say otherwise. The U.S. has averaged 20 more points per game than Serbia, who has actually boasted on of the tournament’s premier offenses. Even without LeBron James and Kevin Durant, Coach K’s club is faster and stronger than everyone else.

Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info, the nation has built up quite the international winning streak after a surprising exit eight years ago. 

It’s anyone’s guess who will provide the heavy lifting in Sunday. In the semifinals, Klay Thompson snapped out of a funk to post 16 points on the strength of five three-pointers. Although revered as one-half of the Golden State Warriors’ Splash Brothers, the shooting guard also brings defensive tenacity otherwise lacking from its backcourt.

James Harden, often mocked for his defensive limitations, acknowledged Thompson’s superior defensive acumen to NBA.com’s Sekou Smith.

“He’s been a lockdown defender for us, no doubt,” Harden said. “Scoring is never going to be a problem for him. It’s not an issue for this team. So it says something when you see guys working hard on defense and trying to make an impact any way they can.”

Although not the Team USA’s most star-studded iteration, the attention to detail has served the squad well. Rather than loading up on the biggest names, Jerry Colangelo assembled a well-rounded roster where everyone—well, maybe not Mason Plumlee—serves a purpose.

Team USA will take care of business with another decisive victory.

Prediction: United States 98, Serbia 77

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Top Storylines and Predictions Heading into FIBA World Cup Semifinals

Whoever saw that one coming, please raise your hand.

Exactly.

France’s stunning 65-52 win over host Spain in Wednesday’s quarterfinal of the 2014 FIBA World Cup wasn’t the biggest upset in basketball history. Just don’t blame France for celebrating as such.

Free from the prospect of facing mighty Spain on its home floor, Team USA now touts an even easier road to the gold. With just two more wins, the Americans will capture their fourth straight first-place finish in international competition—on the 10-year anniversary of their epic collapse at the 2004 Athens Olympics, no less.

Before that can happen, however, Team USA will have to dispatch a formidable Lithuania side that will doubtless be entertaining upset dreams of its own.

Meanwhile, France looks to continue its magical run with a showdown against Serbia, fresh off of a 28-point thumping of Brazil.

What follows are the eight predictions and storylines we’ll be keeping an eye on as FIBA enters its final weekend.

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FIBA World Cup 2014: Semifinals Schedule and Predictions After Day 10 Results

So much for that United States and Spain showdown.

The FIBA World Cup saw its first stunning upset Wednesday when a France team playing without its leader Tony Parker knocked out Spain 65-52. Much like Brazil lost on its home soil in the FIFA World Cup, Spain simply could not come through under the immense pressure of playing in front of its own fans. 

The upset set up a semifinal featuring France, Serbia, Lithuania and the United States. Here is a look at the schedule for the two games.

 

United States vs. Lithuania 

Let’s not hand the United States the FIBA World Cup title just yet after Spain lost. NBA on ESPN pointed out that Lithuania has been a thorn in the Americans’ side in recent years:

Still, Team USA has controlled every single game in Spain. It is a testament to the squad’s dominance that a 21-point victory over Turkey in group play was cause for concern. Nobody has truly come close to beating Mike Krzyzewski’s team, and that will likely stay that way for the rest of the tournament.

The big men have been the key contributors for the Americans, and Anthony Davis (13.7 points and seven rebounds) and Kenneth Faried (13 points and 8.1 rebounds) are the top per-game scorers and rebounders thus far. Throw in DeMarcus Cousins, who has impressed in transition and with his interior defense, and nobody remaining in the tournament can match up.

Lithuania’s only real chance is if center Jonas Valanciunas contains the Faried-Davis combination. He is a member of the Toronto Raptors and is averaging a team-high 12.9 points and 8.6 rebounds a game.

The problem for Lithuania, though, is that even if Valanciunas somehow manages to prevent the trio of big men from dominating, the Americans have the advantage on perimeter.

The guards impressed the last time out against Slovenia and can crank up the defensive pressure on a moment’s notice. Klay Thompson finished with 20 points, James Harden had 14 points, five rebounds and three assists, Kyrie Irving tallied 12 points and four steals and Derrick Rose played his best offensive game with 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

There is just too much talent across the court for Team USA. This one won’t be close in the second half. 

