Basketball bettors will have their sights set on the 2019 FIBA World Cup of Basketball, which gets underway in China on August 31. Thirty-two nations will take the court and play 108 games over 16 days and, as usual, the United States is a huge favorite to win the tournament.
Online sportsbook Sportsbook has the U.S. National Team as the -225 fave to win its third FIBA World Cup championship in a row. Following the NBA talents of the U.S. is Serbia (+350), Greece (+1000), Spain (+1600), France (+2800), Canada (+3300), Australia (+4000), Lithuania (+5000), Argentina (+8000) and Russia (+10000) to round out the top 10.
Why Is USA Such a Big Favorite?
Unless this is your first time watching international basketball, you’re probably quite aware that the United States National Team is the dominant force of this sport. The roster is littered with high-end talent from the NBA. They’ve won the last two FIBA World Cups and the senior team hadn’t lost a contest in international competition since 2006 before falling to Australia in a World Cup tune-up game on August 24.
However, we need to acknowledge that this U.S. team isn’t the strongest. There are a lot of key absences on this roster from the NBA circuit like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard and 2014 FIBA World Cup MVP Kyrie Irving.
That being said, the Americans still have decent players like Khris Middleton, Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell to lead the new wave of U.S. basketball supremacy. But I’m not certain they can win the tournament with the way this roster is constructed. It would not shock me to see the Americans lose due to complacency from sending a B squad.
Legitimate (?) Contenders To Dethrone USA
No team will have more than a handful of NBA players to throw at the U.S. team but the usual powerhouses of Serbia (+350), Greece (+1000) and Lithuania (+5000) could still go deep into this tourney to stake their claim for the FIBA World Cup title.
Serbia will be led by Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who is coming off a banner year in Denver. His skill set translates well to the international game and should help push the Serbians to the final again. They lost to the U.S. in the gold medal game at the 2016 Olympics.
Lithuania only has a population of 2.5 million people but this nation is routinely in the mix during the knockout stages of international basketball competitions. They’ll have former Raptor Jonas Valanciunas down low with Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis and most of the roster plays in upper-tier basketball leagues in Europe, as is also the case with the Serbians.
Greece is my favorite of the trio mainly because of Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 2018-19 NBA MVP is the first reigning Sportsbook of that award to compete in the FIBA World Cup and his size and athleticism will be a handful for opposing defenses. The Greeks will also have former Grizzlies guards Nick Calathes and Tyler Dorsey along with Kings draft pick Georgio Papagiannis on the roster and have looked really good during the exhibition games leading into the tourney.
Betting Opportunities In The Group Outright Sportsbooks
Due to one team being such a large fave (ahem, USA), there are only a few teams that offer value in the outright market so it may be best for bettors to pick their spots with group stage wagers if they don’t like those three teams above.
Similar to the FIFA World Cup, there are eight groups with four teams in them. Based on the win-loss record, only two teams advance to the next stage of the tourney after each team plays the other once. Additional tiebreakers like point differential will be employed if there are countries with identical win-loss records.
Group A and H Are Spots to Jump On
Now that you’ve got the gist, the groups I would keep an eye on are Group A and Group H as those are the only two that don’t have huge outright faves to win it.
China is the fave in Group A at +115 and I think they’ll win this group. The Chinese National Team has been improving year over year since Yao Ming made his debut in the NBA and they’re fresh off a stint at the NBA Summer League during which they beat the Charlotte Hornets squad as 21-point underdogs. They’re in a group with Poland, Venezuela and Ivory Coast and they should easily beat those teams to win Group A.
Group H is a bit of a crapshoot because it has three teams that have decent rosters with no clear standout, which is why it’s labeled as the “Group of Death.” The group has Australia as the fave at +125, followed by Lithuania at +145, Canada at +300 and Senegal at +20000. Those three teams should each get a win over Senegal but this may come down to a point-differential tiebreaker to determine the two countries to advance.
I think Lithuania is the best value at +145 to win Group H because they have the better NBA players and overall roster to throw at their opponents. The Aussies will be without arguably the best player, Ben Simmons, but the ’Roos still have five players that have been successful in the NBA. I think without Simmons, they will be hard pressed to beat the Lithuanians, who have historically dominated in the group stage.
Stay locked on this page from now until the tournament starts on August 31 as odds shift and rosters get determined with each nation’s training camp.
Odds as of August 21 at Sportsbook