Despite their players dropping like flies, Team USA is still the odds-on favorite to win the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. The quadrennial tournament, which kicks off in China on August 31st, pits 32 teams from around the globe.
The United States, who has won the past two World Cups, is a -350 favorite to make it three in a row, according to MyBookie.
This despite the fact that the US’s roster has become quite pedestrian, by that country’s standards, as of late. Within the past two weeks, Anthony Davis, James Harden and Damian Lillard, among many, many others, have withdrawn from the team.
In terms of “star power,” Kyle Lowry, Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker are all that remain for the States. Still, the bookies have them predicted to win this tournament 78% of the time.
So who are the USA’s top challengers for The Cup and the Best Bets?
The fourth ranked team in the world, Serbia won silver medals at both the 2014 World Cup as well as the 2016 Olympics Games. This year’s rendition will live and die with the man shown above – The Joker, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets.
The 24-year-old had a breakout year in the Mile High this past season, and Serbia will be riding his large shoulders in this tournament. He should be joined on the roster by five fellow NBAers: Bogdan Bogdanovic (Sacramento Kings), Boban Marjanovic (Dallas Mavericks), Nemanja Bjelica (Sacramento Kings), Marko Gudurić (Memphis Grizzlies) and Miloš Teodosić (formerly of LA Clippers).
There’s a huge dropoff after Serbia, as Spain is next in line, but they are a huge +1800 underdog to win it all. The #2 ranked country in the world, and the bronze medalist at the last Olympic Games, isn’t being given much respect here.
But when you look at their roster, you can see that the golden age of Spanish basketball is in the rearview. Newly-minted NBA champion Marc Gasol is still around, as is point guard wiz Ricky Rubio, but after that the team lacks NBA power players.
Speaking of star power, Greece has the biggest, brightest star in the whole tournament. That would be, of course, The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The reigning NBA MVP will make the 8th ranked Greek squad a dark horse threat to win the whole tournament. This would be a huge deal for the country, as they haven’t medalled at a world championship since they came second at the 2006 World Championships. It’ll be a family affair for Giannis, as brothers Kostas and Thanasis will also be suiting up.
You can also bet on the group winners – the opening rounds are broken down into eight groups of four teams. Here are the current favorites taken from sites offering online betting:
Group A – Poland +110
Group B – Argentina – 120
Group C – Spain -10,000(!!!)
Group D – Serbia -625
Group E – USA -10,000
Group F – Greece -340
Group G – France -360
Group H – Australia +150
As rosters are still in a state of flux for many countries, it’s always a good idea to check out current rosters on the FIBA site.