Prediction: United States 101, Lithuania 75

 

France vs. Serbia

While the France upset of Spain has garnered most of the attention, Serbia impressed against a Brazil team that has plenty of NBA talent in the form of Anderson Varejao, Nene Hilario, Tiago Splitter and Leandro Barbosa.

Still, the magnitude of the France win cannot be overstated. Spain brought Pau Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon to the table and was completely shut down by France. 

HoopsHype passed along Pau Gasol’s quote from after the game:

Spain played its worst contest yet because France turned in an incredible effort on both ends of the floor that should have the team confident moving forward.

Boris Diaw led the offense as a scorer and overall playmaker with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists behind 6-of-12 shooting. He looked comfortable with the ball in his hands and set the tone for his team early with a number of extra passes.

However, the player of the game had to be Rudy Gobert down low. He contended with the Gasol brothers and Ibaka and came away with 13 rebounds. More importantly, he challenged a number of shots and never backed down against the NBA superstars.

Gobert did it all with four fouls down the stretch too.

France should have incredible confidence in its defense against Serbia after holding mighty Spain to 52 points. If Diaw, Nicolas Batum and Thomas Heurtel find ways to score again, Serbia may have trouble keeping up, especially with Gobert patrolling the paint.

In order for Serbia to compete, Nemanja Bjelica will need to continue his impressive performance on the glass from the forward spot because France is now battle-tested in that department.

Serbia’s biggest advantage may actually be on the perimeter with Milos Teodosic, who scored 23 points against Brazil and has a way of getting into the lane and forcing the defense to collapse. He can either score himself with floaters and outside shots or set up teammates and will try to control the flow of the game for Serbia.

Still, France has an incredible amount of momentum on its side after the upset win and will continue to play well in the semifinals. It will find a way to set up a date with the Americans in the championship game. 

Prediction: France 73, Serbia 67

 

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Early Predictions for Sacramento Kings’ Starting Lineup Next Season

As things currently stand with the Sacramento Kings, much is still up in the air with the team’s starting lineup. 

We know DeMarcus Cousins will be the starting center. Darren Collison is the only real option to be the starting point guard to open the season. It’s also clear Rudy Gay will be a starter, but where he plays is still up in the air. 

The good thing is Sacramento has some depth on the team and a few players with the versatility to play multiple positions. That’ll give head coach Michael Malone the flexibility to tinker with things during training camp and preseason until he finds what fits best. 

The downside, at least for our purposes, is that it makes predicting the starting lineup a difficult task. Still, using the knowledge at hand and some educated guessing, here’s an early prediction for the Sacramento Kings’ starting lineup next season.

 

The Prediction

Point guard: Darren Collison

Shooting guard: Ben McLemore

Small forward: Rudy Gay

Power Forward: Reggie Evans

Center: DeMarcus Cousins

 

The Reasoning

Point Guard

There are only two realistic options to start at point guard for the Kings: Collison and Ray McCallum. In actuality, though, Collison is the only one who has a shot to start the season as the starter. 

The Kings didn’t sign him to a three-year deal and let Isaiah Thomas walk only to have the point guard come off the bench. Plus, Sacramento pretty much told Collison he’d be the starter when it signed him back in July.

Not to mention Collison is the more experienced player at this stage of the game. 

McCallum showed some nice things as a rookie—especially at the end of the season, when he averaged 13.5 points and 6.8 assists over the final 12 games—and during summer league, but he needs more experience before he can be counted on as a long-term starter at point guard. 

Other than those two, there’s nobody else on the team who could fill in on an extended basis. Shooting guard Nik Stauskas can play some point guard, but it will only be for short stretches of time. Ben McLemore isn’t suited to be a point guard, either.

That leaves only Collison and McCallum, and we already know who’s going to start between the two. 

 

Shooting Guard

As with point guard, the two options are pretty clear. There’s the second-year player in McLemore and the rookie, Stauskas. Unlike point guard, however, this position could go either way as far as the starer is concerned. 

At the current time, all we have to go on in comparing the two is summer league stats, as both players were on Sacramento’s Las Vegas Summer League team. 

Interestingly enough, both McLemore and Stauskas played more minutes than any other players on the team, and they were both pretty close in playing time and production. 

