2016 Rio Olympics Men’s Basketball Preview: France
Four years ago in London, France, the French National Team entered the Olympics as one of the main contenders. A semi-final spot was certainly achievable, but France fell just short of achieving their goal. France were beaten by rival nation Spain, in the quarter finals 59-66; in a game which saw brothers Marc Gasol and Pau Gasol dominate.
The French roster featured three very well established NBA talents. Such players as Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Nicolas Batum were all involved in the nation’s unsuccessful Olympic campaign. Parker however averaged 15.7 points per game and was France’s best player in London. Unfortunately for France, Diaw and Batum both had very underwhelming tournaments.
The roster only had four players over the age of 30, showing that this French team does have room to grow. This coming Olympics will be the perfect time to showcase such growth on a grand stage.
The French National Team
So after a disappointing Olympics in 2012 and having won it’s last medal in 2000, The French National Team is heading to the 2016 Rio Olympics with hopes of improvement this time around. France is currently ranked 5th on FIBA’s World Rankings and enter Rio with an average age of 29.
The French National Team will tip off this year Olympics in what will likely be a very competitive game against Australia. France will most likely be fighting for second place with Australia in group A. So game one will be vital for both nations. Les Bleus will play 11th-ranked Australia Saturday at 1:15 p.m., EST.
France made it to the semi-finals of the 2015 EuroBasket, but were knocked out once again by rivals Spain. France did show that they can make it to the later stages of a major tournament, something they will want to replicate at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In group A, France faces considerably stiff competition. Teams such as Australia, 14th ranked China and 6th ranked Serbia are all looking to make an impact as well. However, the biggest test of them all comes in the shape of number one ranked Team USA. Having displayed such dominance already, Team USA will once again look to capture gold at the Olympics.
The Big Names
The roster will be led once again by San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker. The 34 year old plays the vital point guard role, and can almost be considered as an on court coach. Parker brings forth a championship pedigree and experience in big-game scenarios that France will definitely need if they wish to go deep in the tournament.
Also small forward Nicolas Batum, who recently signed a 5-year $120 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets. Batum is a very versatile wingman and will look to play a much bigger role than in London 2012. Veteran power forward Boris Diaw will play a vital role for France as a versatile big man on the floor. France will be looking to rely on Diaw to not only score and rebound, but to use his tremendous passing abilities to create plays for others.
The key role in the paint for France will be played by centre Rudy Gobert. Known for his elite ability to rise up for spectacular blocks, Gobert is known as the “French Rejection” as a member of the Utah Jazz.
The Role Players
Some of the under the radar players on this French roster are the likes of combo guard Nando De Colo. De Colo can either play next to Parker or be his backup at the point guard position. De Colo plays a big role when he comes of the bench as he can provide rhythm on offense when Parker is out.
Experienced power forward Florent Pietrus is a player with NBA experience who will come of the bench and have a consistent impact immediately.
Winning the gold is always the main focus, however France will head into the 2016 Rio Olympics with a real chance at a Bronze or Silver medal. The French National Team has enough talent to compete with the likes of Spain, Lithuania and Argentina; but will find it difficult to match up against Team USA. The United State’s enters the Olympics as likely favourites to take home Gold Medal. Should they play up to their potential in a very competitive Group A, France could very well make a strong run at the Silver Medal. .
Guards: Tony Parker (6’1” point guard), Thomas Heurtel (6’2” point guard), Antoine Diot (6’4” point guard), Nando De Colo (6’5” guard)
Forwards: Nicolas Batum (6’8” small forward), Charles Kahudi (6’6” small forward), Mickael Gelabale (6’7” small forward), Boris Diaw (6’8” power forward), Florent Pietrus (6’7” power forward), Joffrey Lauvergne (6’10” power forward)
Center: Rudy Gobert (7’1”) Kim Tillie (6’11”)
Head Coach: Vincent Collet
MANILA, PHILIPPINES – JULY 10: Tony Parker of France celebrate after winning the match against Canada for the FIBA 2016 Olympic Qualifying Tournament Championship held in Manila on 10 July 2016. (Photo by George Calvelo/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)