Stauskas played 28.9 minutes and averaged 9.9 points, 2.0 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.9 turnovers. He also shot 43.4 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from downtown. 

McLemore, on the other hand, averaged 29.1 minutes and scored 12.6 points, grabbed 4.1 rebounds, dished out 1.3 assists and committed 3.9 turnovers per contest. The second-year player also shot 44.8 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from three-point range.

As you can see, each player had his strengths. Stauskas was the better shooter and distributor while McLemore was the better scorer and rebounder. However, the reason McLemore gets the nod is because of his experience.

It showed after the first couple games of summer league, when the shooting guard started to slow things down and let the game come to him.

“He stopped trying to do too much, too quickly,” Malone said, per Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. “He slowed down, attacked, shot the ball, he was under control and he played terrific. I was really proud and happy because he’s worked so hard this summer.”

The head coach was only speaking of one game, but those traits held up throughout the summer league. After only making 33 percent of his shots in the first two games, McLemore was much more efficient throughout, leading to the nearly 45 percent field-goal percentage.

Ultimately, though, the reason McLemore gets the nod is because of his NBA experience. He’s got a full season under his belt and was the starter for the second half of last year. 

There will be plenty of opportunites for Stauskas from the get-go. If either McLemore falters or Stauskas plays better than expected, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the rookie supplant him in the starting lineup.

 

Small Forward

Rudy Gay is penciled in as the starting small forward mainly out of necessity. You may wonder why it’s a necessity since Gay is one of the team’s best players and logged 78 percent of his minutes at the 3 last year. 

The reason is a lack of depth at the position. Omri Casspi, who has yet to sign but is reportedly still in the plans, is probably the best option other than Gay. 

Granted, Derrick Williams can play some small forward, but he only made 28.6 percent of his shots from 17 feet or further from the basket. 

With Cousins manning the post, the Kings need someone who can stretch the floor with his shooting, and Williams’ jump shot won’t do the trick. 

There is another option, which we’ll get to momentarily, of where Gay could play. Yet the most important thing is getting their best players on the floor to start the game, and having a frontcourt of Gay and Reggie Evans is better than having one of Gay and Casspi

Plus, Casspi‘s three-point shooting (career 35.2 percent) would be a nice addition to stretch the floor with the second unit—especially with players like Carl Landry, Jason Thompson and Williams on the floor, who do most of their work near the hoop. 

 

Power Forward

Between Evans, Thompson, Landry and Williams, the Kings have four options to start at power forward. 

Despite four possibilities, the Kings really only have one. What’s meant by that is they all play similar close-to-the-basket games. With that being the case, Sacramento should go with the one who does it best. 

While Evans isn’t much of a scorer, perhaps he’s the Kings’ best rebounder. The power forward averaged a team-high 13.3 rebounds per 36 minutes last year. Of those options, Thompson is next with 9.5, followed by Landry (8.8) and Williams (6.4).

Another option, which was alluded to previously, was the idea of playing Gay at power forward. It’s something he’s done with Team USA at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and it would help spread the floor more than having any of the other players in there.

But starting Gay at power forward would require either Casspi or Williams starting at the 3. Since there are more viable alternatives at power forward, the Kings would be better off with Gay playing on the wing. 

 

Center

This is the one position that’s undoubtedly set in stone. Barring some sort of injury, Cousins will be the Kings’ starting center in 2014-15. Hell, DMC will be the team’s starting center for the three years following that, too. 

Simply put, there aren’t many centers better than Cousins in the league. He was first in scoring, second in free-throw attempts per game, fourth in rebounds, third in assists, first in steals and second in double-doubles. 

If there’s maybe one or two centers better than Cousins in the league, none of them play for the Kings. That makes him a no-brainer as the starter. 

As things currently stand, the most likely backup is Thompson. Nearly one-third of his minutes came at center last year, and that was with Aaron Gray also on the roster. With Gray now gone, that only leaves Thompson as the backup.

Of course, JT will also get playing time at power forward as well. But given so many options at that position, playing center will allow him a way to get on the court. 

There’s a chance my long lost—and much bigger—brother, Sim Bhullar, could make the team and get some time at the 5.

However, despite his immense size (7’5″), Sim went undrafted (I get to speak in the third person), so it’s hard to imagine him making the roster out of training camp. He seems more like a project player. 

If the Kings are going to take on a project, it might as well be someone like Bhullar, who could be a handful if he ever figures it out. 

 

Final Thoughts

This is just one prediction. The Kings could go in any number of directions. And with training camp and preseason still left to play out, there’s plenty of time for one or more players to distinguish themselves. 

In a way, that’s a nice position to be in. It means there are a few players who are capable of contributing. Yet it also means there aren’t many players, with the exception of Cousins and Gay, who truly stand out. So while Malone has flexibility on the roster, the coach may prefer less options if it meant more players were head and shoulders above their teammates. 

 

Unless noted otherwise, all stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

Who do you think should be in Sacramento’s starting lineup? Let me know on Twitter @SimRisso

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FIBA World Cup 2014: Day 9 Schedule and Predictions After Day 8 Bracket Results

Eight teams remain in the 2014 FIBA World Cup after a compelling round of 16. With the action heating up in Spain, Team USA will lace up on Tuesday with a semifinal spot on the line.

Fans bored by the United States’ dominance enjoyed some much closer calls on Sunday. Turkey and Lithuania advanced by slim margins on Day 8, a day highlighted by a marquee matchup between Argentina and Brazil.

Waiting for a U.S.-Spain championship bout robs viewers of witnessing some of the world’s greatest basketball stars compete on a world stage. After diving into Sunday’s results, let’s preview Tuesday’s pair of quarterfinal showdowns.

 

Day 9 Predictions

Lithuania vs. Turkey

It wasn’t easy for either squad, but Lithuania and Turkey each edged out a narrow victory on Sunday. 

After ending the first quarter up 23-9, Lithuania squandered an early lead against New Zealand, falling to a one-point deficit around the five-minute mark.

Corey Webster nearly willed his country to victory with 26 points, but the Toronto Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas answered back with a team-leading 22 points, 13 boards and three blocks. Lithuania escaped with a 76-71 victory to set up a date with Turkey.

Emir Preldzic saved the Turkish squad from defeat at Australia’s hands with two late three-pointers, including a game-winner with five seconds remaining. The 27-year-old had missed his previous five attempts from long range before keeping Turkey alive.

Each squad relies on a hard-nosed NBA center. While Valanciunas leads the way for Lithuania, Omer Asik has fueled Turkey with 9.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Both are physical inside presences, but the Raptors’ 22-year-old is out to prove he’s a future cornerstone for his NBA and national club.

Head coach Jonas Kazlauskas noted the center’s recent improvement to The Associated Press’ Joseph Wilson, via Yahoo! Sports.

”Jonas played really well and that’s what we expected,” Kazlauskas said. ”He has gotten stronger and has more experience. Now he respects his opponents even more and knows the price of every game.”

He has fueled an offense that rates seventh with a 48.8 team field-goal percentage this tournament. Turkey lags way behind at No. 15 with a 42.2 percent success rate, so Asik would have to lead a defensive clinic to propel the squad into the final four.

Neither nation is a likely contender for gold, but Lithuania’s superior offense will make the difference in a close game between two unlikely participants.

Prediction: Lithuania 73, Turkey 67

 

Slovenia vs. United States

Slovenia doesn’t receive enough credit as one of FIBA‘s top teams, but the hungry underdog will meet its maker against Team USA.

Entering the tournament ranked No. 13, Slovenia has instead gone 5-1 while placing fourth in points per game behind the U.S., Spain and Brazil, FIBA‘s perennial favorites. Goran Dragic, the NBA’s most underrated offensive fiend, continues to shine in Spain. The Phoenix Suns point guard is averaging 16.6 points per game on an incredible 58.8 field-goal percentage. After recording 20.3 points per game for the Suns last season, he’s truly one of the best scorers remaining.

Yet Dragic alone can’t match Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis and more.

Team USA is admittedly flawed by its lofty standards. No LeBron James and Kevin Durant means the Americans are nearly much better than everyone else rather than an unstoppable basketball machine.

Grantland’s Zach Lowe, who called this roster “probably the weakest iteration of Team USA since the 2006 World Championships,” pointed to its subpar guard defenders as a concern.

“Any team starting all three of James Harden, Stephen Curry, and Kyrie Irving would have issues with perimeter defense.” Lowe wrote. “Irving and Harden are visibly trying harder than they do in the NBA, to the point that it’s almost embarrassing. Even when dialed in, they’re just not very good.”

While that bodes well for Dragic, his limited defense will also mean big scoring outings for the U.S. guards. A shootout awaits, and Team USA has averaged just below 100 points per game, well ahead of No. 2 Spain at 88.2.

There’s always the danger of every shooter going cold, which happened for a half against Turkey, but Curry is coming off a 20-point outing against Mexico. Besides, the beauty of this team is you need more than one hand to count the guys that can carry it to victory.

DeMarcus Cousins made all five of his shots against Mexico, registering 11 points and seven rebounds in 13 minutes. The big man rated fifth in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) last year, trailing only Davis in terms of Team USA participants (h/t ESPN.com).

On a team giving Mason Plumlee minutes, Cousins deserves a significantly larger role. Surrounded by an army of shooters, he can bully smaller opponents down the post much like Davis and Kenneth Faried.

Even if he doesn’t get a longer leash, expect the Sacramento Kings star to make the most of his playing time again. The U.S. is vulnerable against Spain during a possible finals clash, but don’t anticipate Slovenia pulling out a major upset.

Prediction: USA 96, Slovenia 72

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FIBA World Cup 2014: Day 8 Schedule and Predictions After Day 7 Bracket Results

With half of the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals now filled, eight teams will compete Sunday for the final four spots in the next round.

France, Slovenia, Spain and the United States won their games in the round of 16 and remain top contenders for medals at this tournament. However, the next set of squads also have a lot to prove after solid starts to the event.

Anything can happen in this single-elimination phase of the international event, so make sure you do not miss a second of the action. Here is a breakdown of the upcoming set of games along with results from the latest action.

View latest bracket at FIBA.com

 

New Zealand vs. Lithuania

American fans had to be impressed with New Zealand’s effort against Team USA; New Zealand limited the damage and only lost 98-71. The squad showcased good balance in the loss with 11 players getting on the scoreboard.

New Zealand also had an impressive showing against Ukraine thanks mostly to great perimeter defense.

This all-around ability would help this team succeed against most opponents around the world. However, Lithuania is not on that list thanks to the big-time talent on the roster, as noted by Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com:

Jonas Valanciunas has become a leader in the frontcourt alongside Donatas Motiejunas from the Houston Rockets. The big men are extremely efficient in the low post and are usually able to out-rebound their competition.

This will be the difference in the round of 16 as Lithuania will be able to continue its impressive run into the next round.

Prediction: Lithuania 74, New Zealand 65

 

Serbia vs. Greece

While a lot of attention in the early part of the tournament has been (deservedly) on the United States and Spain, it is important not to overlook Greece.

The Group B winners have had big performances from Kostas Kaimakoglou and Nick Calathes, while young star Giannis Antetokounmpo is always capable of making some huge plays.

Tas Melas of NBATV believes fans should root for this team in Spain:

Serbia has some talent and almost beat France earlier in the week, but this group is not consistent enough to take on one of the top squads in the world.

Greece will win and remain a top contender in this championship.

Prediction: Greece 78, Serbia 60

 

Turkey vs. Australia

Australia rested many of its players in the last game, securing a third-place finish in the group instead of second. As a result, the team will now avoid the United States until the semifinals.

While some questioned the squad’s “tanking,” head coach Andrej Lemanis explained, via Roy Ward of The Sydney Morning Herald, ”As Australians we always believe in competing the right way. We were resting some players tonight because everyone knows the tournament schedule is tough with five games in six days.”

The problem is while the team can look ahead toward the semifinals, Turkey will not be an easy win in the round of 16.

With Omer Asik and Oguz Savas down low, Turkey is capable of causing problems on both ends of the court. The strong interior defense will force almost every shot to be difficult and will keep the game low-scoring.

Australia has the skill to make a deep run in this tournament, but the inconsistency and lack of focus will cause an early exit.

Prediction: Turkey 68, Australia 63

 

Brazil vs. Argentina

It is hard to imagine a better opening-round matchup than Brazil against Argentina.

Not only are these two nations top rivals in every sport, John Schuhmann of NBA.com points out the battles have been entertaining in basketball’s highest level:

Luis Scola has been carrying Argentina with some great performances throughout the week, but things will be much more difficult against a front line that includes Anderson Varejao, Tiago Splitter and Nene.

Leandrinho Barbosa is coming off a great game against Egypt, totaling 22 points, five assists and four steals. If he can continue being a catalyst for this offense, he will help Brazil continue its winning ways against Argentina.

Prediction: Brazil 88, Argentina 86

 

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FIBA World Cup 2014: Day 7 Schedule and Predictions After Day 6 Group Results

The 2014 FIBA World Cup’s group stage completed on Thursday, greatly impacting the elimination rounds. While some teams cruised through the final day of group play, securing their spots as top seeds going forward, others faltered and will face difficult roads to the final.

For each of the 16 teams still in the mix, only four consecutive wins are needed to become the tournament’s champion. It won’t be an easy task for any team involved, but taking Thursday’s contests into consideration, some squads enter elimination play with far more momentum than others.

Take a look at which teams appear poised for success and which are limping into the ensuing round, by examining the Day 6 results:

It’s pretty clear which teams are full of momentum heading into the round of 16 and which ones are just lucky to have made it that far. Before the first eight teams take the court on Saturday, here’s a glance at the full Day 7 schedule and prediction for the winner for each contest:

The elimination bracket can be viewed at FIBA.com.

 

Matchup Analysis

United States vs. Mexico

The United States was expected to dominate in the early stages of the tournament, and it has done exactly that. The Americans are the only team averaging over 100 points per game through the first five games of the World Cup.

Kenneth Faried has been lights out so far in Spain, averaging 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Take a look at what’s he’s accomplished so far, via NBA:

Aside from Faried, Anthony Davis has been instrumental to the team’s success, dominating the inside and averaging 15.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. This team’s depth appears to be endless, and that’s apparent when comparing the Americans to the Mexican team—Team USA has been statistically better in almost every major category, including field-goal percentage, rebounds, assists, turnovers, steals, blocks and bench points.

Mexico is only averaging 74.0 points per game and will need a vastly improved performance to compete with the Americans.

 

France vs. Croatia

Here’s a battle between two teams that have experienced roller-coaster rides through the tournament to this point.

Joffrey Lauvergne has been France’s catalyst so far. The center is averaging 10.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting 54.1 percent from the floor. While he’s the only member of the team averaging double-digit points, France’s deep bench is averaging 34.2 points per game.

Croatia is a team with great size. Six players on its roster measure at least 6’10″. That includes future NBA player Dario Saric, who is averaging 13.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Max Rappaport of Sixers.com tweeted Saric’s performance so far:

The team that can dominate in the paint will come away with a win here.

 

Dominican Republic vs. Slovenia

Slovenia features one NBA contributor in Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic. He’s been on fire from all over the court through five games, averaging a team-high 17.4 points per game while shooting an impressive 60.7 percent from the floor.

On the flip side, the Dominican Republic features some nice size. The team has looked good in the paint, and 6’11″ center Eloy Vargas has averaged a team-high 7.0 rebounds per game, leading to a team average of 41 boards per contest—about 10 more than its upcoming opponent.

These teams play different styles of basketball, and we’ll find out soon enough if the shooting of Slovenia or the interior presence of the Dominican Republic will prevail.

 

Spain vs. Senegal

The day’s final match may end up being its most lopsided.

Spain has been one of the tournament’s biggest powerhouses. The team is averaging 88.0 points per game, which is second only to the United States. Spain’s prowess comes from a devastatingly good Big Three. Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka can take over a game on both ends of the court, and small forward Rudy Hernandez is capable of knocking down shots from anywhere.

The Chicago Bulls tweeted Spain’s tournament standing through the group stage:

Needless to say, Senegal will have its work cut out.

If Senegal has any chance, it’s due to the ongoing double-double performances of Gorgui Dieng. The big man is currently averaging 18.0 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. Spain has averaged about seven more rebounds per game than Senegal, so Dieng will need a performance of a lifetime to keep his team in contention.

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